Combe Down Quarries

Combe Down’s freestone is why it exists. Freestone is a fine grained stone which can be cut easily in any direction without shattering or splitting. Combe Down quarries’ stone is oolitic limestone and the beds are part of the Great Oolite, of middle Jurassic age, laid down in a shallow sea about 146 million years ago. It is traditionally used as building stone in the region and many other cities in the UK, and has good resistance to weathering.

Ralph Allen (1694 – 1764) is justly famous for making the stone famous and for starting large scale commercial use of Combe Down and Bath stone.

About 40 years after his death the land he had accumulated on Combe Down was sold off by his heirs to pay off the debts that the 1st Viscount Hawarden had accumulated.

Lewisham Records office had a number of documents that show these transactions:

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/83 15 May 1804. 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Edward Layton Esq. Samuel Pearce. Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/84 15 May 1804. 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Edward Layton Esq. Richard Lankesheer. Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/85 22 Nov. 1804. 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Edward Layton Esq. John Greenway.Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/86 24 Sept. 1808. 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Nathaniel Hadley Esq. John Greenway. Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/87 24 Sept. 1808. 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Nathaniel Hadley Esq. Isaac Sumsion. Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/88 29 March 1811, 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Nathaniel Hadley Esq. Abraham Sumsion. Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/89 21 Nov. 1816, 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Nathaniel Hadley Esq. Job Salter. Consideration: £3 13s 6d per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/90 7 March 1827, 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Nathaniel Hadley Esq. John Davidge. Consideration: £8 16s per perch p.1/2 a.

Memorandum of Agreement.  A91/18/91 17 Dec. 1856, 1 acre on Coombe Down to be used a quarry. Samuel Hadley Esq. Richard Lankesheer. Consideration: £10 p.a.

The surnames of the Quarry Masters are well known on Combe Down.

Up until 1887 most of the quarries were independently owned; frequently the Quarry Master rented the quarry from the owner and was an entrepreneur. Some, like Philip Nowell, made a lot of money and became famous.

With the opening of larger mines near Box, the coming of the railways, and the fact that many Combe Down quarries had been worked out of commercially viable stone, things became harder. So, on 1st January 1888, seven firms joined together to become the Bath Stone Firms Ltd. (The Corsham Bath Stone Company Limited, R. J. Marsh and Company Limited, Samuel Rowe Noble, Pictor and Sons, Stone Brothers Limited, Isaac Sumsion and Randell Saunders and Company Limited). [1]

In 1889 the Bath Stone Firms took over Portland Quarries. On 27th December 1897 the Bath Stone Firms Ltd. became the Bath and Portland Stone Firms Ltd [2] In 1908 Bath and Portland Stone was formed from the Bath Stone Firms. [3] The Portland side of the business was separated from the Bath side in 2004 and became Stone Firms Ltd. Both were then owned by Hanson Bath and Portland Stone, part of Hanson PLC. [4]

One firm that remained independent was Hancock. John Hancock & Sons has, in 2014, the only Combe Down quarry still in operation.

Quarrymen early 1900s

Quarrymen early 1900s

Two centuries of excavation of Bath stone left a huge void under the original parts of Combe Down village. Pillars left by the old miners for the stability of the quarries had degenerated and collapses of the layer between mine and buildings occurred. In January 1993 the tenants of two council properties in Westerleigh Road were moved out due to fears for their safety.

Jan 6 1993 report of Combe Down subsidence

Jan 6 1993 report of Combe Down subsidence

'Roof' thickness for Combe Down quarries

‘Roof’ thickness for Combe Down quarries

In one of the largest U.K. Local Government civil engineering projects, Bath & North East Somerset Council together with their private sector partners (Davis Langdon, Hydrock, Provelio, Scott Wilson Mining and others) did extensive investigation and feasibility analyses before filling the mine with foamed concrete – rather than the pulverised fuel ash that had been proposed in a 1990s suggestion leaving galleries for rare bat species. The infilling project lasted for 10 years from 1999 until 2009, covered 25.608 hectares, and affected approximately 650 properties.

The Archaeology Data Service has a repository of Oxford Archaeology‘s documentation for the project.

 

List of Quarries

Map of Combe Down quarry and landmark locations

This list runs, roughly, from East to West.

