Hebden Township Historical Data

Commercial Quarrying in Hebden

General view of Black Hill
General view of Black Hill.
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In the late 1940s, English Silica Industries Ltd. received approval from the Hebden Manorial Trust Lords to quarry stone on the moors of Hebden, and subsequently carried out operations in the area of Black Hill.

There is little evidence of this episode - just a newspaper report, a couple of items in the Hebden Parish Council meeting minute complaining about damage to Backstone Edge Lane, and details of the company's incorporation in trade directories. From that evidence, it is possible to piece together a likely sequence of events.

It is assumed that Thomas Probert Perks, in his capacity as Chairman of Hebden Parish Council, was approached in or just before September 1943 by individuals interested in exploiting the Grassington Grit on Hebden Moor. The rock in that area had reputedly in the past been exploited locally to provide bakstones (baking stones), hence the name "Backstone Edge".

The mineral rights were actually owned by the Trust Lords, and it is likely that Perks consulted with Thomas Kitching, who had bought the Bailey Estate in 1907 together with its share of the manorial rents. Perks leased his residence, Green House, from Thomas Kitching. As a barrister, it is likely that Perks was asked to negotiate with the individuals on behalf of the Trust Lords.

Perks called a meeting of the Trust Lords in Skipton Town Hall on the 21st February, 1944, at which he reported that negotiations with English Silica Industries Ltd. had led to a provisional agreement whereby a royalty of 6d per ton of stone extracted had been agreed, to be payed in advance on tranches of 100,000 tons, amounting to £2,500 per trance - the equivalent to about £140,000 at today's prices.

The newspaper article claims that Thomas Perks was himself a Trust Lord. This is unlikely, as he didn't own any freehold in the village.

Perks recommended acceptance of the proposal: "Personally, I consider the terms recommended are a good bargain". However, the deal had to be agreed by the owners of 50% of the manorial rights, so a committee was set up to trace the current owners.

English Silica Industries was incorporated on the 12th February 1944, just nine days before that meeting, to "carry on business as quarry owners and stone dealers at Hebden Moor, and elsewhere", with a registered address of Ship Building, Swadford Street, Skipton. It had a nominal capital of £1,000 in £1 shares, which begs the question of where the first royalty tranche of £2,500 was to come from. The directors were C. Burkill, A.S. Baylis, Maud A. Thompson, and F. Haggis. Maud Alice Thompson and her husband were successful hotel proprietors living in Leominster. It is possible that 'F. Haggis' was Frank Haggis of Bebington, Cheshire who ran a concrete aggregates business. Nothing is known of the other two individuals.

The venture was never discussed at a Parish Council meeting, and Skipton Rural District Council, as the appropriate planning authority, raised no objection.

It seems that sufficient Trust Lords were found to give their approval, and that some quarrying took place on Black Hill at the top of Backstone Edge Lane. There is, however, no obvious sign of stone extraction, or of any associated infrastructure, and it unlikely that enough was taken to justify the £2,500 advance paid to the Trust Lords. The site was accessed along Backstone Edge Lane, responsibility for which had been allotted by the 1857 Enclosure Award to the predecessors of Hebden Parish Council, and in 1944 the Parish Council found it necessary to complain about damage caused by the company's vehicles to both the track and the gates. It is thought that the company was wound up in 1949.