Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Blackcountry Factual History. > The Rowley Quarries.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

 Rowley Regis Quarries.



We do tend to forget at times, that Mining and Iron working were not to the only activities carried on in the Black Country. Stone has been quarried from the hills from Roman times, and quite possibly, long before. Dolerite however, isn't a lot of good for buildings, and most of it was used for used for stone boundry walls. There are a many legends concerning the ancient formation, now long gone, called The Hailstones.



These were a weirdly shaped clump of rocks, left behind from one of the many violent eruptions of a really long gone age. ( see Images from the Forums Gallery ) In the 13th Century, when Rowley needed a Church, the answer was simple, and possible cheap as well, use the local stone. It wasn't a great success, although some of the cottages built from the same material lasted well, the Church was in constant need of repair. It was, however, found to be an excellent material for road making when broken up, the famous " Rowley Rag ", and the quarries became very busy. In 1879, it was decided to remove the rock formation from above one of the larger quarries. Profit overiding the many legends and curses the rocks had attracted. While drilling a borehole for the explosives, Frederick Wright fell over 50 feet and was killed. Later on that year, Benjamin Bate was crushed to death by a section of the Hailstones, which landed on him, after it would appear too much Gunpowder was used.



By the 1880s, it was gone, leaving only a few sketches to show that the Hailstones had ever exsisted. The largest owner of these quarries, was The Rowley Regis Granite Company, [ The Hailstone, Diamond Jubilee, Derby's Hill, The Lake, and smaller operations at Rough Hill, and Little Samson ] and at one time, it was hard to tell where one began, and another ended. Edward Richards Quarry, was close to the Hailstone Quarry, although each worked from different sides of Turners Hill. Perhaps the largest one was The Lake Quarry. Accidents, as in mining, were fairly frequent, and almost always fatal. ( You don't often get up and walk away after a gigantic piece of rocks hit you ) Just like today, school kids treated places like this as playgrounds, often with tragic results. A young lad called Hipkiss, and a few years later another youngster, were crushed to death, riding on the endless rope, that pulled the loaded tubs to the crushing machine. All this activity, has of course, changed the shape of the Rowley Hills. I don't suppose they are quite so high in places, as they once were, but it's still a fine view, on a clear day, from Turners Hill. If anyone has anything to add to this, please feel free to share  the information.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The number of Quarries diminished as time went by, worked out, expanded into the one next door. or simple abandoned. By the 1890s, only the larger ones were in full production, as the amount of material required for road building, far exceeded the capacity of the smaller operators.



Bassano and Company, the owners of Rowley Hall Colliery, also listed owning the Quarry next to it. Alfred Allan was doing a roaring trade at Darby Hill, selling many thousands of kerb stones and other Rowley Rag products. The Hailstone, now owned by Jones and Fitzmaurice, had a workforce of over 100 men and boys, and was sending crushed stone via the Railroad, all over the Country. Edwin and Enoch Richards, in 1896, were still hacking away at Turners Hill, and for many years, the regular explosions from this, and the Hailstone would be heard over the surrounding districts. So regular in fact, that when I was a nipper, you could set your watch by them.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 4, 2011 at 11:57 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In response to several questions, all on a similar theme. there is no diffinative list of deaths in the regions Quarries. Maybe someone with a lot of time on their hands might care to complie one, by trawling through old newspapers for reports. I suspect it will be a lengthy process.


It was always a dangerous job, and from reports around the world. it still is. The main danger nowadays, seems to be with all the old abandoned ones. People seem to fall down into them, dispite warnings, swim in those filled with water, die scuba diving in them, or even attempt the craze of " Tombstoneing ". ( Jumping from a great height into the water )  Thankfully, we have very few abandoned quarries in the Black Country, and those we do have, should be treated with great care. Especially by the young and foolish.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Reverend George Barrs, mentioned the quarries in his many sermons to the population, although it was mainly to do with the nasty habits of the quarrymen. Drinking, wife beating, and fornication being amongst some of them. He always avoided the old folk tales though, merely saying that it was a very hard rock, the surface of which, had been worn smooth by many thousands, if not millions, of feet, whoose owners had made the climb to the summit.



No mention in his notes, of one Reuben Hedge, a old collier from Powke Lane, who experienced a nasty shock near the Hailstones. He described it as " bigger than a mon, blue in colour with legs like a donkey an tew horns on it's yed ".  Old Reuben though, was what one could call a " character ", almost always drunk, and he would have been hard pressed, at times to tell the difference between night and day. It did give rise though to a local saying. When drunks were seen, which was often, it was said they were suffering from the " Blue Devils ". ( there's more on the " Folklore " page )  It also went unreported, the day that someone set fire to a small coppice at the base of the Hailstones, and a figure with a horned head appeared on the summit. Quarrymen were as superstitious as the miners, although it may well have been a ruse to knock off a few days work. Nothing stopped the extraction of Rowley Rag though, even today, the industry is still hard at work on the once pristine hills.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 20, 2011 at 2:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It's not alway appreciated, that digging out all the clay for Brickmaking, is also Quarrying, or that under all the rock, clay was encountered. William Davies, a name more associated with mining, owned a small Quarry on Powke Hill, just up the road from Old Hill. As well as the Basalt Rock, and lower down the slope, they quarried out clay as well. The men, who worked in groups just like the miners, were paid by the weight of material dug or blasted out.

