Today is publication day for my new novel, No Stone Unturned, so I thought I would celebrate by starting my day by returning to the place which inspired the story: Wilmcote quarry. This old, overgrown hole in the ground looks pretty insignificant these days. It’s become a haven for wildlife – deer, foxes, rabbits, badgers, birds etc – but most people who walk by it probably don’t even realise that it was a quarry. As you can see from the photo below, in places it’s certainly hard to tell that on the other side of all the brambles, bushes and trees there is a surprisingly steep drop. I had been walking my dogs along this path for years myself, before I finally discovered what I was really looking at.
I finally found the answer in a book produced by my local history society. Not only was this the site of an abandoned quarry which had once been the main source of employment for the village of Wilmcote, it was also the source of a building material that had been used for some of the most impressive constructions in Warwickshire and beyond. Its easily workable, Blue Lias stone, which split easily to form quality paving stones and slabs, had been used at Ragley Hall, Clopton Bridge, Mary Arden’s House, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, London’s Royal Courts of Justice and for the floors of the Palace of Westminster when it was rebuilt after the great fire in 1834, to name but a few.
In No Stone Unturned, the quarry is just one piece in a mystery that teenage Traveller girl, Kelly Hearn has to solve, and like me she spends many hours walking the perimeter of the quarry with her dog.
In this photograph you can see the lip of the quarry and the top of the old exposed rock face, now largely covered with loose soil and rapidly disappearing as plant life takes over.
The public footpath takes you around the edge of what was the largest quarry pit but there are actually three stone quarries on the land that now forms part of Gypsy Hall Farm. This photograph is taken from the tip of the large quarry pit, looking back in the direction of the farm. The trees mark the edge of a smaller but nonetheless deep, second stone pit.
The land around here is also dotted with the remains of old lime kilns and, here and there, the faint tracks of the old tramways used to take the stone from the pits to the nearby canal and railway on horse-drawn carts.
If you would like to know more about the quarry and the history of Wilmcote, which forms the setting of No Stone Unturned, go to the Freebies page for a free downloadable Fact Sheet