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The story of the slate

Slate from North Wales was used to roof buildings around the world, as well as for classroom use. The slate quarry owners made massive fortunes, or in some cases, increased their wealth by investing in slate quarrying. Quarrymen however had miserable lives, poor working conditions and low pay.  Find out more about this here 

Members of the Jamaica Wales Alliance started talking about the historical use of Welsh slate in Jamaica and we are currently (Oct / Nov 2018) exploring this and a slate sample has been sent from the Royal Naval Hospital at Port Royal by Jonathan Greenland, Director of the Musuem of Jamaica, to the National Slate Museum in Llanberis to be analysed to see which, if any, of the North Welsh quarries it is from. 

The Old Naval Hospital in Port Roal is being restored as part of a World Heritage Site bid and damaged slates need replacing with original materials.

A sample slate was brought back to UK by the Jamaican High Commissioner in October 2018, and will be presented to Dafydd Roberts from the National Slate Museum at a Reception being held at the JHC for the Jamaica Wales Alliance on 14 11 18.

Information the Old Naval Hospital, Port Royal, provided by Jonathan Greenland

The Old Naval Hospital was designed and built in 1818 by Edward Holl, a British Naval Architect, who used Slave Labour to construct the building. (This was after the Slave Trade was abolished, but before emancipation).

It is made from prefabricated cast-iron sections and columns imported from Sheffield, England, and thousands of red bricks made in Jamaica from local clay. The Hospital has the distinction of being one of the earliest cast-iron structures erected in the New World and is a very unique example of English Regency Architecture.

The massive two-storey rectangular building is completely surrounded by wide pillared verandahs on both floors, which catch every available sea breeze and make it delightfully cool even on the hottest day.

The present Naval Hospital stands on the foundations of an earlier Royal Naval Hospital at Port Royal which was built in 1743, but destroyed by a fire in 1812. The various 18th and Early 19th Century brick outbuildings included Kitchens, Staff Quarters, Storerooms, an Isolation Ward and a Mortuary.

Since the British Naval Station closed at Port Royal in 1905, the Old Naval Hospital has been used for a variety of other purposes. Over the years it has withstood the Great Earthquake of 1907 and also several Hurricanes, during which the townspeople of Port Royal sought refuge within its sturdy walls. 


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