Early quarrying

Stone has been quarried in Rossendale since at least the 14th century and probably long before that. There are records of stone being sold in Rossendale in 1341 and of rents being paid for quarries in the middle of the 15th century.

A 1552 quote paints a picture of small quarries in wild country,

"There were mynes or delfes on the King's waste ground at Balladen wherein slate stones were got.  They were scarcely worth letting by the year for 20/- because there is slate enough to be had near adjoining on other men's land and because it is in a wyld savage contrey farre from any habitacion."

Before about 1770 most of the quarrying was on a small scale and took place close to where the stone was wanted. However, from the earliest times some Rossendale stone was in great demand both locally and further afield. This stone split easily into thin sheets suitable for roofing slates and these were a valuable commodity. This led to quarrying for slates, with “sclatt pittes” (slate pits) being worked as early as 1600. It is said that that almost all the old houses in Rossendale were roofed with tiles from the Heald slate quarries. Records show that in the 17th century slate pits were big enough businesses to involve disputes about rent and other payments.

Much early quarrying was for local needs. Farmers who wanted stone for a building or the countless drystone walls that criss-cross the landscape would find an outcrop of stone nearby and take stone from there. Similar outcrops were used by early quarrymen seeking stone to sell. The effect of weather, particularly the effect of frost, would probably have loosened the exposed stone, making it easier to break away from the outcrop. Because of Rossendale’s geology, these rocky outcrops are usually high on the valley sides near the edge of the moorland. There are few places in Rossendale that are far from such outcrops and the stone would have been quarried and shaped close to where it was needed, probably just a short journey away by horse-drawn cart or sled.

These tiny quarries were sufficient for local needs, but as the growing towns of the industrial revolution demanded more and more stone, bigger quarries were developed. Many of the small quarries were obliterated by these larger workings, but some continued to be worked to supply stone locally. It is still possible to find their remains, sometimes no more than a few metres square, dotted around Rossendale usually at the brow or crest of a hill.

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Although long disused, the remains of small quarries still exist on Fecit Hill. In this example the quarry face is about two metres (6ft) high and some four metres (13ft) wide. It is positioned on the brow of the hill where an outcrop of rock comes to the surface. Waste earth would have been simply thrown to the side or down the slope. It is too recent to appear on the 1850 map, showing that small quarries were created and worked after that date.
The first edition of the Ordnance Survey map shows an example of an “old” sandstone quarry on the edge of Fecit Hill, near Turn Village. This map was surveyed around 1850, so the quarry was “old” at that time. The track down the hillside to Fecit Farm indicates that this is probably where the stone was taken. Fecit Hill is common land and commoners, farmers with rights to graze livestock on the common, have a right to quarry stone for use on their own land.