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Box Hill Quarries

What: Lime and hearthstone works, railway museum.
Where: Betchworth and Brockham, Surrey
Built: Betchworth: 1867-1938, Brockham c. 1860-1930
  with additions 1962-77.
Architect: Unknown.
Abandoned: Betchworth: c.1970, Brockham: Quarry
  1936, Museum 1984
Listed: Betchworth: Grade II except works sheds,
  Brockham: Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Visited: 2005, 2008, 2012
Last Known Condition: Poor, many structures are
  collapsing or lost in overgrowth.
Page Updated: November 2013

The Grey or Middle Chalk outcrops above the villages of Brockham and Betchworth, forming the huge tree-covered bulk of Box Hill, rising to 735' (224m) at its peak. Below this is the Lower Chalk and deeper down are seams of hearthstone, a white sandstone which was sold as a domestic agent for whitening stone hearths, doorsteps and window sills [1], upper greensand and Gault clay. Some of these deposits have been worked for almost as long as humans have inhabited this area, but the most intensive exploitation of the hill for its minerals began in the 19th century when two neighbouring quarries came to dominate the landscape, leaving huge white scars which could be seen from over twenty miles away.

Dorking Greystone Lime Works

The Dorking Greystone Lime Co. Ltd. was founded at Betchworth in 1865 by brothers Eustace and Charles Townsend Hook of Snodland paperworks, Kent. The works were managed by the engineer William Finlay and in 1866, Finlay installed the first continuous Hoffman kilns in England there. In 1867 six conical flare kilns were erected in what became the southern battery, producing white lime, joined later by another six kilns of the same type forming an eastern battery. In 1887-1897 the southern battery was partly replaced by two pairs of Dietzsch kilns, followed by a new crushing and hydrator plant immediately to the southeast. [2] Finally, around 1900 a large Smidth-type kiln was built to the north of the works yard, completing the development of kilns at the site. For reasons unknown this was was abandoned during construction and was never fired.[3]
The works were linked to the main line at Betchworth Station by a standard-gauge works railway that descended by means of a steep switchback arrangement, while a separate narrow gauge tramway linked the quarry with the kilns. The works had several locomotives between During 1900–01, an aerial ropeway was installed by the Ropeways Syndicate Ltd of London to transport limestone to a gantry placed above the Dietzsch kilns.
As well as lime for agricultural and building use, the works produced white lime for gas purification and sewage treatment.[2a] Also, until 1945, lump hearthstone was quarried underground at the site with the main entrance to the mine being behind the east kiln battery. After this, the tunnels were sealed and only surface seams were quarried until 1950 when working ceased altogether[4]. At the end of 1959, Dorking Greystone Lime ceased trading and the works became the property of the Dorking Lime Co. Apart from the narrow gauge line that served the hydrator, rail working ended in 1960 and many of the locos and rolling stock were bought by perservationists.[2b] After lime working ceased in the 1970s, the quarries were used for landfill and the works area is now used as a haulage depôt

Reader Philip Ross has shared his memories of Betchworth in the 1950s, which you can read here.

