Tel: (01840) 212242
Huge hole in the ground
Delabole Slate has been used as a building material for well over 600 years, and has been quarried continuously since the early 17th century. Today a village has grown up around the industry. The quarry itself is about half a mile long and a quarter of a mile across, around 400 feet deep, and said to be the biggest hole in Britain. Whilst there is no public access into the bowels of the hole, you can view it from a special viewing area, with a showroom and exhibition.
Delabole slate quarry is one of the largest of its type in England and has been operated continuously from the 15th century making it the oldest working slate quarry in England. In the reign of Elizabeth I the five quarries on the site of the now larger pit assumed considerable importance delivering slate to Brittany and the Netherlands. In 1841 the five quarries were combined to make Delabole Slate Quarry.
Long before the coming of the railway in 1893, the slate was cut and hauled six miles to Port Gaverne where it would be loaded onto vessels moored in the harbour area. It would take thirty wagons, pulled by over a hundred horses to load a sixty ton ship and as late as 1890, women still assisted with the stowing of slates.
The Old Delabole Slate Quarry Ltd was liquidated in 1977 by the company's bankers. It was run under receivership by Rio Tinto Zinc until 1999 when a local management team bought it out. In 2005, the majority shareholders bought out the entire share capital, creating a single family ownership, the first time since 1842. In 1910, 500 people were employed at the quarry but this has since been reduced to 80, the decline due to the availability of cheaper roofing materials e.g. Welsh slate or prefabricated tiles. As of 2007 only five skilled men work in the pit and the total workforce is no more than forty.
Just a short walk down a lane well sign-posted from the village.
Monday to Friday
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