This film is part of Free

Slate Quarrying

Penrhyn Slate Quarry, Bethesda, in colour. At 1200 ft deep and a mile in length, it was once one of the largest quarries in the world, producing ‘Princesses’ by the ton.

Amateur film 1946 10 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales


Colour footage of the (still working) Penrhyn Slate Quarry, showing its great depth, the different levels and various aspects of the work: setting of explosives, blasting, the splitting and trimming of roofing slates. An aerial pulley system (a ‘blondin’) is seen carrying wagons loaded with slabs of slate and a steam locomotive, ‘Gertrude’, pulls empty wagons. Waste material - 90% of the rock quarried - is put to good use locally for doorsteps, flooring and fencing.

Sidney Whiteley (1911-1982), who shot this film, was born and brought up in Blackpool, developing an interest in photography at an early age and working for Kodak for most of his adult life. He was a keen walker and met his wife Margaret Ellen Simon via the Youth Hostel Association. Margaret was born in London but her parents were from north Walian/Anglesey families. This Welsh connection allowed Sidney to enter his films – with some success - in Eisteddfod competitions. The quarry he filmed is famous for its 3 year long strike (1900-03) for improved pay and conditions, and the system (and names) it introduced for standardising roof tile sizes - e.g. Empresses, Broad Countesses, Narrow Ladies.