Runcorn Sandstone Quarrying History Walk

Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. We are still staying local due to the Covid restrictions so, my human suggested that we go for a walk around some areas of Runcorn that we have been to plenty of times before. This time he said that we could investigate some of the town’s industrial past. The sandstone in the area was formed 250 million years ago when Cheshire was covered by a sea. Sandstone quarrying commenced in the area in the 1734 and was at its peak 100 or so, years later. It was the major industry in the town and the largest employer. Within the ‘old town’ there was eighteen working quarries at one time. Sandstone from Runcorn was used to build with all over the UK. It was even exported to construct New York docks, San Francisco docks and Galveston docks. Tatton Hall and Liverpool Anglican Cathedral in the UK also utilised the sandstone.

Quarry top
Runcorn Hill – Quarry Top – grahame wilkinson – Flickr

We set off from home and walked to Stenhills, which was the site of the first quarry of our walking tour. Now, this is an area that I am familiar with. Not for its history but for its open space and bushes. No sooner had we arrived there I was off on a sprint around the playing fields. I was spoilt for choice with the number of discarded plastic drinks bottles to pick up and run with. My human tells me to drop them because the people who throw them away are animals. I disagree, animals don’t litter the countryside, we have more respect for the outdoors. I dropped the bottles and had a sniff around the undergrowth instead. Meanwhile, the big feller was looking for evidence of sandstone quarrying in the area.

Big Rock in Stenhills Quarry

My human called me to him to say that he had found big rock and little rock, which are pink sandstone outcrops remaining from the quarrying days. Stonehills quarry became a rubbish dump after the quarry closed, and was later filled in by the council to create a public open space.

Rock Park – Mill Brow Quarry

It was time for me to wear my lead again while we headed to Rock Park. This public park was once the site of Mill Brow Quarry. The quarry rock face can still be seen at the back of the houses of Sewell Street. Nowadays, since the quarry has been filled in, the area is used as a park with a bowling green, tennis court, skating park and children’s play area.

Runcorn quarrymen – Copyright – Runcornhistsoc.org.uk
Runcorn Hill
Runcorn Hill quarries – Kevan Craft – Flickr
Peter Pan Bridge over a tramway
Runcorn Hill
Frog’s Mouth – TeeHTravel – Flickr
Frog’s Mouth Quarry
Climbing out of Happy Valley

From Rock Park we walked along Heath Road toward Runcorn Hill, where most of the sandstone quarrying took place. We walked down Moughland Lane and turned toward the hills at Highlands Road. Our next place we were to visit was the Beacon Hill area which comprised of a few quarries. Frog’s Mouth, Happy Valley, Guest’s Delf and Beetle Rock all formed the quarrying site in this area. In Happy Valley a project was started a few years ago to open up the old quarry tunnels. They were used in World War II as air-raid shelters. Frog’s Mouth is a cliff face that is popular with climbers but, dangerous for walkers along the top due to its precarious overhanging edge. After the quarrying ceased in this part of the hill in 1850, the base of Frog’s Mouth was used as a tip for the spoils of other nearby quarries. The cliff would have been three times higher than today when the filling in started.

Frog’s Mouth Quarry
Runcorn hill quarry
Sandstone typical of Runcorn quarries
Highlands Road Quarry

To the east of the Beacon Hill quarries was the Highlands Road quarry. This area was filled in during the 1920’s to make way for formal gardens and a recreational area, comprising of tennis courts, bowling green, putting green and a bandstand. At this point my ears were assaulted with the big fellers rendition of Parklife by Blur. Well, the chorus on repeat. He never seems to remember anything more than the chorus of any song. Parklife, he really is a comedian!

Chirotherium bartii
Chirotherium used to roam here -:Linda: – Flickr

It is claimed that 200 million year old footprints were found in this area in 1843 of a pre-dinasaur ‘reptile’ called Chirotherium or Hand Beast. It is called that after the print looking like a human hand. The animal lived in this area during the Triasic period when Cheshire was a shallow tropical sea. When Esposito’s cafe is open, the footprint can be seen in display box.

Boundary Quarry
Reconstructed tramway truck
Across the Mersey from Runcorn Hill

As we walked south across the hills with the magnificent view over the Mersey Estuary on our right, we passed a number of old quarries. Runcorn Boundary, North Quarry Weston, Wright’s Quarry Weston, Colliers and East Quarry Weston all formed large holes in the ground as we zigzagged through the sandy footpaths. Some of the wider paths were originally the old tramways that were used to transport spoils from the Weston quarries to the older quarries and used to fill them in.

North Quarry

In 1939, the nearby chemical works used the Weston quarries to dump waste products. This continued until the mid 1970’s when the waste was topped with soil. Horses graze on this reclaimed land. In 1990’s carcinogenic gasses were found to be leaking from the waste tips into nearby homes. This forced people to abandon their houses and the properties demolished.

South Quarry filled in area

We left the hills down a short footpath. This took us onto Weston Road where we turned left toward Weston village. Just before the houses, on the right of the road, there is a large field where horses graze. This is the site of the South Quarry Weston which was completely filled in during the 1970’s. We walked on, through Weston to the site of the last quarry in the area. Overhill Quarry is just off the road as it bends eastwards.

Map of Runcorn Quarries – Copyright – Runcornhistsoc.org.uk

We had finished our tour of the quarries and we just had the walk home down Heath Road. It was a good walk for both of us. I had plenty of off-lead time so that I could have a good sniff around. The big feller took his time, had plenty of stops to rest and investigate and complain about his aches and pains. So, it was a successful outing. Till next time!

Blue Plaque on the wall of the Roundhouse pub – Copyright – Runcornhistsoc.org.uk
Me because it’s my blog!

One thought on “Runcorn Sandstone Quarrying History Walk

  1. Nice read. I grew up on Highlands road and ‘frogs mouth’ is also locally known as ‘Frogs gob’ well mainly to all people who live in the immediate local area anyway.
    2 of the surviving soldiers from the battle of ‘Rorkes drift’ made famous by the film ‘Zulu’ with Michael Cain worked at the Runcorn quarries after their service in the Army. Those 2 soldiers are actually buried in Runcorn cemetery on Greenway road. They have ‘Defender of Rorkes drift’ on their headstones.

    Like

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