THE LIMESTONE INDUSTRY OF CAREW PARISH IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
By Peter Ellis Jones
The west to east aligned rocks of the Carboniferous series in south Pembrokeshire yielded raw materials which were in great demand during the industrial awakening of the nineteenth century. The history of coal mining on the northernmost strata has been well researched and presented by Martin Cannop-Price.1 This article focuses on the quarrying of limestone along the
shores of Carew parish in the nineteenth century.
Limestone underlies the greater part of the parish; it is, however, covered by glacial drift which forms the basis for its agricultural economy. Where the limestone meets the Carew and Cresswell rivers it forms a low escarpment rising to about 20 meters (50 feet). Between the escarpment and high water mark of the tides is a low apron of fluvial deposits of varying width.
The earliest documentary evidence for quarrying in Carew is in the form of leases and letters exchanged between landowners and their tenants which highlight some of the obstacles to the exploitation of the rock for commercial purposes. With reference to a lease of the Williamston quarries in 1816 the tenant reminded the landowner that from Michaelmas to Christmas his men were employed in “digging and wheeling earth off the beds of limestone”, an activity he deemed to be “dead work”, i.e. there was no immediate return for the labour expended. 2 Since the only means of conveying the limestone to other than local markets was by water it was necessary to dig channels across the apron of fluvial deposits to link the quarry faces and the navigable rivers. Leases stipulated that the tenant was required to keep “the drains and canals and water channels … properly open (and) navigable” and also to “clean … the banks and towing paths
thereof.”3 At or near the quarry face docks had to be cut to accommodate loading vessels which were evidently towed to deep water at high tide.
At the time of the leases it is apparent that the activity was at an early stage in its development. A lease of 1790 stipulated that not more than four men were to work Williamston quarry; another of 1810 refers to the employment of 10 men and those of 1817 and 1823, 6 men. Each man earned £32 a year in 1810 and the limestone fetched 18 pence a ton “delivered to the boats.” 4 Rent for Williamston quarry was fixed at £80 a year in 1817.
Quarrying had developed significantly by 1838, the year the Tithe Survey of the parish was undertaken. Discrete quarries now extended along a one and a quarter mile arc fringing the Carew and Cresswell rivers. Apart from two owner-occupiers, the quarries were worked by the tenants of the local gentry who owned the land. 5
Table 1. Landowner & tenant of quarry based on Tithe Survey, 1838
|1||Prinkley||Bush estate||James Stratton|
|2||New Dock||Lettice Llewhellin|
|3||Tithing Barn||John Harcourt Powell of Hook||Thomas Adams|
|5||Barley Hay Old Quarry||John Harcourt Powell||Anne Ormond|
|6||Williamston Park||George Henry Carew
of Freestone Hall
|7||West Williamston||John Harcourt Powell||Anne Ormond|
|8||Barley Hay||John Hensley Allen
|9||?||John Hensley Allen||Thomas Ormond|
An insight into the working of one of the quarries listed may be drawn from an analysis of data recorded in a ledger kept at New Dock quarry over the period 1856-77, when the quarry was owned by Pearce Llewhellin.6 Although an incomplete record of the quarry’s activities, e.g. there are no entries for the years 1859 to 1865 and there is little standardization in the manner in which the information is recorded, there is sufficient data to present an albeit opaque picture of quarrying in the district during the period.
The ‘plant’ at the quarry on 30 December 1856 comprised: 3 dyricks (sic-cranes), 6 earth barrows (for removing the overlying soil), 9 stone barrows, some deal boards and planks and unspecified tools. There was a sloop, Ann Bowen, of 60 tons burthen and three lighters/barges of 18 tons. (In 1866, another sloop, the Emily, joined the fleet). From the accounts for later years money had been spent on powder (explosives) carried in carts from Saundersfoot and Pembroke Dock; items of timber and iron for repairing the boats and wheelbarrows and tar for preserving the timbers of the boats. Interestingly, 9 gallons of ale and ½ gallon of gin were bought for the men who cleared out the dock in November 1856; similar entries appeared from time to time. There is no evidence that mechanical drills, crushing and sorting machinery etc. were in use. The activity was clearly labour intensive and undercapitalized which is not surprising given the fragmented nature of land ownership. This resulted in small quarries worked by tenant farmers (apart from the Llewhellin’s) whose main interests were in their farms as their principal source of income.
