These carvings were mostly made in the first half of the 19th century and were designed and carved by quarrymen. Most are found in Dyffryn Ogwen, or in the homes of quarrymen who worked at Penrhyn Quarry. They range greatly in style, from the use of concentric circles, to ‘sampler’ patterns to elaborate freehand scores of music. Birds, flowers, hearts, china, people, shell patterns, buildings, music and clocks are amongst the depictions recognised in these slate hearths. Each gives a glimpse of what life was like in the period and what things the quarrymen valued or enjoyed. Whilst most of those found to date are fire surrounds, there are some long thin slates which were used to put under the dresser. Also created were smaller decorative carved objects such as the slate fan and decorated miniature furniture.
This carved slate is from the home of John Parry, musician who composed the song ‘Friendship’. It is believed that the music was carved especially for his fireplace. It can be seen in the Culture and Traditions case in gallery 4.
Slate carvings are recognised as a form of folk art and further examples can be seen in the Connections gallery here at Storiel.