WORKING METHODS.

Originally the stone won from the outcrops would have been removed from the face with the use of bars. By using the natural faulting, blocks of various sizes could be broken away and then squared by masons before being put in place in the buildings. This method was not very efficient, as large blocks would have been rare. As working continued on the outcrops the quarrymen started to follow the beds of stone into the hillside. Most of the quarries would of been accessed by adits entering the beds at the same level as the outcrops, the bars would still be used to break away blocks, but as time went on they started to use the bars to chisel away stone to remove larger blocks. This method was known as Jadding, and was in use until the mid 1800's. Vast amounts of stone were removed this way and these areas can be traced by the distinctive hatching marks that can be seen on the pillars. (See the picture of Longs passage as this was worked by this method some time in the late 1700's). The stone would have been removed from the face and loaded onto a wheeled wagon in a sunken loading bay, using a crab winch and bar, then the wagon would be pulled by horse to the surface for stacking. Bath Stone can only be removed from the quarry during the warmer months, this is to allow the natural sap in the stone to dry out and this also makes the stone harder. Large stacking grounds would have stood near the adit entrance where the blocks would be seasoned for a time before being transported or cut. Over the winter months the blocks were stored underground and extra men would be taken on in April to remove the stone to the surface.

Using a Jadding Iron

At some time in the mid 1800's large saws were introduced underground, the earliest known date on a sawn face is 1821 at Combe Down This way of working is known as the 'old method' and was in use until 1968 in Clift Quarry. Another improvement was the introduction of cranes underground; these wooden cranes meant that large blocks of 5 tons or more could now be removed far easier (see photos). As new sources of stone were being discovered Slope Shafts were becoming the normal way to access the quarry, with horse powered ginny rings to raise the wagons of stone up the shaft. Steam winches gradually replaced the ginny rings and at Clift a steam engine was employed to haul the stone from the headings out through the adit. With slope shafts came tramways that replaced the wheeled wagons in all but a few quarries. Horses still pulled these new trolleys until the 1930's when small diesel engines were introduced. Tramways were also employed by most of the quarries to move the stone from the stacking yards to the railway and by 1880 there was a large network in the Corsham area.


Below is a diagrammatic description of the 'old method', with a picture of some of the tools used. This is a brief overview of this method to accompany the drawings. To view this method in photographs follow the link to the photographs page and look at the old photographs.

First an area to be quarried was marked out at the working face (D) at the end of the heading (E); then a picker would remove the top six inches of stone (the picking bed) from above the stone to be removed, this was achieved by using picks of different lengths. Pickers were strong and very accurate, it is reputed that they could hit a fly at the back of the cut, this could be up to eight feet deep. The pick would have been swung two-handed, but only one hand could be used in the narrow cut (A). The depth at (F) would be between six and nine inches, whilst at (G) it would be about four inches. With a shallow depth saw called a Razzer, cuts would be started until larger saws called Frigbobs could be inserted to continue the cut on down (H); these saws can be up to eight feet in length and were lubricated by water dripping from a can placed on top of the cut. Sawing, too, is very skilful as the cuts must be narrower at the back of the Wrist (I), if this is not done the blocks cannot be removed as they would jam. The pillar cut (along side of C) once started had to be finished without stopping the saw or the pressure from the pillar would break the blocks or jam the saw. The Wrist is removed by putting a plug and feathers (a wedge and two tapered plates of metal used in reverse, to break the block off the bed) between the beds (B), and, by hitting them into the stone, they force the block to break down the back. A Lewis is then fitted into the face of the wrist to give the crane something to pull on. Once the block has been removed someone could clean up the back of the wrist with a pick to allow the sawyer with a Razzer to make a cut along the back of the remaining blocks on either side (J). The remaining blocks would be broken from their beds by the plug and feathers and removed with the aid of a Chain or Lewis Bolt (L). 

 

 

 Cross section of a heading.


Once the beds above have been removed work on the lower ones could begin. In some quarries because of the depth of the stone worked, the working face would be stepped so as to allow easy access to the higher beds. The back of the remaining blocks would be sawn and then the blocks removed after breaking them off the bed (M). Stubborn blocks would be aided by the use of a Jump Bar. Now all blocks have been removed, work can progress forward once again. Before the blocks are taken to the stacking area they would have been tapped with a piece of metal or a pebble to see if they rang, a dull sound means that there is a fault in the block somewhere and must be found and split at that point. Blocks that are perfect ring like porcelain, these would then be squared if required, and with the use of a double headed axe tidied up (scappling), because quarrymen were paid for volume but only for block that could be sold not for odd shapes. Lots of waste rubble would have been produced and this was moved and stacked in the disused headings at the quarrymen's cost. Of the stone removed, up to forty percent could be waste; a look at any of the photos reveals all this waste stone which now fills a majority of the old workings. Another job that required doing was the moving of cranes. These are incredibly heavy so were moved as little as possible. A trip around the workings will reveal the Chog Holes in the ceiling that had to be cut each time one of the cranes changed position.

