Dotted along the rising hills of Moel Tryfan and Mynydd Cilgwyn are numerous prehistoric remains that bear testament to the region's rich and long history, a history that can be traced back at least 2,000 years. Before the creation of the slate quarries, the surrounding area was sparsely populated: one might have found only a few inhabited dwellings within a five-mile radius of Cae'r Gors, an area that today includes the villages of Rhostryfan, Groeslon and Carmel.

Between 1750 and 1800, local quarrymen, who had previously been independent, began working with co-operative ventures, a move that led to the growth of the local slate industry. Gradually, people began moving into the area in search of work, from the outlying areas initially and then from further afield, from places such as Anglesey and the Llŷn Peninsula. These people built their homes on the open common land.

Thus began the unique life of the quarryman-smallholder, a person who had a stake in both industry and small-scale agriculture.

The quarrymen, however, quickly ran out of land on which to build their homes. In the face of the ever-increasing growth of the slate industry, the next logical step was to create distinct villages for the area. These villages came into being very quickly during the second half of the 19th century.

At the height of the slate industry, there were about two dozen quarries in the area, employing up to 3,000 local men and boys. Because so many local men were employed in the quarries, the slate industry became a unifying factor, engendering a strong sense of comradeship and creating close-knit communities. But other factors also brought the people together, including the Welsh language and culture, as well as religion (Nonconformism had taken a strong root in the area).

From the beginning of the 20th century onwards, production of slate in North Wales started to decrease and the local industry as a whole was on the wane – cheaper slate, by now, could be found elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Northern Spain. This led inevitably to unemployment, depopulation and wider economic problems.


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