By Beth Williams | News Editor
On the 25th of July, the quarries of North Wales became the 4th World Heritage site situated in Wales, joining the castles and Town walls of King Edward the first, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Blaenafon industrial landscape in Torfaen.
The landscape now joins a list that includes the Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal and Yosemite National Park.
As a result of its new status, the area has become the 33rd UNESCO World Heritage Site in Britain – According to the World Heritage Committee, the newly appointed status recognises “1,800 years of slate mining, the people, culture & Flag of Wales language, & how the landscape roofed the 19th-century”.
The area’s bid for the status had been in the making for twelve years prior to its announcement as the UK’s nomination for UNESCO consideration in 2018 by Boris Johnson, in which he described the attraction as “an area of remarkable uniqueness and breath-taking beauty”. Gwynedd Council and their partners are now planning how to ensure the best benefit for communities and businesses in the county. The new status will raise the area’s profile with the added possibility of economic growth, social regeneration and an increase in tourists.
Although slate had been quarried at the location for 1,800 years prior, the popularity of quality, Welsh slate surged following the industrial revolution of the late 18th century. At its busiest and most popular era, the slate landscapes were said to have “roofed the 19th century world”, providing around a third of all roofing slate used globally at the time. Yearly, 17,000 workers were responsible for producing almost 500,000 tonnes of slate every year at that time. The area continued to serve international demand until 1940. The industry also served as a hub for the local Welsh-speaking community, being considered the only major industry in Britain to operate through a medium other than English.
The announcement came a few days after Liverpool had its world heritage site status revoked by UNESCO. They claimed its decision was based on the plans for major developments to the city’s waterfront, including Everton Football Club’s new stadium, causing “serious deterioration” to Liverpool’s historic landscape.
First Minister Mark Drakeford celebrated the news’ announcement by travelling to the National Slate Museum located in Llanberis.
As well as tweeting his congratulations for those involved in the bid, the First Minister later said that the status will “help preserve that legacy and history in those communities for generations to come and help them with future regeneration”. The First Minister also paid a visit to Partneriaeth Ogwen in Bethesda. The venture is set to receive £200,000 from the Welsh Government’s Community Facility programme in order to re-purpose the former school into a community centre.