Names and pay of individual workmen are recorded in the ledger for the year 1856 only. Forty five workmen were on the pay roll but only seven worked for a continuous period of six months or more. Many were employed for just one or two weeks. Men probably moved freely between the quarries responding to the local demand for labour. Significantly, the highest number, between 13 and 20 men, were employed from Michaelmas to the year’s end when removing the overlying soil dominated work at the quarry. Workmen were paid fortnightly (a common practice at that time) for either a 12, 11½ or 11 day stint. From March 1856 rates of pay were increased by two pence a day to two shillings and one shilling and eight pence. Boys received six to ten pence a day. Rates reflected the range of skills employed, e.g. masons received four shillings and sixpence a day. Those manning the boats were paid separately: Thomas Davies, for working the sloop Ann Bowen, was paid £79.10.11 for the year 1858.
Destination of the limestone
Boats sailing from the quarry are recorded in the ledger for the years 1858, 1866 and 1876. Two broad areas were served:
(a) The coast of Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire north of the entrance to Milford Haven (incl. Aberdyfi)
These boats carried limestone destined for the lime kilns situated along this stretch of coast. Farmers depended on lime to counteract the acidity of the soils in west Wales. Cargoes were unloaded, often on open beaches, and conveyed by cart to the nearby kiln where they were burned by the heat generated by the burning of culm. Lime was applied to both arable and pasture land in the summer months. (Table 2)
Table 2. Number of cargoes carried to named ports, 1858, 1866 & 1876
|Home port||No. of Cargoes|
|(from North to South)||1858||1866||1876|
|Port not specified||6||3|
Fifty one sloops were employed in the trade in 1866 three quarters of which carried less than 40 tons of limestone (Table 3).
Table 3. Tonnage carried in boats, 1866
|Tonnage of boats||No.|
The season for carrying limestone to the coastal kilns ran from March 28th to September 10th in 1866. Nearly 70% of cargoes left in the summer months June, July and August. These were the most benign months for the hazardous journey up the coast and also the most appropriate ones for spreading lime upon the fields. (Table 4)
Table 4. Cargoes shipped in 1866
|Month of shipment||No. of cargoes|
(b) The Milford Haven-Cleddau waterway system
This water system provided calm water and a large number of locations, both man-made and natural, for boats to discharge their cargoes. The trade was entirely in the hands of the quarry operator; his sloops the Ann Bowen and Emily tended to sail to the deeper waters beyond Neyland, e.g. Dale, Sandyhaven and Hazelbeach while the shallow draft lighters/barges plied the upper reaches of the water system. Sheltered waters too enabled boats to operate from mid-January to mid-October, (Table 5) allowing time in the intervening months for clearing the overlying soil and servicing the canal system.
Table 5. Cargoes shipped in 1866
|Month||No. of cargoes|
Although limestone, destined for the many kilns which fringed the waterway, was the principal composition of the cargo, the trade was more varied in character than that which was conveyed by sea. Prominent among the kilns supplied was Tock kiln near Blackpool on the Slebech estate of Baron de Rutzen. Lying at the head of navigation on the Eastern Cleddau and being only three miles from Narberth Tock kiln was well placed to serve the interior of the county. Others included the suite of kilns at Sandyhaven in the west and in Haverfordwest at the head of navigation on the Western Cleddau. There was a demand by the construction industry for stones fashioned by masons at the quarry e.g. quoins, blocks, coping and kerb stones, scapples, pitchings and backings.7 Among the clients supplied were H.M. Dockyard in Pembroke Dock, and the Milford Docks Company which between 1864 and 1888 enlarged the docks in Milford Haven. Others included the Bridge Commissioners and the Governor of the gaol in Haverfordwest. Twenty tons of quoins were shipped for the rebuilding of Marloes church in 1874. Undressed blocks of limestone were supplied to masons in Pembroke, Milford Haven and Haverfordwest to be fashioned into, among other things, head- and tombstones. (A block of stone from the nearby Williamston Park quarry was shipped to a mason in Haverfordwest to be fashioned into the font which was installed in St. Mary’s church, Carew in 1844.) 8 Smaller stones, called shoddies, were used for road metalling and for bedding railway sleepers. There was always a ready market too for rubble, the waste product of the quarry.