Brockham Lime Works

The Brockham Limeworks grew up in the first half of the nineteenth century and by 1866 were being run by Messrs Elsdon, Swan and Day. To the south of the limeworks a brickworks, the Crabtree Brickfield was at this time operated by Messrs. Batchelor and Fenton, which gentlemen were also carrying on a coal merchant's business at Betchworth and Dorking railway stations. In 1867 a standard-gauge siding from the Reigate-Reading railway line was constructed to serve the limeworks[5] and from this time onwards wagons were brought to and from the main line by a 20 h.p. stationary steam engine which stood in front of the eastern battery of kilns. A narrow gauge tramway worked by horses served the quarry workings and kilns.[6]
In 1873 Batchelor and Fenton's business diversified to include the exploitation of the hearthstone deposits on site, re-naming itself the Brockham Brick, Stone & Coal Co Ltd, shortened a year later to the Brockham Brick Co Ltd Around 1881 the Brockham Brick Co. also took over the running of the limeworks and the railway and tramway system was expanded to link the works together.[5a] By 1890 the works included a large brickworks complex, extensive chalk and hearthstone workings and two batteries of flare kilns, six of which were subsequently converted to Bishop's Patent kilns, developed in 1889 by the Company's manager and secretary, Alfred Bishop.[7]
By 1910, however, the brickworks had become unprofitable: the following year it was closed, the Brockham Brick Company was wound up and the newly-formed Brockham Lime and Hearthstone Co. Ltd. took over the remaining quarrying operations. By 1925, the hearthstone business had also began to decline and working ceased in March of that year by agreement with the owners of the hearthstone mines at Betchworth and nearby Colley Hill.[5b] The limeworks continued to operate until 1936, when the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dorking Greystone Lime Co[7a]
In 1961, the Narrow Gauge Society secured a lease on the old limeworks with its extensive system of tramways and the next year opened the Brockham Narrow Gauge Museum.[8] The museum was a popular attraction for many years, but in 1984 complications with the site forced it to close, its collection being relocated to Amberley in Sussex. The site is now managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust on a 50 year lease from Surrey County Council, which bought it in 1977. The surviving buildings have greatly deteriorated since their last use, some 30 years ago and English Heritage is currently assessing proposals for stabilising the more intact eastern battery of kilns, which should allow supporting scaffolding to be removed.[9]

References

[1]: Burgess, P., "Marden Mine, Godstone, Surrey: Preservation of its Archaeology and Natural History" in "News of the Weald" Iss. 5, 1992 [http://www.wcms.org.uk/cgi-bin/wcmsarchive.pl?archid=marden_mine_archaeology_autumn1992] (accessed 18.7.12)

[2],[2a],[2b]: Travis, A.s., "The Locomotives at Betchworth Lime Works in Southern England," in "IA, The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology", Vol.30 Iss.2 2004 [http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/sia/30.2/travis.html] (accessed 18.7.12).

[3]: Sowan, P.W., "Factory Chimney Stacks: Some Thoughts and Some Evidence" pp 7-8 in "Surrey Industrial History Group Newsletter" No 166, 2008 [http://www.sihg.org.uk/news/08nov-SIHGnews166.pdf] (accessed 18.7.12).

[4]: Sowan, P.W., Notes from an interview with Mr. Lawrence, an employee of Dorking Lime Co Ltd, 1969 [http://www.wcms.org.uk/cgi-bin/wcmsarchive.pl?archid=bw_lawrence_dec2004] (accessed 18.7.12).

[5], [5a], [5b]: Sowan, P.W., "Further Notes on the Hearthstone Mines at Brockham" in "Pelobates" Iss. 39, 1980 [http://www.dandylife.org/cgi-bin/wcmsarchive.pl?archid=cccp_pws_brockham_hearthstone_oct1980] (accessed 18.7.12).

[6]: Sowan, P.W., "Accidents at Brockham: The General Register" in "Cave & Quarry" No 5, 2007 [http://www.wcms.org.uk/cgi-bin/wcmsarchive.pl?archid=brockham_general_register_nov2004] (accessed 18.7.12).

[7], [7a]: Surrey Historic Environment Record, "BROCKHAM LIME AND HEARTHSTONE COMPANY LTD, FORMERLY BROCKHAM BRICK COMPANY LTD: ADDITIONAL RECORDS, 1901-1953" 2004 [http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/GetRecord/SHCOL_7649] (accessed 18.7.12).

[8]: Neale, A., "Locomotive Preservation (2) Brockham Narrow Gauge Museum" in "The Industrial Railway Record" No 9, 1966 [http://www.irsociety.co.uk/Archives/9/locomotive_preservation_2.htm] (accessed 18.7.12).

[9]: English Heritage, "Brockham Limeworks" 2011[http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/heritage-at-risk/case-studies-har/944637] (accessed 18.7.12)

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