Quarryman’s Quilt

This quilt, c. 1900, belonged to a slate quarryman who worked at Dinorwig Quarry, Llanberis and lived in barracks during his working week.

Men travelled from many communities in Gwynedd and Anglesey to work at the quarry. For many it was too far to return home each night. They stayed in barracks during the week, usually returning home at the weekend. Barracks were groups or rows of small primitive two-roomed houses built by the quarry owners to house these workers. They were lit by candlelight or paraffin lamp with an open coal fire for heating and cooking. The barracks were particularly cold during the winter. Living conditions were extremely poor and fleas and rats were common. The rent was one shilling a month, the quarrymen also paid for their own coal and provided their own bedding. On returning to barracks on a Monday, the men would air their beds by laying the bedding out with a hot brick placed underneath.

The quilt is made from patches of woollen suiting material, stitched roughly together with a sewing machine. The owner or maker’s initials are embroidered in one corner, ‘R R’, next to a handwritten tape label marked ‘3 Libanus ‘. It is not known what ‘Libanus’ refers to, but it could be the name given to a particular barrack or a local chapel.

Before it was donated the quilt was used in a bed as a covering for the spiky metal springs underneath the mattress.

It is currently on display in Storiel as part of the Sleep exhibition from September 2023 to March 2024.