An area famous for its slate industry could join the Great Wall of China and the USA’s Grand Canyon as a Unesco World Heritage Site later.
The slate landscape of north-west Wales is the UK’s bid as the World Heritage Committee meet in China this week.
They have awarded 30 new inscriptions to cultural and natural bids from all over the world already this week.
The slate landscapes of Snowdonia in the Welsh county of Gwynedd are said to have “roofed the 19th Century world” as slate from its quarries was exported around the globe.
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee will be looking for a site of “outstanding universal value” and should be a “unique landmark” which has a “cultural, historical or physical significance”.
Areas that have already been inscribed on the elite list this year includes the Great Spas of Europe, the Dutch Water Defence Lines in the Netherlands and the Trans-Iranian Railway.
What is the UK’s Unesco World Heritage nomination – and why?
Boris Johnson said the slate landscape of north-west Wales was “an area of remarkable uniqueness and breath-taking beauty” after it was announced by the UK government as its World Heritage Site nomination in 2018.
Slate has been quarried in north Wales for more than 1,800 years but during the Industrial Revolution demand surged as cities across the UK expanded with slate being widely used to roof workers’ homes and factories.
The UK bid says, as well as the international demand for Welsh slate, between 1780 and 1940 the area of Gwynedd was also home to a number of “ingenious developments in quarrying and stone processing” and was a world leader in mountain railways.
Its landscape became the leading producer of slate during the 18th century and by the 1890s, the industry employed just less than 17,000 people and produced 485,000 tonnes of slate a year.
Dr Dafydd Roberts, part of the bid team and former Keeper of the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, said the Welsh slate landscape “deserves its legacy”.
He said the story which started in the 1790s “isn’t just a tale of the past”.
“It is still employing a significant number of people in Gwynedd and it’s still recognised as one of the best roofing material in the world.
“We have put this bid in to increase the pride in our slate communities, to promote the and celebrate the rich Welsh culture of our slate valleys and to regenerate our slave landscape.”
What’s famous about UK’s Unesco Heritage Site bid?
The slate industry in north-west Wales had a huge impact on global architecture, with Welsh slate used on a number of buildings and palaces across the globe, including Westminster Hall, the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne and Copenhagen City Hall in Denmark.
But it has also had other notable moments to…
Where’s the longest strike in UK history?
Penrhyn Quarry was once considered to be the largest slate quarry in the world, employing 2,800 men, turning Bethesda into a town of 8,000 people.
Its owner held a grudge against his workers after losing his Parliament seat in 1880 so abolished a system of rate negotiation, which led to The Great Penrhyn Strike. It was one of the longest strikes in history, lasting three years from 22 November 1900.
Where was art hidden during World War Two?
During World War Two, a quarry in Snowdonia was used to hide some of the world’s most treasured paintings from the Nazis.
As Allied troops fled Dunkirk in 1940, a German invasion of the UK seemed inevitable – and prompted the National Gallery to take evasive action to protect its collection.
This led wartime leader Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Hide them in caves and cellars, but not one picture shall leave this island.”
This led to Manod Quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd being used as a temporary store as the cavernous space at the heart of the mountain – covered with hundreds of feet of slate and granite – was virtually impregnable to bombing. Plus its remote setting also helped keep the mission top secret.
Where have Hollywood films been made in Wales?
Scenes of some famous blockbusters have been filmed in Wales – such as Harry Potter and Robin Hood – and Dinorwig Quarry was the backdrop for Clash of the Titans, featuring Liam Neeson, and scenes from Tarzan with Samuel L Jackson.
The second biggest quarry in the world may be a true Welsh landscape but it can also be transformed to look like almost anywhere – including Greece!
Where is one of Europe’s largest hydro-electricity plants?
Dinorwig Power Station was regarded as one of the world’s most imaginative engineering and environmental project when it was fully commissioned in 1984.
The £425m hydro-electricity plant, known as Electric Mountain, comprises of 16km of underground tunnels deep below Elidir mountain in Snowdonia – and its six powerful generating units make it one of the largest power stations of its kind in Europe.
Every second, each turbine receives enough water to make 15 million cups of tea and can supply a maximum power of 1,728-megawatts.
Which quarry used to store captured World War Two German nerve gas?
Glan Rhonwy slate quarry, which is about the size of two football pitches, was used as a secret munitions store during World War Two and it used to store captured German nerve gas.
The area at Llanberis was later was used to dispose of old bombs, bullets and grenades before the former RAF ammunitions store was cleared in the 1970s.
Is UK’s Unesco bid powered by Thomas the Tank Engine?
One of the best loved children’s train cartoons was partly thanks to one mini railway in Gwynedd.
The creator of the Thomas The Tank Engineer series was The Rev W Awdry and his stories were inspired by his experiences as a volunteer at Talyllyn Railway in the 1950s.
For almost a century the narrow gauge railway hauled slate through Snowdonia before it became the world’s first preserved railway in 1951.
Does everyone in Wales want World Heritage Status?
One language group is worried that the Unesco honour could add to Gwynedd’s existing “over tourism” issue.
With tourism said to contribute over £1bn a year to the local economy, 2016 saw over seven million people visit local attractions like Caernarfon’s historic castle and Wales’ highest peak Snowdon, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
But a council report in February warned of an “over dependence” on low paid jobs within tourism when compared to other industries and areas of the UK, also raising concerns that the county cannot cope with “unsustainable” visitor numbers as seen in some “honey pots” last summer.
“Whatever the hope of the county council, it must be honestly acknowledged that gaining World Heritage Site status would increase tourism to the areas concerned,” said Cylch yr Iaith in a statement.
“And regarding the intention to ‘stimulate economic development’, tourism developments appear to be increasing throughout the county.
“The experience of other areas within the county shows how the character and language of a community are changed as a result of incompatible tourism developments.”
But Gwynedd council has defended claims, stressing that the bid is about celebrating the area’s rich past, while adding that Welsh language would remain integral.
Where are the UK’s Unesco World Heritage sites?
Liverpool hit the headlines earlier this month when it was stripped of its World Heritage status after a UN committee found developments threatened the value of the city’s waterfront.
The UK has 32 remaining World Heritage sites including Stonehenge, the Tower of London, Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, The Lake District, Maritime Greenwich and Hadrian’s Wall.
Where are Wales’ Unesco World Heritage sites?
Wales has three World Heritage sites and one of those, like the slate landscape which is bidding for the status, is also in the north-west.
Unesco said the four castles of Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and the attendant fortified towns at Conwy and Caernarfon “are the finest examples of late 13th Century and early 14th Century military architecture in Europe”.
What are the most famous Unesco World Heritage sites?
There are 1,121 historical significant sites in 167 countries across the world that been inscribed on the list, including Egypt’s Pyramids, India’s Taj Mahal and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
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