The Pattern Loft


The pattern makers could produce a pattern for any metal object needed by the workshops: cogs, parts for steam engines — even the bell on the clock above the gateway to the workshops! The patterns were carved out of softwood. The pattern makers used some mechanical equipment — a pillar drill, fretsaw, lathe and whetstone  — which, like the machines in all the other workshops, were driven by the line shafting. But they carved all the detailed, delicate carving work on the patterns by hand. Because of this, the other workers were not allowed in the pattern loft at all, in case they drew the pattern makers' attention, causing his hand to slip and ruin the pattern. (However, it was whispered that there was a ghost in the pattern loft — so maybe this spirit disrupted work from time to time!)

You can see some of these fantastically intricate patterns in the pattern loft — there were some 2000 different patterns altogether. It's strange to think that all these small masterpieces were carved by candlelight:

‘Old William Jones was the pattern-maker there…Although he did such detailed work on the patterns, what he had in those days was a piece of wood with four candles stuck to it. He used to have to move it around the table where he was working at the bench. It didn't throw a shadow on his work, you see. His work was that detailed.’

Unfortunately, the pattern loft mice were also very fond of the candles, so the quarry had to order specially unpleasant-tasting candles, just for use in the Pattern Loft.

Father and Son In The Workshops/The Apprenticeship System

When you began, they gave you a hammer

Most of the patterns in the Museum's collection were produced by members from the same Llanberis family, the Patrwm (Pattern) family as they were called. Eddie Patrwm, who is pictured here, was one of the last pattern makers to work in the yard, following in his father's and his grandfather's footsteps.

A boy who got work at the quarry was said to have 'found work'; he began as a rubbler, carting the waste rock away from the bargain. On the other hand, the boy who was apprenticed at Gilfach Ddu was said to have have 'found a place'. The standard of the apprenticeship in these workshops was recognised by employers and shipping companies all over the world.

Gwilym Davies remembers his first day as an apprentice in the yard:

'New overalls and all. Overalls, and a cotton jacket, like denim you know, and my elder brother had bought me a saw in Gruffydd Jones, Caernarfon. A Henry Diston USA saw. And I can well remember the man in the shop saying, 'Open the box,' and there were three saws in it. Two going one way and one the other.'

'When I began as a young boy, you didn't get a wage in the yard. You worked for nothing for six months. You got sixpence for six months, the second half of the year…during the second year you got nine pence a week in wages. And out of that you had to pay the hospital shilling every month.'

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