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Fauld Mine - History of Staton and Co - My Family - Page 2

Somme centenary in Tutbury

Jeremy Manners - Fauld Mine - My Family

Part II

Meanwhile, during the 70’s, John Staton’s son and namesake, leased or bought the Fauld Quarry, succeeding two brothers named Orme, farmers of Fauld.  This may have been the last of a family business.  White’s “Staffordshire Directory” of 1834 names Sarah Orme as an Alabaster Dealer of Fauld.  The 1851 edition similarly describes Henry Hill, and John and James Orme as farmers.

Gypsum, mainly for alabaster, had been sporadically procured from the district for centuries.  The Normans used it in the West Doorway of Tutbury Church in the 12th Century, and records show that John O’Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, had a monument erected in St. Paul’s Cathedral in memory of his Duchess in 1363 – the chief material being alabaster from Tutbury; the cost being including carriage, £486.

T. Trafford Wynne for many years Mines Manager, and mining engineer at Fauld, wrote in 1905 that on the small hills around Castle Hayes between Tutbury and Fauld, may be seen the remains of shallow excavations, where blocks of alabaster had been extracted bodily in the past.

During the latter part of the 16th Century the Burton School of Alabasterers was pre-eminent in the carving and polishing of alabaster monuments, and tombs, succeeding the Nottingham School who probably had difficulty in extracting suitable stone from Chellaston after many years of excavating.

The main source of raw material for these “marbellers” was the Fauld, and Tutbury area, much of it from Duchy of Lancaster land.

Whilst the foregoing is not directly concerned with the history of Statons, it helps in appreciating the background of the industry and area which John Staton now found himself associating with.  The following is also of interest.

Dr. Robert Plot visited Staffordshire in 1680 in connection with his “The Natural History of Staffordshire” published in 1685.  In it he states “This sort of alabaster, but yet of coarse sort, is also found at Coton under Hanbury and there has of it been dug at Draycot in the clay; indeed the whole bank of red marle between the Forrest or Chase of Needwood, and the River Dove from Marchington to Tutbury has Alabaster in it; but that at Castle Hays is incomparably the best of which they make Gravestones, Tables, Paving Stones, Chimney Pieces, etc. and in smaller things, mortar and salts; they turn it also into Candlesticks, Plates, and Fruit dishes, or whatever the customer desires”.

The doctor also describes the manufacture of plaster in those days.

“First they lay on the ground a stratum of wood (which is best) or a load of wood and coal mixed together, upon which they pile as much rough Alabaster: then firing the wood they let it burn together till it is out which makes the Alabaster so soft and brittle that it only needs to reduce it to powder, the greater part where of being separated from the smaller by sieve: the former mixt with water are used for flooring, and the finer for sealing and walling of houses.  When they wet their floors, whether for dwelling for Moulthouses, they wet a whole tub full and throw it down together; but when they seal or prage with it, they wet it by degrees, which they call gageing; and in both cases they lay it on and spread it as fast as they can, for it hardens (as Plaster of Paris) in a very little time”.

An improved form of this method was in use in the early nineteenth century at Fauld; until 1944 there were the remains of the brick Kiln and the threshing floor, where the burnt gypsum was beaten with flails.

“Alabaster House” is a cottage standing at the end of the old lane leading to Shading Common and the now defunct Peter Ford works, and is near to Fauld Manor.  As a boy the writer remembers reading the legend painted on the gable end but now obliterated.  It read:-

J.C. Staton and Company.
Office.  Burton on Trent

Memories play tricks but his guess is that it also read

“Founded 1789”. Referring, of course, to the Fauld Quarry.

The Revd. Stebbing Shaw published his book “The History of Antiquities of Staffordshire” in 1798 and has this to say about Fauld.

“The soil is mostly of a stiff nature, intermixed with marle and gypsum, these being some pits of the latter recently opened here”.

This may have been the first commercial effort in the extraction of gypsum, and the beginning of the time when plaster would be more important than alabaster.  Even so, for a long time so little plaster was made that it was the custom for a contractor ordering plaster to pay a lump sum to the mine owner and to install an agent at the scene of operations to ensure that the material was duly delivered on time.  At the same time the prosperous Victorians made a lot of use of alabaster panels in public buildings and for ornaments in the home.

In the book “The Natural History of Tutbury” (1857) by Sir Oswald Mosley, Bart and E. Brown, there was a coloured print of the Fauld quarry showing huge pieces of gypsum, and two workmen resting.  This was no doubt the old quarry situated just west of the new H.M.S. plant at the British Gypsum Fauld Works.

Part III

Now for the first time, the families concerned with Statons had a first class supply of stone near at hand and under their own jurisdiction.  Many changes were on the way.  In 1879 John Staton brought Joseph Foster from the Shellaston mines to drive an adit or tunnel into the side of the hill from the old quarry.  The cost of removing the overburden was getting more expensive as the quarrying cut further into the side of the hill.  There was also a short tunnel driven along side to provide a second entrance.

