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Is Welsh Slate The Best? We Go Behind The Scenes

August 27, 2021
Beautiful North Wales Slate Landscape which is a World Heritage Site

Here at Valley Mill we’ve been going behind the scenes of the Welsh slate business. One of the biggest questions we get asked is, is Welsh slate the best? Let’s find out!

It’s actually a well known fact within the business that Welsh slate is one of the finest quality slate in the world. Did you know that Welsh slate was quarried from North Wales from as early as the 12th century? It’s actually the toughest slate known to man. It has very few impurities and a beautiful colour and grain structure. Wesh slate doesn’t fade in the sun.

The slate itself is approximately 500 million years old and is made by the compression of clay over time. This is thanks to the movement of the tectonic plates – which helped form the Welsh Mountains.

The high quality of the slate is the result of a combination of apsect. From the quality of the clay and the precise amount of pressure & heat.

Meet A Welsh Quarryman

We met with Andrew Jonjo who has been a quarryman for 37 years. Not only is he a quarryman, but he is actually the sixth generation in the Welsh slate business.

Slate has been his, and his families life for 6 generations. ‘Jonjo’ who now works at the Welsh National Slate Museum shows us real slate cutting techniques. He also talks about why he believes Welsh slate is the best.

Valley Mill’s Welsh Slate

At Valley Mill, we only use Welsh Blue Grey Slate, although it is in fact a dark grey in appearance. The slate that we use here in our workshop in South Wales is mined at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

It is then whisked over to our Llansamlet workshop where it is hand cut, engraved and oiled.

It is then ready to be sent to directly to your home, our Valley Mill stores & to one of over 100 stores that we supply around the UK.

Pictured below is our slate cutter Josh who shows us one of the traditional ways to cut slate.

Pictured here is Mike, who is one of our slate cutters here at Valley Mill. This image shows Mike oiling and finishing our slate heart coasters.

World Heritage Status

In July 2021 UNESCO announced that the slate landscape of North Wales had won World Heritage Status. This now puts us alongside places such as the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.

This image shows why our beautiful landscape now has World Heritage Status. Isn’t it just stunning?

The incredbile view of Dinorwig Quarry which now has World Heritage Status
The Dinorwig Quarry Copyright: RCAHMW

The landscape has become the UK’s 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the 4th in Wales,. This follows the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Blaenavon Industrial Landscape and the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd.

The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales became the world leader for the production and export of slate in the 1800’s.

Slate quarried in the area has been used to build parts of the Roman fort in Segontium in Caernarfon and Edward I’s castle in Conwy. However it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that demand surged as cities across the world expanded with slate from the mines at Gwynedd being widely used to roof workers’ homes, public buildings, places of worship and factories. 

Welsh Slate Industry

By the 1890s the Welsh slate industry employed approximately 17,000 workers. It produced almost 500,000 tonnes of slate a year, around a third of all roofing slate used in the world in the late 19th century.

The industry had a huge impact on global architecture. Welsh slate has been used on a number of buildings, terraces and palaces across the globe. This includes Westminster Hall in London’s Houses of Parliament, the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Australia and Copenhagen City Hall, Denmark.

In 1830, half the buildings in New York had roofs made of Welsh slate. Centuries of mining in the area transformed the landscape on a monumental scale. This reflects the important role this region played in ‘roofing the 19th century world’.

National Slate Museum

If your idea of a museum is based on glass cases and dusty exhibits, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you visit the National Slate Museum Llanberis

This museum-with-a-difference is based in the original Victorian Engineering Workshops at Dinorwig Slate Quarry. The quarry was in its heyday in the 1870’s and closed in 1969.  The site was opened as a Museum in 1972 – and was the world’s only national slate museum. The National Museum Wales – attracts over 140,000 visitors a year!

We met with Lowri Ifor who told us more about the museum and the amazing World Heritage Status.

All the staff at the museum are Welsh speaking so, it’s a great place to practice your Welsh.

What Is Slate?