The last entry in the New Dock quarry ledger is dated 5 September 1877 the day a notice of sale of Carew Newton farm appeared in the local press.9 Pearce
Llewhellin had failed to repay a loan he had borrowed from the London and Provincial Bank and was forced to sell his house, 74 acres of land and “the
valuable and extensive well known limestone quarries now in full work … The quarries have four lifting cranes and command an extensive trade, the demand for building and limestone being great and the facilities for shipment very convenient.” 10
The above description of the quarry might contain an element of estate agents’ ‘hype’ since it is clear that the peak in the Carew coastal lime industry had now passed. Decline was particularly apparent in the supply of limestone for the kilns which had been the principal component of the trade. A number of factors contributed to this decline. Prominent among them was the growing availability of artificial fertilizers. Advertisements for superphosphate of lime and Peruvian guano appeared regularly in the local press in the mid-sixties. By the 1880s superphosphates, the product of the chemical industry, basic slag, a by-product of the steel industry and lime processed by modern crushing machinery had become readily available and, supplied in bags, could be transported with greater facility along the expanding rail network. “For farmers whose land was near a railway station the price of lime fell to a quarter of what it had been.”11 By 1887 artificial manures had “… very largely increased and superseded liming” in South Pembrokeshire.12 The later arrival of the railway to the coastal areas of north Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire only delayed their introduction there too.
Contemporary with the availability of artificial fertilizers came years of depression in crop farming as cheap grains from the Prairies of North America impacted directly on areas of marginal suitability for growing corn such as south west Wales. On a broader canvas dock developments at Milford Haven came to
an end in 1888 and the naval dockyard in Pembroke Dock entered a period of long decline.
Evidence for the decline in the limestone trade in the last two decades of the century may be gleaned from a number of sources. Prominent among them is a ledger covering the period 1889 to 1923 which relates to Tithing Barn, Barley Hay and Croft quarries operated by the Ormond family of Williamston . 13 Unfortunately there is little consistency in the form in which data are presented in the ledger, though a comprehensive list of the home ports of the vessels leaving the quarries is recorded for 1889.
Table 6. Cargoes shipped from Tithing Barn, Barley Hay & Croft quarries, 1889
|Home port||No. of Cargoes|
Although the name of the home ports has a familiar ring, the number of cargoes shipped from the three quarries is fewer than from New Dock quarry alone between 1858 and 1876 (Table 2). The Ormond family owned a sloop, Sarah, and lighters Betsy, Farmer and Sisters. Between 1889 and 1895 the Sarah carried 33 cargoes, each of 34 tons to the kilns at Solva and the lighters supplied the kilns at Dale, Sandyhaven, Gellyswick, Hazelbeach, Castle Pill (Burton) and
Haverfordwest into the following century. In 1894 stones from the quarries sold for £291.10.9. At Census 1881 George Ormond, who gave his occupation as
‘farmer and quarry master’ was employing 16 quarrymen and 8 bargemen; at Census 1901 his son, Thomas, gave his occupation as ‘farmer’ only. The revised edition of the Ordnance Survey six inches to one mile map, surveyed in 1906, has the description ‘disused’ applied to the following quarries: New Dock, Tithing Barn, Williamston Park and Williamston. The term ‘limekiln (disused)’ peppers the shores of the Cleddau waterway system.
