Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Industry and Engineering History

  • Britain's Greatest Bridges by Joseph Rogers

    One thing to note about my first Amberley title, Britain's Greatest Bridges, is that it falls short of thoroughly explaining the detailed engineering methods, techniques and construction concepts that naturally apply to some our nation's most important structures. There is a reason for this.

    Generous access for cyclists and pedestrians on the south side of the Severn Bridge makes for a great run between England and Wales. (c. Karen Rogers, Britain's Greatest Bridges, Amberley Publishing)

    The book stemmed from a love for travel, which for me began in 2010 when school had abruptly finished and life in an exciting and endless world invited me to explore and wander, before the grips of employment took hold. In being unleashed on the British landscape, I sought to truly appreciate what exactly the vast numbers of villages, towns and cities had to offer, and in doing so came across a number of distinct landmarks that made a meaningful impression on the adolescent mind.

    One such feature was bridges. A two night break based at the M5's Gordano Services saw me take an excursion running across the Avonmouth Bridge during a cold and clear evening, which resulted in an experience that forced unrivalled adrenaline through the veins, trapped between the fast flow of traffic and the silent depths of the river below. Shortly afterwards, I was doing the same from England to Wales, taking advantage of the first Severn Bridge's generous walkways and the ability to stand so isolated above the Bristol Channel, whilst being in the thick of a major feat in roadway expansion.

    Over subsequent years, this want to become intimate with such landmarks, particularly those with candid public access, became an addiction of almost a decade thus far and one no doubt to last my entire lifetime. The opportunity to shed light on, and share a liking for, some of Britain's greatest bridges was one pounced upon, not to dissect tension, compression, concrete and iron, but instead to celebrate icons of culture, history and geography by including the patently obvious, but also those whose place might not be fully recognised without some understanding of its place in the local landscape.

    Though part of a larger failure to impose the car on Glasgow, Kingston Bridgenow successfully carries ten lanes of traffic via the M8 motorway over the Clyde. (Author's collection, Britain's Greatest Bridges, Amberley Publishing)

    The Kingston Bridge in Glasgow is a good example of this, seeing coverage in the book for being undeniably brutal when viewing the Clyde in all its glory. Its inception might have been somewhat disastrous and repairs long-lasting, but with the accolade of Europe's busiest bridge and a place in a music video for local band Simple Minds, it became notable enough for inclusion as one of the greatest. Some would say greatest failure, greatest concrete blot on the landscape, or greatest umbrella from the Scottish weather, but nevertheless a great bridge indeed.

    The sheer size of the Humber Bridge alone marks it as one of the greatest structures in Britain, though at one point it stood globally at the forefront of bridge-building. (Author's collection, Britain's Greatest Bridges, Amberley Publishing)

    Similarly the Humber Bridge, whose construction has been widely celebrated in all formats, was a dead cert for the title, given its feats. As once the longest bridge of its type in the world, much is to be applauded in its design, length, height and technology, especially given its age. But also of interest is its very function, bypassing a route of approximately 50 miles, and linking two sides of the River Humber previously united only under the geographical Humberside banner. Crossing the estuary had been the want of previous civilisations, including the Romans, and doing so by boat became popular over subsequent centuries. It was not until the prominence of the automobile and the industrial advances made by both Kingston-upon-Hull and Grimsby became a factor that the need for a more permanent structure materialised. The bridge's very existence tells swathes about the area's progression and place in British history and this is arguably just as important as the science behind that existence.

    To the book's general audience, the point of celebrating, what are labours of love for engineers and architects, is to instil a sense of awe and pride in simply using or seeing these objects in the wider narrative of Britain's geography. Outlining a brief history and noting obscure facts and trivia might not erect the enthusiasm of those at the forefront of creating and maintaining our treasured spans, but hopefully can perk the interest of the general explorer in appreciating the wider and more subjective feelings that arise from exploring the UK in all its variety. After all, who better to judge the greatness of such structures, than those that use them?

    Joseph Rogers's new book Britain's Greatest Bridges is available for purchase now.

