In the 1930's and well before Breedon and Cloud Hill Lime Works, as Breedon plc was known, and now Ennstone Breedon Ltd, quarrying was carried out by and large by manual labour. Men using pick and shovel hewed the stone from the rock face. This is no slur on the company since mining, either for stone or coal or indeed any natural product, relied on simple manpower in general.
The local company, as today, quarried stone both from Breedon Hill and Cloud Hill. The stone chemically is a form of Calcium Carbonate rich in Magnesium. When heated to high temperatures it produces the valuable commodity Lime. Lime is a valuable building material to mix with cement for building purposes. It is also of benefit to soils and grassland and thus widely used by gardeners and farmers alike. Apart from Lime the stone is ideal for walling, roads and footpath gravel. Another major use is for the production of iron and steel. Breedon stone then is a major natural product with a great influence on industry throughout our country. The quarry has provided work for a very long time to local people in particular.
In the early years when stone was blasted away from the face it was removed by pony and tub and taken to stone crushers - known as Crackers. The men filling the tubs were paid as piece workers. After filling a tub, no mean task, a quarry worker would place his tally on the tub and a young lad with his pony would take the tub along rails to the Cracker. There it was crushed, screened and fed into hoppers according to size. This was very strenuous work both for the tub filler and pony pulling the heavy load. At Breedon there would be some 20 or so ponies and a similar number working at Cloud Hill. The stables at Breedon were situated where now stands a bungalow - on the road from our post-office up towards the workshops. At Cloud Hill there were also Shire Horses, magnificent animals, which were used to pull railway wagons. These wagons were brought into sidings at the quarry, which were linked to the Tonge-Worthington railway line. This system enabled a train-load of stone to be taken to iron and steel works at Corby, Northants and Stanton Ironworks, north of Nottingham.
At this time, Mr Robert Walker was the quarry manager and the Barber brothers foremen - one at Breedon and the other at Cloud Hill. Robert Harvey was head blacksmith who had a great love for horses. His 'shop' was situated at Cloud Hill - long gone now - and he had facilities at Breedon to shoe the ponies. He had apprentices to help him with the horses, strikers etc. and he and his staff were responsible for keeping the horses well-shod and their feet well-pared.
One such youngster who assisted 'Bob' was Brian Jordan, now Breedon's Works Engineer. He remembers Bob Harvey with great affection since Bob was a real gentleman, mild and greatly respected for his love of the animals he treated. Bob was also a craftsman with iron. Many examples of his iron-work are exhibited in the parish today. Observe Breedon War Memorial on the village green and various wrought iron gates - at the Breedon offices, Holly Cottage, The Spinney on Doctors Lane, The Breedon Café and countless others in the district.
One job Bob didn't relish doing was cleaning David Shield's donkey's feet. David as a youngster loved his donkey but it was a really stubborn animal. The only satisfactory way of dealing with this awkward mule was to rope it, turn it upside down and then, with the help of the apprentices, Bob could pare its feet. David thought this cruel, but it really wasn't. The donkey was treated as gently as possible. The method used to treat it was necessary to stop it from kicking out and cause possible injury to the men.
Reverting back to quarrying, modern machinery is used today, to obtain the stone, and heavy lorries take it to the crushers. In the early years deliveries were made by horse and cart. Then came steam wagons. Breedon had several of these lorries before petrol driven vehicles, and now of course, much heavier trucks driven by diesel oil are used.
Breedon stone and footpath gravel is well known throughout the land. Buckingham Palace forecourt is surfaced by the gravel. So too is the approaches to Sandringham House, in Norfolk along with many other stately homes within the U.K.
During the 1939-45 years many airfields in East Anglia had runways built with Breedon Stone and the War Effort was ably supported when the stone was used for iron and steel production. Iron and steel being essential for armaments. The stone is widely used for shoring up river banks and thousands of tons have been used for sea-defences, particularly in Lincolnshire. Now that the company has given up the rights to work the whole of Breedon Hill, Breedon Quarry's end is in sight although the Cloud Hill site will produce for many years to come.
When the Breedon Quarry is restored I would like to think that it could be made into a beautiful garden- like the famous Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island in Canada. These gardens were once a quarry! I do hope that Ben Cowan our current Managing Director will agree.