This film is part of Free

The Roof over Your Head

The hazardous, hair-raising journey of Welsh slate - from subterranean rock to the world’s rooftops

Documentary 1937 19 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales


We glimpse the hidden cost of the roof slate in this 'how it's done' film showing how slate is extracted, processed and split at Ffestiniog's mines and quarries, ready for despatch to all parts of the globe. The quarrymen’s work is exacting and always risky - tunnelling, drilling and blasting with little regard to safety, the men having scant harnessing, no protective headgear and hardly a mask between them.

Roofing slates were the chief product of the mines and quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog, with the rock being dug from huge underground chambers at mines such as Oakeley and Llechwedd. In the run-up to WW2 when this film was made, the slate industry had been in decline for more than four decades, but although the boom which had reached its peak in the 1860s-1880s (seeing the rise and expansion of Blaenau Ffestiniog to a town of over 11,000 inhabitants by 1881) was well over, Wales was still producing 75% - 85% of Britain’s slate between the two wars.