Slate is essentially mud that has first been compressed and compacted, and then squeezed and heated by the Earth’s forces.

The main components of slate are the minerals sericite mica, quartz, chlorite, haematite and rutile.  Tiny variations in the proportion of some of these minerals can lead to a rainbow of variations in the colours of the slates themselves. From different shades of green through grey and blue to a deep, rich red.

Slate Names

Nine layers of slate run through Elidir mountain and the different slates bear such lovely names.

Green & wrinkled

Redwood

Red

Old quarry blue

New quarry blue grey

New quarry blue grey mottled

Sage green

Willow green

Bronze

Purple red

Pictured below is our blue grey Welsh slate wine rack. As you can see the appearance is more dark grey in appearance.

Blue grey Welsh slate wine rack with two bottles of wine glistening in the sunshine

How Is Slate Formed?

Dinorwig Quarry slates originated as mud deposited in the sea during the Cambrian era of the Lower Paleozoic Era. This was about 500 million years ago!

At this time much of Wales was the floor of a very large sea or lake, covered by layers thousands of feet thick made up of mud and silt deposited by rivers. 

Slowly this mud was turned to clay and was squeezed and compacted until they all faced the same direction. This is what has caused the rock to become splittable slate.  

Spectacular changes in the geological history of Wales followed:  land movements brought the sea bed upwards to become dry land, which was then squeezed and shaped by lateral forces as a result of volcanic activity.

Did You Know?

  • Welsh slate slab switchboards were used in the Engine rooms of Cunard Ships Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.                                                                                                                                         
  • Welsh Slate Quarries inspired the construction of some of the earliest railways in Wales e.g Penrhyn Tramway (1801)                                                                                                                                      
  • Narrow gauge Steam locomotives were first used on a line built specifically to carry Welsh Slate. E.g the Ffestiniog Railway from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog.                                                                                                           
  • Slate Quarrying resulted in immense wealth – evidence can still be seen at Penrhyn Castle or at Y Faenol estate, Gwynedd.                                                                                                                                       
  • Prince Charles investiture at Caernarfon took place on a ‘dais’ made of Welsh Slate.                                                         
  • The world’s best snooker tables are made from Welsh Slate.                                                                                               
  • Llechwedd Slate Quarry saw the first commercial generation of electricity in north Wales at the beginning of the century.                                                                                                                                      
  • The North Wales Quarrymen’s Union, established in 1874, was one of the earliest working class unions in the United Kingdom.                                                                                                                            
  • The Penrhyn Strike, from November 1900 to November 1903 is one of the longest ever United Kingdom Industrial Disputes.                                                                                                                               
  • King Edward 1st’s architects used Welsh Slate as part of the construction of his chain of castles around Gwynedd.

What Is Welsh Slate Used For?

Due to the unique qualities of Welsh slate, it has become the best and only choice for many homeware products. This include placemats, coasters, cheese boards, wine racks, clocks, house signs and many others. Indeed, slate home and tableware has become increasingly popular over the last decade.

Interior designers, hotels & restaurants and of course, the everyday consumer want something a little bit more stylish and eco-friendly.

Welsh slate cheeseboard adorned with a stunnning selection of cheeses

Is Welsh Slate The Best?

Let’s take another quick look at the reasons why WE believe Welsh slate really is the best.

Why Choose Welsh Slate?

There are so many benefits of buying products made from locally mined Welsh slate.  We take a look at why.

Why Is Welsh Slate Better?

Roofing companies all over the world recommend genuine Welsh slate as the best slate.  The strength and lasting quality of Welsh slate make it one of (if not the best) slate in the world.

Welsh slate serving tray with chicken and pepper kebabs placed on top

Is Welsh Slate More Expensive?

The answer is yes it is, but there are many reasons for this.  The benefits of Welsh slate really surpass its cousins.  There are not only fewer impurities in 100% Welsh slate but, it also needs less maintenance.

Welsh slate has less fade and is stronger than other slates.  

This means that it lasts so much longer and there’s no need to continually repair and replace like many other products. So our natural slate products should cost you less in the long run.

