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For four years, a disused slate quarry in a remote mountain in North Wales became home to some of the world’s greatest artistic masterpieces. In specially constructed air-conditioned underground chambers the priceless treasures in the collection of London’s National Gallery sat out the days of the Second World War safe from Luftwaffe bombers and Nazi art hunters.

The abandoned slate quarry was located beneath a small mountain named Manod Mawr, near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The local slate mines have been driving the economy of this region since the 18th century. The 1860s and 1870s were the best years for the slate industry and Blaenau Ffestiniog underwent a large boom. But an economic recession followed by the First World War and the general trend towards mass-produced tiles and cheaper slate from Spain caused the industry to falter, and many quarries closed down.

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Manod Mawr near Ffestiniog. Photo credit: Jeff Buck/Wikimedia

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© Amusing Planet, 2018.


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