Lighting, all bought by the quarrymen was by candle, oil lamp or carbide lamp, oil lamps gave off a lot of soot and this can again be seen in the colour of the waste in the photos. Once a week the saws had to be sharpened using a triangular file; large blocks of stone with cuts in them were used to hold the saws and these can still be found in situ in all the quarries. Horses were used to haul the trolleys and most were stabled underground during the week only returning to the fields at the weekend. All horses were well treated, as they were an expensive item to replace, compared to a quarryman. Vermin became a problem underground because of the horses, and the old files would have been hammered into the walls to hang the quarrymen's food bags on. These files can still be found near areas used by the quarrymen for eating called 'breakfast holes'. These areas would have been used because they were out of the way of the horses taking the blocks out, and were usually in cleaner air.

In some places when the stone had been removed the ceiling would still move and small diagonal wooden props (Scaulters / Scorters) would of been installed between the top of a pillar and ceiling at an angle of forty-five degrees. As the beds above settled these wooden props would encourage them to move sideways so that they jammed against each other to provide a safe and secure ceiling. Vertical props were used in situations where there was a likelihood of a ceiling collapse although this was rare due to the skill of the quarrymen. Ceiling checking was carried out on a regular basis. A long bar (tapping iron) is used to tap the ceiling, and a skilled person can tell from the sound the condition of the beds. This is still the method we use today as it is the only reliable way to find loose rock. Another method that was employed was putting wooden wedges into a joint in the ceiling and checked daily. If the beds were getting tighter the wedges would be crushed, if the beds were parting then the wedge would be found on the floor.

A COLLECTION OF SOME OF THE TOOLS USED.

PLEASE REFER TO GLOSSARY BELOW FOR A MORE DETAILED DESCRIPTION


In the interwar period compressed air tools were introduced, also in the 30's Hardiax and Siskol cutters were tried. During the Second World War Samson coal cutters were introduced. The War Department employed these large machines in the construction of their sites and after the war these machines took over the jobs of the pickers and sawyers at Monks Park and Moor Park Quarries. Electricity for these, and lighting, was installed along with more modern electric and pneumatic steel cranes to replace the old wooden ones. This method of working is still used at Monks Park and Westwood Quarries where, along with the Samson cutters, they also use a Dreadnought machine which is a larger version of the Samson. At Hayes Wood Quarry (Limpley Stoke) in the early eighties, the Bath Stone Company started to remove the base bed that had been left in, to see the method used click here. In the late eighties they started to remove the top bed, a large chainsaw mounted on a forklift is used, a modern adaptation of the old coalcutter method.


GLOSSARY

ADIT. An entrance into a hillside that is nearly horizontal.

BASKET. A method of chaining a block, used if you cannot get the chain underneath.

BED. A layer or stratum, in the quarries it can refer to the thickness of each layer of stone or the natural fault between layers.

BELLY. Chaining a block by passing it underneath.

BREACH. The width of the area being worked.

BREAKFAST HOLE. An area away from the working area that was used by the quarrymen at meal times.

BROG. Nail used to hold rails to sleepers.

CALLUST. Water deposits a calcite coating like in caves, only this forms far quicker.

CAP / SQUAT BLOCK. A flat piece of wood placed on top of a prop, these allow a slight amount of downward movement.

CAPPING. Name used for the ceiling bed.

CHAIN. Small= Trace, Medium= Half inch, Large= Big chain.

CHAPS. Brown marks running through blocks.

CHIPS. Tapered pieces of metal used with a wedge to provide more splitting force.

CHOG. Metal bearing that the pivot on top of the crane fits into.

CHOG HOLE. Square hole in ceiling approx. 12 ins. square and 6 to10 ins. deep, used to hold the bearing for the crane upright.

CLEATS. Wedges placed in ceiling joints to detect movement.

COCKLE / GEODE. Calcite crystals found in the stone.

CRAB WINCH. Originally used to pull blocks from the breach, later used to erect the cranes.

CRANE STONE. A large block of stone with a hole cut into it for the base of the crane.

DOGS. A two pronged version of a Lewis, usually used to lift blocks in construction of buildings.

