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.
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
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
it, you had to get it clean to get the old gas tar off, that
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
so the whole panel was 24 volt, you just pressed buttons,
in the old age, you pulled the tar, you tipped the tar in
the stone and all that sort of things but then it became
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.
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......
Luke Robson, Alan's father, he ran it then.
He also had 2 wagons then, tipper wagons he used at the quarry,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.