SP1658 : Winding hole and old tramway embankment

taken 7 years ago, near to Wilmcote, Warwickshire, Great Britain

Winding hole and old tramway embankment
Winding hole and old tramway embankment
This winding hole on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is right next to the old site of the Blue Lias Lime & Cement Works. The works were on the east side of the canal and a tramway bridged the canal as can be seen by the line of trees in the background following the route of the tramway, ending in a stone built abutment just visible on the far side of the canal. For a closer shot see SP1658 : Old tramway, Blue Lias Lime & Cement Works.
The winding hole would be used to turn round narrow boats that had just delivered raw materials or arrived to collect finished goods.
Wilmcote Limestone and the Blue Lias Lime & Cement Works
By David P Howard.
The Lower Jurassic succession conformably overlies the Penarth Group and crops out over much of the south and east of Warwickshire. The Group has provided grey and pale brown, fine grained, micritic limestones for local building purposes across much of its outcrop. The oldest beds of the Lias Group form part of the Blue Lias Formation and can be seen in the quarry at Southam SP4464 overlying the Triassic White Lias (Langport Member) limestones. The formation typically comprises hard paler bands of impure limestone alternating with softer, darker, fissile clay-rich layers. Fossils including ammonites and bivalves are common in the limestones, and occasionally large reptilian fossils have been found in the quarries. The basal strata contain the best building limestone beds, locally know as the Wilmcote Limestone (Member). The unit was quarried at several localities to the north and west of Stratford, particularly at Wilmcote SP1658 and Binton SP1454. The last quarries closed at the beginning of the 20C and few traces now remain.

The limestone which they produced is quite hard but thinly bedded and can be quarried as big slabs, and was much sought after for walling, flooring, doorsteps and even gravestones. The latter have not lasted well as when set vertically in place they eventually split and fail when damp and frost attacks the exposed, laminated edges.

Wilmcote Limestone was also used for the flooring in parts of Sir Charles Barry’s new Houses of Parliament in Westminster TQ3079.

Numerous buildings and other stone structures testify to the importance of the use of these local Lias Group limestones across the outcrop.

Ragley Hall -1690, is built of Wilmcote Limestone with Arden Sandstone dressings SP0755.

The medieval bridge at Bidford-on-Avon was built mainly of local Wilmcote Limestone, though it has been patched with several other stones SP0951.

Kinwarton Dovecote is built of Wilmcote limestone, covered with an old cement render and a sandstone doorway SP1058.

The medieval church of St John the Baptist at Aston Cantlow, is situated just off the Blue Lias escarpment and is famous as the place where William Shakespeare’s parents were married in the 16C. The walls are mainly of Wilmcote Limestone SP1359.

At Billesley village, which largely disappeared during the ‘black death’, there are remains of a Jacobean stone manor house and a fine church, all built and floored with Wilmcote Limestone SP1456.

Both Mary Arden’s house in Wilmcote SP1658 and Ann Hathaway’s cottage in Shottery SP1854 made use of Wilmcote Limestone plinths to support their timber framed construction.

The Blue Lias Formation in Warwickshire has also long been quarried in vast pits to feed the national cement industry. Its high clay content meant that it could be used to produce ‘hydraulic’ lime rather than pure lime on burning.

The quarrying and burning of Limestone at Wilmcote was started on an industrial scale by Richard Greaves. Born in 1801, he was the eldest son of John Greaves, merchant and carrier of Stratford on Avon, a proprietor of the Upper Avon Navigation and a director of the Stratford & Moreton Railway, a horse-drawn tramway. Richard inherited his father's business at Stratford together with estates at Warwick, Barford, Long Itchington, Southam and Stockton. By the 1820s he was quarrying limestone at Wilmcote and Southam and in 1824 built lime kilns at Wilmcote, and later at Southam, for making blue lias lime. With the aid of the canals, his lime was on the London market by the 1830s, and in 1840 he commenced making artificial cement at Stockton, in partnership with J.W.Kirshaw of Warwick, trading as Greaves and Kirshaw.