Thomas Hill, a local man born in Reddal Hill, at 30, was a very experienced Quarrier. Why, unless it was for some extra money, he should try and undercut an overhang of clay, against orders, is anyones guess. But undercut he did, and with disasterous results. He was buried alive in the fall, on the 15th July 1899, and most decidedly dead, when they finally dug him out. At least his death was as swift, as the un-named shot firer on Turners Hill, who forgot to seal up the hole with a bit of clay, and when he tried to light the fuse, was blown rather rapidly into the next world. The old Quarries were also quite close together, and before regulations came in, explosions were carried out without adequate warnings. One unfortunate soul, sitting down on a rock eating his mid-day snap, was fatally hit on the head by a rock blown from the neighbouring Quarry. Never even had time to drink his tea.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 30, 2012 at 11:46 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

While researching a couple of ancesters, who worked in several Rowley Quarries, I came across a Census reference to a rather fruity sounding location. In the past, I have explored the quaint " lily Pot Row " in Rowley Village, which is not marked on any maps, and so, I have dicovered, neither is a place called Blackberry Town. It's not in the village, but a bit farther down the road towards to Dudley, near that little place called Knowle. This " Town ", was situated in the triangle of roads, formed by the Dudley Road, Cromwell Street, and Springfield Lane. As near as I can tell, it was built around 1812, and comprised 8 large cottages, which were similar to the ones built as Club Buildings. There were, as well as one of my relatives, 15 other families living in these dwelling, most of whom, at least in 1841, earned their living from the Quarries. Some of the inhabitants found work at Windmill End, Mining, for it was only a short walk down Springfield Lane. At least one found some form of employment, at the nearby Bullfields Farm. Later on, the employment spread out to include Boatmen, who loaded the narrowboats at the wharfe beyond the canal bridge, and men and women who worked at the Royal Doulton Potteries. As with Club Buildings, there was no running water in these cottages, it all came from a well. I don't know when the old houses were pulled down, but it may have been in the early 1950s, for non of them had any of the modern ammenities that are essential to healthy living. Not that it would have put off a hardy Quarryman, who worked in all weathers, and was used to a bit of dicomfort from time to time. I wonder though, just why the inhabitants called it Blackberry Town. Perhaps it was just because the lane nearby was a favourite place to pick the fruit, and from the sound of the place, that would have been the only good thing you could have said about it. Below is a picture of the old Bullfields Farm, c1950s. It was the home of the Darby family for over 300 years, and was reputed to be haunted.




--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 23, 2013 at 5:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Rock, so energeticaly quarried at Rowley, was, as it was well known, unsuitable for building purposes. The Parish Church was a prime example, which had to be shored up with bricks after a few years. Smaller buildings however, tended to last longer, and into the 1960s, a few still remained, although most were unoccupied.



The Cottage pictured, possiblty dates from the early part of the 1700s, and clearly shows the Stone construction of the lower part. It stood in Hawes Lane, Rowley Village, and was almost opposite the entrance to a quarry. It had a Timber framework, which, when it was finally demolished, was still in fairly good condition. The old homestead, in the next picture, in Oakham, had most of the old stone work renewed over the years, as it gradually crumbled away, and different stages in it's life cycle can be seen on the southern end extention. The other extention was added in the mid 1880s, when the place became known as " Holcombe ". The boundry walls though, were all contructed from " Rowley Rag ", the farmstead being surrounded by quarries.




A walk around the Village in the 1960s, would have presented you with a different view than today, for among the more modern properties, ( well those from the 1850s anyway ) there were a few rare examples of the very old. The last picture shows, what would have been a small terrace of two roomed Cottages, at the top end of Siviters Lane. It looks ancient, even among the 100 year old properties that flank it, and had undergone many changes in it's long life. The Lane would have been nothing more than a trackway when it was built, and it may even predate the coming of the Canals at the bottom of the hill on which it stood. The last of the Rowley Quarries have now gone, the land returning, as it always does, back to mother nature for a while, and other properties now stand where the old building used to be. It would have been nice to preserve a few, but we live in an age of progress and change, and will have to make do with a few old pictures.



--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 24, 2014 at 11:39 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In the early days of course, all the stone blasted and hauled about the Quarries, were broken up and graded by hand. This was not only time consuming, but very labour intensive. It also didn't the earn the men, and sometimes women, a great deal of money. Some of this back breaking effort, was supplied by the unlucky folks who found themselves in the Rowley Workhouse. The only one, apart from the Quarry owner that is, who made any money from the sweat of the incarcerated workforce, was the Workhouse Master. It would be a long time before any kind of mechanical contraption was invented to speed up the work, and when it did, the output rose conciderably. One of the early devices is shown in the picture, drawn by a horse, but powered by the revolution of the Steam Engine.



It still needed to be drawn by horses, for self powered engines had not yet caught on, but it took a lot of the hardwork out of stone crushing. Mind you, it also reduced the need for man power, so the benefits were often not what the inhabitants expected.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 19, 2014 at 11:06 AM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.