The stories of the old quarrymen of the North Pennines and the hard lives they can now be seen on DVD and in walking trail unveiled recently by the North Pennines AONB Partnership.
The DVD, ‘Tales from the Old Quarrymen of the North Pennines’, and an Ashes Quarry Trail were launched at the Durham Dales Centre in Stanhope, County Durham.
The launch marks the completion of an 18-month project by the AONB Partnership to record the stories and memories of the old quarrymen of the North Pennines and the development of a new trail which explores the history of a typical limestone quarry in Weardale. The new work was made possible by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Aggregates Sustainability Levy Fund and the County Durham Environment Trust.
Stanhope resident, Stan Harrison, was closely involved with the new leaflet and signs for the quarry trail. He followed his grandfather and father into the quarries, starting as a ‘nipper lad’ making tea at Harrowback Quarry. He recalls a small army of 200 men working in Ashes Quarry above Stanhope breaking the stone with their mells. “There were once so many of them, you couldn’t hear the individual hammering but just a continuous noise in the town,” he says.
Along with the quarrymen’s tales, the DVD also includes some rare and fascinating film footage of working quarries in the 1950s and evocative black and white photographs dating back over a century. These sit alongside more modern images to contrast the changes from the days when most of the rock was won through the sheer physical toil and skill of the old quarry workers.
“The age of men in caps is gradually dying out and with it the skills and knowledge that went with it,” laments Robin Turner, owner of Ladycross Quarry near Blanchland in Northumberland which is now one of the last quarries in the UK producing hand-cut sandstone roofing slates. Its produce can be seen on many of the roofs in the farms and village nearby as well as such prestigious buildings as Durham Cathedral and Ford Castle in Northumberland.
The DVD priced £9.99 is available through local tourism outlets or from the AONB Partnership offices in Stanhope. For more information please contact Nicola Cullens on 01388 528801 or email@example.com.