An advertisement in "The Builder" in 1843 (its first year of publication) reads:
A depot is opened in London for the sale of blue lias lime and cement from Mr Greaves' celebrated quarries at Southam, Warwickshire.

In the same journal in 1845, we read:
Stockton Lias Cement - Manufactured on principles laid down in Major General Pasley's Essay on Limes and Cements. It is of a beautiful stone colour, and of acknowledged superior quality, free from vegetation, does not crack and is well adapted for every description of modelling and casting. It has been extensively used at the Earl of Macclesfield's at Ensham Hall by C. Barry Esq; at Sir F. Shuckburgh's, Shuckburgh Hall by H. E. Kendall Esq; for works now in progress at Marbury Hall, Cheshire, and for mansions erected last summer in the vicinity of London.
Wilmcote Lias Cement - Of inferior quality to the above from containing oxide of iron, but is of very superior quality for Tunnels, Sewers and Hydraulic purposes. Its use is stipulated by Mr John Roe, Engineer of Sewers, London.

The works at Wilmcote went under the name of Blue Lias Lime & Cement Works. There was a series of buildings and lime kilns alongside the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal at SP166586. A tramway crossed the canal going west to SP16265856, where it split into two legs. One leg went south to a quarry at SP163582. The other leg went northwest to a further series of buildings and lime kilns at SP15885911. This leg then turned west northwest and ended up at another quarry at SP151593.

It is not clear when production finally ceased at the works. The 1905 ordnance survey map shows all the buildings and tramways intact and at their fullest extent. The 1924 ordnance survey map shows all the buildings gone and the tramways all dismantled. Little now remains visible on the ground. A short embankment to the west of the canal ending in a stone arched abutment, and a very short section of embankment to the east of the canal, is all that remains of the tramways SP166586. It is still possible to trace the route of the tramways by careful examination of aerial photos, but on the ground it is almost impossible. A small mound in a field covered by trees at SP15895911, SP1559 : Quarry debris mound, and two buildings converted for farm use at SP15855906, SP1559 : Farm Buildings at Gipsy Hall Farm are all that remains of the north westerly manufacturing site.


A Brief History of Griffin’s Lime & Cement Works, Stockton, Warwickshire: Simon J. Bartlett, 2009 LinkExternal link

Strategic Stone Study; A Building Stone Atlas of Warwickshire: English Heritage, May 2011 LinkExternal link
The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal
The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal links the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at King's Norton Junction with the River Avon at Stratford. The canal is 25·5 miles long, and has 56 locks*, the last onto the river being a broad lock. The canal was built in several stages (including changes of route) from 1793 on, finally opening fully to the River Avon in 1815.

By the 1950s the section north of Lapworth was rarely being used, and the southern section from Lapworth was badly silted with some unusable locks. It is believed that the last boat reached Stratford in the early 1930s, though a pleasure cruiser reached Wilmcote at Easter in 1947.

Threat of total closure of the southern section in the mid 1950s caused protests, leading to an enquiry in 1958, and a big public campaign to save the canal, so the abandonment plans were reversed in 1959.

The National Trust took on the task of restoring the southern section of the canal in 1960, leading to its re-opening by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother on 11 July 1964. Control was passed to the British Waterways Board in 1988, then to the Canal and River Trust in 2012.

*One stop-lock at King's Norton is unused and open, another at Kingswood Junction is duplicated.

(Details reduced from Nicholson's Waterways Guide No 2)
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright David P Howard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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SP1658, 118 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Sunday, 22 January, 2012   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 24 January, 2012
Geographical Context
Railways  Derelict, Disused  Canals  Flat landscapes 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SP 1662 5859 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:13.5160N 1:45.4864W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SP 1664 5858
View Direction
West-northwest (about 292 degrees)
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