How The Other Half Lived

For the Weekly Challenge I thought I’d show you two photographs I took at the National Slate Museum, which is located at Llanberis in North Wales. Previously known as the Welsh Slate Museum, the 19th century workshops, which were once part of the disused Dinorwic Slate Quarry, make a fascinating day out.

In the museum you will find the Engineers House which has been furnished typical of the period around about 1911. The Engineer was responsible for all things engineering in the quarry and workshops, so it made sense to give him a house in the courtyard of the workshops. The status of the Engineer was far higher than the quarrymen or skilled crafts people who worked in the workshops, therefore his family enjoyed a greater standing of living, as evidenced by the furnishings and the red velvet curtains in the parlour.

The Engineers House

Contrast that, I knew I’d get that word in somewhere, with a typical quarrymans cottage which can be seen at the museum.

Miners Cottage

In the 1860’s the slate industry was the largest employer in Gwynned. As demand grew, workers moved from their low paid work in the fields to the dirty and dangerous slate industry for a better wage. By 1881 the population of Ffestiniog parish had grown to eleven and a half thousand, an increase of nearly ten thousand. Available housing struggled to cope and it was not uncommon to have two families living together in the cramped accommodation. Disease, especially typhoid and tuberculosis, were constant threats. Dampness, poor water supplies and sewerage added to the conditions. Can you imagine living like that?

In November 1900 two thousand, eight hundred quarrymen walked out of Penrhyn Quarry, the other side of the mountain from Dinorwic. The bitter dispute lasted for three years and is considered one of the worst in British Industrial History. However, in 1901 fifty five men went back to the quarry; they were to be branded “traitors” by the still striking quarrymen and their families.

In the window of this replica house from this period there is a printed card with the words ‘Nid oes Bradwr yn y t? hwn’ (‘There is no Traitor in this house’). Most of the cards remained in the window but when a card was removed it was a sign that another quarryman had gone back to work.