Matt Smith: Welsh Slate Landscape nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status

Matt Smith Conservative campaigner and former Tory Welsh Assembly candidate welcomes news that the Slate Landscape of North West Wales has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Status 

  • If successful, the Slate Landscape will become the UK’s 33rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

  • It would join the likes of the Grand Canyon, the Vatican City, the Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu on the prestigious global list 

The Slate Mining Landscape of North West Wales could be the UK’s next World Heritage Site, Heritage Minister Helen Whately announced as she submitted the formal nomination to UNESCO. 

If accepted, the landscape will become the UK’s 33rd UNESCO World Heritage Site and the 4th in Wales, following the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Blaenavon Industrial Landscape and the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd.

The landscape - which runs throughout the Welsh county of Gwynedd - became the world leader for the production and export of slate during the 18th century. While slate had been quarried in North Wales for over 1,800 years and was used to build parts of the Roman fort in Segontium in Caernarfon and Edward I’s castle in Conwy, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that demand surged as cities across the UK expanded with slate being widely used to roof workers’ homes and factories. 

By the 1890s the Welsh slate industry employed approximately 17,000 and produced 485,000 tonnes of slate a year. The industry had a huge impact on global architecture with Welsh slate used on a number of buildings, terraces and palaces across the globe including Westminster Hall, the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Australia and Copenhagen City Hall, Denmark. 

UK Heritage Minister Helen Whately said:  

The incredible slate landscape is hugely significant to North-West Wales and its industrial heritage. The area is described as having ‘roofed the 19th-century world’ and the slate from the mines continues to have an influence on architecture around the world.

This nomination is an excellent way to recognise the importance of Wales’ slate mining heritage and will bring benefits not only to Gwynedd but the whole of North Wales by attracting visitors, boosting investment and creating jobs.

As well as the international demand for Welsh slate, between 1780 and 1940 the area was also home to a number of ingenious developments in quarrying and stone processing and railway technology for mountainous environments. 

The landscape of today has been transformed on a monumental scale due to hundreds of years of mining in the area. The nomination to UNESCO reflects this and the international significance of Welsh slate in ‘roofing the 19th century world’. 

The Slate Landscape of North West Wales has now been formally presented to UNESCO as the UK’s next nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in cooperation with the Welsh Government and Gwynedd Council. 

The site will now be considered by the International Council on Monuments and Sites over the next year before being considered for inscription at the World Heritage Committee meeting in 2021. It is anticipated that a decision on the future status of the Welsh Slate Landscape will be taken during the 2021 UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting. 

UK Government Minister for Wales, David TC Davies said:

Another stunning Welsh landscape has been formally nominated to join a long list of wonders of the world – an accolade it thoroughly deserves and one which recognises the significant role this region played in the slate industry in the UK and around the world during our industrial past. 

[The] nomination will play a huge role in providing a further boost to the tourism industry and acting as a catalyst to greater investment across north west Wales.

Notes to editors

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for meeting the requirements of the World Heritage Convention within the UK. This includes maintaining and reviewing the Tentative List of sites, formally nominating new sites, and ensuring existing sites are conserved, protected and given a life in the community. 

The other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wales are the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the 13th-century castles and town walls built in Gwynedd by King Edward I and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.


Matt Smith is a Welsh Tory who has stood as a Conservative candidate for Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. He was a Policy Analyst at Vote Leave. He writes for ConservativeHome and BrexitCentral. You can read more about Welsh politics at