Who Owned The Quarry?

Local people had been working the mountain for centuries before Dinorwig Quarry opened. In 1788 Assheton Smith paid bailiffs to evict these people out of their tiny quarries.

By the end of the 19th century, almost all the land in Gwynedd was owned by just five families. The Assheton Smith family from Cheshire were the owners of Dinorwig Quarry. Their estate, Y Faenol on the banks of the Menai Straits, covered 34,000 acres of land. In George William Duff Assheton Smith's time, white cattle, deer and American bison — not to mention bears and monkeys — roamed Y Faenol's park. His brother Charles was more interested in the conventional gentlemanly amusements of the day — his racehorses won the Grand National four times, and he was besotted with racing yachts. Indeed, one of the quarry's steam engines, Pandora, was named after one of these boats.

Despite their upper-class pursuits and the yawning divide in living standards between the owners and the quarrymen, many of the Assheton Smith family were fair and conscientious masters. Although the relationship between themselves, their managers and the workers was a firmly hierarchical one, they could be kind; for example, they arranged for all the quarrymen to visit London in 1887 to enjoy Queen Victioria's Jubilee celebrations — a very rare opportunity for a holiday beyond Llanberis.

Y Faenol, home of the Assheton Smith family, owners of the Dinorwig Quarry in the 19th century.