  • Staffordshire Coal Mines by Helen Harwood

    It is no coincidence that the industrial towns in Staffordshire lie on or close to the counties coal fields, notwithstanding the 1974 Local authority reorganisation which saw large areas of South Staffordshire become part of the West Midlands authority.

    Foxfield Colliery. (Staffordshire Coal Mines, Amberley Publishing)

    Prior to the eighteenth century the majority of people worked in agriculture while the making of pottery – coal excavated from surface seams fired the kilns – and iron smelting was carried out on a local hand produced basis. For example, in the sixteenth-century coal from the South Staffs coalfield was used to fire small scale iron forges. However, the large quantities of sulphur produced by coal led to the pig iron being brittle. Lord Paget of Beaudesert built probably the first blast furnace in the Midlands circa 1560 on his Cannock Chase estate fuelled by charcoal, resulting on pressure on the surrounding woodland to meet demand.

    It was Abraham Darby in nearby Shropshire who, in the early eighteenth century created the process of using coke from coal to manufacture iron. The demand for coal grew rapidly as coke reduced the cost of pig and wrought iron so allowing larger blast furnaces to be built.

    Following on from drift mines dug into hillsides vertical “bell pits” reaching some thirty- to- forty -feet down gave access to deeper coal reserves. A narrow shaft about 4ft-6in in diameter led into the seam where miners dug the coal from both sides creating a bell-shape. Meanwhile, sometime earlier in 1698 Thomas Savery developed the first successful steam powered one-horsepower engine. It was used in some mines and branded “The Miner’s Friend”. One was installed in Broad Water colliery, Wednesbury in 1706, but it proved unsuccessful and the mine flooded. However, the majority of pits still relied on waterwheels, windmills and horsepower to keep them relatively dry. Later, in 1712 Newcomes steam engine pumped out water from mine shafts allowing them to be dug deeper. Following on, in the 1770’s James Watt’s engine cut fuel costs enabling mines to become larger and more profitable.

    The Conduit Colliery at Norton Cains. (Staffordshire Coal Mines, Amberley Publishing)

    As the demand for coal grew so did the need to transport it efficiently and the eighteenth century saw the development of Staffordshire’s canal system. The Trent and Mersey – opened 1777 –financed largely by Josiah Wedgwood to move raw materials and finished ware safely followed the valley traversing the North Staffs coalfield. Standing in the way though, was Harecastle Hill near Kidsgrove, however the excavations of Harecastle Tunnel led to the discovery of more coal seams. The introduction of canal transport with the ability to move large quantities of coal lowered the price and demand grew rapidly. In 1836 the Trent and Mersey canal carried 184,500 tons of goods away from the Potteries. Many mine owners like Viscount Dudley Ward financed the building of canals to link with industry, while cutting branch canals to join collieries directly with the network. The Cauldon Canal linked the Cheadle coalfield while the Staffordshire and Worcester and the Dudley canal had links to the local collieries.

    In order to transport the coal from the pithead tramways were laid to the canal wharf with the wagons pulled by horses. Then in 1806 two horse-railways or tramroads were proposed to link the collieries and ironworks around Newcastle-Under-Lyme joining together about a mile south-west of Audley before meeting the Chester canal at Nantwich. The plans never materialised, however in the 1860’s a steam railway built as a branch of the Newcastle to Audley line served the collieries in Apedale. Meanwhile, in 1849 the main Walsall to Lichfield line of the South Staffordshire Railway opened running close to Hammerwich and Uxbridge collieries with a company line linking the Cannock Chase Colliery’s pits to the main line making it more economical to transport coal by rail.

    By the end of the nineteenth century coal mining was growing rapidly to feed the Industrial Revolution. The use of coal doubled between 1800 and 1900 and to be against coal was to be against progress and employment.

    Helen Harwood's new book Staffordshire Coal Mines is available for purchase now.

