Towards the end of the 18th century, landowners began to operate quarries on a larger scale. After the government abolished slate duty in 1831, rapid expansion was propelled by the building of narrow gauge railways to transport the slates to the ports. The most important slate producing areas were in northwest Wales, including the Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda, the Dinorwic Quarry near Llanberis, the Nantlle Valley quarries, and Blaenau Ffestiniog, where the slate was mined rather than quarried. Penrhyn and Dinorwig were the two largest slate quarries in the world, and the Oakeley mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog was the largest slate mine in the world. The slate industry dominated the economy of north-west Wales during the second half of the 19th century. In 1898, a work force of 17,000 men produced half a million tons of slate.
A bitter industrial dispute at the Penrhyn Quarry between 1900 and 1903 marked the beginning of its decline, and the First World War saw a great reduction in the number of men employed in the industry. The Great Depression and Second World War led to the closure of many smaller quarries, and competition from other roofing materials, particularly tiles, resulted in the closure of most of the larger quarries in the 1960s and 1970s. Slate production continues, but on a much reduced scale.
Sir Thomas Jones Woodward, OBE (born 7 June 1940), known by his stage name Tom Jones, is a Welshpop singer. He was born in Treforest, Rhondda Cynon Taf. Tom Jones rose to fame in the mid-1960s, with an exuberant live act that included wearing tight breeches and billowing shirts, in an Edwardian style popular among his peers at the time. He was known for his overt sexuality, before this was as common as it has become in subsequent years. In 1963 he became the frontman for Tommy Scott and The Senators, a local beat group. Clad in black leather, he soon gained a reputation in South Wales, although the Senators were still unknown in London. In 1964 they laid down seven tracks with maverick Telstar producer Joe Meek, and took them to various labels in an attempt to get a record deal, with no success. The plan was to release a single, Lonely Joe / I Was A Fool, but the ever-flighty Meek refused to release the tapes. Only after It's Not Unusual became a massive hit, Meek was able to sell the tapes to Tower (USA) and Columbia (UK). The group returned to South Wales and continued to play gigs at dance halls and working men's clubs.