Is Slate Environmentally Friendly?

Slate has a low carbon footprint due to the manufacturing and working processes. It’s a ‘green’ material due to its endurance so will last for longer than many other materials. 

We source our slate from Blanenau Ffestiniog which means delivery is much more eco-friendly than slates that have been imported from outside the UK. E.G. China and Spain.  Supporting us also means you are supporting the local economy.

Welsh slate heart hanging on a wall with hemp rope.

Imported Slate

As with any product, there are alternatives to Welsh Slate when it comes to homeware products.

At the lower end of the quality spectrum, Chinese slate is very hard and brittle. Even worse, it is full of unsightly impurities. This means any products made from Chinese slate will be sold pretty cheaply because of the low quality. It will be pretty obvious what you are going to get for your money. It’s not a bad option however, if quality is no real concern and you have a tight budget.

Spanish Slate Vs Welsh Slate

The other most widespread slate currently being used for homeware products is Spanish Slate. Indeed, it is very nice to look at in comparison to the Chinese Slate as it has very few impurities. It is also very flat and you can easily cut quite complex shapes from it.

It’s important to remember the reason Spanish slate cuts so well is that it is a very soft slate. This means Spanish slate is not as hardwearing as Welsh slate.

When cut, Spanish Slate leaves you with a very evenly dressed edge, which looks almost machine-cut in quality. It is also cheaper than Welsh slate and much more readily available.

Remember Welsh slate lasts longer and there’s no need to continually repair and replace like many other products. So our natural slate products should cost you less in the long run.

The Truth About Scottish Slate

Did you know that Spanish Slate is very often being passed off and sold as Scottish slate?

There are several Scottish companies that use Spanish slate to manufacture their homeware products. Their homeware products will say ‘Made in Scotland’, so we all assume that it is actually Scottish slate.

However, the last Scottish slate quarry closed in the 1950s!

The only Scottish slate still available is reclaimed slate from the old mines and quarries.

With this in mind, if you see the phrase ‘Made in Scotland’ attached to slate homeware, it is highly unlikely that it is actually Scottish slate – that is unless it has come from someone’s old roof!!

Don’t Just Take It From Us

You may think that we are biased when it comes to our slate (we TOTALLY are). However, this is the reason why we visited the experts so you could hear it from them. In fact, you are always leaving us lovely reviews when it comes to our slate. Take a look at just a few mentions.

Welsh slate review which compliments Valley Mills slate items
Welsh slate review which compliments Valley Mills slate items
Welsh slate review which compliments Valley Mills slate items

Our Slate Products

So, now we’ve whet your appetite for a Welsh slate item for your home. Let’s take a look at some of our best selling products.

Mood Maker

Set the mood for the evening for a catch up with friends and family with Valley Mill’s ranges of candles and candle holders. Not only do they look fantastic but our huge variety of scents will really set the mood too.

Welsh slate tealight holder which holds 5 tealights

Daily Reminders

Do you have a busy life? Our Welsh slate chalkboard family planner is perfect for busy homes and workplaces.

Whether it’s meal planning, tasks, a weekly planner for all of the children’s activities, a family planner or just a list of all the fun stuff you’ve got coming up. We handcraft each board from the highest quality Welsh slate.

A Gift For Your Garden

Welcome your guests with a Valley Mill Welsh slate hanging sign. We have ready made designs or you can personalise them with your very own design.

Make It Personal

If it’s a personal touch you’re looking for then look no further than our amazing personalised Welsh slate serving trays.

Why not serve up some treats on our Welsh slate trays ? These can be personalised to your design right here in our workshop.

Pictured below is Mike one of our slate cutters showing one of the many ways we cut and prep our slate.

Competitions Current Events Valley Mill

Back to School Competition

August 6, 2021

Thank You for entering the Valley Mill Back to School competition. This competition is now closed and our winner is Seren!

Lucky Seren has won a Back To School chalkboard, a personalised stainless steel water bottle AND a Family Chalkboard planner.