  • Westbury Cement Works by Simon Knight

    The chimney standing tall over the partly demolished site. (Credit Simon Knight, Westbury Cement Works, Amberley Publishing)

    When I started covering the demolition of the cement works, I hadn’t originally planned on turning my time spent there into a book. But as the hours spent on site accumulated, I began to realise that there was more to the place than just old, dusty buildings. It was a place that was once alive. It was a place that was important. And it was a place that should be remembered.

    Once I knew that there was to be a book on the horizon, it changed my approach to my visits to the noisy site; where machines slowly tracked around digging, hammering and cutting up the remnants of a once thriving industry. I now had to make sure that I took plenty of still images from both the drone and ground-based camera, rather than just shooting video; I had to record as much as possible. And with thoughts of the book constantly with me during those visits, I would begin to explore the cement works with renewed intrigue.

     

     

    Kiln construction in 1962. (Credit Tarmac Ltd., Westbury Cement Works, Amberley Publishing)

    I was given permission to use archive black and white pictures that were taken during the construction of the site. I love taking pictures and I love looking at pictures and I found it truly fascinating trawling through them all. There were pictures taken during the construction of the two huge rotary kilns, the chimneys, the quarry, the entire construction had been documented. Looking back in time at a place that I had become so familiar with only added to my fascination of the works.

    I now also had the perfect excuse to spend more time with something that I am truly passionate about – wildlife. I would spend hours walking over the long since used clay pile in search of butterflies, reptiles and wild flowers. The wildlife that lived at the back of the site lay in juxtaposition with the silence shattering and ground shaking machinery that that operated on a daily basis for eighteen months. Despite the disturbance, life went on for the mammalian, avian and reptilian life that inhabited the cement works. The highlight of my time spent with the wildlife was watching a family of Peregrine falcons. I was in the privileged position to be able to watch the parent birds rear their three chicks whilst I was concealed away in a building that once delivered cement clinker via a conveyor belt. It was dusty (as was the entire place) and uncomfortable, but it was worth every minute.

    Female Peregrine. (Credit: Simon Knight, Westbury Cement Works, Amberley Publishing)

    I also learned of a far more ancient form of wildlife that once existed at the works. During the excavation of the clay that was used in the cement making process, many prehistoric fossils were unearthed. The fossil rich Kimmeridge clay, present as a sedimentary layer under the works, was a graveyard to many prehistoric marine reptiles from the Jurassic period, around 150 million years ago. The most famous of these reptiles was ‘Doris’, an eight metre long pliosaur. Her story would eventually see her end up with a new resting place, at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. When I was in the museum photographing Doris, I couldn’t believe that the first visit to the works had led me to this very moment, where I was stood facing the fossilised remains of one of the most ferocious marine predators that ever lived!

     

     

    The life-sized model of Doris displayed in the Bristol Museum. (Credit Simon Knight/Bristol Culture, Westbury Cement Works, Amberley Publishing)

    Some of the time spent on site was frustrating and not so enjoyable. There were days when the weather wasn’t cooperative. Wind and rain would ground the drones and made stills photography challenging, sometimes impossible. Probably the most frustrating issue to deal with was when parts of the demolition didn’t go as planned. Occasionally there would be a building or structure that wasn’t prepared to give up its fifty-year grip on the land. This would lead to me being on site for most of the day, when the plan had been for that particular part of the works to be on the ground before the morning was out. During this time all I could do was hang around and wait.

    Of course, from a demolition perspective, the highlight of the entire eighteen months was the works iconic 400ft tall chimney coming down. The landmark that was visible and known for miles around, came crashing to the ground at 7am on 18th September 2016. It was an exciting and nervous morning for my crew of four that had set up cameras and piloted drones to record the memorable event. It was a morning that none of us will forget.

    The fallen chimney. (Credit Simon Knight, Westbury Cement Works, Amberley Publishing)

    This was my first book, and it did feel somewhat strange when I received my copies of it. Here I was, holding a book that had been professionally published – with my name on the front! It was something that I had dreamt about for a long time. I mean, doesn’t everybody want to write a book? But now it had actually happened, it didn’t feel real somehow. I was proud of it, I knew that much, but there was also some trepidation lurking within – how would it be received?

