Cambrian Slate has been awarded Global Heritage Stone Resource status.

Cambrian-age Welsh slate, which is produced at Welsh Slate Ltd’s Penrhyn quarry in North Wales, has become the first slate in the world to be designated a Global Heritage Stone Resource (GHSR).

Its designation by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), which represents the national geological societies of 121 countries, recognises its importance to the architectural heritage of the many countries in which it has been used in the past and continues to be used today.

It easily met the prestigious GHSR criteria of having a cultural history encompassing a significant period, been utilised in significant works, and widely used in numerous countries.

Cambrian Welsh Slate has been quarried in Wales for almost 2,000 years (its first use being recorded in Roman times), has been utilised on major heritage projects, and been used throughout the world, particularly Australia, New Zealand, America, the West Indies, Europe and even Hawaii.

It was proposed for GHSR two years ago by the Welsh Stone Forum supported by the Stone Roofing Association (SRA), Gwynedd County Council, the Snowdonia National Park Authority and Welsh Slate (Ltd) at the same time as the Welsh slate industry is being proposed as a World Heritage Site.

Designation was awarded by the international Heritage Stone Task Group (HSTG) of the IUGS which was formed to safeguard natural stone heritage by establishing, approving and maintaining the new international geological designation – the GHSR and associated Global Heritage Stone Province (GHSP).

The Cambrian slate belt in Gwynedd extends over 14 kilometres and was historically quarried in three main areas although it is currently only extracted at Welsh Slate’s Penrhyn quarry in Bethesda where it is produced for roofing, architectural (cladding, flooring, paving and walling) and a variety of crushed slate products.

Natural slate expert Terry Hughes, former technical manager with Welsh Slate and chairman of the SRA, said: “We were a supporter of the GHSR concept from its inception. It has been a long haul writing the proposal at the same time as the designation scheme was being developed. We are now delighted that the importance of quarrying and the continued production of Welsh Slate especially, has been recognised. All too often the public forget that almost everything they use which isn’t a plant probably came out of the ground.”

The IUGS explained: “Natural stone rarely excites major interest despite the fact it has been used for construction and other purposes for thousands of years and is part of human tradition. Yet natural stone is also the world’s most sustainable mineral resource because it requires less energy to utilise, produces no toxic by-products, and provides the earth’s most durable construction material. So natural stone should create more than passing curiosity.”

Cambrian Welsh Slate has been used on Buckingham Palace, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the British Library in the UK; The Royal House, Copenhagen, Hotel de Ville, Paris and Dublin Castle in Europe; the Shaker Museum and Boston airport in America, Christchurch Arts Centre in New Zealand, and Government House [Perth, pictured] and Sydney Supreme Court in Australia.

Welsh Slate’s commercial director Michael Hallé said: “This is international recognition of the importance of the slate produced from the Cambrian stone in Penrhyn and is important for heritage buildings all around the world.”

GHSR designation seeks international recognition of natural stone resources that have achieved widespread utilisation in human culture. It aims to promote greater prominence for natural stone as used in artistic and architectural masterpieces and heritage building as well as routine historic stone applications.

Designation will also enhance recognition of natural stone among geologists, engineers, architects, heritage professionals, stone industry managers and other groups that work with stone. It will also offer a mechanism to formalise the characteristics of natural stone material for professional purposes and assist international co-operation into the research and utilisation of natural stone.

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UK’s leading manufacturer launches brochures for interior and exterior uses.

New coffee table-style brochures showcasing Welsh Slate products for interior as well as exterior applications have been launched by the leading UK manufacturer.

Available through, the eight-page brochures dispel the myth once and for all that Welsh Slate, part of the Breedon Group, is just about roofing, with stunning photographs proving the product’s versatility for a wide range of uses.

Both beautifully illustrated brochures talk briefly about the company’s quarries in North Wales, including Penrhyn at Bethesda and Cwt-y-Bugail in Llan Ffestiniog, being a focal point for the production of UK natural stone for the past 700 years – the slate’s 500 million-year-old pedigree is reflected in the fact it is still handcrafted.

Although both show the range of colours (Penrhyn Heather Blue and Grey and Cwt-y-Bugail Dark Blue Grey) and finishes (riven, honed, flamed and machined) there the similarity ends.

The exteriors brochure features copings and sills, as used at the ME Hotel in London, walling and cladding as used at the National Waterfront Museum and many prestige private properties, paving, and roofing as used at York Racecourse and St Mary Abbots Church, London.