“I’m going to be Spider-Man when I grow up” – Buddy aged 6

“I want to be the coalman on The Flying Scotsman” – Caiden aged 8

*T&C’s Apply.

Back To School Fun

Mark your child’s first day back to school each year with a Welsh slate first day chalkboard. Capture the memories that will last forever.

As parents, we all have hundreds if not thousands of photos of our kids on our phones. So why not make the first day back to school special?

Just think of their faces in a few years when you show your children all of these pictures and they see how much they’ve grown through their school years.

As parents, we know that our children’s growing up years goes so quick. Why not make this a new family tradition in your household?

Do you have a busy life? Our Welsh slate chalkboard family planner is perfect for busy homes and workplaces.

Whether it’s meal planning, tasks, a weekly planner for all of the children’s activities, a family planner or just a list of all the fun stuff you’ve got coming up. We handcraft each board from the highest quality Welsh slate. Our natural slate is locally sourced which not only supports the local economy but also has a low carbon footprint.

Back To School Personalised Water Bottle

Keep the kids hydrated at the school with this eco-friendly water bottle. Back to School with their own personalised water bottle. Did you know that our water bottles are triple-walled and can keep any drink cold for up to 24 hours, or hot for up to 12 hours? Plus, they look awesome too!

“You Can Be Anything”

Terms and Conditions

  • This competition runs from Monday 9th August 2021 00:01 until Sunday 22nd August 2021 2021 23:59.
  • We will announce our winner on Wednesday 25th August 2021. The winner will win 1 x Back To School Chalkboard, 1 x personalised water bottle, 1 x chalkboard family daily planner.
  • One entry, per person.
  • One winner will be chosen at random from all of the entries.
  • Grown Ups: It is your responsibility to send your child’s entry via the competition page on our website. 
  • By entering this competition you give full consent to Valley Mill using any images/text you have sent to us for our promotional purposes.
  • Any information submitted to us will not be distributed to any third parties.
  • This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other promotions and discounts.
  • The above terms and conditions may be altered without prior notice.
  • This competition is only applicable to persons living in the UK.
  • Choice of designs or colours of products dependent on stock availability.
  • All entries and copyright in them automatically become the property of Valley Mill.
  • All entrants to competitions and offers are deemed to have accepted these rules and agreed to be bound by them and agree to co-operate in any publicity that may arise.
  • By providing your email address and entering this competition you agree to receive relevant email communications from Valley Mill including news, events, offers and competitions.
  • If a prize is declined or unclaimed by a selected winner, or if a selected winner cannot be contacted from the details supplied within 2 weeks of first attempting to notify a selected winner, the prize will be forfeited. In such circumstances, Valley Mill reserves the right to select another winner at random from the eligible entrants.
Current Events Gifts Valley Mill

Personalised Wedding Gifts

July 23, 2021
Set of personalised wedding gift mugs. Mr and Mrs Right.

Choose a personalised wedding gift that will really stand out. Check out our unique wedding ideas for not only gifts but wedding table decorations too.

The Big Day

So you’ve received your invite, you’ve chosen the perfect outfit … but now you need a PERFECT present for the wonderful couple. Well, you’ve come to the right place for some amazing ideas for a personalised wedding gift to knock their socks off.

Not only are we going to give you inspiration for gifts for the couple but also for the wedding guests too. In fact we’ve even got some beautiful wedding decorations to make your guests say WOW!

Welsh Slate Personalised Wedding Gift

They deserve the best, so give them the best. A bespoke personalised Welsh slate wedding present from Valley Mill will show them how much you care. Just take a look at this beautifully crafted Welsh slate heart clock.

The beautiful wedding couple captured forever in Welsh slate with this unique heart clock gift.

What is the Best Gift for a Wedding Couple?

How long is a piece of string? We 100% recommend you match your gift to match the couple. Is the couple outdoorsy? Maybe they are moving in to a new home. Do they love their food and wine? Use your knowledge of the couple to choose the best gift for them.