Union Quarry

Opposite St Martin’s Hospital, it was in use before 1904 and was still working the West face in 1958. It is now lost and built over. It was worked by Shellard and Son before WW1, then by the Hill brothers between the two world wars and finally by Bill Reed until the mid 1960s.[5]

Crossway Quarry

Closed in 1904 and completely backfilled. The Western one of about 7 acres is said to have been used to dump rubble from the 1942 air raids. There is a playing field there now. On the Eastern one stands the Catholic Church of St Peter & St Paul.[6] The Eastern quarry of about 5 acres was worked by James Sheppard from at least 1833[7] and by Thomas Sheppard (presumably his son) from before 1863[8] until 1881 when his lease expired and he sold his stock in trade.[9] It was up for sale again in 1896.[10]

T Sheppard and Crossway quarry - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 22 April 1858

T Sheppard and Crossway quarry – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 22 April 1858

Entry Hill Quarry

This was being worked from at least 1776 as James Clapp the quarry master was killed by a ‘falling in’ that June.[11] In 1835 it was being worked by James Sheppard who also mastered Crossway Quarry.[12] In 1913 it was being worked by F. C. Tipper.[13]

According to Peter Addison it was briefly reopened in the 1940s.[14] It has since been a council storage depot.[15]

Entry Hill quarry - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 6 June 1776

Entry Hill quarry – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 6 June 1776

Shepherd’s Walk Quarry

Between Shepherd’s Walk and Southstoke Road. This was shown as No 4 on the map in the April 13th 1895 issue of “The Builder.[16]

Southstoke Lane Quarry

Southstoke Lane was a small quarry which specialised in garden wail stone, vases and ornaments. It is not known if there were underground workings.[17]

Springfield Quarry

Open workings with quite large areas underground. Now landscaped area enclosed and by the quarry walls with the old adit entrances covered by concrete blocks. Access via Entry Hill Park. This was the largest open quarry in Bath. Over its lifetime it yielded c.2.5 million cubic feet of stone. Most of the activity was c.1750 – 1900.[18]

Foxhill Quarry

Beside Foxhill Lane. Closed by 1900.[19]

Greendown or Turnpike Quarries

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down.

Cox’s Vertical Shaft Quarry

A small underground quarry that was worked after 1900 but had closed by the mid 1930s. The now lost and sealed entrance was under the entrance building of the Foxhill’s MOD complex on

Bradford Road.[20] It was owned by the Combe Down (Bath) Freestone Co. Ltd. Formed in 1909 and dissolved in 1931.[21]

Street’s Quarry

Named after Henry Street who bought it from Richard Lankesheer and sold it to Philip Nowell.[22]

Sale, inter alia, of Street's quarry - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 5 April 1883

Sale, inter alia, of Street’s quarry – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 5 April 1883

Cox’s or Collibee’s Quarry

A large area of open quarry with extensive underground workings.[23]

Byfield Quarry

In Rock Hall Lane near the King William.

Stonehouse Lane Quarry

Between the Combe Down RFC field and Stonehouse Lane was a long linear quarry which was worked until the 1930s.[24]

Hanginglands Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down.

Stennard’s Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down. It appears it shut down about 1899.

Stennard sale, Bath Chronicle, Thursday 13 July 1899

Stennard sale, Bath Chronicle, Thursday 13 July 1899

 

Allotments Quarry

Behind Westerleigh Road, with Rock Lane to the West.

Davidge’s Bottom Quarry

At the North end of Rock Lane, near an entrance to Firs Quarry. Possibly named after George Davidge, Quarry Master c.1848. Last mined about 1930.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Saturday 11 April 1925

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 11 April 1925

Ralph Allen’s Quarry

Thorpe’s 1742 map indicates Ralph Allen’s quarry had locations opposite Isabella Place and Rock Lane and on The Firs, whilst a drawing by Thomas Robbins indicates immediately opposite De Montalt Place.

Firs Quarry

A large underground quarry ranging from Gladstone Road to the Hadley Arms to Rock Lane and North Road to Church Road. There was a honeycomb of tunnels with headroom of from less than one to about three metres, and some caverns up to about eight metres in height.[25]

Firs Quarry © Copyright Derek Hawkins

Firs Quarry © Copyright Derek Hawkins

 

Vinegar Down Quarry

Behind Beechwood Road. Closed about 1920.