    Something else that was very strange to me was having to do the local press pieces. I never produced the book to get attention. I’m a somewhat shy and quiet person and I am not a huge fan of being on the lens side of the camera, so being interviewed by the local press was a very alien experience to me to say the least!

     

     

    Simon Knight posing for the Wiltshire Times with some of the former cement works employees. (Credit: Siobhan Boyle/Wiltshire Times, Westbury Cement Works, Amberley Publishing)

    What was very enjoyable though was the small get together that I organised with Nigel Osman (the cement works site manager) for some of the works former employees to celebrate the launch of the book. It was lovely to meet them, and they had some fond memories of life at the cement works. Some of them hadn’t seen each other for years and a good time was had by all. These were the people that I had really produced the book for.

    One employee said something to me that meant more than anything anyone could have said. It struck a chord with me and proved that to some people at least, the book meant something. He said, ‘It’s good that you have taken the time to do the book. This place employed generations of family members, was a good employer and it’s important that it’s remembered’.

    This really did mean a lot to me. This was the reason I produced the book and I now knew that it had been worth the effort.

     

    Simon Knight's new book Westbury Cement Works is available for purchase now.

  • The Industrial Revolution in the Tees Valley by Colin Wilkinson

    One sunny, warm September day I set off to find any traces of the old lead mines in the upper reaches of the River Tees. After climbing through woodland and fields I arrived at the disused mines in need of a break and certainly not ready to work all day digging out lead ore. It’s no wonder that the miners slept close to the mines in uncomfortable workshops during the week and only returned home at the weekend. I had chosen a fine day to climb through the hills; facing the climb to work on a wet, cold, windy morning must have been challenging and perhaps was summed up in a verse from the time.

    The ore’s awaiting in the tubs, the snows upon the fell

    Company folk are sleeping yet but lead is right to sell

    Come my little washer lad, come, let’s away

    We’re bound down to slavery for four pence a day.

    Low Skears Mine near Middleton in Teesdale. (The Industrial Revolution in the Tees Valley, Amberley Publishing)

    These lines refer to a washer lad, his job was to separate the lead ore from the rock, or bouse as it was called, which had been brought out of the mine. This involved breaking up the bouse and washing it through troughs of flowing water where the heavy lead deposits would sink ready to be gathered and sent to the smelters.

    Continuing the mining theme but much further downstream and still avoiding poor weather, I chose a bright spring day to look for some remnant of the iron stone mines in the Cleveland Hills. This involved another climb through what is now a tree lined path that was once the route of a rail line up to the mines. Eventually I reached the entrance to the New Venture mine.

    The industrial area at Barnard Castle. (The Industrial Revolution in the Tees Valley, Amberley Publishing)

    Later a visit to the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum at Skinningrove brought home the working conditions in the early days of the mines. Protective clothing consisted of a leather cap, a moustache provided a dust filter, candles lit the way through the workings and to keep the rats at bay string was tied around trousers just below the knee.

    In Darlington another museum provides a reminder of the pioneering Stockton and Darlington Railway. The Head of Steam Museum is housed in an old station and displays some early locomotives used on the railway.

    Ayresome Iron Works, Middlesbrough. (c. Beamish Collection, The Industrial Revolution in the Tees Valley, Amberley Publishing)

    But the history of the Industrial Revolution is not just found in museums. I wanted to use the book to describe the great industrial heritage of the area and illustrate where reminders can be found. For example in Barnard Castle there are still some of the old mills beside the river although they have now been converted into flats.

    Barnard Castle had long been a market town but places that had been little more than hamlets were suddenly transformed into major towns. Middlesbrough is an example, initially it was developed as a port to ship coal then it became the centre of an iron industry when ore was discovered in the Cleveland Hills. Soon blast furnaces were lining the banks of the Tees. W. E. Gladstone the Liberal politician who would become Prime Minister visited Middlesbrough in 1862 and spoke of ‘this remarkable place, the youngest child of England’s enterprise, is an infant, but if an infant, an infant Hercules’.

