Limestone Quarrying in Regency Mumbles

by Carol Powell MA

Quarried limestone being loaded from the beach at Southend.

This practice had remained unchanged for many years.

Limestone for exportation is charged by the quarrymen at 1/- to 14d per ton

Limestone imported as ballast is sold at 14d to 28d per ton.

W. Davies, Gen View of the Ag and Dom Econ of South Wales, vol. II, 1815, p 4i9

In 1813, the area was described as 'situated near the shore under a vast rock of limestone which from the beauty of its veins has been converted into chimney slabs.'

W. Davies in his reports to the Board of Agriculture in 1814 and 1815, noted that 'the limestone of Gower was the best for manure and whitewashing but inferior to the 'lias' kind for strong cement in building. Though called 'white' because ot its 'efflorescent state after calcification', it came in white, black, black and white, reddish brown. red and white and dove colour and is exclusive to Gower and South Pembrokeshire'. At this time, much of the quarrying was concentrated at small quars and larger ones on Mumbles Hill and Head, as well as along the shore, up at Coltshill and the new venture at Clement's Quarry. Messrs T & J, Thomas paid a yearly rent of £60 for 'the liberty of raising limestone on part of Mumbles Cliff' and Joseph Evans paid 1/- annually for a 'limekiln at a place called Giddycliff.'

The 1815 Report went on to state that 'Several perpetual kilns have been erected (two of which are still visible today in the Knab Rock car park) by Messrs. Yalden and Pemberton who ship off great quantities to Devon.' It went on to describe the loading process and how 'The labourers dug the stones throughout the year getting good piles ready for the vessels, usually of 30 to 80 tons burden, which only traded in the summer months. Each man could quarry five to six tons a day. They blasted the stone and then broke it into manageable sizes and the women, having a horse and a little staked car, known as a butt made for the purpose, conveyed it to the shipping places within low water mark or, when the tide was in, to the vessels moored alongside the heaps. Once the tide began to ebb, men and women loaded the stones on board and would 'receive good hire' from the Captains and 'an allowance of beer.' Women good at their job could shift twelve butts per tide. At this time, the price paid by the Captains of the vessels, was one shilling a ton, plus an additional duty of one or two pennies in each shilling to be paid to the Lord of the Manor (Duke of Beaufort) for permission to quarry the stone'. If the stone was burned, there was no duty to be paid for its transportation, which meant that the Devon people could buy it at less cost than burning the stone themselves. Lime was sold in Swansea to the customer by volume as a hobaid (six gallons) or a crynog (twelve Winchester bushels).

In 1819, Abraham Rees in his 'Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and Literature, volume XXV, noted that 'in digging the stone for these quarries, many human bones of large dimensions have been discovered . . . a large wood called Crows Wood, frequently mentioned in ancient records has been submerged and traces of it are still evident at low tide.'


Manufacturers of Cambrian Marble, Chimney Pieces,

Monuments and Tombstones etc. at the Mumbles

The Cambrian, 19 October 1816

The Cambrian Marble Works, for which a rental was paid of six Guineas per year, had been set up by William Gubbins and Charles Wallis in 1808 at Norton Burrows, adjacent to today's West Cross Hotel, on the banks of the Washing Lake (lake being the old dialect word for stream). The works consisted of four narrow buildings sitting astride the stream, above which was a pond to ensure a plentiful supply of water for the polishing process. It was where for more than fourteen years, Superintendant, Philip Rogers oversaw the cutting and polishing of the choicest pieces of quarried limestone, for use as a marble substitute for mantlepieces or memorials, such as the following two examples ---that of Daniel and Jane Shewen in All Saints' Church. On 11 January 1819 Lewis Weston Dillwyn recorded in his diary that, 'Mr. Llewelyn's monument (at Llangyfelach Church) was this day finished and does great credit to the marble manufactory at Mumbles.'

The Shewens' memorial in All Saints' Church

As the trade increased and extra markets became available, so additional ways of exporting the limestone were needed and so The Mumbles Railway had begun as a mineral line in 1804 to transport limestone from the quarries at Mumbles to Swansea and to facilitate the transfer of cargoes, which big ships unable to dock at Swansea harbour at low tide, would offload at Mumbles. In April 1819, an advertisement appeared in The Cambrian requesting that 'About 3,000 tons of Mumbles Limestones to be delivered at Tybach. For particulars, apply to Mr. William Llewelyn, Ynisygerwr Works near Neath 'if personally on Tuesdays or Thursdays between the hours of 9am and 1pm.'

This article is an extract from

Regency Mumbles by Carol Powell MA

Quarried limestone revealed, March 2014


The photo shows three 'stacks' of limestone, viewed from the east of the bay looking towards Redcliff Flats.

Following a storm in March 2014, the fall in the level of the sand at Caswell Bay revealed for a short time, three heaps of limestone, situated at right angles to the tide, near to low water mark. The custom over many years had been that men quarried the stone throughout the year and women, using horses and little carts called butts, transported it to the beach, where it would be piled up ready to be loaded onto ships "of 30 to 80 tons burden" during the summer months. From there, it would be transported to markets such as Devon, a lime-less county, where it would be burnt in limekilns for use as a fertiliser on their fields.

Perhaps we will never know how long these prospective cargoes of limestone have lain there ready for loading and why they remained uncollected?

The North Devon Limestone Trade

Sailing boats such as the one shown, transported Limestone, as well as a type of Anthracite, known as culm, to creeks on the North Devon coast. Ruined kilns can still be seen along the coast and beside the rivers, at Instow, Clovelly and Fremington. In 1861 the census recorded thirty lime kiln burners working in the Barnstaple area, seven in Great Torrington and thirteen in Bideford. The trade lasted until about 1900.

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