Living Conditions and a Woman's Place

Although many women went out to work before they were married — usually into service, as maids — after marriage very few women worked outside the home. Most agreed that the woman's place was in the home, caring for the children and making sure there would be food on the table and peace on the hearth when her husband came home from work. Most of the quarryman's wages went straight to his wife for household expenses. Living on low wages called for thrift and careful planning, and the family's food was very plain. As Alwyn Owen remembers about the money, 'We saw it, we took it home — and that was it.'

The furniture, decoration and general standard of living in the quarrymen's houses were very similar to each other. There was little money left over to buy ornaments or extra trimmings.

'Make sure you have a cupboardful of food, a coalhouse full of coal, a clean house and no grandness.You can't eat grandness.'
[A quarryman father's advice to his daughter on her wedding day.]

Although many of the families in the villages around Llanberis kept smallholdings and fattened a pig or a calf, the whole area depended for its livelihood on the slate industry. Gwilym Davies remembers, 'There was nothing but the quarry. No factory or anything. The quarry: or the parish.' The quarryman's life was hard and physically demanding, and the wife's domestic skills enabled her husband to work longer hours and earn a little more money. Her life was also physically demanding, at a time when a family of six or seven children was the norm, and there were no domestic appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners. A quarryman's house was his home: for his wife, it was also her workplace.

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.