Redmire Quarry and Fred Lawson’s Painting

Redmire Quarry. Fred Lawson. 1921

A friend of mine sent another picture of one of Fred Lawson’s paintings, this time one of Redmire Quarry in 1921 which was just asking for a story to be told. The painting is a scene of quarrymen and a small wagon being tipped into what may have been a lime kiln. Behind them is the remains of Cobscar Hush, part of a lead mine which had been worked in the 18th century. The hush had been expanded quite a bit by 1921 but you can see in the picture the remnants of it.

Going back in time, Cobscar Lead Vein was discovered in 1650 by Nicholas Robinson on what was then the edge of Redmire Scar and Thorny Bank after a heavy rain storm had washed away the top soil revealing the lead vein. That point would be just above the middle of this painting. During the fifty years which followed some £200,000 was made in profit from the mine for the Marquis of Winchester (later Duke of Bolton). That sum today would equal £21.4 million pounds. The Marquis of Winchester supplied the lead to make pipes for the fountains at the Palace of Versailles, possibly from Cobscar, although he did have other lead mining interests in the country. Even before 1650, Preston and Redmire Moors had generated a great deal of wealth but at that time it was from the colliery. Between 1600 and 1650 it had been let at a rent of £500 a year (in today’s terms £51,758). The rent was set at what the expected annual profit was to the lessee of the colliery.

By the late 19th century both the colliery and lead mine were almost exhausted. The colliery however was still worked on a small scale, just producing enough coal to burn limestone at Redmire Quarry by a Company called the Thorny Bank Lime Company until sometime between 1908 and 1912. The quarry was then taken over by John Stringer Calvert from Redmire. He installed an aerial ropeway in 1919 to transport about 140 tons of limestone per day to Redmire Station, suggesting an annual output at most of 42,000 tons. Winter storms and hay time in summer would reduce that, no wonder then that something of the old Hush can still be recognised in the painting.

Redmire Quarry Aerial Ropeway 1940’s. Photo Frank Woodall

Stringer-Calvert’s operation was taken over in 1929 by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough and operated as the Wensleydale Quarry Co Ltd. A number of men came from Weardale to work at Redmire Quarry, two, Walter Bostock and John Thomas Richardson settled in Castle Bolton. Housing must have been short because one quarryman, George Nicholson, and his wife were living in part of Cobscar Smelting Mill in 1933. George died in a snow storm on his way home with shopping from Preston that year, just a hundred yards from his home.

Redmire Quarry was also mothballed for a brief period and some men went to work at quarries near Bollihope in Weardale until the situation improved. During World War 2, Dorman Long was persuaded to reopen Redmire Quarry and several men were employed under the “Defence (General) Regulation 1939” on work of national importance.

Redmire Station loading rail wagons from the Ropeway 1940’s. Photo Fran Woodall

British Steel and Tarmac later ran Redmire Quarry on a 50/50 basis until Tarmac took over completely. In 1992, the plant at Redmire Quarry was dismantled and mobile plant installed in the old Preston Quarry.

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