Our Welsh slate personalised photo frames are extremely popular. They can be rotated to a portrait or landscape format. A lovely way to display photographs from the special day.

Gifts for the Food Lovers

How beautiful would a personalised welsh slate cheese board look with a selection of the couples favourite cheeses? OK, so just typing the word cheese make us want to grab a cheese knife and tuck in, but you can’t deny that this looks fantastic.

A selection of cheeses served on a Welsh slate cheeseboard. A thoughtful personalised wedding gift.

It will look EVEN more fantastic when it’s personalised too! Our Welsh slate tray with copper handles makes a beautiful serving platter for cheese and much more.

Grazing boards and grazing platters are all the rage right now. So why not gift the couple a personalised wedding gift of a Welsh slate graze board. Plus, the board is so versatile it can be used to display almost anything.

If the couple you are gifting are wine lovers then our wine racks are all completely unique. Each one is made from solid Welsh slate. We have options from 2 – 7 hole bottle holders. Every wine rack is completely unique so there are never two the same. Please get in touch with our team if there are any specific requirements you need.

Gifts for the Home

Why not help the happy couple start married life with a beautiful gift for their new home? Whether its a handcrafted ceramic tea set, a set of mugs or a Welsh slate photo frame; these gifts make a beautiful reminder of their big day for years to come.

A beautiful Welsh slate personalised heart shaped hanging photo frame makes a fab gift.

A set of fun mugs always goes down a treat as a gift for a wedding or, in fact any occasion. Our ceramic and enamel mugs can be personalised online with our easy-to-use design tool. We have a range of well over 30 fonts and many many icons too. We even offer photo mug printing. All you need is your imagination and perhaps access to their photo albums on Facebook for the funny pics.

One of our latest products comes from Alice Funge. This handmade collection from Alice Funge is exceptional.  The styles and shapes of these pieces will compliment any interior home style. 

Why not gift some beautiful homeware to the couple? Check out this elegant vintage influenced ceramic collection from Alice Funge.

If the couple love to leave messages for each other then a personalised Welsh slate hanging chalk board would go down a treat.

Personalised Welsh slate hanging chalk board is a perfect couples gift

Gifts for the Outdoorsy Couple

Staying hydrated is a big must for the active couple. Why not gift them some personalised stainless steel water bottles?

Valley Mill’s refillable stainless steel water bottles are very durable and last longer than glass and reusable plastic options.

They will help you save money long-term, whilst also helping you to do your bit for the planet. Their leak-proof screw top caps make them incredibly practical whilst on the go. Plus, their double-wall insulation keeps your favourite refreshment at the perfect temperature for longer. They are BPA and phthalate-free, so you don’t have to worry about any nasty chemicals being released into your drink.

Gift a wedding couple who love adventure their own personalised stainless steel water bottle

Do they love camping? If so, then these enamel mugs are perfect for the couple. You can create the design of your choice using our easy to use online design tool.

Enamel mugs are a perfect alternative to plastic camping wear. They last the test of time and are actually pretty stylish too!

Perhaps the outdoor lovers may appreciate a beautiful new picnic blanket?

Made in Wales, our quilted cotton picnic blankets are ideal for park picnics and fun days out. The thoughtful combination of waterproof materials and a carry strap, means they’re designed to be perfect for any adventure!

Valley Mill Waterproof picnic blanket is perfect for a gift for the outdoorsy couple.

Personalised Wedding Gifts for the Party

It’s wonderful to be able to share the special day with your family and friends. We are sure that many of the people around you have helped with this special occasion and you want to be able to thank them with a unique gift.

Our range of personalised hip flasks are very popular for wedding gifts for Father of the Bride, Groomsmen, Best Man, Ushers and more. We even have a matte pink hip flask that can be given as gifts to the bridesmaids.

We stock a range of personalised hip flasks which can be given as gifts to groomsmen, Father of the Bride and more.

Why not thank your family and friends with a Valley Mill handmade candle and a personalised Welsh slate coaster. You can personalise with your own names and date of the wedding or have their names engraved or a message of your choice.