Love’s Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down. Mr. Edwin Love had quarries at Combe Down and Odd Down.[26]

Lankesheer’s Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down.

De Montalt Quarry

Behind De Montalt Place it had access to Firs Quarry. Probably not worked since the 1830s.

Stone’s Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down.

Junction Quarry

Situated at the top of Ralph Allen Drive on the West. It is suggested that it was worked by Mr. G.C. Mann in the 1860s.[27] G.C. Mann quoted and was awarded the contract for the proposed new police station having, apparently, done good work at The Mineral Water Hospital and Blue Coat School.[28] He also quoted for the restoration of Bath Abbey[29] and helped to ceremonially lay the foundation to an extension to the hospital.[30]

Upper Lodge Quarry

Behind Upper Lodge on the corner of Ralph Allen Drive and North Road.

Hopecote Quarry

Behind Hopecote Lodge on Church Road. Now a housing estate. The remains of the drift into the Hopecote Quarry and possibly the Firs Quarry run through the kitchen of 121 Church Road, where old timbers are preserved.

Beechwood Quarry

Below Beechwood Road on Summer Lane.

Cruikshank’s Quarry

Between Summer Lane and Belmont Road.

College Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down.

Plantation Quarry

Mentioned by Peter Addison in Around Combe Down.

Gym Quarry / Prior Park Quarry 

Stone used to build the Prior Park gymnasium in 1839:

“Great additions have been made during the past year to the accommodations of the establishment at Prior Park. A matron is attached to the College of St. Peter's, who has care of the younger students, lid of the sick, so that both have now every comfort that can be desired. The playgrounds of St. Peter's comprise, besides the playgrounds of the College, a gymnasium, containing a covered colonnade, 80 feet by 18, a calefactory, a prefect's room, a reading room, a nagged terrace, 80 feet by 18 ; a tennis, or ball court, 80 feet by 100 ; a gravel terrace, 520 by 50 feet;……”[31]

Kingham Quarry

The quarry used by William Smith.

Jackdaw Quarry

The blocked up entrance is still there, close to the road and about 3 metres wide and 1.5 metres high with a stone arch. It is said that stone from Jackdaw and Vinegar Down was used to line some of the Combe Down railway tunnel.

Tea Gardens Quarry

For many years the Rockery tea garden, now a housing estate. Remains of open workings, worked from about 1850, but now turned over to housing.

Rainbow Woods Quarry (Fairy Wood Quarry)

Opposite the Rockery tea gardens, this should more properly be called Fairy Wood.

Hancock’s / Upper Lawn Quarry

Open workings just off Shaft Road and the only working quarry left on Combe Down, operated since 1850 by the Hancock family. This quarry supplies stone for building restoration work, has 30,000 cubic metres of stone, and at the current extraction rate is estimated to have 100 years of supply left.

Mount Pleasant Quarry

East & West quarries; open and underground. Two surface quarries and small underground workings with up to nine entrances in the past.

It was operated in 1871 by Stone Bros.[32] The Eastern part probably closed pre-1914. By 1930 it was operated by Bathite Ltd.

It was completely backfilled in the 1980s to allow playing fields. The Western part of the quarry still exists, disused and closed off pending a decision on what to do with the site.[33] The Eastern part now has the Oldfield Old Boys RFC club house on it and the playing fields above. The quarry has not operated since the mid-late 1980s but was connected to Grey Gables Mine in 2006 by Edmund Nuttall Limited for bat conservation.[34]

On the telephone, Bath Chronicle, Saturday 8 March 1930

On the telephone, Bath Chronicle, Saturday 8 March 1930

 

Lodge Hill Quarry / Shaft Road Quarry

Quite large quarry East of Shaft Road, towards the hill edge passages run very shallow only feet below the surface… Small regular system and there are a number of main galleries like wheel spokes from the entrance.[35] The stone from Lodge Hill was used in the restoration of Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster (1819).[36] It was owned by Vaughan-Jenkins family, covered an area of c.6.5 acres and closed in about 1935. In 1858 it was being worked by Thos. Shepherd, J. Davidge, J. Sumsion, Henry Stone and J. Vaughan.[37]

St. Winifred’s Quarry

Large open workings with small underground section East of Shaft Road. It was closed in 1938.[38]

Damage at St Winifred's quarry - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Saturday 11 December 1937

Damage at St Winifred’s quarry – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 11 December 1937


References