THE ELLAND EDGE FLAGS
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a very large industry developed
in West Yorkshire exploiting the sandstones of the Millstone Grit (Namurian)
and the Coal Measures (Westphalian) for masonry, flagging and for roofing,
known locally as thackstones. Generally the quarries or delves worked exposures
on the steep valley sides, where there was less overburden to remove, but
also extending into the plateaux beyond. There are many descriptions of
the rows of cranes in quarry after quarry along the skylines of Elland
Edge, Southowram and similar centres. The extent of the industry has been
reviewed in Godwin (1984).
|The fissile rock was sometimes
followed underground. At Rand and Asquith’s Tuck Royd Quarry near Brighouse
the underground workings can be seen high up in the wall of the modern
workings. Walton (1938) has described
the early methods of working.
|From the records of the
building of Rastrick Chapel in 1602 (Lister: ‘Rastrick Chapel and School’,
Halifax Ant. Soc. Trans., 1905), it appears that landowners employed labourers
to quarry the stone on their own land. In the Elland Edge district this
ultimately developed into the ‘master-taker’ system, whereby the landowner
let out the getting of the stone to a ‘master-taker’, who undertook to
get the stone for a stipulated sum. He employed ‘delvers’, but he was often
regarded as unscrupulous by both the landowner and the delvers. Frequently
the overburden from a working was tipped on the top of unworked land and
the whole declared to have been quarried. The ‘master-taker’ was also usually
the local innkeeper, and, as he paid out the wages of his ‘delvers’ in
his inn, a goodly proportion of their earnings was quickly returned to
his coffers. This system survived until well into the nineteenth century.
|The early quarrymen, who
worked the outcrop, took only the best stone, and, as this became worked
out, galleries were driven into the hillside. The development of deep quarries
and mines came only with the introduction of gins and steam cranes, and
in Hipperholme the earliest shafts were sunk about 1860. The overburden
removed when sinking a mine was hauled to the surface by means of a windlass
and built into a massive retaining wall, known as a ‘judd wall’. Behind
this wall other waste material was tipped to form a level field in due
|When the shaft reached the
required depth, galleries were run under the ground, as at Collyweston,
although the galleries were much more extensive. The mining operations
were controlled by the ‘wooder’, who had charge of the timbering, and in
order to conserve timber he also determined the nature and direction of
the galleries. Props were not used and the timbering was restricted to
the roof, which was wedged by means of ash ‘lids’. The mines took advantage
of a thin layer of soft shale underlying the stone, called the ‘pricking’.
Working by candle-light and in a height of only two to three feet, they
removed the ‘pricking’, when the rock above was left to ‘weight’ and fall
|When the quarries, or ‘delves’,
were shallow the blocks of stone were carried to the surface by ‘huggers’,
who wore leather ‘saddles’, similar to those formerly worn by coal hawkers,
and were capable of carrying loads up to eight hundredweights.*
The stone was carried up ‘hugging ladders’, having very broad rungs set
close together, and as the ‘hugger’ had to hold the block of stone he could
not use his hands to steady himself. Fatalities often occurred and there
are records of ladders breaking under the strain and the unfortunate ‘huggers’
|‘Hugging’ continued until
about 1870, although gins and hand-cranes, capable of lifting a ton, were
used earlier in some quarries. One of the most primitive haulage devices
was the ‘Billy Wobble’, which was merely a jib, over which passed a rope
or chain into the quarry. The lower end of the rope was split into three
parts, to two of which were attached iron rings and to the third a hook.
The stone was loaded into a ‘shim’, which has a sloping front board and
no sides. The rings were slipped over the ‘strines’ (handles) and the hook
was attached to the ‘tell’ (wheel). A horse was harnessed to the free end
of the rope and as it moved away, it hauled the loaded barrow to the surface.
A similar method is still employed at Collyweston. Power cranes came into
use about 1870, the first type being called by the quarrymen a ‘monkey
up stick’ crane. Wire ropes were not used until about 1880.
|Elland Flags in all forms
were transported from the quarry on stone wagons, few of which have survived.
An early example of such a wagon is depicted on Robert Parker’s plan of
Harrison Farm, Southowram. Later wagons were much sturdier. They had wooden
axles with four plates at each end on which the massive wheels rotated.
They required constant lubrication, and the carter invariably carried a
horn of grease and a feather, with which to lubricate the wheels every
mile or so. Such ‘heavy’ wagons quickly damaged the poor dirt roads, and
stone tracks, consisting of parallel rows of thick flags, were laid to
the quarries. Many of these tracks, deeply rutted, have survived. (Walton
This seems an awful lot but it's what he said.