    Colin Wilkinson's new book The Industrial Revolution in the Tees Valley is available for purchase now.

    Also by Colin

  • Industries of East Shropshire Through Time by Neil Clarke

    The Area’s Natural Resources

    Modern farming in a former mining landscape: Little Worth with Coalmoor beyond, in the parish of Little Wenlock. (Industries of East Shropshire Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    East Shropshire has been endowed with a variety of natural resources, both below and above ground. In addition to minerals such as coal, iron ore, clay, limestone and building stone, the area possesses rich agricultural land, woodland and water supplies. A wide range of manufacturing industries developed from these resources.

     

    Manufacturing Industries

    A remarkable range of industrial activity has taken place in East Shropshire over many centuries. Artefacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages (possibly made locally) have been found in the area, and it is thought that the Romans used coal in their manufacture of metal and clay products at locations in and around Wroxeter. In the Middle Ages, the local monasteries at Buildwas, Lilleshall, Wenlock and Wombridge granted licences for the mining and quarrying of coal, ironstone and building stone on their estates. The towns that grew up in the area from the medieval period onwards – Wellington, Newport, Shifnal, Bridgnorth and Much Wenlock – developed the manufacture and trade of such items as textiles, leather and metal goods. The granting of market charters and other privileges to these towns recognised their growing status.

    However, from the late sixteenth century, the biggest changes in the area developed on the Coalbrookdale Coalfield. Here, the working of deposits of coal, ironstone and clay laid the foundations of the industries that were to give the area an early lead in the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century.

    At first, most of the coal that was mined on either side of the Ironbridge Gorge was transported down-river to areas where it was used as a domestic and industrial fuel. The coal trade on the Severn continued to expand over the next 250 years, but much of the increased output of the Coalfield was needed to feed the area’s developing iron industry in the form of coke. It was Abraham Darby I who first successfully used coke to smelt iron at Coalbrookdale soon after 1709, and from the middle of the eighteenth century all new blast furnaces were coke-fuelled. The earliest method of making coke was to burn off the coal’s impurities in open heaps, but coking ovens were later introduced. In the 1780s, Archibald Cochrane 9th Earl of Dundonald) established works at Calcutts (Jackfield) and Benthall for the extraction of by-products from coal – coke, tar, pitch and oil. Several local ironmasters built coke and tar kilns based on those of the Earl of Dundonald. Another by-product of this destructive distillation of coal was what became known as town gas, which was made at a number of gasworks in the area in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    The moulding shop at the Court Works, Madeley, in the 1920s. (Industries of East Shropshire Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The earliest way of making iron was by the direct process of heating ore in a bloomery; however, by the sixteenth century charcoal-fired blast furnaces producing pig iron had been set up at four locations in the area. The introduction of coke as a fuel in the early eighteenth century, with the availability of local supplies of limestone as a flux, led to a rapid expansion of the iron industry, and by 1800 there were some fifteen ironworks with coke-fired furnaces on the Coalbrookdale Coalfield – one of the country’s leading ironmaking areas. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Old Park ironworks was the largest in Shropshire and the second largest in Britain. During the century, local production of pig iron continued to increase, but its proportion of the national output fell from over a quarter of the total in 1800 to about 10 per cent in 1830 and 4 per cent in 1860. By this time, apart from John Onions’ foundry at Broseley, all the East Shropshire ironworks – including furnaces, foundries, forges and rolling mills – were north of the Ironbridge Gorge. Dwindling mineral resources and competition from other areas led to the closure of most of the furnaces by the end of the nineteenth century, with only Madeley Court, Blists Hill and Priorslee, together with some local foundries, surviving into the next century. Heavy engineering and steel-making firms established in the second half of the nineteenth century at New Yard (Wrockwardine Wood) Horsehay, Donnington and Hadley continued to operate until the 1980s.

