The site we know as Thorner Quarry on Church Hill in Thorner, West Yorkshire,
is set into a sandstone outcrop which was known as Thorne Bank.
(O S Grid Ref SE381407- GPS W001⁰25’22.2” N53⁰51’38.0”)
Our story starts over 300 million years ago in the Permian and Carboniferous periods,with the deposit of mudstones and sandstones that underlie Thorner. Periods of uplifting and erosion created the rock outcrop later to be known as “ Thorne Bank”, and revealed an unconformity in the strata – evidence of a missing interval in the sequence of rocks caused by erosion.
Fast forward to the first century AD, and it’s likely that the Romans built a road that set the route for what is now the
Thorner to Bramham Road, passing by the Thorne Bank. By 1832 a collection of houses had been built against the rock face, some having cellars hewn into the rock, and chimneys leaning against the rock face. The houses were condemned and demolished in the late 1940s. Traces of the houses remain with door and window lintels remaining in the boundary wall, and cellars still visible.
In this field plan of 1735
the site of the quarry is
Below is a copy of a plan of 1865 ,
showing houses on the site.
A photograph from around 1900 showing Miss Ada Taylor in front of the doorway of one of the cottages, demolished in the late 1940's.
Since then little has been done to maintain the site other than a trimming of undergrowth overhanging the footpath., and in 2015 volunteers cleared some of the self -set shrubs and saplings .In places the boundary wall is in poor condition, and in 2014 a section was rebuilt after collapsing onto the path.
Some of the trees on the site are in a precarious state, with self set sycamores putting pressure on the boundary wall in places, and others with a limited root hold on the rock face. There are some self set elm trees that are worth preserving.
We believe there are aspects of the site that are worth enhancing and preserving: –
The site is listed as a Local Geological Site by West Yorkshire Geology Trust, recognised by Natural England. Because of the opportunity it provides to see the underlying rocks, and the geological unconformity, it is a valuable teaching aid. The West Yorkshire Geology trust are fully supportive of our work to enhance the site, describing the idea as “nationally unique and ground-breaking”.
The remaining signs of the houses from the site – lintels and cellars, are an unusual and curious reminder of how houses were set into the rock face. Thorner & District Historical Society is supportive of our efforts to preserve these aspects.
Some site clearance might be required, but there are aspects of the flora and fauna of the site that we’d be keen to preserve and enhance.
Site improvement will enhance the look of this important gateway to the village conservation area. We are also working closely with the landowners of the site – the Mexborough Estate *, and we have taken advice from Leeds City Council specialist officers dealing with
Landscape Conservation, Trees, Ecological aspects , and Highways issues. We have also discussed issues with West Yorkshire Police.
Below is a vision of how the site might look. A photograph taken following recent clearance of undergrowth and shrubs has been manipulated to lower the wall, reduce the infill level and superimpose wild flowers.
Members of the volunteer working group are :- Scott Marshall (Chair), Steven Wood (Secretary), John Calvert (Treasurer),
Diane Gibbins, Graham Castle, Dudley Mitchell, Michael Brereton, Sue Lawrenson, John Wilson, Robert Wilson, Jason Falk.
The Group is working closely with the land owners, the Mexborough Estates*.
*Mexborough Estates manage 20,000 acres of diverse land and property largely located in Yorkshire.
Their Mission Statement :- "To secure the long term viability and prosperity of the estates for the future, whilst taking into account care for the environment and engagement with the local and wider community ."
Volunteers who started work on clearance of some of the scrub from the site on Saturday 27th February 2016.
Picture are :-(left to right) Jason Falk, Graham Castle, Tom Mycock, Alastair Foster .
Working Group Members
Diane Gibbins and Scott Marshall
take a break from clearance work
Clearance sessions have revealed a clearer view of the rock face from Church Hill that has been hidden for many years. Passers-by have been amazed at the interesting vista this has created.
A new Estate Director for the Mexborough Estate has kept in close touch with the working group, and he has completed repairs to the boundary wall.
He has proposed a modest, affordable and practical way forward . This will not create open public access, but allow for special supervised visits to be undertaken subject to approval by the Estate . He also is in agreement with the erection of 2 interpretive panels at the site.
With his leadership:-
The working group welcomes these proposals as a practical, low cost arrangement, are in tune with public opinion reflected in our consultation exercise,are in line with the minimum of our initial project proposals and the aspirations of the Parish Plan Review.
Thorner Primary School pupils are to work with Bill Fraser as part of a rocks and soil curriculum project, and will use the knowledge gained to help design the content of an interpretation panel explaining the geological history of the site.
Thorner Historical Society are searching out archive material that can be used on a panel about historical aspects .
During guided tours in July & November 2016 Bill Fraser and Gareth Martin were able to show how sands had been deposited in tropical river deltas over 300million years ago to form rocks that are now known as "Rough Rock Flags". A short walk up Church Hill revealed evidence of a non conformity in the strata, an outcrop of magnesian limestone, and fossils of primitive life forms called " Stromatolites".
"Fascinating - I'll not look at this in the same way again"......................................" A pleasure listening to experts bring geology to life"......................... were just two of the comments overheard at the end of the visit.
Please e mail us at the address below for details if you are interested in taking part in future visits.
If you would like to offer advice, ideas or funding assistance,
if you have any questions, or if you'd like a guided tour of the site please get in touch.
You can contact the group by e mail :-firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 00 44 (0)113 2893035.