Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Monday, April 28, 2003


Morning all! Sorry I've been so dilatory lately, lots of pressing things to do and I've neglected the blogs. The research on Barl;ick history is going well but slowly as always. One development that has taken some time up is that I have been offered, and accepted, the chance to put all my research in a public archive at Clitheroe Castle which is a branch of the Lancashire record Office. It is called THE BARNOLDSWICK ARCHIVE and as it grows it will become a very powerful tool for anyone interested in the local history of the area. If you punch North West Sound Archive in on Google it will take you to the Lancashire website and give you an address and a gateway to the archive. At the moment the gate will only let you into a small area of contact but this will grow.

On anaother related matter; when I transferred from the freebie Blogspot to the paid-for Blogger Pro some of the archive was lost. I promise I will address this and gradually put them back on the system.

One last thing, I have no idea how many people read my blogs. If you do, could you just drop me an email to stanley@barnoldswick. and let me know. Before you throw your hands up in horror, I refuse to allow spammers to damage my interaction with the web. My defence against them is that as soon as I have downloaded incoming mail I go offline (if you don't know how to do this, on OE just click file and then click 'work offline') this means that the auto reply mechanisms in the spam can't work and they have no evidence that your address works. Example. This morning I had five emails and only one spam. It seems to work.

Enough, thanks for all the interest. Lote more to come.

Go forth and prosper. SCG


It’s 1921 and Jack Platt is working in Sagar’s quarries. He started in the quarry at the top of Tubber Hill but was often sent to Salterforth Quarry on the left hand side of Salterforth Lane, the one that is now used as a car breaker’s yard. At first he was used as an errand boy and tea brewer but as soon as he got to know his way round he was put on the stone saws to learn the job.

In the early days of quarrying in Barlick, large stones for lintels, door jambs, steps and cills were cracked out of the quarried slabs and dressed by hand but by the end of the 19th century almost all of these were being sawn out the slab by reciprocating saws with steel blades driven by gas engines. The actual cutting was done by a slurry of water, stone dust and hardened steel shot which was run into the saw cuts as the saws moved back and forth. The stone in Tubber Hill Quarry was soft and they could cut eight inches deep in an hour. Salterforth Quarry was much harder and they were lucky if they cut four inches in an hour.

Eventually Jack was put in charge of the engine and saws in Salterforth Quarry and was timekeeper as well. His hand was no handicap to him, he said that it never stopped him doing any job he wanted to do.

Jack told me how they got the rock out of the quarry face. In both quarries, the stone was in beds five to eight feet thick with about three or four inches of shale between each bed. The beds could be as long as a row of houses but every so often they were divided by what the quarry men called ‘dries’ along the length. They would drill holes about twelve feet back from the face along the bed between two ‘dries’ and ether drive wedges in to crack the slab out or use explosives. If it was over 50 tons in weight and too big for one lift, they would drill another row of holes and wedge it in two. Then they would cut a large hole in the front of the slab, put an iron dog in, attach the crane to it and lift and slide it until it dropped in the quarry bottom. Once in the quarry bottom it was reduced in size again by drilling and wedging.

The iron dog was made so that as the rock fell it pulled out of the slab but occasionally it stuck fast. Jack said that a man called Scotch Bob was blacksmith and crane driver and he must have been the luckiest man in the world. His crane, with him inside it, was dragged over the edge and fell into the quarry bottom three times by slabs that hung on but he was never injured.

The main man in the quarry was the ‘rock-getter’. Once he knew which type and size of stone the sawyer wanted, he would know where he could get this rock on the face. He set out the drill holes and decided whether to wedge or blast. At Tubber Hill this was a man called Albert Roberts. Jack said he was a hard man. Even in the depths of winter his shirt was unbuttoned to his waist and he was not a man to be trifled with.

When Jack was working on the saws at Tubber Hill his mate George Horrocks was with him. One day a woman came into the quarry and asked if they had a man working there called ‘Biscuit’. They told her they didn’t know anyone called that and she said his real name was Albert Roberts. So George went to the top of the bank and shouted ‘Biscuit!’ down into the quarry. Old Albert straightened up right away and came up to see the woman. After she had gone he went to George and Jack and informed them that if they ever called him that again he’d chuck ‘em into the quarry bottom!

The quarries also made setts for road surfacing and points, the stones used for building house walls. These were made by the banker-hands under rough shelters in the quarry. The setts were sent into Lancashire by canal boat. There was a tramway ran from Salterforth quarry down through the fields to a wharf just below New Road Bridge. If you look carefully you can still see the mooring rings in the bank. Whitham’s at Park Close had a tramway as well, it ran straight down to the canal behind Burdock Hill where the old boatyard used to be.

The setts came down in small trucks by gravity and the empties were pulled back up to the quarry by a horse. Billy Brooks told me that at one time they had a small steam loco for this, he remembered it coming off the track once on one of the bends in the track.

It’s no wonder that quarry men were hard. Tubber Hill Quarry is on the 850 feet contour and working outside up there in winter could be cruel. The banker-hands were all on piece work and in frosty weather they couldn’t work the stone because it shattered, the cold made it brittle, so they were laid off until the weather warmed up. Jack said that when this happened it usually snowed and the men went on for the Council, snow shifting. This was a good thing for them, they could earn more than on the banks!

