Beauty spot was a hive of in­dus­try

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

ALTHOUGH it’s lo­cal beauty spot to­day, Leck­hamp­ton Hill bears the scars of the time when it hosted quar­ry­ing on a com­mer­cial scale.

Lime­stone quar­ry­ing on the hill dates back at least four cen­turies and con­tin­ued un­til the 1920s.

Build­ings in Chel­tenham such as Holy Apos­tles church and Chel­tenham Col­lege chapel, were con­structed from Leck­hamp­ton stone and ex­am­ples fur­ther afield in­clude Shire Hall in Glouces­ter and Mag­dalen Col­lege chapel, Ox­ford.

As quar­ry­ing grad­u­ally ate away at the es­carp­ment, it be­came nec­es­sary to con­struct in­clines down which stone could be hauled.

In 1811 a tramway was built that ran from the top of Leck­hamp­ton Hill down to Daisy­bank.

There were two lines, one for the truck loaded with stone to de­scend, the other for the empty truck to as­cend.

The trucks were tethered by a rope that wound round a pul­ley at the top, so that the heavy one go­ing down pulled the lighter one up.

From Daisy­bank the line dived to what is now a hous­ing de­vel­op­ment, but un­til re­cently was Leck­hamp­ton In­dus­trial Es­tate, to run along the west side of Leck­hamp­ton Road.

At the Nor­wood round­about the tramway veered to fol­low Nor­wood Road.

A re­minder of its route is found at the junc­tion with Great Nor­wood Street, where the ter­race of houses is named Rail­way Build­ings.

In the cen­tre of this row is a build­ing that was once a pub called The Rail­way, now con­verted into flats.

The site op­po­site Rail­way Build­ings, which lo­cals will re­call was Parry’s wood­yard un­til about 30 years ago, was orig­i­nally a stone wharf where blocks quar­ried on the hill were stored and dressed.

From here the tramway con­tin­ued along An­dover Road to Westal Green, then on via Queens Road to Glouces­ter Road where it joined the main Chel­tenham to Glouces­ter tram­road.

This meant that Leck­hamp­ton stone could be trans­ported to Glouces­ter docks and shipped to ports in the Bris­tol Chan­nel or fur­ther.

It was the con­struc­tion of an in­cline at the quarry that cre­ated the promon­tory on which the Devil’s Chim­ney stands.

An am­bi­tious scheme was pro­posed in 1922 in which four large limekilns were to be built near the fo­cal point of the rail­ways and the lime pro­duced would be trans­ported off the hill on a stan­dard gauge rail­way.

A key fac­tor in the ven­ture was the avail­abil­ity of a cheap Gov­ern­ment loan as part of a scheme for eas­ing un­em­ploy­ment af­ter the First World War.

By Septem­ber 1924 the limekilns and one and a quar­ter miles of rail­way track in­clud­ing the long in­cline had been com­pleted.

How­ever, for tech­ni­cal and other rea­sons the project was not a suc­cess.

All pro­duc­tion stopped about two years later and the plant was sold in Au­gust 1927.

Leck­hamp­ton Hill was bought by Chel­tenham coun­cil and opened to the pub­lic on Septem­ber 29, 1929.

You can see the con­crete bases on which the four, 77 ft high steel limekilns stood to this day.

It’s worth the steep trudge up from Daisy­bank to the site to imag­ine the scene a cen­tury ago when tran­quil Leck­hamp­ton Hill rang to the clam­our of hard steel on stone, steam cranes and rail­ways.

The Leck­hamp­ton quarry limekilns

The quar­ries were opened to the pub­lic in 1929

The limekilns and rail­way track

A map of the lime kilns and rail­way

The rail­way track and Daisy­bank bridge

The Devil’s Chim­ney

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