River Cree at Sunset
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The Kirkmabreck Quarries :|
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Kirkmabreck Quarry - The History :
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The massive granite hill of Kirkmabreck has been a barrier to coastal road traffic but its proximity to the deepwater channel of the River Cree estuary made it an obvious choice for quarrying stone for export.
In 1830, the Liverpool Dock Trustees (later, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board) began operations at the quarrying site at Kirkmabreck. They had operated a quarry at the Craignair Hill at Dalbeattie between 1826 and 1832, removing surface stone and loose outcrop material, but by 1832 had recognised that the better transport site and the size of blocks needed were better achieved at Kirkmabreck. Quarrying at Kirkmabreck in 1834 employed 450 men, the annual outlay was £ 15,000, granite was quarried without blasting and transported to Liverpool by eleven schooners. Three schooners were lost at sea - two with all the crew - between 1830 and 1844. The initial demand fell back in 1844 and the workforce was reduced to 160 men. There were also changes in the position of the wharf; during the change, nineteen vessels carried stone from the abandoned wharf to Liverpool.
The 1860s and 1870s saw the quarrying at Kirkmabreck continuing, with the addition of new workings at Fell Hill, Bagbie and Silver Hill, linked by a tramway to the Kirkmabreck wharf. Forrest, Wise & Templeton leased the Bagbie quarry on Kirkdale Estate, beginning operations in 1864. The Bagbie stone was of excellent quality and could be extracted without blasting.
Creetown benefited from the quarry in terms of income and in buildings; it was a planned village and grew rapidly after 1860, with excellent granite-built workers' housing and public buildings such as the clock tower and the Ellangowan Hotel. Earlier buildings built of largely-uncoursed fieldstone still survive, contrasting with the worked stone facings of the later 1800s. The population reached 1,834 in 1881, most workmen quarrying or in ancilliary operations.
Whilst the Dalbeattie operations did provide much of the Galloway granite, by the 1880s its output was mainly in setts, road metal and rail ballast, although the Thames Embankment stone was shipped out by rail. Most of the heavy building granite from the Stewartry was to come from the Kirkmabreck quarries. The docks at Greenock, Leith, Liverpool, Birkenhead, Newport and Swansea, the 1850s Glasgow Corporation Waterworks at Loch Katrine, all received stone from Kirkmabreck. Granite remained in steady demand throughout the 1890s-1920s, declining very gradually, roads and building works both requiring the hard and salt-resistant stone.
Kirkmabreck passed into the hands of the Tarmac Quarry Products Company and has remained part of that group since. The crusher and loading gantry closed around 1990, most staff being laid off, some being redeployed to Craignair at Dalbeattie. Although the quarries have not been manned for many years, they are visited twice a year to extract stone for ornamental and decorative purposes. The stone is worked and sold from Craignair Quarry at Dalbeattie, being used for gravestones (as by Galloway Granite of Sorbie and Douglas Swan of Kirkcudbright and Dalbeattie), but mostly cast into concrete panels which are sand-blasted to expose the stone. There have been proposals to re-man the quarry and re-open the long-disused wharf at Kirkmabreck to ship stone round to Glasgow, but their outcome is uncertain.
Source : Ian Donnachie : The Industrial Archaeology of Galloway : Published
by David & Charles. First Edition, 1971. Reprinting expected shortly. Dumfries & Galloway Library
Number : CO 227317.
Information on pages : 111 - 116.
Details of recent history researched by Richard Edkins.
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Last updated 7th March 2000.