DREADNOUGHT. Large track mounted chain cutter originally used to cut coal, larger than the Samson and still used by Hansons. See photographs.

DRIP CAN / TIN. A can with a small hole in it to drip water into the top of the saw cut for lubrication.

FAULTS. Large natural fissures in the stone, can be up to twenty feet wide and eighty feet high.

FLASK BASKET.  Two handled straw basket, hung on files in wall to keep out rats.

FRIG BOB. Large saw up to eight feet long, see photograph.

GINNY / JINNY RING. Horse powered windlass used to haul the blocks up shafts.

GOBS. Small pieces of waste stone.

GREEN STONE. Stone that still needs seasoning.

HEADING. Direction of working face.

HELVE. Wooden handle on pick.

HOLING IRON. Used to make the holes for the Lewis.

JADDING IRON. A long bar once used to cut out blocks, later used to cut out the corners of the picking bed.

JIM CROW. Used to bend the rail tracks.

JOINTS. Small faults or cracks in the stone.

JUMPER BAR / BIG BAR / HANDY BAR. Giant crow bar used to break the blocks away from the beds.

LEWIS. Used to pull blocks or used with a pulley to help put up crane, see photograph.

LOADING BAY. Sunken platform near working face where before cranes were introduced blocks could be winch and barred onto the wagons. See photographs.

MUCH. Waste stone on a block.

MUCK BOX. Used to remove waste.

PICK. Picking pick, used to remove the picking bed.  Roughing pick, used to square the blocks.  Beater pick, for packing sleepers under the rails.  Holing pick, for starting holes i.e. Lewis holes.  Muck pick, pick axe.

PICKING BED / PICKING. The area removed above the blocks.

PILLAR. Area of stone left in to support the ceiling.

PILLAR CUT. Cut alongside of the area to become the pillar.

PLUG AND FEATHERS. Plug, a thin long wedge. Feathers, two reverse taper pieces of metal that fit in a hole and the plug is driven between them.

PROP / STICK. Used to support areas of the ceilings

QUARR. Name used by the quarrymen when referring to the quarries.

RAZZER. A saw usually a worn Frig Bob that is shallow in depth so it can fit between the ceiling and block.

ROAD. Term used for the tracks i.e. "Laying a new Road" 

SAMSON. Large track mounted chain cutter originally used to cut coal introduced by the ministry still in use today with Hansons. See photographs.

SAP. Natural moisture contained in block.

SAW BLOCK. Stone used to hold saw for sharpening, see photographs.

SCAPPLING. To square a block with a double headed axe.

SCAULTER / SCORTER. Prop placed between pillar and roof.

SHEARS. Used to pick up blocks. NIPS, BIG NIPS, MARSH'S, SECONDS, BIG SHEARS. Spans vary from two feet to eight feet, see photographs.

SLOPE SHAFT. Entrance shaft usually steep, see photographs.

SLIPPER. A sheer sided fault, these can be dangerous as they can slip, as there is nothing natural to catch against.

SQUARING. Only blocks that have been cleaned and squared will be paid on.

SQUATS. Small stones placed under the blocks on the trolleys, single to the front, two at the rear, this allows movement in transport.

STAKE. The wooden holder for an oil lamp.

STACKER. Movable crane used to stack stone underground in winter.

STACKING GROUND. Area where blocks are seasoned and stored, see photographs.

TAPPER. A piece of metal or a pebble used to ring the block, you can tell by the sound if there are any flaws in the stone that are invisible to the eye.

TAPPING IRON. Various length bars with a ball end, used to tap ceiling beds, again the sound tells the condition of the beds. Still used today.

TRACE. Small chain used to pull block from face.

TROLLEY. Wagon, Cart, Bogey, Truck.

TROLLEY BAR. Used to stop a trolley or to put one back on the rails after a derailment.

WEDGE. Large tapered chisel.

WINDY DRILL / PICK / HAMMER. Names given by the miners to the pneumatic tools.

WORKING FACE. The area where the stone is being removed.

WRIST. The first block removed, must be cut very accurately otherwise it will jam in the face.

QUARRYMEN.

GAFFER. The owner or Boss/ manager, pays money to ganger

GANGER. In charge of the heading, pays money to men, all piece work

CHOPPER. Scappler who used the axe.

DAYMAN. Worked in the stacking yard.

PICKER. Worked the picking bed.

ROADMAN. Looked after all the underground roads and tracks.

SAWYER. Used the Frig Bobs or Razzers.

CARTER. Person in charge of the horses and moving block.


GEOLOGY

HISTORY

WORKING METHODS

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