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Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
is a historic mining town in Wales. It is in the historic county of Merionethshire, although currently administered as part of the unitary authority of Gwynedd. It has a population of 4,875 according to the 2011 census, including the nearby village of Llan Ffestiniog, which makes it the fourth most populous community in Gwynedd
Gwynedd
unitary authority, behind Bangor, Caernarfon, and Llandeiniolen. After reaching 12,000 at the peak of the slate industry, the population fell due to a decrease in the demand for slate. Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
at one time was the second largest town in North Wales, behind Wrexham.[citation needed] Today, the town relies heavily on tourists, who come to see the many attractions within and around the town such as the Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns.

Contents

1 History

1.1 Before 1750 1.2 The slate industry arrives (1750–1850) 1.3 Becoming a town (1851–1900) 1.4 The decline of slate (1901–1950) 1.5 1950 – present

2 Pronunciation 3 Geography 4 Education 5 Welsh language 6 Transport 7 Tourism 8 Regeneration 9 Arts

9.1 Music

10 Notable people 11 Twinned Towns 12 See also 13 References 14 External links

History[edit] Before 1750[edit] Before the slate industry developed, the area now known as Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
was a farming region, with scattered farms working the uplands below the cliffs of Dolgaregddu and Nyth-y-Gigfran. A few of these historic farmhouses survive at Cwm Bowydd, Gelli, Pen y Bryn and Cefn Bychan. Much of the land was owned by large estates.[1] The slate industry arrives (1750–1850)[edit] The town of Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
was created to support workers in the local slate mines. In its heyday it was the largest town in Merioneth.[1] In the 1760s men from the long established Cilgwyn quarry near Nantlle
Nantlle
started quarrying in Ceunant y Diphwys to the north east of the present town. This valley had for a number of years been known for its slate beds and had been worked on a very small scale. The exact location of this original quarry has been obliterated by subsequent mining activity, but it is likely that it was on or near the site of the Diphwys Casson Quarry. Led by Methusalem Jones, eight Cilgwyn men formed a partnership and took a lease on Gelli Farm where they established their quarry. In 1800, William Turner and William Casson, quarry managers from the Lake District, bought out the lease and significantly expanded production.[2] In 1819, quarrying began on the slopes of Allt-fawr
Allt-fawr
near Rhiwbryfdir Farm. This was on land owned by the Oakeley family from Tan y Bwlch. Within a decade, three separate slate quarries were operating on Allt-fawr
Allt-fawr
and these eventually amalgamated to form Oakeley Quarry which would become the largest underground slate mine in the world.[3] Quarrying expanded rapidly in the first half of the 19th century. Significant quarries opened at Llechwedd, Maenofferen and Votty & Bowydd, while Turner and Casson's Diphwys Casson flourished.[1] Further afield, Cwmorthin and Wrysgan quarries were established to the south of the town, while at the head of Cwm Penmachno
Cwm Penmachno
to the north east a series of quarries started at Rhiwbach, Cwt y Bugail and Blaen y Cwm. To the south east another cluster of quarries worked the slopes of Manod
Manod
Mawr. The workforce for these quarries was initially taken from nearby towns and villages such as Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
and Maentwrog. Before the arrival of railways in the district, travel to the quarries was difficult and workers' houses were built near the quarries. These typically grew up around existing farms and along the roads between them. An early settlement was at Rhiwbryfdir, serving the Oakeley and Llechwedd quarries. As early as 1801, new roads were being built specifically to serve the quarries. By 1851, there were 3,460 people living in the new town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.[1] Becoming a town (1851–1900)[edit]

A view of Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
from Graig Ddu, c.1875 NLW3361243

During the 1860s and 1870s the slate industry went through a large boom. The quarries expanded rapidly, as did the nascent town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The town gained its first church and first school, and saw considerable ribbon development along the roads.[1] By 1881, the town's population had soared to 11,274.[4] The boom in the slate industry was followed by a significant decline. The 1890s saw several quarries lose money for the first time, and several failed entirely, including Cwmorthin and Nyth-y-Gigfran.[5] Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
hosted the National Eisteddfod
National Eisteddfod
in 1898. The decline of slate (1901–1950)[edit] Although the slate industry partly recovered from the recession of the 1890s, it never fully recovered. The First World War
First World War
saw many quarrymen join the Armed Forces, and production fell. There was a short post-war boom, but the long-term trend was towards mass-produced tiles and cheaper slate from Spain. Oakeley Quarry
Oakeley Quarry
took over Cwmorthin, Votty & Bowydd and Diphwys Casson, while Llechwedd acquired Maenofferen. Despite this consolidation, the industry continued to decline. The Second World War
Second World War
saw a further loss of available workers. In 1946, the Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Railway closed.[5] In August 1945 the secluded farmhouse of Bwlch Ocyn, at Manod, which belonged to Clough Williams-Ellis, became the home, for three years, of the famous writer Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
and his wife Mamaine. During his time at Bwlch Ocyn, Koestler would become a close friend of fellow writer George Orwell.[6] 1950 – present[edit]

