Oral History Recording

Volunteers led by Project Officer Dominic Cooper interviewed ex-quarrymen and drivers who'd taken stone from Rossendale to all over the UK.  Volunteers learned how to conduct oral interviews and received training, from Ken Howarth, Heritage Recording in interview techniques.  Over 20 interviews have been captured and will be archived at the North West Sound Archive.

A selection of the interviews captured have been transferred into MP3 format so that they can be downloaded from this website.

1. From Facit Quarry to Marble Arch  (4 minutes 44 seconds) Download

Jack Mellor describes the process of taking a load of stone to Marble Arch in London and how the wagon was loaded at Facit and driven through the night.  Punctures were commonplace and entire wheels were replaced rather than just a tyre.  Jack describes arriving in London early in the morning and the ease by which he unloaded the entire load of stone on his own.

 2.  Quarry railways and tramways (4 minutes 1 second)  Download

The narrator describes how his grandfather came from Derbyshire 'building the railways' in Rochdale and Bacup and settled in the Rossendale Valley.  He describes how his grandfather paid out sovereigns on the table at home to men in his employ and how he became the foreman platelayer for the quarry railway system.  The narrator also mentions a photo of 'a giant of a man', Daniel Lambert (also known as 'Desperate Dan') and how he was able to lift enormous weights.  The informant's grandfather became in charge of the tramway system at Whitworth and Britannia Quarries.  He goes on to describe how many quarrymen would spend their wages in the local pub (known as 'going on the rant') and how one determined women made sure her husband came home with his wages rather than spending it all at the pub.

3.  Sawing the quarried stone (3 minutes 43 seconds)  Download

A description of how flagstones were delivered far and wide to places such as Bath, London and Liverpool.  Large slabs were sawn at the Facit Workshops and there is a detailed description of how steel shot was used in the cutting groove as an abrasive - taking up to two days to saw each block.

4.  Farming and quarrying (2 minutes 28 seconds)  Download

The narrator talks about how his grandfather lived on a farm in Rossendale until 1928, running the farm and a quarry with 60 men when he was 19 years of age. Later he became an expert in sheep-dog trialling.  The narrator also explains how farmers came to quarry stone on their land.

5.  How to split stone with plugs and feathers  (5 minutes 1 second)  Download 

The narrator gives a detailed description of how plugs and feathers were made and how they were used by the quarrymen to split the stone.  Download image of plugs and feathers

6.  Working conditions in the quarries (4 minutes 20 seconds)  Download

The narrator describes how the quarry work varied from day to day, how the rock-getters were on piece-work and how the workers got 'wet-time'.  He also relates how wearing gloves in the winter was unheard of and describes the cabin where they had their food and the steamcrane whistle that told the men when it was starting time, break time and finishing time.

7.  Underground stone mines (3 minutes 26 seconds)  Download

The narrator describes pumping water out of the mines and how difficult the access was.  He also relates how children got lost in the stone mines in the 1950s.  He explains why the stone was mined rather than quarried and how mine shafts were also sunk to remove the stone.

8.  How he got a job with the quarry (4 minutes 3 seconds)  Download

Roy Fitton was born in 1922 into a family of seven, his father having been killed.  At fourteen he got a job at Flash Mills but on his first day, following a physical disagreement with an operative, he stormed out in a temper and walked up to Hutch Bank Quarry where he secured labouring work with the blacksmith.  His first job was to put a new rope on a cow-hide bucket and collect chisels from the masons for re-sharpening.  The cow-hide bucket was used to carry the sharpened chisels so that the newly sharpened cutting edges were not blunted.

9.  Learning to drive in Hutch Bank Quarries (4 minutes 2 seconds)  Download

Roy Fitton describes his job of brewing up for the quarrymen, the time he took a chain down to the blacksmith and how he learned to drive in the quarry on a quarry wagon.

10.  Steam cranes and accidents at Hutch Bank Quarries (2 minutes 42 seconds)  Download

Roy Fitton talks about steam cranes and relates a story about an over-weighted crane that was too close to the edge of the quarry-hole and how it topped over into the hole, injuring the crane-man.

11.  Marking and breaking up the slabs for the masons (6 minutes 31 seconds) Download

Roy Fitton describes the eight masons who worked on pavings and flagstones and how the slabs were marked by the head-mason according to how they could be best used.  The slabs were then marked again with chalk marks and the masons chipped away at the marks with special hammers.  Roy recounts how the masons chewed tobacco and filled holes with tobacco spit to stop the dust flying.  He also describes how the slabs were split using a 28lb hammer ready for the masons to trim and finish.

12.  Why Jameson's Quarry was re-started (4 minutes 57 seconds) Download

Roy Fitton relates how Jameson's Quarry started up again by the Ministry of Defence in 1938 after many years of neglect, in anticipation of the Second World War.  Many of the quarrymen moved to the new quarry which offered better wages and conditions.  Roy explains that the quarry produced rubble rather than cut pieces, had mobile cranes and how shot-holes for firing were prepared by brute force.

13.  How the stone was transported from Hutch Bank Quarry (3 minutes 18 seconds)  Download

Roy Fitton describes how the wagons were brought down an incline and the types of flagstones transported.

14.  Family history - how I came to be in Rossendale (4 minutes 23 seconds)  Download

The narrator describes how members of his family came from as far away as Woburn and Cornwall and as near as Preston.  He describes walking to work at Britannia Quarry as an apprentice fitter and trying to start before the legal age.

15.  Quarrymen at work (5 minutes 2 seconds)  Download

The narrator talks about the quarrymen and steam-crane drivers and two Polish workers who were experts on getting the stone off the working face using two-man crowbars to move the rock.  The rock was then taken to the saw-works at Facit for cutting.

16.  Flagstones and tupping (4 minutes 30 seconds)  Download

The narrator recalls supplying flagstones for Trafalgar Square and St. Pancras, London.  He describes 'tupping' in the quarry using a large demolition ball to break up the stone.

Short audio clips

Why they chewed tobacco when drilling holes (59 seconds)

Brewing up for the quarrymen (2 minutes 3 seconds)

The quarrymen's cure for constipation (1 minute)

Commuting to work by horse (33 seconds)

How the Facit Quarry incline was worked (1 minute 30 seconds)

Using a block of stone as a brake for the quarry wagon (53 seconds)

"We drove on ledges 12 feet wide and 50 feet up" (1 minute 19 seconds)

On wearing clogs in London (56 seconds)

Gloves lad! (38 seconds)

Quarry tramroads and Desperate Dan (2 minutes 6 seconds)

Sanitary accommodation in the quarry (39 seconds)

The moaner (1 minute 18 seconds)

Underground crane in old stone mine (1 minute 2 seconds)

Blasting - as seen on TV! (1 minute 38 seconds)

Learning to drive - quarry style (1 minute 18 seoncds)

Hand-drilling holes ready for shot-firing (1 minute 17 seconds)

The Valley of Stone project also worked with Northern Primary Scool to celebrate the schools centenary year.  Pupils from Year 6 interviewed former pupils about their days at school and what the differences are between now and then.  These will soon be available from this website.

To find out more about the history of the area watch the Bacup Times video below produced by a group of young people as part of the CAR Video Unit Project or visit the Bacup Times website.


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