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Woolton Quarries
A Brief History

The Township Quarry
Q
uarrying in Woolton has taken place in a number of locations: School Lane, Quarry Street and Woolton Hill Road, from where stone was taken for some of Woolton’s finest buildings. The quarries were once owned by well-known business-men such as James Gore, John Greenough and James Rose, and had a reputation for quality that went back generations, stone that can be found in: Speke Hall; Woolton Hall; St. Mary’s Hall, Quarry Street; Mechanics’ Institution, St. Mary’s Street; All Hallows Church, Allerton; St. Mathew & St. James, Mossley Hill; Gateacre Grange, Rose Brow; Stoneleigh and Beaconsfield, Beaconsfield Road; and numerous other listed buildings and boundary walls in and around the Woolton area...

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
The cathedral, designed by (Sir) Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960) when he was 22, was commenced in 1903 and completed in 1978. After the consecration ceremony of the cathedral in 1924, Scott was knighted, and in 1978 the service of dedication was attended by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Several sites had been tested for suitable sandstone and Woolton was chosen as the best. The finest layers, up to three or four feet thick, were found in the lower beds. A lot of the surface stone, being of poorer quality (spoil), was crushed and used as aggregate. Some of the spoil was used to level off Quarry Street and some for the levelling of ground when Menlove Avenue was laid.

The quarries, located between Church Road and Quarry Street, are divided by a public Foot Path known as the Mill Stile. The Marquis of Salisbury, who owned the quarries site, gifted the freehold of the 6½ acres site to the Cathedral Committee in 1934 to ensure that there was an adequate supply of stone for the cathedral. Quarrying had commenced north of the Mill Stile before 1870 and it was from here, from 1905, that excavations of stone for the Anglican Cathedral took place by the firm of Morrison’s & Sons, of Wavertree, who had been awarded the contract for building the substructure of the cathedral. Morrison’s & Sons were later awarded the contract for the Choir the Lady Chapel...

Stone was transported from the quarry to the cathedral site by teams of six-horse lorries, and Martin Swanick, a carter, is credited with taking the first load of stone. Horse-drawn lorries were later replaced by steam wagons, then later petrol/diesel engine vehicles...

Refuse tip and scrap tyre dump
The south quarry has had a variety of uses. Because the level of the quarry had been taken to more 30 feet below street level it started being used as a refuse tip and as far back as the 1920s was: "…almost filled with all kinds of refuse." When eventually filled the site was landscaped and laid out as an ornamental flower garden.

During World War 2 the south quarry was used for: ‘the reception, repacking and discharging of War Department stores.’ Work on the cathedral still continued in the north quarry during this time, but with a reduced workforce. By the 1960s (possibly the late 1950s) sections of the south quarry, fronting onto Quarry Street, were leased as a coal yard (Wilf Ratcliff), Corporation yard, timber and scaffolding merchants (Richardson’s) and a haulage company (George Riding’s). To the rear of these the quarry was used as a reception area for the storage of worn and used tyres.

A new beginning for the quarries –
The south quarry
In 1984, planning permission was granted for a road and 53 dwellings on the south site with later permission granted for phase II but it was to be another six years before any work commenced!

In 1986 there was a quite spectacular fire in the south quarry where the tyres had been stored. Exactly how the fire started (one of several over the years) was never really explained but some say that it may have been arson in an attempt to make the Council do something with the site which had, over the years, become an ever-worsening eyesore. Whatever the reasons the fire proved to be the final straw. The council eventually decided that the tyre dump was a recurring nuisance and on 16th February 1987 issued a Statutory Notice under the Public Health (Recurring Nuisances) Act, 1969, against the liquidators of the tyre company for the removal of the tyres, who requested the Council to carry out the work in default.

Clearance commenced in March 1987, and by the end of the first week of April the site had been cleared and levelled...

Housing construction work in the south quarry was commenced in 1990 and the estate was signed off by the Building Control officers in 1995. The road into the estate was named The Old Quarry.

The north quarry
Quarry workers at the north quarry were informed that the cathedral was now nearing completion and by the autumn of 1978 the north quarry had officially closed with only a small workforce being retained until Easter 1979. It was estimated that 50,000 cubic metres of tipping would be needed to bring the level back up to general floor level.

In total the north quarry had produced over 95% of the stone used in the cathedral construction, the other 5%, used for the interior, being a mixture of Rainhill and Runcorn sandstone...

Prior to the final closure of the quarry a Search Team from St. Katherine’s College (now called Hope University College), Taggart Avenue, Liverpool, carried out a site report on both quarries, which they compiled 1978...

In 1979 the north quarry commenced being used as a refuse tip for inert waste and officially closed in 1983. Planning permission was granted for 22 bungalows in 1985, work commencing in 1986. A further planning application was submitted for a block of 18 flats to be erected at the northern end of the quarry, which was named Stonemasons Court. Clay Cross Road was completed in 1997. The completion of Stonemasons Court not only completed both quarries as residential housing estates, it also marked the end of an era for the quarries which had, for over 100 years, supplied stone for some of Woolton’s finest houses, and a quite magnificent cathedral.

 

 

 

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