Snowdon's Hidden Secret
Deep in the heart of Manod Mawr lies a secret almost 80 years old.
A hidden mountain vault from World War Two used to hide priceless works of
art. Across Europe the advancing Nazis had already looted or destroyed millions of pounds of art.
As allied troops fled Dunkirk, bombs fell on London and a German invasion seemed inevitable, opinions turned as to how to protect the National Gallery's Collection. Since the beginning of World War Two the paintings had been stored in various temporary locations but they were not entirely suitable for long-term use. Experts scoured the UK for a hidden place until they found Manod Quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Manod Mountain had been a working quarry for over a century.
It's excavations created a cavernous space at the heart of the mountain and covered with hundreds of feet of slate and granite it was virtually impregnable to bombing. Also, it's very remoteness made it easier to keep the mission top secret. Moving almost 2,000 works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Turner and Constable proved to be quite an undertaking. Cold, damp quarries aren't really good places for priceless works of art, so before they were moved, six air-tight climate controlled brick huts were built inside the mountain. In fact the conditions inside Manod were considerably better than those in which they were exhibited at the National Gallery before the war, and the evacuation taught staff a lot about preservation. Not everything ran smoothly, Van Dyck's Equestrian portrait of Charles 1 is a monster at 12ft by 9.5ft, and in it's case, loaded on the back of a truck, was considerably taller. In the end they had to dig up the road surface to lower it by a few inches, and to this day you can see how the kerb in that section is noticeably higher than the rest of the road.
The government retained its lease on Manod until the 1950s, and it was to have performed the same role in the event of a Third World War.
Thanks go to the BBC for their Hidden Wales programmes
Another local fact from the Second World War involved the bank on the corner of Lancaster Square in Conwy. Now a wine bar named not surprisingly “The Bank.” You can now sit and have a drink in the vault in the cellar below.
The vault is so large that when the government was moving large amounts of money out of the central bank in London fearing an invasion, they used Conwy as one of the places to store a considerable amount of the nations currency.
Thanks to a former bank manager at the branch for this information.