Penmaenmawr and Welsh Granite Company

Gauge: 3ft (915mm)


Collection Objects

Penmaenmawr is located between Llanfairfechan and Conwy. There has been a quarry there since Neolithic times. Axe-heads and other implements fashioned from its distinctive stone have been found at archaeological sites throughout the British Isles.

In the early nineteenth century, with the growth of Britain’s industrial towns, a need arose for vast numbers of granite setts to pave the streets. In the 1830s granite quarries were opened on Penmaenmawr to take advantage of the demand. The stone was taken down from the quarry by self-acting inclines to a 3ft gauge tramway which ran to loading jetties on the seashore. From there it was taken by ship to Liverpool and other major ports, then by canal or road to its final destination. With the coming of the railway to Penmaenmawr in the 1840s, the shipping trade fell into decline. At its height the quarry tramways ran with five De Winton vertical-boilered locomotives. With a bigger gauge these locomotives were built substantially larger than the slate quarry versions, and had inside frames.

The opening of the Chester to Holyhead railway in 1848 drastically altered the fortunes of Penmaenmawr. At that time it was a tiny quarrying village within the parish of Dwygyfylchi but this was considered too difficult for English tongues to pronounce. It was therefore decided to name the railway station “Penmaenmawr” (the great stone head) after the quarry mountain. A community grew up around the station. The railway speeded up distribution of Penmaenmawr stone, and also boosted the town’s economy by bringing in tourists.

By the mid-nineteenth century the purpose built holiday resort of Llandudno was already thriving and the railway made it simple for visitors to venture the ten miles or so further west to Penmaenmawr with its easy access to the sea and hills. The patronage of the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone put Penmaenmawr firmly on the map.

Gladstone first came to Penmaenmawr in the late 1850s to visit his friend and fellow liberal Samuel Dukinfield Darbishire the quarry owner and Secretary of the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company. He was responsible for much of the development of Penmaenmawr as a community. Thereafter Gladstone was a constant visitor to “dear old Penmaenmawr” whose air, he maintained, had remarkable restorative properties. His view was endorsed by other notable Victorians including Charles Darwin, Edward Elgar and Lord Tennyson.

Today, the quarry at Penmaenmawr continues to thrive. The stone is now despatched by rail and road, and it remains universally popular for rail ballast, road building and the making of concrete. Examples of its modern usage include the Mersey Tunnel and the Hamburg By-Pass in Germany.

Penmaen De Winton & Co. of 1878; 0-4-0
Llanfair De Winton & Co. of 1895; 0-4-0
Louisa De Winton & Co. of ; 0-4-0
Watkin De Winton & Co. of ; 0-4-0
Stephen Hunslet Engine Co. No. 771 of 1902. Scrapped by 1951
Hunslet Engine Co. No. 798 of 1903.

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