In pictures: Caernarfon old slate quay redevelopment officially open today
The regeneration project to re-develop Cei Llechi (Slate Quay) in Caernarfon will be officially opened today by former MP Dafydd Wigley.
The £5.9m regeneration project by the Caernarfon Harbour Trust in partnership with Galeri Caernarfon Cyf has seen the Harbour Office building and the derelict buildings behind it transformed and bought back to use.
Discussions and planning for re-developing the site started back in 2012, with the work beginning in 2018.
Funds came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Welsh Government, Visit Wales, Cadw, Gwynedd Council and Caernarfon Harbour Trust.
Caernarfon Harbour Trust’s Ioan Thomas said: “The majority of the buildings were in a very bad state, an eyesore and cause of embarassement for the Harbour Trust and the town itself – especially being so close to the castle, a World Heritage Site.
“As a Trust, we considered several option over a long period of time and we were keen to try and bring the old slate quay back in some way and celebrate the importance of the area.
“We were made aware of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the projects they would look to support, in particular combining restoration, regeneration and developing commercial opportunities and economic benefit to an area. We are so grateful to all of our funders, this project would not have been possible without their invaluable support.
“What we now have is a truly unique and special Cei Llechi showcasing local talent and providing employment as well as improving the aesthetics of this important area of the town on the banks of the Seiont.”
Evidence of the origins of a quay in Cei Llechi can be found as far back as 1611. From 1780 onwards, the quay saw changes as the area was developed into a bustling area of industry including copper, lead and coal bins, ship and wood yards, limekilns and foundries.
The quay became an important part of the area’s transportation system as it enjoyed a direct rail connection to the Nantlle quarries from 1828 and to the national rail network from the 1860s.
The distinctive group of structures forming present-day Cei Llechi have gone through considerable changes over the centuries, hosting a variety of spaces, skills and trades including a block and pump maker’s workshop, offices, coach house, blacksmith, coal yard, warehouses, garage, sheds and yards.
Cei Llechi was also home to the De Winton office – the most famous of Caernarfon’s engineering firms and a major supplier of equipment to the north of Wales’ slate quarries.
But the buildings neglected and unsafe, the owners of the site – Caernarfon Harbour Trust conducted feasibility studies on potential uses for the collection of buildings.
Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, Cei Llechi will help sustain jobs; support economic growth; drive tourism and help reinforce the already strong local sense of pride that exists in Caernarfon’s unique heritage.
“Cei Llechi is providing new creative workspaces and presenting the history and heritage of Caernarfon’s role in the slate industry in the 1800s and its significance locally, nationally and internationally.
“We are committed to supporting Wales’ rich and vibrant heritage. Our National Lottery Grants for Heritage programme supports projects that connects people and communities with their heritage and this is a great example of finding new uses for old spaces.”
Modern day Cei Llechi has seen the dilapidated buildings transformed into 19 workspaces for local artisan / craft manufacturers and restaurant.
The site also includes 3 self-catering holiday lets, the Harbour Office’s boardroom is available to hire and an interpretation area sharing more information about the importance of Cei Llechi historically locally, nationally and internationally.
Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “The development of Cei Llechi is part of an important story – in building Caernarfon as a destination.
“A cluster of projects such as this reflects Welsh Government’s focus on developing high quality destinations, supporting all year-round activity and creating economic impact both directly in the town and more widely and indirectly in the region through positive effects in the supply chain and in visitor spend.
“Cei Llechi, through an innovative blend of restoration brings a new purpose to a site that had fallen into dereliction.
“Through manufacturing, retail, interpretation and accommodation, this site breathes new life not just to this previously overlooked part of the town, but also in the future to promoting Welsh product and experiences.”
70% of the unites have already been taken up by a range of food and drink producers, artists, craft makers and a blacksmith, with Cei Llechi currently directly employing over 30 employees.
Gwyn Roberts, Galeri Caernarfon’s Chief Executive added: “We’ve been involved in this project from the early days. During the initial discussions through to the construction and completion – our role was to assist and consult closely with the Harbour Trust.
“Upon completion of the construction, our role has changed with Galeri becoming the leaseholder and responsible for the day-to-day management of Cei Llechi and dealing with enquiries.
“Without Covid or the current economic climate, I have no doubt we would be fully occupied. We are still receiving an interest on a weekly basis, and we are optimistic that we will be full by the end of the year.”
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