Cwt-y-Bugail Slate Quarry, North Wales

Cwt y Bugail Quarry is a remote Welsh Slate Quarry high up in the mountains between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Cwm Penmachno, North Wales. It’s origins lay as an enlargement of the older Bugail quarry workings that were opened in the 1820’s when Adam Gregory, who leased the Blaen y Cwm quarry above Blaenau Ffestiniog from 1838 to 1849, begun trial workings at Cwt y Bugail in the hope to expand their operation. In 1863 Hugh Beaver Roberts sold half his interest in the Cwt y Bugail land to a consortium who formed the New Cwt y Bugail Slate Company Ltd. who began slate extraction and production on the site. During this time the company connected the quarry to the Rhiwbach tramway via a short branch line and the quarry rapidly expanded to a peak output of 3000 tonnes of slate and 100 men working and living on site. Raw slate was uphauled from two pit/underground workings to be processes in a mill equipped with as approximately 20 saw-tables and dressing machines. The finished product was then shipped out via the Rhiwbach tramway for transportation down to the Duffws Station onto the Ffestiniog Railway for export . The main inclines and mill were powered by steam, an oil engine replaced the steam engine at the mill in latter years. The quarry was notable for containing not only the one in situ steam incline winder in the industry, in the shape of an 1860s Aveling and Porter traction engine that was taken off its wheels after 1909 and connected to winding gear (this was removed in the early 21st century).  This company worked the quarry until 1875 when the quarry was sold to the Bugail Slate Quarry Company Ltd. under the chairmanship of Thomas Scott of Edinburgh; during this period the quarry was known locally as ‘y cwmni Ysgottiad’ (“the Scottish Enterprise”).

Around 1877 the quarry was taken over by Owen Williams from the nearby village of Penmachno. He ran Cwt y Bugail for the next thirty years and was the great-grandfather of Owen Glyn Williams who managed the quarry in the 1980s. Production of slate peaked in 1877 and began dwindling significantly from 1884 onwards. By 1887 the quarry was closed, but Owen Williams formed a worker’s cooperative and began working the quarry in 1888. The cooperative purchased the quarry from the Bugail Slate Quarry Co. for a nominal fee in 1892 and modest production with 60 men employed continued until 1898 when another gradual decline set in. In 1908 a rock fall in the quarry caused the company to fall into debt and it went into receivership in 1899. The receiver sold the quarry to Cadwalader Owen Roberts of Betws-y-Coed for a nominal sum and the quarry continued operating under the name the New Welsh Slate Quarry. Cadwalader Pierce took over as manager in 1911 and set about repairing some of the damage from the rock fall so that quarrying works could continue. Production of slate continued until 1912, but after this date only already worked slate was dispatched and the quarry closed again in April 1914. Roberts reopened Cwt y Bugail in 1919 after the end of the First World War and worked it for three more years, but again the enterprise failed and the quarry closed. In 1923 Tudor Roberts of Glanypwll set up the Cwt y Bugail Slate Quarries Ltd. to purchase and work the quarry. This company owned the quarry until 1961, though from 1946 it was sub-leased to the nearby Maenofferen quarry to which it was connected by the Rhiwbach Tramway. From 1956 onwards the quarry was sub-leased to Manod Slate Quarries Ltd. which operated the Graig Ddu quarry to the south. In 1961 the Cwt y Bugail company was taken over by a consortium led by Dafydd Price, who also purchased Graig Ddu which at this time was a much more productive quarry. Some sporadic slate extraction continued at Cwt y Bugail until 1972 and production of this troubled quarry finally ceased..

A subsidiary of Ffestiniog Slate Quarry Ltd. purchased the land and mineral rights to Cwt y Bugail in 1985. Ffestiniog Slate Quarries also owned the Oakeley quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog and in 1997 was taken over by the McAlpines group. McAlpine’s slate interests were subsequently taken over by Welsh Slate Ltd., the owners of the Penrhyn quarry. The nearby Manod quarry has been renamed ‘Cwt-y-Bugail’ since Cwt y Bugail quarry’s closure.

Quite a lot of the site remains with the Mill, barracks and other smaller buildings and works are still evident in the landscape, but in poor condition. The steam winding engine was removed around a decade ago, but other bits of machinery dot the site alongside original track used to shift materials.

Modified: 21st Jul 2023