Blaenau Ffestiniog, 1959

The slate quarries continued to decline steadily after 1950. The remaining quarries served by the Rhiwbach Tramway
Rhiwbach Tramway
closed during the 1950s and 1960s. Oakeley closed in 1970, with the loss of many local jobs. It re-opened in 1974 on a much smaller scale and was worked until 2010.[7] Maenofferen and Llechwedd continued to operate, but Maenofferen finally closed in 1998.[8] Llechwedd is still a working quarry, working the David Jones part of Maenofferen (level two-and-a-half). As the slate industry declined, the population of Blaenau Ffestiniog has also declined, to 4,875 in 2011. At the same time the tourism industry has become the town's largest employer. The revived Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns
Llechwedd Slate Caverns
are popular tourist attractions, as is the Antur Stiniog downhill mountain biking centre.[9] Recent attractions include the Zip World Titan zip-line site, which also now features the Bounce Below slate mine activity centre. Pronunciation[edit] The English pronunciation of Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
suggested by the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names is /ˈblaɪnaɪ fɛsˈtɪnjɒɡ/,[10] but the first word is pronounced [ˈbləɨna] by locals. Geography[edit]

Blaenau Ffestiniog, seen from Moelwyn Bach, showing the large waste heaps that dominate the town.

Located in the mountains of Snowdonia, the town's slate industry declined during the early 20th century. The town's economy is now largely dependent on tourism. Although the town is in the centre of the Snowdonia
Snowdonia
National Park, the boundaries of the Park exclude the town and its substantial slate waste heaps. Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
is in the traditional county of Merionethshire. It is made up of a number of distinct areas, several of which take their names from settlements that predate the town, including Rhiwbryfdir, Glanypwll and Cwmbowydd.[citation needed]. Other local villages, notably Tanygrisiau
Tanygrisiau
and Manod, are sometimes considered part of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The mountains around Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
form the watershed between the River Lledr
River Lledr
flowing to the north (a tributary of the River Conwy) and the River Dwyryd
River Dwyryd
flowing to the west. Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
is known as the town with one of the highest rainfall in Wales. The town has several reservoirs, one of which supplies the Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Hydro Power Station with water. Stwlan Dam can be seen in between two of the main mountains in the area, Moelwyn Bach and Moelwyn Mawr. Education[edit]

Glan-y-pwll School, Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
c. 1895.

Ysgol y Moelwyn is the main secondary school in the area, covering Blaenau, Manod, Tanygrisiau, Llan Ffestiniog, Trawsfynydd, Gellilydan, Maentwrog
Maentwrog
and even stretching into the Vale of Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
and Dolwyddelan. It came third in Britain's best county school[clarification needed] in 2006 and had 309 pupils on roll in 2016.[11] Some pupils go to Ysgol Y Gader, Dolgellau
Dolgellau
in south Meirionnydd; Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy, Llanrwst; Ysgol y Berwyn, Bala; and Ysgol Eifionydd, Porthmadog.[citation needed] There are five primary schools in the area. Welsh language[edit] Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
is a predominantly Welsh-speaking community. At the 2011 census, 78.6% of residents over the age of three could speak Welsh, a small decrease from 80.9% at the 2001 census.[12] The latest inspection reports of both the town's primary schools, Ysgol Maenofferen and Ysgol Y Manod, both from 2016, state that percentage of children speaking Welsh at home in each school is, 87% and 85%, respectively. At the town's secondary school, Ysgol y Moelwyn, 82% of pupils came from Welsh-speaking homes, as of 2014, making its intake the most Welsh-speaking among those of secondary schools within the former county of Meirionnydd, and the fourth highest among school intakes in Gwynedd. Transport[edit]

Double Fairlie
Double Fairlie
locomotive David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
at Blaenau Ffestiniog station.

The main access route to Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
is via the A470 road
A470 road
which runs north to Llandudno
Llandudno
and south to Dolgellau
Dolgellau
and beyond. The A496 runs south from the town down to the coastal resort of Barmouth, and connects with the A487 towards Porthmadog
Porthmadog
and the Llŷn Peninsula. Immediately to the north of the town the A470 climbs steeply to the Crimea Pass
Crimea Pass
and meets the A5 at Betws-y-Coed, towards Wrexham
Wrexham
and Shrewsbury. Bus services in the town are mainly provided by Express Motors
Express Motors
with routes available to Porthmadog, Dolgellau
Dolgellau
and to Llandudno
Llandudno
via Betws-y-Coed
Betws-y-Coed
and Llanrwst. Town circular services via Tanygrisiau
Tanygrisiau
are operated hourly on weekdays by John's Coaches. Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
railway station, on the site of the former Great Western station, is used by the Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Railway and the Conwy Valley Line, their previous stations being no longer in use. The Conwy Valley Line runs to the North Wales
Wales
coast at Llandudno
Llandudno
Junction with links to Chester, Holyhead, Manchester
Manchester
and the rest of the UK. The station sees thousands of visitors each year. At various times the town has been the terminus for four independent railway lines, each with its own station or stations:

the Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Railway the Festiniog and Blaenau Railway the Conwy Valley Line
Conwy Valley Line
of the London and North Western Railway, and the Bala Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Line of the Great Western Railway.

