The scale of quarrying at Hollings Lane was massive but evidence of it’s
true scale was never visible because unlike the huge limestone quarries at
nearby Maltby the quarrymen backfilled old excavations with overburden
(topsoil etc.) and waste from the dressing process.
The 1850 O.S. map shows the first of the Silverwood Quarries just inside
the woods. Over the next 100 years this spread to encompass the whole area
and extended both sides of the road. The old tennis courts and later the
new houses opposite the Ravenfield Arms were built on this
Precise information on the history of stone getting in the twentieth
century is surprisingly scarce but in the course of this research one of the
local myths I uncovered has been laid to rest.
Reputedly the masonry needed
for the restoration of Rotherham All Saints Church about 40 years ago was
sourced from the quarry on the southern side of Hollings Lane where the
petrol station now stands. One look at the church quickly reveals the
redness of the stone that is certainly not from the Wickersley bed.
There is good reason to doubt the suitability of the stone for building at
all because its soft friable nature that made it so popular for
grindstones means that many of the stone buildings in the area have not
retained the same crisp lines they had when built. Whole stones have just
crumbled away over the years in
A recent article in the
Rotherham Advertiser sought an explanation for the mysterious structures
in Silver Wood on the fringes of the quarry complex. Most people walking
through the woods will have seen them over the years and in the past they
were explained these as being the foundations for WW 2 anti-aircraft guns
or searchlights. The thought; the citizens of Ravenfield blazing away at
the invading hoards is nice but the truth is less romantic.
An old photograph from 1912,
taken when the quarry was working shows them to be the base of one of the
cranes used to manoeuvre the large blocks prior to cutting and finishing..
The above picture from the Sheffield Independent of 24 September 1912
carries the sub text :- The above huge piece of stone, weighing thirteen tons,
was taken from the quarry of Messrs Wadsworth and Sons, Silverwood. It is
being prepared for the sawmills and will eventually be made into
grindstones for the Sheffield trades
The chap on the handle is the quarry owner, Alvery Wadsworth, son of John
The Wadsworths moved into the cinema trade and the quarries are reported
to have closed in 1914. This is not correct although once again I have few
do know that one of the last enterprises was probably Rodiss’ Stone
Mill on the site of the old tennis courts and that it was working
certainly until the late 1930s and perhaps beyond?
All local engineering workshops had a wet grindstone for tool sharpening,
as did farms. When the stone was worn Rodiss at Ravenfield would cut a new
one to whatever size was needed.
The final demise of the quarries was due not to lack of stone but the
total introduction of synthetic grindstones in industry.
While one chapter of the story closed another was beginning.
Although the quarries were backfilled by the quarrying activities the
removal of stone naturally left large unfilled pits and commercial tipping
was already underway by the early 50's, while indications show that the
site was still active.
One area was filled with household waste, which burned slowly beneath the
topsoil to produce gently smoking craters that “were going to spread under
Ravenfield ” (we were only kids). On a cold winter day you could always
brave the smoke and get warm in the craters. Later this area was given to
the Cavalier pub to create a football pitch and machinery was brought in
to level a pitch-sized area and fill in the small craters. A lot of effort
was then put in, galvanising the locals into raking the area ready for
seeding with grass and many of the local kids spent a of time helping.
Unfortunately there was no soil; only stones and the project fell through.
Arial photographs still reveal the area within the surrounding scrub.
One of the first companies to use the quarries as a tip was a local oil
recycling company that used two of the quarries to tip the heavy waste
extracted from the cleaned oil. One quarry was already part filled so they
soon finished the job and the ‘tar’ oozed through the covering layer of
soil for many years afterwards. I
was told that at one point the company transported the oil from Rotherham
in open backed lorries that often spilled over onto the road leaving the
‘pit hills’ a slippy smelly mess. Local pressure put an end to the
The local bakeries would often throw away huge rolls of the greased paper
used to wrap bread. These were duly dragged home and many a man had his
snap wrapped in paper from the quarries. 20 years later I remember seeing
the same rolls of bread wrapping paper only is was now plastic. The range
of tipping was diverse and my sister recalls actually bringing food such
as jars of pickled onions and tinned sardines home at times. Anything that
had rolled down into the "tar" was stoned until it sank in the ooze. This
food was reputedly bankrupt stock and no one was poisoned - that I know
When oil tipping stopped in the remaining quarry the apex of a large
tripod crane was still visible, rising out of a black sea of floating
junk. The quarry was taken over by the NCB, who owned the woods, and used
to dispose of old conveyor belt trimmings from their belt workshops at
Manvers. Larger pieces were used to make a variety of things and most
miners will have had belts, battery pouches and tool bags from this source
at some time.
Partly worn belting was also trimmed down to narrower widths for re use in
the pits. The excess was dumped in the quarry. A fair amount of this was
recycled even further to create swings in the adjacent woods.
Throughout the period lorries fly tipped during the night. No one knows
what they left but it probably was not very nice, we saw some fascinating
and unusual things and as kids we usually checked it out. The quarry
nearest the road was never used as a commercial dump and was ideal for
locals to dispose of the odd car or so.
local company acquired the rights to tip in the quarries and after a
period where old tyres were disposed of, they over-tipped by about 3 feet
above the surrounding area. This caused the toxic brew in the bottom of
the quarries to be forced up to the surface and the company was asked to
redress the problem.
If my memory serves me correctly the tip was in the name of an elderly
family member who was declared unfit to respond to the notices served on
her to sort the job out and so the local authority had to step in.
In 1977 my uncle, Ken Wallers, was a councillor and was on the team who
went out to assess the situation. Coming out of the follow up meeting he
almost fell over – the heel on his shoe had dissolved after he had
accidentally stepped in some of the ooze.
As a direct result of this investigation the tip area was urgently sealed
off and on 25 October 1977 all the residents of Birchwood Drive, which
backed onto the tip, were evacuated to the adult training centre in
Eastwood, Rotherham while scientists clad in protective clothing and gas
masks carried out tests on the ooze. Police sealed off Birchwood Drive and
traffic was prevented from stopping on Hollings Lane. Passes were issued
to residents to allow access into the area past the police cordon.
Fortunately everyone was allowed back home after 2 days. The treatment for
the tip was longer term, however. Along with other toxic substances the
main pollutants were acid and cyanide and the treatment was to excavate
the site, take away the over-tipping then treat as much of the waste as
possible with limestone dust, neutralising the acids. The houses of
Birchwood Drive looked like they were covered in snow for weeks.
Throughout the exercise no pickled onions were recovered though.
Eventually the whole area was capped with clay to seal in the foul brew
resulting in a site for Ravenfield’s first football pitch.
Of the quarries only a few small scars remain visible but during the
cleanup one lone grindstone was uncovered which now stands rather
neglected at the entrance to the area.