Weather permitting, the quarries were always busy. Barnoldswick was one huge building site from 1890 to 1920 and all the stone came out of the top quarries. Another big market was the setts for roadmaking as dry macadamed roads were phased out and next week we’ll have a look at how Jack got involved in that job.

I shame to admit I have no good picture of a Barlick quarry, if anyone has any I’d be pleased to see them. So, this weeks picture is a cry for help. What was Rag Albert’s surname? This is a picture I took in 1982 outside his house.

SCG/21 March 2003
1046 words.


We left our hero last week in Harry Palmer’s father’s milk float jogging quietly across to Burnley with half his left hand blown off. It would be a good thing at this point to explain exactly what had happened.

The ‘brass tubes’ that had caught Jack’s eye in the quarry hut were detonators. These were small tubes filled with a very sensitive and powerful explosive. They were used to initiate a larger explosion for blasting rock in the quarry where the main explosive used was ‘Black Jack’, a modern form of gunpowder. Truth to tell, they shouldn’t have been lying about, but should have been securely locked up. I know that Jack was in the wrong but so were the quarry men at Sagars and this was to have an interesting sequel.

When Jack started poking the sensitive explosive with a piece of wire it exploded. He was holding the detonator in his left hand and when it went off it blew off half his palm most of his thumb and the three smallest fingers. He told me that it hurt…..

When they got to Burnley Dr Watson took charge and the first thing they did was put Jack to sleep with chloroform. When he came to he had 68 stitches in his hand. Dr Watson told him that if he hadn’t been so young he would have amputated the hand at the wrist but had decided to leave him as much as he could. He said that if he wanted he could have a new thumb but he would walk badly for the rest of his life because he’d have to pinch a big toe! Jack wasn’t sure whether he was joking or not and they put him to bed.

It was a long slow job healing up, Jack was eight weeks in hospital but eventually he got back to Barlick. His hand was still tender but he was starting to use it as well as he could. One thing was certain, he need never worry again about having to work in the mill, a weaver needs all the fingers they have so he started to look round for a job. He soon found work, him and Bobby Lambert, who later had a joiner’s shop, ran Tommy Sandham’s milk round for him. Jack said that Tommy was fond of his drink so he and Bobby had sole charge most of the time. He stayed in this job for about twelve months.

I think you might remember me saying not so long ago that every cloud has a silver lining. It’s amazing how something that seems a disaster at the time can turn out to be a good thing. Jack’s accident is a case in point. He said that it worried him at the time, quite natural, what young lad at sixteen wants to lose half his hand? But as time went on he realised how well he was adapting. True, he couldn’t weave but it wasn’t stopping him doing much else. He said that the biggest problem was fastening the button on his right shirt cuff! But he soon mastered that.

As time went on his injury kept him out of the army in WW2 and so probably saved his life. Of course he didn’t know this at the time but he was about to get another bonus because of the accident.

Remember me saying that the quarry were really at fault because the detonators should have been locked up? Well funnily enough, John Sagar, the man who owned the quarries, must have had a bit of a conscience about this. Jack met him at the top of Tubber Hill one day and John asked him how he was going on and what he was doing. Jack told him and the upshot was that John offered Jack a job. Jack took it and in 1921 started his career as a quarryman.

Jack said that he thought Sagar’s had been fined for not keeping the detonators secure. Whether this influenced John Sagar he couldn’t say but he did tell me that he thought John had been very fair with him because he pushed him on in the quarry. Jack started as a tea boy and running errands but before long he was working on the stone saws learning the job.

One of the things we forget nowadays is how important quarrying was in Barlick at the turn of the nineteenth century. In 1906, evidence was given before the Light Railway Commissioners about the amount of traffic Barlick could generate by rail. There were 250 men engaged directly in the gritstone quarries and these were Sagar Brothers, Edward Smith and John Sagar at Tubber Hill, John Sagar at Salterforth Quarry, George Sagar at Waterworks 1 and 2 quarries, Dalton and Higgins at Waterworks Quarry and Whitham trading as the Salterforth Stone and brick Company at Park Close. In addition there were the limestone quarries on the east of the town at Rainhall Rock, Greenberfield, Gill Rock and Thornton.

The stone in Sagar’s quarry at Tubber Hill, Loose Games, was a warm sandstone much favoured for building. The stone in Salterforth Quarry was much harder and was used for cills, jambs, steps and engine beds, anywhere where maximum strength and wear was needed. Both top and bottom quarries had to be sawn from blocks, there were no regular vertical faults and this was the job Jack was put on to.

We’ll leave Jack there and look at the quarry work in detail next week. It looks as though our hero has landed on his feet despite having a serious accident. He was to work for Sagar’s for 18 years and despite John Sagar’s reputation for being a hard man, found a good boss there. Funny how a weekend prank and an accident triggered off a satisfactory result.

SCG/1 March 2003
981 words.

SCG/2 March 2003
987 words