Quarrying and the Pipeworks (Longhoughton)

There were 3 quarries in close connection to the village, 2 Sandstone and the present car park was a Whinstone Quarry. The stone was crushed in a huge crusher, with great amounts of grey dust issuing forth when the crusher was used. Everything was covered in this grey material. The stone was then conveyed on a pulley system, to the South Pier bins, for export to London and other venues. Huge blocks of Whinstone were also sent by large barge like boats,1 from the North Pier. Whinstone sets for kerbs were also made by hand. My grandfather was a kerb dresser. The whinstone had to be hit in the correct place to split it. It is a very hard stone. The first quarrying recorded was 1772. Daniel Craster advertised in the London Courant for quarry workers for Craster Quarry. Craster Quarry was reopened about 1941, to provide stone for Airfield runways.

Jimmy Hall
Craster Quarry was closed before the war and it was opened again by a firm called Kings & Co., of Glasgow and then when Boulmer and Brunton aerodromes were built, they were fetching stone out of the quarry for the runways they started blasting back again. In those days you could walk into the quarry and walk straight up to the top, there must have been 100,000 tons of dust. Dust was a waste commodity, you couldn't tar stone with dust on it, you had to get it clean to get the old gas tar off, that came from the making of coke in Newcastle. When I first went to the quarry they were using gas tar and then they started to get bitumen. You could sit in in the clothes you're wearing now, it was ultra modem and it was 24 volts controlling 440 volt in the plant, so the whole panel was 24 volt, you just pressed buttons, in the old age, you pulled the tar, you tipped the tar in among the stone and all that sort of things but then it became modern.

Quarrying Processes

Willie Mitford
The Quarry here was worked by McLaren then Crow Catchpole took it over and then it was closed and then Kings came in the wartime to get stone for the aerodromes, they were a Scottish company. I went back to the quarry on piecework, breaking stone with the hammer, for l/6d. a ton, you had break it up and fill a tub and take it down to the crusher, you worked in twos, I worked with Chris Breeze, sometimes you filled lorries, which was easier than riding the tubs out and coming back again, that took time. We were making good money compared to what other men were making, if you made £12 a week in those days, you were making good money. I packed it in to start driving for £5.10s, but I wanted to get out on the road. You had two hammers a 'slogger' and a 'mell' the mell had a round end and a sharp end, to cut a big stone. The slogger had a sharp square and you cut sideways on, you had to know how to hit it The stone had to reduced to about nine inches to be able to get through the crusher. If you were cutting them for setts, they had to be cut specially by experienced 'knockers up. Unbelievably some parts of the quarry, the stone was harder than other, the south side of Howick quarry the stone was like cutting cheese but it took a lot of breaking at the other side, coarser stone altogether. Whinstone is the toughest stone you can get.

Jimmy Hall
One of the things in my lifetime, when I first went to the quarry, they had people that made setts, kerbs and things like that, you had to get big stone for that, they didn't have to have stone which had been burned by a very high explosive. The idea of doing that was, drill a hole, put gunpowder in, put a small shot in and what they used to call 'shake it', when these shots were shook, then they would pour gunpowder down the back and drill the hole, that took quite a bit of doing, that was so they got stone that wasn't burnt.

Later on the process of making kerbs out of concrete came, so what they wanted after that was a big hole which was four and a half inches, put a great load of dynamite down it and blow the whole lot straight over, 4,000 tons. All the stone, to start with was hand drilled, a bloke melled it and knocked it up. He would knock up more than 20 ton a day. When I finished at the quarry there were no men there at all, the rocks of any size at all, we just blasted and used what we called 'plasters' these were designed to fire to the hard, didn't blow away from the rock, blows towards it......

Billy Lumsden
Luke Robson, Alan's father, he ran it then. He also had 2 wagons then, tipper wagons he used at the quarry, of course,. I suppose there would be a lot of work for them When they made all these runways and suchlike along the Tuggle and there was another one at Boulmer that they made. They were only for aircraft that were more or less in distress, somewhere for them to land if they were badly shot up.

Jimmy Hall
I was driving a truck and one of the fitters hurt his hand and was off work and the gaffer asked if I would go to the garage for a little bit, so I did that but someone else was driving my truck and I didn't like that 'cause they didn't clean it out. So I stayed in the garage, the old fellow came back, now he was a steam man so we were working on big diesels, it was very interesting. If you are going to light a little fire to do something, a lot of people light a little fire and then they put coal on, you don't do that You get all the coal and everything on there because once you put coal on, you cool the fire down. That steams the boiler, you have all the vents set. I've never driven a wagon with a heater in.