Valley Mill Mixed Berries handmade soy wax candle with a personalised engraved coaster.

Mother of the Bride/Groom Gift

How about a beautiful piece of jewellery for the Mother of the Bride or, Mother of the Groom that WON’T break the bank. This ‘picnic necklace’ from Ronin Jewellery is just £21.50.

A multi-colour necklace which is perfect for a wedding gift

Flower Girl Gift

Are you looking for a gift for your flower girl? How about one of these beautiful handmade bath bombs from BrambleWood Soap Co? We have a wide range of different bath bombs. Pictured here is the ‘Relaxing Rose Bath Fizzy’ which is scented with Rose Geranium essential oil and made with moisturising cocoa butter. Perfect for a flower girl.

Can you Decorate a Church/Civil Ceremony for a Wedding?

Often there are restrictions on how you can decorate your wedding ceremony so, it’s always best to check what you can and can’t do before making any purchases. So, do get in touch with your venue ASAP.

Flowers are always very popular. However, if you want to add some uniqueness to your day then why not add some personalised Welsh slate signs. Literally you can choose anything to have engraved on our signs. Take a look at some of the ideas we have for you.

Imagine heading in to the service and seeing one of these Welsh slate signs welcoming you in. So unique, so quirky and so you!

Beautiful Welsh slate hanging sign which has been personalised with Mrs and Mrs

Welcome your guests to your day with this personalised Welsh slate heart hanging sign. You could even have ‘Seriously Awesome Couple Getting Married This Way’ or ‘Happily Ever After Starts Here’ engraved on it. There are SO many options.

Personalised Heart welsh slate wedding sign welcoming your guests

If you are looking for guidance on your civil partnership & wedding and reception and celebration events during this pandemic then check out the Welsh Government website.

What Do You Put On Wedding Tables?

The answer is completely up to you. There are no wrong or right ways to do this. We recommend you always include your unique style when planning your wedding.

However, if you need some inspiration of some mind-blowing wedding decor ideas then take a look at these.

A beautiful Welsh slate table planner greets the guests at the venue

So, you arrive at the venue for the wedding breakfast and this personalised Welsh slate table planner greets you. Straight away your guests know they are in for a unique time.

In fact, you then head to your table to see your table name setting is in fact also a beautiful gift for yourself.

Welsh slate heart make a unique individual wedding table name setting and personalised gift

A Welsh slate hanging sign adds a personal touch to your day.

Welsh Slate Table Planners & Settings

We understand that your love story is unique, so your Wedding should be too! Have your bespoke Table Planners & Settings engraved onto 500 million year old Welsh slate and distinguish your big day from any other.

Our team at Valley Mill will work with you to design your dream table planners, whether it be a large Welsh slate planner with easel, that can include over 120 names, or individual table planners, which make beautiful centre pieces for a more intimate affair.

Personalised and engraved top table Welsh slate table setting for a wedding

Personalised Wedding Gift Favor Ideas

Being on a budget does not mean you have to cut corners on quality. We provide quality custom pieces for each wedding.

Give Your Guests a Gift They Can’t Wait to Take Home

Gift a wedding keepsake that the guests will really love. I know we always come back to our beautiful Welsh slate heart coasters as the designs available are almost limitless AND they are just so unique. Just use your creativity to choose what you want engraved on them.

personalised wedding gift idea of engraved Welsh slate coasters

Here at Valley Mill we have a fantastic range of handmade Welsh love spoons for all budgets. They are traditionally handcrafted in Wales from high-quality hard wood.

Small handcrafted Welsh love spoon given as a gift at a wedding

Did you know that we also produce our own range of handmade natural soaps? Valley Mill natural soaps do not contain artificial colours, preservatives or additives and are free of parabens and SLS; they are just full of natural goodness. They’re cruelty free and vegan friendly too!

Valley Mill handmade natural soap is a thoughtful favour gift idea for your guests

Our soaps make a cute little favor for wedding guests.

Take a look at our Personalised Wedding Gift Range plus also browse our other personalised gift items.