All our yesterdays

Wickwar Quarry will be 100 years old in a few years' time. Started by a local farming family, it has a rich and fascinating history which includes men breaking rock by hand and skips being hauled up a rope conveyor.

 

 

All our yesterdays

(Now rapidly approaching its 100th anniversary, no-one has yet written the histroy of Wickwar Quarry. What follows is an assortment of information we have thus far been able to gather. If you can help us to fill the gaps or have old photos you are happy to share with us, please contact Frank Hogg on 01454 294521).

 

The story of Wickwar Quarry starts around the end of the First World War on a site known as Churchwood Farm on the west side of the Downs Road.

The quarry was originally operated by a family called Lees and was adjacent to the family farm which continued to operate as such through the 1930s and beyond. There were around 130 men working on the site during 1933. A Mrs Evans lived in the farmhouse at that time and animals included horses kept which were used within the quarry. There was a small wooded area to the north west called Churchwood hence the name adopted for the farm and quarry.

We are grateful for memories provided by Mrs Marjorie Lafford who still lives in Wickwar. Marjorie left school at 15 years of age and went to work at the quarry as a telephonist in 1947, earning five shillings a week. A few years later Marjorie became the secretary to Mr Tommy Lees. She stayed until RMC took over in the 70s whenshe moved to Wick Quarry and became secretary to Charles Lees.

Wickwar Quarry was for many yearsmanaged by a Mr Hayter who continued in the post until it was taken over by Western Roadstone, which was part of RMC who operated Wickwar until being taken over by CEMEX UK in 2005.

The site was subjected to major new investment in plant in the 1930s which is evident from photos at the time shown here. Major projects included the installation of a 70 tonnes-per-hour endless rope conveyor which hauled hand-filled skips on rail from the bottom of the quarry to the processing plant. New storage hoppers and a barrel screen were also built.

Enless rope conveyor New screen house in the 1930s

 

At the quarry face, rock was won using small blasts. The skips were then filled by teams of men known as “getters” who hand-picked and raked through the pile of rock and broke stone with hammers. There was a network of rails on the quarry floor and the skips were pushed along them manually or hauled by horses to the endless rope conveyor

Larger rocks were drilled and secondary blasted or “popped” with small charges. It was a dangerous occupation and many men were injured because of the unreliable fuses.

Steam power had an important to play as the years passed, with stationary steam engines providing power to drive crushers. Electricity was also generated on site but was unreliable. Compressed air became vital to operate rock drills and pneumatic components.

Our photo at the opening of this story shows some of the fleet of Garrett steam wagons that handled deliveries and were an awesome sight in their day. The wagons are said to have managed 12mph and are thought to have made up to two 40-mile deliveries a day carrying four to eight tonnes a time

Contact Information

To make a comment or for further information please contact Mark Kelly at planninggb@cemex.com.