Tourism[edit] Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
has several tourist attractions, including the Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a former slate mine open to visitors. Llechwedd is often listed as one of Wales' top 5 visitor attractions.[13] Near Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
there are miles of mountain landscape with derelict quarries, rivers, various lakes and walking routes. Several new mountain biking trails have been installed with some suitable for competition level mountain biking. Visitors can borrow bikes from the biking centre and explore the miles of trails, ranging from tracks for beginners to high end professional mountain biking tracks. The town centre has a number of cafes and traditional pubs. There are various features[original research?] such as child-friendly potholing, poetry walks, art centres, and views of the area.[citation needed] Regeneration[edit]

A cyclist on one of the new 'Antur Stiniog' tracks.

Blaenau Ffestiniog's town centre has recently been regenerated. With funding from various organisations, grants and the Welsh Government, £4.5 million will be spent on redeveloping the town centre. A new bus station has been built along with new viewing areas for the neighbouring mountain ranges. Several slate structures have also been built with poetry engraved on them. The structures are roughly 40 feet tall and are intended to visually echo the towering slate hills and mountains. Poetry and local sayings have also been engraved on slate bands set into the pavements throughout the town centre.[14] Various walkways have also been installed, as well as a series of downhill mountain biking trials by Antur Stiniog.[15] A kilometre-long zip-wire is also expected in the town soon. If plans go ahead Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
will have the UK's first vélo-rail, which are popular in France.[16] Arts[edit] Many artists come to Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
for the unique[citation needed] landscape around it, perhaps inspired by the harsh landscape of the slate tips. They include Kyffin Williams
Kyffin Williams
and David Nash. During World War II
World War II
the National Gallery
National Gallery
stored its treasures in one of the mines in the town to protect them from damage or destruction. The large steel gates are still standing and the system[clarification needed] to preserve the paintings is still in the caverns. Music[edit] Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
has a strong musical tradition, from the quarrying boom days with the Caban, male voice choirs and brass bands, to the Jazz/ Dance bands like "The New Majestics" and the popular rock bands of the 80s and 90s such as Llwybr Llaethog
Llwybr Llaethog
and Anweledig, to more recent bands such as Gai Toms, Frizbee
Frizbee
and Gwibdaith Hen Frân. The local alternative music training company Gwallgofiaid now has over 12 bands under its umbrella based at their Centre 'Cell' at the Old Police Station in Park Square. The Centre has 5 rehearsal rooms, a 24 track studio and Cwrt performance space. Notable people[edit]

See Category:People from Blaenau Ffestiniog

Gwyn Thomas, Welsh poet, academic and National Poet for Wales 2006–08 Anweledig, musical group Gai Toms, music artist Llwybr Llaethog, musical group David Nash, artist John Cowper Powys, novelist, lived in Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
from May 1955 until he died in 1963. Glyn Wise, contestant and runner up on Big Brother 7 Dave Felgate, footballer Margarette Golding, founder of International Inner Wheel, a women's voluntary service association, was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
20 November 1881.[17]

Twinned Towns[edit]

Rawson in Patagonia, Argentina
Argentina
[18]

See also[edit]

Llan Ffestiniog Tanygrisiau Llechwedd quarry Oakeley Quarry Maenofferen Quarry

References[edit]

^ a b c d e "Blaenau Ffestiniog: Understanding Urban Character" (PDF). Cadw.  ^ Gwynfor Pierce Jones and Dafydd Walter Dafis (2002). "Water Power in the Slate Mines of East Ffestiniog" (PDF).  ^ Jones, R. Merfyn (1981). The North Wales
Wales
Quarrymen, 1874–1922 (Studies in Welsh history; 4.). University of Wales
Wales
Press. ISBN 0-7083-0776-0.  ^ Davies, John (1993). A History of Wales.  ^ a b Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 2 - Locomotives and Rolling Stock; Quarries and Branches: Rebirth 1954-74. The British Narrow Gauge Railway. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0-85361-168-4. OCLC 874117875. B1B.  ^ "The Untouched Legacy of Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
and George Orwell". 24 February 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2017.  ^ BBC Wales
Wales
News ^ Sallery, Dave. "Maenofferen slate quarry in 1975".  ^ "Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
mountain bike centre given go-ahead". BBC News. 22 March 2011.  ^ G. M. Miller (Ed), BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names, Oxford University Press, 1971. ISBN 0-19-431125-2 ^ "Ysgol Y Moelwyn". mylocalschool.wales.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-06.  ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2013-09-09.  ^ icnetwork.co.uk Archived 2006-08-18 at the Wayback Machine. ^ blaenauffestiniog.org ^ Antur Stiniog website accessdate: 13 November 2013 ^ "Linkliste Railbike". 9 January 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2013.  lists 14 vélo-rail in France
France
totalling 146km. ^ http://www.internationalinnerwheel.org/inside-the-inner-wheel-history.html ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-18. Retrieved 2015-06-07.  Patagonian dignitaries to visit for twinning.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Photos of Blaenau Ffestiniog
Ffestiniog
and surrounding area

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Nantlle
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Caernarfon
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Criccieth
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Harlech
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