Billy Lumsden
When I was on the farm then, all the men used to work in the quarry and then came to help us on the farm at night. I divent na how they did it, cos it was heavy work then.
There was very little machinery in the quarries that particular time. They used to come to do seasonal work, at night. They used to help us at harvest time. I've seen them sit down to have their tea, and fall asleep, they were that tired.

Billy Williams, he never got to 50. They are the same fellows who used to work all day in the quarry, when the war was on, then come home and work on the harvest field till dark at night. Was that particularly hard work in the quarry. Oh yes. You used to break stone up with a hammer then, now they pick it up with a machine and feed it into the crusher. They've got secondary crushers now.

Jimmy Hall
There were a lot of people worked in the quarries in those days, there was Howick, Ratcheugh, Craster, Embleton. Embleton quarry had a railway that went to Christon Bank. The men used to go and work on the farms after they had been to work in the quarries. I knew a fellow, William Anderson, he used to come from the quarry every night and he worked for the fish merchant, Tom Gray. Jackie Gray was the joiner and undertaker. Hard work in the quarries, breaking the stone, etc. I've often said if these lot got time and went to Dartmoor, they would have laughed at that lot. They looked at the stone, it didn't matter how big it was, they could smash it up.

The workers started at 7,30 a.m., cup of tea at nine o'clock, quarter of an hour, 12-12.30 for dinner, finished at 4.15p.m. All the stone men at this quarry were pieceworkers, they worked singly, every man working for himself. When I went to the quarry in 1953, they were producing 300 tons a day and when I finished at the quarry, they had machines and that and were producing into the thousands. They had great big dumpers and that. Everything was weighed prior to that, even the tubs, everybody had a token with their number on and they put the token on the tub, or if there was an old truck leading it up, the drivers got the token when they came back so when it was weighed, they knew exactly whose tubs they were.

Willie Mitford
When I first started work I worked for 4d. an hour and when you got to fifteen it went up to 5d. and it went up a Id an hour until you got to 21 and then you got a full wage, which for a labourer at the quarry, was about £2.10s. A man who broke stone would get about £3. I was working on piecework, if you didn't work hard you didn't make the money- It was a hard life but you were fit. I always remember. Jimmy ' Turnbull, he used to joke with me, he said that when I first came out of the Army, I had one hip pocket on one side and one on the other side and when I finished knocking up at the quarry, he said them two pockets were overlapping, as I'd lost such a lot of weight.

The Pipeworks

Eleanor Venus
We met in 1949 and were married in 1952 in Embleton Church, Ken travelled for a while 'cause he worked at the Ministry at Benton, used to come for weekends when we were courting and he didn't want to stay in an inside job. Went to the Labour Exchange and all they could offer him was the Pipeworks at Littlehoughton and he worked there for 38 years. Charlton Carse owned the Pipeworks then.

Ken Venus
The pipes were used mostly for drainage and sewerage. I was a chargehand, then I was a crane driver for a while, then I was an inspector, every pipe that went out had to be stamped. Mr. Pickup had been the manager and then Mr. Foot came, he was a Scotsman, he lived at Embleton. Ian Shiel took over after that, his father was the Coastguard. I was just a general dogsbody when I finished, I lost interest as I got older. They make pipes now for new estates. Most of the people that worked there lived in Alnwick. It wasn't a good job financially but it was regular work.

Eleanor Venus
The first day at work he missed the bus home and he wasn't used to wearing boots and he used to go down to the sea and put his hands and feet in. Worked from 7.30 a.m. till 4 p.m. with just Sunday off.

We got 6d. an hour wet pay 'cause you couldn't work properly, when it snowed and the roads were blocked, you had to get the Snow Cat and clear them, rather than claim dole.

Marjorie Lumsden
Our Winnie was workingat the Pipe Works., she was younger than me and was getting twiceas much money as I was, whichI didn't like, so I said 'get me a job at the Pipe Works', so she asked and she got me a job. Now what we had to do, was make reinforcements for railway sleepers and you had a frame and you had to set all these bars up, our Winnie was a link maker, she made them all twisted, all these links and we had to thread these links on these bars and then you had to get a pair of wire cutters, put the wire through, twist it round and cut it off. All these links, they used to call them banjos, we used to make about a dozen a day. There was a railway siding for the Pipe Works, they had two parts, the main part, there was the quarry and then there was another part along at the Pipe Works. They had a little 2-ton crane and they had a big crane at our end and Bob Armstrong from Howick was in charge of that end and he used to call me for Saturday for overtime but I used to only go in 'cause he used to let me drive the crane and it was on these lines, it was a small crane, I used to have my break with him and the fellows used to pull his leg, thinking he'd getten a young woman, 'cause I was only a teenager. I used to bike to Howick, leave the bike at his house, on a Saturday and get a lift with him.

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