The interiors brochure features flooring, as used at the British Museum, interior walling and cladding, worktops, and fire and hearth surrounds.

No matter inside or out, the brochures reinforce Welsh Slate’s suitability for a wide range of contemporary and heritage architectural and interior design uses due to its aesthetics, durability and low maintenance.

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Roofing, walling and flooring from Welsh Slate feature on the redeveloped cardigan castle.

A three-pronged helping hand from Welsh Slate has contributed towards giving a medieval castle a new lease of life.

The manufacturer’s roof slates, walling and floor tiles feature on multiple aspects of the £12.5 million redevelopment of Cardigan Castle which had been in danger of being lost to the nation forever.

Penrhyn Heather Blue slates from Welsh Slate’s quarry at Bethesda have been used to re-roof Castle Green House, Ty Castell and The Stables while 200m2 of dark blue grey cleaved walling from the company’s Cwt-y-Bugail quarry clads the interior and exterior walls of “1176” – a new 70-cover contemporary restaurant which cantilevers over the castle walls.

Here the coursed walling is complemented by Welsh Slate’s Cwt-y-Bugail Dark Blue Grey floor tiles which are echoed in a total of nine new bathrooms in the East Wing guest accommodation and Green Street Cottages visitor centre. The new Welsh Slate flooring was laid by main contractor Andrew Scott of Port Talbot.

The Welsh Slate materials were specified by Purcell architects who worked for 10 years to repair and regenerate the 13th Century site, albeit with a few modern money-making twists.
Project architect Izaak Hudson said: “Cardigan Castle is one of the most significant historic building projects recently completed in Wales and all of the project team were very keen to be able to use local materials where we could.

“We specified Welsh Slate to match the existing slate on site, with WEFO*1 funding targeted at Welsh materials and contractors, but also because it was historically appropriate and good quality.”

“Castle Green House, the main dwelling within the castle walls, has a large-format, wet-laid diminishing course roof. This was expertly re-laid by skilled roofers from Tree and Sons of Milford Haven. The wet laying took some time as due to the weight of the huge Penrhyn slates we had to wait for the lime mortar of lower courses to carbonate before laying more, but it was a key existing feature and Cadw were very keen to reinstate it.”

Home to the first recorded Eisteddfod in 1176 (hence the restaurant’s name), the castle was partly dismantled by Cromwell’s forces after the Civil War, then enjoyed a brief renaissance in the early 19th Century as a Romantic site for a new mansion.

By the end of the 20th Century the site was derelict and ruinous, its buildings collapsing and roofs open to the weather. Most noticeably, the castle curtain walls were propped up with great raking shores to prevent their collapse onto the town’s main road.

This was despite the castle’s designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the six buildings within its walls being listed Grade II or Grade II*. So under public pressure, Ceredigion County Council acquired the site from the elderly owner while a group of local people set up the Cadwgan Trust to help.

Purcell architects were commissioned in 2005 to carry out an options appraisal to identify future potential uses which were agreed as heritage interpretation, a restaurant, holiday accommodation, restored gardens and space for open air events.

Phase I of its redevelopment was the £1 million repair of the castle’s curtain walls; Phase II was the conservation and upgrading of the six buildings within the castle walls and restoration of the Regency gardens.

The conservation works covered all aspects of traditional building skills, ranging from structural carpentry repairs, to slate roofing, leadwork, masonry repairs, external joinery repairs and lime rendering.

Purcell carried out careful research, along with trials and testing of materials and finishes, to inform its conservation decisions and ensure the building would be an exemplar for innovative conservation practice.

The project brief required new accommodation to house the restaurant and catering facilities and the decision was taken to locate the new building above a section of the castle walls which had collapsed in the 1970s.

The position provides views across the Teifi quayside and the river below and inwards across the castle Regency gardens. Purcell’s design cantilevers out above the castle walls, its strong visual presence indicating to visitors there is something special inside.

The new restaurant is uncompromisingly contemporary with large glazed elevations taking advantage of the views and giving it a transparency which helps minimise its impact on the site. Where solid, the external and internal walls were constructed of coursed Welsh Slate laid by Coe Stone of Carmarthen, specialist stonemasons concentrating on the conservation and repair of historic buildings and monuments, echoing the Cilgerran slate garden walls that form the backdrop to the site.

“It was a very challenging and interesting project and we learned a lot about slate,” said Izaak.

*1The Welsh Government organisation distributing funds from the European Union for economic and social development.

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