Historic quarry provides stone for Holyhead memorial to Dutch Navy

Stone from an historic Holyhead quarry is to be used to make a touching memorial to commemorate the close relationship between the people of the town and the Dutch sailors who served in the port during the Second World War.

A number of blocks of the local green mica schist from the long disused Jersey Quarry on Holyhead Mountain are to be used for the Memorial which will be erected on Newry Beach, Holyhead, later this spring.

Stone being extracted from a quarry in Holyhead for Dutch Mariners? Memorial. From left,

The stone has been gifted to the project by Isle of Anglesey County Council through its Countryside Service working with the RSPB, who lease the quarry site, and it will form the major part of the memorial which will have a bronze emblem of the Royal Dutch Navy set in a cast concrete circle with benches made from local oak or salvaged teak.

It has been designed by restoration architects Purcell, who have worked on Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral and Liverpool’s St George’s Hall as well as on the Holyhead Cenotaph.

Monument Visual FINAL copyright_Purcell architects ceidiog

The memorial is being built by Grosvenor Construction, of Kinmel Bay, who themselves specialise in restoring historic buildings, among them such iconic locations as Harlech and Conwy Castles, Liverpool Town Hall, Chester Walls and the Parys Mountain Windmill.

This latest work will celebrate the enduring relationship between the people of Holyhead and the Netherlands through the sailors and ships of the Dutch Navy who fled Holland one jump ahead of the German army when its Blitzkrieg rolled west in 1940.

One cruiser, the Jacob Van Heemskerk, normally crewed by 400 men, sailed with just 23 aboard as it made its escape across the North Sea and the ship and many others ended up in Holyhead where they played a vital role in the pivotal Battle of the Atlantic.


Many of the ships and men were based in Holyhead where they carried out minesweeping duties to keep the approaches clear for Britain’s lifeline of convoys on their way into Liverpool.

The Dutch were warmly welcomed and many of them married locally and settled in the town, among them Mathieu Van Weert whose son, Graham, is delighted that the link is to be commemorated.

Dutch War Memorial Holyhead.  Pictured are Graham Van Weert?s parents, Mathieu and Megan, nee Parry.

Graham, a volunteer at Holyhead’s award-winning Maritime Museum, was at the Jersey Quarry with some of his colleagues to see the stone chosen and he said: “It’s absolutely brilliant. I can’t believe it’s actually happening.

“It’s wonderful for the people who came to Holyhead and to mark the connection between the people of Anglesey and the Dutch nation.

“It was very important to them that they were made to feel at home here and the hospitality is typical of the people of Holyhead which became their home town for the Dutch sailors.”

Graham’s father was one of 116 Dutch sailors to marry local girls. He met Megan Parry, from Holyhead, at a dance in the town and Graham said: “My mother saw him through a shop window and that was just one of so many romances.

“This area around the quarry was quite a romantic spot where couple used to walk. It’s a lovely place with the countryside and the sea and so it’s good that the stone comes from here as well.”

The quarry itself has played its part in Holyhead’s seafaring traditions – it contributed seven million tons of stone for the harbour breakwater, the longest in the UK and once the longest in Europe, and stone and brick from the associated brickworks went to build much of the town.

The link with the Netherlands – Mathieu came from Maastricht where Graham still has relatives – will be further strengthened this year when a Royal Dutch Navy ship is due to visit Holyhead for the inauguration of the memorial.

Jane Osborne, of Grosvenor Construction, said: “We’ll be taking the biggest and best stone out to our stoneyard in Kinmel Bay where we have three specialist stonemasons who will be assessing how it can be best utilised to achieve the proposed design. It’s a challenging material due to its particular properties and hardness, which may require some changes.

“It will be done to exact specifications and then the bronze cast will be set into it and the rest of the construction work done so it is ready for the special inauguration.

“All our staff are Gold Heritage Skill card-holders and we will be making the memorial and installing it in place.

“It’s a very special project and we’re delighted to be involved in commemorating this historic link between Anglesey and Holland.”

Caergybi County Councillor Bob Llewellyn Jones said: “It is typical of Holyhead to give a warm welcome to sailors, especially during the war.

“Many of the Dutch were young men and they met local girls and settled here and have been a very valuable part of the community in the town and there are grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of those Dutch sailors and Dutch names here.

“They were very brave and played a big part in our history. This is a very fitting memorial and I am very pleased that they have been recognised and I hope it encourages some of their relatives in Holland to visit the town.”

The funding for the Memorial has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, through the Community Heritage Initiative for Maritime Engagement (CHIME), Isle of Anglesey Council’s Property and Environmental Grant (PEG) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with further support by Holyhead Town Council and from local organisations and individuals.

Most of the project costs have been met but over the coming months it is planned to hold a number of local fund raising events, which people can attend or donate directly to the Holyhead Maritime Museum at Newry Beach, Holyhead, or at www.holyheadmaritimemuseum.co.uk

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