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Bewdley to Upper Arley
Between Upper Arley and Bewdley the Severn Valley Railway line follows the path of the River Severn. The rocks beneath are carboniferous in age, mainly green and buff coloured sandstones. To the west lie the mudstones and sandstones underlying the Wyre Forest coalfield, also Carboniferous in age and a source of local coal, and to the east initially soft Devonian sandstones which quickly change back to hard Carboniferous sandstones as both the river and the railway approach Upper Arley.
Dotted along the banks of the River Severn you can find large blocks of cut stone which were, for one reason or another never made it onto the boats after being transported down to the River bank. There are faint lines in the hillside that could be taken for extraction route ways, but as yet have not been fully investigated. Only this year, when the River Severn was low, a volunteer of the Trust who was undertaking some site reconnaissance for the project spotted the remains of a wharf through the reeds.
The Georgian Town of Bewdley in Worcestershire sits on the River Severn and was a busy port in its day. This together with varying ages of the rocks that underlie and surround the town contributes to the diversity of building stones found in the immediate area.
To the west of the river, the ground rises up beyond the town centre. This area is underlain by rocks which formed during the Carboniferous, a period of time when the area was covered by a tropical rainforests and swamps. These green-grey rocks have been used in constructing St Ann’s Church and the river bridge. The bridge is also built of the rocks that make up the land to the east of the river. These are red sandstones of Triassic age and can also be seen in the viaduct.
The Ludlow Anticline
The Ludlow Anticline is a geological structure in North-West Herefordshire which runs from Ludlow in the north-east to Presteigne in the south-west. This feature is created due to the warping of the Silurian limestone and siltstone rocks over ancient rocks that lie beneath, creating an undulating landscape in the shape of an upfold: an anticline. The area is also famous for a number of fortifications, including the Bronze Age fort at Croft Ambrey, the Roman fort at Leintwardine, and the Norman Wigmore Castle, all of which have used the local Silurian stone. The village of Wigmore lies below the castle and has used this stone in several buildings and long lengths of wall down the two main streets, as well as for the ancient church, giving the village a strong stone character.
If you look carefully at the stone across this area you will notice that it becomes stronger and darker towards the west, as at Wigmore. This is because during Silurian times these rocks were being deposited as sediments on an ancient sea bed and that sea was getting deeper towards the west. As a result, the detailed nature of the sediment changes, from sediment richer in fossils and calcite mud in the shallower water to the east to sediment which is denser in the deeper water to the west, with associated changes in strength and colour.
We are focussing our work towards several “cluster” areas, chosen to encompass the full range of building stones represented across the two counties.
Click on any of the links below to read more about the particular character of each area and to browse the database for sites and quarries recorded in each.
Herefordshire & Worcestershire have some of the most diverse geology in the UK. The variety of stone types available has created many locally distinctive building styles.This variety is not always widely recognised and can be highly localised. Better and wider understanding of this contribute to appreciation and conservation of stone built heritage and can inform sensible planning decisions.
You can browse pages on each stone type used in the area by area, geological age or rock type (see above). In every case the stones are sorted by geological age, from oldest (Precambrian) to youngest (Holocene).
Bredon Hill Cluster Group Update
Boo & Rob Vernon and Hazel Edwards
Bredon Hill lies totally in Worcestershire and is an outlier of the Jurassic strata that forms the Cotswolds Hills. It is capped by Inferior Oolite limestone, which rests conformably on a sequence of Liassic silts and clays. The limestone forms a steep scarp on its northern crop and a gentle dip slope to the south. The weak Upper Lias produces a distinct zone of slumping that encircles the hilltop plateau. There is ample evidence of landslips, and major ones usually occur every 50 to 100 years.
The Middle Lias is represented by the hard Marlstone Rock that outcrops as near horizontal tongues that protrude out of the landslip zone. The base of the hill consists of Lower or Blue Lias that is rarely seen.
The limestone has been quarried extensively, but is cambered and heavily fractured, and some horizons have vugs – voids in the rock caused by the cambering of the strata. Consequently, it was used as a rough building stone or for walling; the only dry-stone walling in Worcestershire. The Marlstone Rock has been quarried to a lesser extent and was used for rough walling or road-metal, whilst the Blue Lias has been worked as a brick clay near Pershore.
The Bredon Hill Cluster Group of the Building Stones project are currently surveying villages on the southwest side of the hill. Building stones include local, and imported limestone from Bath and Cheltenham, plus the occasional slag block, used for wall foundations. Quarries are mainly overgrown, but external sources, including Geological Survey Memoirs and field-slips from the 1960s provide details of the rock-type. The group has helped with the development of an Earthcache trail around Bredon village, and a further one is planned for the Hill.
Among all this hard work some fascinating stories have come to light too, including that of a local lady riding her horse on the hill being nearly swallowed by a landslip or cave collapse in the 18th Century.
This article originally appeared in Earth Heritage Trust News, Spring 2015
Very high quality Jurassic limestone from the Chalfield Oolite Formation quarried in a variety of locations east of Bath. Many of the Bath Stones come from the Bath Oolite Member which is a true freestone, lacking fossils or lamination. The quality of the best Bath Stones is such that they have been mined deep underground.
Individual examples may be difficult to distinguish from higher quality Cotswold Stones. The lack of fossils in many examples and generally paler colour are the most distinguishing features. There are various named variants, some of which may show some distinguishing features. Stoke Ground (quarried in Limpey Stoke, Wiltshire) has a base bed with distinctive circular patches of fossil and cement material. Box Ground (mined in the Box Tunnel Mine) is sometimes characterised by calcite veins running perpendicular to bedding. Many of the mines and quarries in Wiltshire only became major concerns after the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1810 and so the date of building can serve to eliminate them as a possible source.
