Dolgarrog is a small village in the Conwy county borough in North Wales situated in between Llanrwst and Conwy, very close to the River Conwy. The small village is well known for two things: its industrial history since the 18th century; and the dam disaster, which occurred in 1925.
Believed to have been established around 1200 AD, Dolgarrog is said to have got its name from a flying dragon called Y Carrog. This mythical beast preyed on livestock and Dol-y-carrog was the favourite meadow on which it swooped down from the heights above to carry off sheep.
So serious were the losses that the farmers went on a dragon hunt armed with bows, arrows and spears.
One farmer, Nico Ifan, refused to go, claiming a dream had forewarned him the Carrog would cause his death. His fellow farmers laid a poisoned sheep's carcase on the heights above Eglwysbach across the river. The unsuspecting Carrog seized the bait, was caught and beaten to death.
Nico Ifan then came along to gloat over the dead dragon and cursed and kicked the corpse, whereupon the poisoned barbed wing of the Carrog pierced his leg thus fulfilling the death warning in his dream.
In the 1350s the Black Death took a heavy toll in the lower Conwy Valley, particularly among the bond tenants regulated by the King's officers from Aberconwy, Edward I's new English borough. Their visits and contacts in effect spread the disease.
Some townships of villeins, or crown tenants not to be confused with villains, such as Dolgarrog, were swept away. People left their lands or hid, unable to pay the taxes on their holdings.
A man privy to Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot is said to have lived in the house Ardda r Myneich (Monks Hill), whose ruins lie in the fields above the road between Porthlwyd and Dolgarrog bridges. Dr Thomas Williams (1550�1622), rector of St Peter's Church, Llanbedr-y-Cennin, was charged with having papist sympathies. He had warned Sir John Wynn of Gwydir to stay away from the Houses of Parliament on that fateful day.
Dolgarrog's industrialisation began in the 18th century with a flour mill on Porthlwyd river to crush corn for local farmers. There was also a woollen mill at Dolgarrog bridge and the Abbey mill.
The successful Porthlwyd mill was expanded by John Lloyd, son of founder Richard Lloyd. As well as grinding flour, he bought machines to make paper and flock for bedding. Paper from Porthlwyd supplied local printers, including John Jones, printer of Trefriw and later Llanrwst.
In 1885 the villagers wanted to start a school at Porthlwyd. The old village of Dolgarrog appealed to Mr Robins, the then proprietor of the paper-mill. He let them turn a large empty room at the mill into a flourishing Sunday School, known locally as Ystafell y drws goch ("the room with the red door") to make sure the children did not wander into the mill workings.
The Dolgarrog saw mill of John Williams also flourished. It exported hundreds of tons of wooden sleepers for the new railways between 1845 and 1865.
When the first sod was cut for the Conway and Llanrwst Railway track on August 25, 1860, on Lord Newborough's land at Abbey, Dolgarrog, it was John Williams who supplied the sleepers. He retired a rich man.
A reminder of those heady days is the Lord Newborough Inn on the edge of Dolgarrog.
The aluminium works (or "smelter") was originally planned in 1895. The lakes from the reservoirs in the Snowdonia Mountains would provide the hydro-electricity needed to run the mill.
In 1907, aluminium production began in the factory and in 1916 a rolling mill was added. During the Second World War, the aluminium works was under the control of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and many parts were used on the planes used during air raids in the war. A strong rumour is that during the war, the Germans tried to destroy the works, and sent a bomber out; this was however shot down, and the wreckage crash-landed above the village in the mountains.
To this day, the factory is still running, although in the past 25 years there have been numerous amounts of take-overs. Alcoa bought out the company Luxfer in 2000 and announced its closure in June 2002. Dolgarrog Aluminium Ltd formed in 2002 and acquired the assets from Alcoa in 2002 and is currently the only independent, fully integrated aluminium rolling mill in the United Kingdom.
In 1924, the hydro-electic plant was built next to the aluminium works to assist in the running of the mill.
In 1918 the Aluminium Corporation of Dolgarrog acquired a controlling interest in the North Wales Power & Traction Company. Dolgarrog consequently became the administrative centre of this company, and its chairman was Henry Joseph Jack. The company intended to supply electricity to the railways of north Wales, was the company behind the proposed Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway. Jack subsequently purchased majority shares in the Ffestiniog Railway, the Welsh Highland Railway and the Snowdon Mountain Railway, meaning that he was in control of all the passenger carrying narrow gauge railways of that part of North Wales. The end of Dolgarrog's control on the railways came in 1924 when Jack resigned from the WHR, accepting blame for its lack of success, and the final nail in the coffin came in the form of the following year's dam disaster.
On November 2, 1925, the failure of two dams caused a flood that swamped the village of Dolgarrog, killing 16 people. The disaster was started by the failure of the Eigiau Dam, a gravity dam owned by the Aluminium Corporation. The water released from the reservoir flooded downstream, and overtopped the Coedty Dam, an embankment dam. This dam failed, releasing the huge volume of water that flooded Dolgarrog.
Many more villagers could have been killed had they not been in the local theatre watching a movie that night.
The disaster at Dolgarrog led the British parliament to pass the Reservoirs (Safety Provisions) Act in 1930 that introduced laws on the safety of reservoirs. This has since been updated, and the current one is the Reservoirs Act, 1975.
In 2004 a �60,000 memorial trail explaining the tragic story to walkers was made. The trail takes you to where the boulders from the damaged dam reside. The project was opened by the last survivor of the dam disaster, Fred Brown, who on that night, lost his mother, and his younger sister.
Trains in Dolgarrog: Dolgarrog is on the Conwy Valley Line