Centre for Alternative Technology

Britain's major centre for environmental inspiration and courses.


How CAT started


The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) was founded in 1973 on the site of the disused Llwyngwern slate quarry near Machynlleth, in Mid Wales.

When founder Gerard Morgan-Grenville started the organisation, he conceived "a project to show the nature of the problem and show ways of going forward." It was originally a community dedicated to eco-friendly principles and a 'test bed' for new ideas and technologies - the Visitor Centre was a later addition.

In the beginning, progress in the quarry was slow, and the early attempts to raise money were frustrating. Volunteers worked long hours, often by candlelight - there was no electricity on the site at that time.

Liz Todd, one of the early volunteers, remembers shrews running across the table during mealtimes and eating from plates. An old engine shed with a leaking roof was the only habitable building on site at that time.

Slowly, increasing numbers of interested people came to CAT, and many stayed as volunteers. As more workers arrived, they brought a wide range of skills and experience.

In 1974, The Duke of Edinburgh visited CAT. After his visit, some members of staff suggested turning part of the site into a Visitor Centre, a permanent exhibition to explain CAT's work and generate interest in alternative technology. It opened to the public in 1975.

Since then, CAT has grown to become Europe's leading eco-centre. It is staffed by 90 permanent staff and volunteers all year round, and a further 60 people during the summer months. We receive around 65,000 visitors every year, who come to learn about our work.

CAT (as a Visitor Centre) celebrated its 30th birthday in 2005. Far from settling down to a quiet life, the Centre is constantly changing and adapting. We continue to produce exciting new projects, schemes and ideas, building on over three decades of knowledge and experience.

For more information on the history of CAT, visit the 30th Anniversary Photo Gallery.