Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clipsham Quarry

Clipsham, Lincolnshire UK

Above: David Davenport-Hardley inspecting blocks for Palace of Westminster restoration in 1949

Sue Thomas Clipsham Quarry Company Director asks, "Why look abroad? When everything you need is here in the UK," she is referring to UK quarries, which she believes are capable of supplying the country's need for most stone including limestone. "I'm not an environmental nut," says Sue, "but I do feel if there's a product on your doorstep you should use it."

Sue has been a director of Clipsham Quarry for six years and enjoys taking a hands on approach along with her husband Alan Thomas and her father, Sir David Davenport-Handley. The earliest recorded use of Clipsham stone for building is between 1363 and 1368, when it was used for the construction of Windsor Castle, although there is evidence it was used prior to this by the Romans. Sir David's father expanded the quarry in the 1930's, at the request of the government, to supply stone for the restoration of the river front of the palace of Westminster. After the Second World War, Attlee's government was using as much stone as the quarry could produce to rebuild the Chamber of the House of Commons, which had been bombed during the blitz, Chipsham stone was also used at the time to repair the bomb damage to Buckingham Palace.

Today the quarry is not only used for its dimensional stone production. The stone is hard and aggregates are also produced there by Buillimores Sand and Gravel. The aggregates come from the north face and the block from the west face, with at least 200m between them so that the block is not shattered by the blasting. With the help of Black Stone the Thomas's have managed to extract more uniformly shaped rocks which command a better price. These are what Clipsham call the DH blocks (Davenport-Handley) that sell for £160 a tonne and smaller ones for £95 a tonne. In two or three week around 1,000 tonnes of block can be extracted. Clipsham Quarry Company now allow two operators, Artisan Stone Supplies Ltd and Collyweston Stone, to work in the quarry producing stone walling. The stone is more consistently available now, word is getting out and their customer base has grown in the last two years from 8 to 20 masonry companies.

The block currently being exposed is of exceptional quality and is already in demand from the major East Anglian cathedrals and some Oxford colleges.

The message is spreading that the stone is available and enquires are starting to arrive from further afield now that Clipsham Quarry Company have a website www.clipshamstone.co.uk.

Above: Example of Clipsham stone

[Natural Stone Specialist September 2007 www.naturalstonespecialist.com]

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