    Local clays were used in the manufacture of a variety of products from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. There was a concentration of works on the south bank of the River Severn: at Jackfield earthenware and pottery, bricks and tiles, and encaustic tiles were made; Broseley was famous not only for its tobacco smoking pipes but also its bricks and tiles; fine porcelain was made at Caughley and pottery and later drainage pipes at Benthall. North of the river, fine china was made at Coalport; brickworks were built over a wide area, particularly by most of the ironworks owners; drainage pipes were made at Doseley; and sanitary ware was manufactured by the Lilleshall Company at Snedshill (Oakengates).

    The quarries of Wenlock Edge were the last productive source of limestone in the area. In the second half of the twentieth century, the bulk of the limestone was used for aggregates in the construction industry, while some was used for concrete-based products and agricultural lime, and a small amount was used for fluxing purposes and building stone.

    The produce of the land has fostered a range of manufacturing industries. In the past, crop farming provided barley for brewing and hemp for rope-making, while animal farming provided milk for dairy products, skins for leather, wool for textiles and meat for the food industry. Local woodland at one time provided domestic and industrial fuel, as well as timber for building construction, furniture-making and the production of wood naphtha. Streams drove the water wheels of local corn and paper mills, and a supply of water from the River Severn was a critical factor in the siting of both Ironbridge power stations.

     

     Industry Today

    Joseph Sankey bought Hadley Castle Works in 1910 and utilised the buildings of the former tramcar works. Sankey's works specialised in motor vehicle wheels and bodies, and expanded with the burgeoning motor industry. (Industries of East Shropshire Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Today there is possibly a greater variety of industrial activity within East Shropshire than there ever was in the past, but it is of a very different character. Mining and heavy industry have been replaced by a range of light engineering, technical, food and service industries, and this newer industrial activity has been concentrated on industrial estates and business parks. However, a handful of older industries have survived, including Aga cookers at Ketley, GKN Sankey at Hadley, Blockley’s brickworks at New Hadley/Trench Lock, and Leaton quarry at Wrockwardine. Brewing and the making of encaustic tiles at Jackfield have been revived on a modest scale, and soft toy manufacture is still carried on by Merrythought Ltd at Ironbridge. The newspaper and tourist industries also have their roots in the past.

    The largest concentration of industrial estates and business parks is within Telford, where six sites were designated for such use when the New Town area was enlarged in 1968 – Halesfield, Heath Hill, Hortonwood, Stafford Park, Trench Lock and Tweedale. In fact, the first industrial estate had already been laid out at Tweedale and the first factory occupied two years previously (below). Outside Telford, industrial estates and business parks have also sprung up at Bridgnorth, Broseley, Much Wenlock, Newport and Shifnal.

    As well as the different character of modern industrial activity in East Shropshire, few local resources are now used in the manufacturing processes. The movement of goods, whether raw materials or products, has been by road haulage since the 1960s, with the completion of the M54 in 1983 providing a vital link to the national motorway network. The only regular rail-borne traffic in recent years has been that to Ironbridge Power Station, which ended with the closure of the plant in 2015. The potential of the rail freight terminal at Donnington has still to be realised.

    Neil Clarke's new book Industries of East Shropshire Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Digging deep in the Pennines – The story of stone quarrying by David Johnson

    I can probably trace my interest in and fascination with quarries back to ingrained memories from early childhood when I would spend what seemed like hours gazing out of the window on gloomy winter days across the fields behind our little cottage. Entranced by the red glow from the open doors of a Hoffmann brick kiln, and when my best friend and I (illegally) played in the clay pits during school holidays. Add to that is a life-long love (well, since the age of 10) of being in hills and mountains, and an incurable obsession with peering down holes in the ground. I am drawn to rock, not just the ways in which it was won from the ground in quarries and underground mines, but how different types of stone have been used in buildings and how this all impacts on the landscape. I have also, and not just as a hobby, spent many a day repairing the dry stone walls that are such an iconic and essential feature of the landscape in the Yorkshire Dales where I have lived and worked for over 30 years. Up here it is hard not breathe rock, to feel it, to empathise with it and to become totally enveloped by its effects on life, work and landscape.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 1 Underground quarrymen using hammers and bars to prize away blocks of rock in a now-disused chert quarry in Swaledale. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    My deep interests in the quarrying of limestone, in particular, led to my undertaking a comprehensive field survey of the many hundred lime kilns that are peppered across the Dales and the former county of Westmorland, most now in a ruinous state – if they survive at all. One result of this was my first book for Amberley Publishing (the second, revised edition of Limestone industries of the Yorkshire Dales, October 2010) which has come to be recognised as THE classic work on limestone quarrying and lime burning.

