Penmaenmawr Quarry Records

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Extensive collection covering aspects of the running of the quarry including administration, quarry production, machinery, transportation as well as personal correspondent of C H Darbishire, the quarry owner.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1830 a geologist from Runcorn in Cheshire by the name of Philip Whiteway obtained a Lease of Foreshore at Penmaenmawr and started Penmaen Quarry with his friend Dennis Brundrit who formed the Brundrit & Whiteway Co. (Penmaen Quarry).

In 1834 a separate quarry was established on the Graiglwyd Mountain by the partnership of John Tompkinson, the builder of St. George's Hall, Liverpool and Thomas Brassey (the famous railway contractor). Before long Tompkinson and Brassey gave up their Lease to another partnership of three Liverpool men: Richard Kneeshaw, J T Raynes and William Lupton, who continued quarrying at Graiglwyd and Nant Dywyll.

In the early 1830s Samuel Holland opened the Gwylwyr Quarry at Trevor on the Llyn Peninsular, having discovered what he thought was excellent rock at Trevor. Holland hired workers from Penmaenmawr to make some setts, and they reported that the stone was first class which convinced Holland to open the quarry.

In 1878 the quarry started by John Tompkinson and Thomas Brassey came under the control of a consortium of the Darbishire family who had acquired the Pendyffryn Estate. Colonel Charles Henry Darbishire, who had served a civil engineering apprenticeship in the construction of the Mount Genis Railway between France and Italy, became manager of the quarry with large scale quarrying developing from that year.

The 'Graiglwyd' or 'Old Quarry' were under the control of C H Darbishire, while 'The Penmaenmawr Quarry' remained a separate concern under the ownership of Brundrit & Co. until 1911 when all (including the quarry at Trevor) joined together forming 'The Penmaenmawr & Welsh Granite Co. Ltd', under the chairmanship of Colonel Darbishire, who remained in charge of the business until his death in 1929.

Original products of the quarry were setts and hand-broken macadam (used in the surfacing of roads). However in 1881 Robert Footner, the engineer of the London and North Western Railway, informed Colonel Darbishire that he intended to ballast the company's track with granite. The resulting contract enabled expansion of the quarry to take place, with new mills being erected: 'Braichllwyd' in 1886 and 'Penmarian' in 1902.

The company continued to expand and the products changed in line with continuing developments in the various sectors of the construction industry. The output today consists mainly of crushed stone and aggregates. By 1962 500,000 tons were despatched annually. Projects using Penmaenmawr stone during the decade preceding World War II were the East Lancashire Road Construction, Courtauld's Factory Developments, the Mersey Tunnel, Wallasey Sea Wall, Brunswick Dock Silo in Liverpool, Clarence Dock Power Station Reconstruction also in Liverpool, Spillers Mills at Avonmouth and Cardiff and H.M. Factory at Chorley in Lancashire, amounting to some 1,000,000 tons of Penmaenmawr concrete aggregates supplied.

Three of the early post-war projects using Penmaenmawr products were the Brabazon Runway at Filton, Bristol, the M.O.S. Atomic Energy Project, Sellafield, Cumberland and the Rimrose Brook Main Drainage, W. Lancashire with 200,000 tons of materials supplied.

Until 2007 the quarry was under the ownership of Hanson Aggregates who took over the quarry in 1965. However, the business is a shadow of its former self: having at one time employed more than 1000 men, it now employs around 20 staff. One contract from its early history that continues to this day is that of supplying ballast for Britain's railway tracks.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Access to some documents may be restricted due to Data Protection legislation, Conwy Archives will advise where this is the case. For details and opening hours see http://www.conwy.gov.uk/en/Resident/Libraries-Museums-and-Archives/Archives/Archives.aspx.