There are several sources still operating of which Stoke Ground is probably the best known.
Project Update – Winter 2014
We had a busy summer with shows and stands including Hereford County Fair, Beckford Open Gardens and Bromyard Big Picnic. We chatted to lots of lovely people including may stone house owners who are letting us do descriptions and even have samples of their wonderful homes. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped us prepare for and run these events. It really does help and we couldn’t do it without you.
Throughout Autumn was our series of volunteer training days. Especially popular was our trip to Hadley Quarry, kindly run by owners Rob and Heather Barningham, who shared their knowledge and experience of researching quarry history with our volunteers over a cup of tea and cake in their garden.
We also ran a drystone wall training course at Huntington Church, near Kington. Four keen volunteers, under the watchful eye of tutor Tim Flemming took down a section of the churchyard wall and rebuilt it. The church is very pleased with the work and has a display of photos up in the vestibule.
Cold and wet winter days offer the perfect chance to stay warm and dry and visit libraries, museums and archives to read up about your chosen building and discover hidden facts that may help lead you to details of the source of the stone and could take you anywhere. The current mission of the Building Stone Office is to track down some of the stone used in the repair of Worcester Bridge. After a hint from volunteer Catriona, stone from Derbyshire is looking promising so we will be trying our luck at the Records Office over the Christmas holidays.
To assist everyone with their research, providing links, tip and general information we have produced and brought together a series of volunteer guides on a huge number of subjects including using archives, libraries and newspapers. All of the guides are available to download from here and a full list of the guides is available. If you would like to have paper copies of any of these guides then please do let me know which ones you are interested in ([email protected] or 01905 542014) and we will post them to you.
As always we are grateful to all our volunteers for the time and effort that they have given to help us discover more about our stone built heritage. At the moment we have had a huge 3617 hours worth £42368. This is about 44.8% of the total we need for the project, so a little behind where we would like to be at this point. If you haven’t sent yours in yet, please do.
This article originally appeared in the A Thousand Years of Building with Stone volunteer newsletter, Winter 2014.
Kate Andrew – Project Manager
Sue Knox – Community Consultant
Ella Young – Technical Consultant
Please feel free to get in touch with us via any of the options below. We have a multitude of resources at our offices in the University of Worcester, however please do call ahead to make an appointment as we may be out in the field. We are always looking for more volunteers. You can read more about volunteering here or get in touch with us directly using the form here.
|Email:||[email protected]||Address:||Earth Heritage Trust,
University of Worcester,
The Building Stones Database
Welcome to The Building Stones Database.
Here you can find information about buildings and quarries from the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
- Browse buildings and quarries in the database by filtering on a list.
- Or use our interactive map to find buildings and quarries on the database.
- Learn about the architecture, history and geology for buildings and quarries.
- Discover what stone your home is made from and where it came from.
- We are continually adding the the database through the work of our large volunteer team.
The Human Cost of Getting Stone
by Anne Spurgeon, project volunteer
Quarrying has always been an extremely dangerous occupation and over the centuries many workers have been killed or seriously injured. Until relatively recently we have had few details about the extent of this problem. Just over a hundred years ago, however, the Quarries Act of 1894 brought about an increase in regulation, a stronger focus on inspection and the emergence of detailed information about the industry. The Annual Reports of the Mines and Quarries Inspectorate provide interesting statistics on patterns of employment in quarrying after 1894 as well as the number and types of accidents that occurred. In some cases they report the names of the victims, giving a degree of visibility to those who tend to be anonymous and often forgotten in the history of quarrying.
For most years between 1894 and 1914 there were more than 80 quarries operating in Worcestershire that fulfilled the criteria for inspection i.e. they were more than 20 feet deep. By contrast Herefordshire had less than 40 such quarries and these were much smaller operations. Thus in 1901 Worcestershire quarries employed more than 600 people compared with less than 70 in Herefordshire.
In Herefordshire nearly all quarry workers were adult males (defined as those aged 16 and over) but in Worcestershire a large number of women and children were employed. Women and girls usually worked ‘outside’ the quarry, involved in sorting stone and its onward transport while men and boys (many under the age of 14) worked inside the quarry getting stone. This involved heavy manual labour using picks and shovels. Workers were often suspended from ropes or perched on narrow ledges or planks. They would also have used explosives in some quarries and operated haulage equipment to move the stone.
Accidents (fatal and non-fatal) occurred both inside and outside quarries. An example was the death of 32 year old George Philpot. On the afternoon of July 6th 1906 at North Malvern quarry he was working on a ledge with a crowbar when some stone fell from above, knocking him off the ledge and crushing him as he fell. He died the next day in Malvern hospital from head injuries and internal bleeding. He left a widow, Eliza, and seven young children, the youngest a baby just three weeks old.
For many families such a tragedy would be further compounded by extreme poverty or complete destitution. In the case of Eliza and her children, however, this fate, at least, was avoided. The quarry owner Mr A E Lewis, who was absolved of any responsibility for the accident, had ensured that his workers belonged to the ‘Oddfellows’ a Friendly Society that paid a supportive allowance to dependents of employees following death or serious injury. Mr Lewis, himself a prominent member of the ‘Oddfellows’, as well as a philanthropic contributor to Malvern Town affairs, organised a funeral in George’s home village of Cradley. George was clearly extremely well thought of. According to the Worcestershire Advertiser, the funeral was ‘attended by a large number of relatives and sympathising friends’ and ‘a quantity of wreaths completely enshrouded the coffin and grave’.
George was just one of the many victims of quarrying. There were five other fatal quarry accidents in the district that year alone, as well as numerous other incidents where quarry workers were seriously injured.