    Quarrying in the Pennines is not just about limestone, though. The diversity of quarry materials – past and present – is a direct reflection of the region’s varied and complex geology, and of the multi-faceted ways in which stone products were such essential ingredients in the days before manmade substitutes started to kill off our traditional industries. For anyone of a certain age, when they were children, lime fired in kilns from limestone quarried in almost every parish, found its way into most aspects of daily life – in textile dyes, carpets, clothes, as whitewash and limewash, as disinfectant, in tanning leather, making soap the age-old way, for mortar, for preventing cereal seed from rotting, for improving the productivity of soil and pasture, for curing cattle disease ... the list is endless.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 2 A massive judd wall built to hold back waste stone in a disused sandstone quarry near Shibden in West Yorkshire. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    Houses and barns were roofed either with slate or flagstones – the thackstones of old – all of which came from quarries across the Dales and the wider Pennines. Dairies and domestic pantries had shelves made of Blue Flag, actually a hard mudstone quarried in Upper Ribblesdale; public buildings across the country had fireplaces and floors finished off in Black Marble (really just polished fossil-rich limestone) from Dentdale and Garsdale; terraced housing, town halls and other public edifices across Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire were built from sandstone rock quarried across the Pennines, each town’s character being partly determined by the type of sandstone used – some smooth and fine grained, others coarser, some light in colour, others deep brown. Chimney pots and sanitary ware were manufactured from fireclay dug from pits and underground workings across the region and, of course, the endless terraced houses of many an industrial town were built with bricks using clays, again of varying colours.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 3 A group of men in a limestone quarry in Ribblesdale in the 1880s proudly displaying the tools of their trade. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    Stone has been quarried in the Pennines since Roman times though it is difficult to pick out either Roman or medieval quarries today: they were not large and many have long since been in-filled or buried in vegetation but they can still be found and recognised by their hummocky and seemingly disorganised nature. Quarrying took off in a major way in the late seventeenth century, and grew apace during the next two hundred years as towns and industrial complexes mushroomed with their never-ending need for building materials and raw products. Until the late nineteenth century quarries were on a small scale compared to today’s giants, and most of the work was done by men reliant on hand tools and sheer graft. Dimension stone – large blocks of stone – were prized out using long iron bars, stone to be crushed was broken up in the quarries by men wielding sledge hammers; access to deep quarry holes was by often rickety ladders called stees while, later on, stone was hauled out by A-frames or steam cranes. It was hard and demanding work, and weather dependant, and accidents were common, but many quarrymen then as now took pride in their work and were loyal to the quarries where they toiled.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 4 Breaker and filler pushing V-skips full of limestone that they have broken up by hand. They were paid on a piece-work basis – the more skips they filled, the more they got paid. In poor weather they earned nothing. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    For this book I have drawn together a collection of historical photographs from across the Yorkshire Pennines which provide the reader with a wide-ranging view of quarries that have long since been abandoned or even in-filled, that quarried a broad range of stone types, and that used simple technology. Many of them are published here for the first time. In addition, I have included photographs I have taken especially for the book showing evidence of old quarries and methods as they are seen today. Each site has been given a grid reference so that the interested reader can visit those sites which are publicly accessible and safe to enter.

    My research interests do not just focus on quarrying and the use of quarry products: I am keenly interested in rural trades in general in the Pennines and Cumbria and my next book is due to be published by Amberley this year. An Improving Prospect? A  history of agricultural change in Cumbria examines the ways in which farming in Cumbria has changed over the centuries since medieval times – the hows, the whys and the by whoms of agriculture.

    9781445653679

    David Johnson's new book Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines: An Illustrated History is available for purchase now.

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