The History of Clay in South Devon and the UK
Clay is believed to have been in use since prehistoric times, when man first realized he could shape and bake the material into useful items. They found they could take this material t into something useful and then bake it in holes that they created in the ground. This made creating tools much easier for them than it had ever been before. It is believed that clay was already being mined in South Devon during the Roman occupation of Britain. Clays were highly prized for making clay tobacco pipes, it also became a valuable export when the export trade was born and immediately began thriving.
nIn 1688, William Orange was proclaimed King William III at Forde House, Newton Abbot. About that time, Dutch delftware was becoming more and more desirable in homes across the continent and Dutch potters brought their pottery skills to England. Delftware was covered in a white glaze in order to conceal the reddish/brown earthenware beneath.
nWBB is the oldest clay company in existence, stretching back to the beginnings of clay mining around 1685. During the 18th century, clay was mainly minded within the Bellamarsh area, this is because of the accessibility factor, as it was covered by less than three feet of topsoil. Once the topsoil was stripped off, the clay was laid bare and available to the simple tools of the time. Then the clay was able to be removed using steep sided trenches. The clay was mined using specially designed hand tools, of which many were redesigned agricultural tools. They were customized to suit the individual clay workers.
nClay or ‘Thirting’ Spades were used to cut into the surface of an exposed seam of clay, the tool was heavy and the blade was up to twelve inches long. Water was dribbled onto the clay in order to make it easier for the spade to penetrate it. A ‘Lumber’ which was a heavy angled blade, allowed the worker to undercut and lift the clay that was already cut with the spade. A Tubil, which was a lighter version of the Lumper was used to remove the first lump of clay.
nAs demand grew for higher quality clay, extraction methods became more sophisticated. Shaft mining started around 1870. Clay was extracted in 24 foot square pits, these pits were well supported by heavy timber to prevent collapse and they reached as deep as 80 feet. Shafts also began to be dug horizontally and the clay brought to the surface with cranes called ‘crabs’. This mining method was used up until around 1960 and was then replaced by ‘inclined shaft mining’. In inclined shaft mining, shafts connect to lower shafts and allow access to even better quality material.
Posted Date: 2009-10-26 23:14:02