By the early twentieth century it is evident that the sea and river borne limestone trade was virtually over. Croft was the last of the waterside quarries to be worked; the last recorded cargoes in the Ormond ledger were to the kilns in Haverfordwest in 1907 and to Dale and Maryborough in 1911. Thereafter there are scattered references to ‘broken stone’ for named parishes, for use as road metalling, interspersed with receipts and payments connected with the farm. The final entry in the ledger is dated November 26, 1923 and records a payment from “Thomas Scourfield, of Cheriton, Carew, for horse grazing and royalty of stone from Croft quarry.”
The lease of Croft quarry to Thomas Scourfield in 1922 opens a new chapter in the history of the Carew limestone industry. With the advent of motor transport in the new century it became possible for heavy goods to be transported direct from source to consumer markets. Expansion in motor transport in the inter-war years stimulated the demand for improved roads and road metalling while activity at the quarry was boosted during the Second World War by the construction of military facilities in the district, e.g. the airfield at Milton, and army camps at Skrinkle, Manorbier and Merrion, Warren parish. Since the war industrial developments, such as the power station and oil refineries around Milford Haven, have led to a demand for aggregate for mixing concrete and for concrete blocks for the building construction industry.
Under successive generations of the Scourfield family the quarrying of limestone in Carew parish has undergone significant development and growth. Croft quarry was abandoned in the 1950s when a quarry was opened up near Carew Newton (Grid ref. SN 048042). Over the years modern crushing and grading machinery have been installed and a manufactory built to produce, by mass production methods, concrete blocks of varying consistency for the construction industry. The firm is a major supplier of concrete blocks for markets throughout south west Wales.
1. M.R. Connop-Price, ‘Coal, Culm and Cresswell Quay’, Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society, Vol. 6 (1994/95). M.R. Connop-Price, Pembrokeshire, the Forgotten Coalfield, Landmark Publishing, 2004.
2. P(embrokeshire) R(ecord) O(ffice), D/CAR/123, letter dated 14 September 1816. See also D/CAR/126, letter dated 23 December 1823.
3. PRO D/CAR/63, letter dated September 9 1829.
4. PRO D/CAR/123.
5. (a) Richard Llewhellin bought the freehold of Carew Newton farm in 1813 (PRO D/BUSH/10/99). At his death in 1829 the property passed to his widow Lettice (N(ational) L(ibrary) of W(ales), Wills, SD 1830/39).
(b) George William Llewhellin (1803-78), eldest son of Richard and Lettice Llewhellin bought the freehold of West Williamston on his marriage to Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Hugh and Eliza Wilson of Cresswell Quay.
6. PRO HDX/1800/2.
On Lettice Llewhellin’s death in 1856 Carew Newton farm including the quarry, was divided equally between her children Eliza Griffiths, Pearce and Richard in accordance with the will of Richard Llewhellin (see 5 (a) above). The property was valued at £3,600. After they had drawn lots, Pearce bought his siblings out of their shares.
7. scapples: Blocks of stone whose surfaces are reduced to a plane surface without being worked smooth
pitchings: stones in paving or set on edge, close together along a face or slope as protection against waves or currents.
backings: rough stones to form or line the back of a wall or bank.
The price per ton of stone shipped in 1874 was: blocks, quoins 6/-, coping 3/6, kerb 6/-, pitchings 4/-, backings 2/6, rubble 1/8-2/6, limestone for kilns 1/6.
8. W.G. Spurrell, The History of Carew, Carmarthen, 1921.
9. Pembroke Herald and Advertiser, 5 September 1877.
10. Pearce Llewhellin, who had to borrow money to buy out his sister and brother in order to inherit Carew Newton farm (see note 6 above), was unable to repay his creditors. Among them, the London and Provincial Bank, called in a loan of £611 on 27 August 1877 (PRO D/BUSH/10/99).
For Pearce Llewhellin, a colourful character within the South Pembrokeshire farming community, see Peter Ellis Jones, A history of my maternal grandmother’s family… PRO HDX 1595.
11. John Davies, A History of Wales (Penguin Books, 1993), 410.
12. David W. Howell, Farming in Pembrokeshire, 1815-1974, Chapter 3, Pembrokeshire County History, Vol. 4 (1993), 90.
13. The Ormond Ledger, NLW, MSS 18120E.