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The museum, situated in the last remaining slate shed on the harbour, has a large collection of artefacts depicting the seafaring activities of the area - the development of the port, the shipbuilding, the ships, and the lives of the seafarers.
Porthmadog did not exist before William Madocks, in 1811, built a sea wall, the Cob, to reclaim a large proportion of Traeth Mawr from the sea for agricultural use. The diversion of the Glaslyn river caused it to scour out a new natural harbour and the first wharves were built in 1825.
The rapidly expanding cities of England and northern Europe needed high quality roofing slate, which was transported from the quarries to the new port by tramway. The Ffestiniog Railway opened in 1836, followed by other tramways.
Shipbuilding was a major industry with nearly three hundred vessels built at Porthmadog and Borth-y-Gest including, latterly, the famous Western Ocean Yachts.
The local ships engaged in other deep-sea trade, carrying phosphates from the West Indies and salt cod from Newfoundland and Labrador. The outbreak of WWI brought a halt to shipbuilding and the start of an acceleration of the decline in slate exports. The last cargo was loaded in 1948.
Ships continued to call at the port up to the 1980s. The Florence Cooke was a regular caller to load explosives and unload general cargoes. Heavy equipment was brought in for building Trawsfynydd and other power stations in the 1960s and 1980s.