Three years later Joseph Foster joined Peter Ford who had been extracting gypsum for alabaster from the hills around Fauld.  For the restoration of Hanbury Church in 1880-1.  Mr. Ford provided the alabaster and took an active part as sculptor.  He then leased from the Duchy land on the Tutbury and Castle Hayes side of the quarry where Joseph Foster undertook the driving of another tunnel.  The first portion of Peter Ford’s works for the manufacture of plaster and Keenes cement was built in 1883.

A contributor to the “Pall Mall Budget” described a visit in 1889 to an alabaster mine, and was taken round by a Mr. Tipper.  Mr. Tipper was probably the manager for Mr. Ford, and was the joint founder with a Mr. Eaton of the Needwood Plaster & Cement Company at Draycott in the Clay a mile or so northwest of Hanbury.  The works and mine were opened about 1890.

When Statons old quarry was abandoned is not quite clear.  It may have been in the early 80’s.  The new site was about half a mile to the west, nearer to the lower part of Hanbury Hill.  This in itself brought about a new situation.

Up to the Enclosure Act of 1801 all the 9,400 acres of Needwood Forest had been in possession of the Sovereign as Duchy of Lancaster, and had remained so since John O’Gaunt’s son become Henry IV in 1399, except during the Commonwealth period.  Under the new Act, much of the area was disafforested, roads built, and most of it became the property of former freeholders, title holders, and copyholders leaving the Duchy with 3,225 acres.  Thus, although the Duchy had and still possesses many acres between Fauld and Tutbury Castle some land to the west of the Fauld was owned by W.E. Bowers, of Stallington Hall near Blythe Bridge.  Consequently royalties from the new site would be due to Mr. Bowers, who also leased Fauld Manor from the residence of J.C. Staton (Jun.) in 1905.  A clue to the change of site was given by what are the probable first royalties paid to Mr. Bower.  In 1884-5 the total was £8.  8.2. rising to £927. 14.2 in 1906-07.  After this date the amount gradually fell, owing to the judicious buying of land in the Hanbury and Fauld district by the Company and Mr. Newton.  The original royalty is not stated but as from April, 1904, it became 8¾d.  per ton: as the total amount fell for two years following it was probably a reduction.  The Franco-British Exhibition at the White City in 1908 would account for the high tonnage in 1906-7 and 1907-8.

On 16th August, 1883, there was an agreement with the North Staffordshire Railway to carry gypsum stone from Sudbury Station to Shobnall for two shillings a ton in company wagons and one shilling and sixpence per ton in owners wagons.

From the new site Joe Rowe supervised the drilling of the second (really the third) tunnel.  Joe came with several other miners from Chartley and was mine foreman with Statons for many years.  His grandson, Ernest Buckley, was the victim of one of the few fatal accidents under Statons.  This tunnel was in operation until about 1935.

Although it is not known what tonnage was extracted or continued to be taken from the old quarry the Bowers royalties doubled in 1887 and showed in the increase of production.  In 1890-91 there were 10,859 tons of plaster produced.  Even so this was probably less than during the previous three years.  The last term was during the change from Shobnall to Tutbury.

The Shobnall works were quite extensive in the 80’s.  An illustration on the back of envelopes used by Statons showed this to be so.  There were three bottle shaped kilns presumably for the manufacture of Parian or Keenes cement.  A long building with four chimney stacks in line, no doubt where plaster was calcined, and an isolated building and stack probably for dental plaster manufacture.  On the roadside was an office, and sheds for loading and unloading, the entrance to the latter being on the canal bank.  Goods for loading by rail were taken by horse and cart were taken over the road to the Midland Railway siding.  The main L. & N.W. Railway line is also seen in the background.  Later, a siding was constructed directly into the works.  Some of the buildings still stand and, in this year of 1969, are used as a store by an old established and well known firm of building contractors, Thomas Lowe and Sons of Burton on Trent and London.  The second Thomas Lowe and Henry Newton were friends and business associates for many years.

In 1889 Alfred Wilkins joined the firm, and for over 50 years he served as clerk and chief clerk.  Among some invaluable notes Mr. Wilkins left was one that when he joined the firm Henry Newton was the sole manager, William Staton being a sleeping partner.  The partnership was terminated in 1906.

On the 9th November, 1988, W.E. Bowers leased a strip of land to Henry Newton (still referred to as “the younger”) for the purpose of building a tramway from the new site to Scropton sidings on the North Stafford Railway, some three miles by the route chosen but much less in direct line.  Here the stone was to be loaded into company or own wagons for conveyance to Shobnall.  For this purpose the Railway Company extended their water outlets and build two retaining walls.  All other work was done by Statons, who also laid a branch line to the works of Peter Ford and Son and undertook to convey their goods to and from Scropton.  This arrangement was continued until 1944.  The tramway was opened in September, 1889 and soon two steam locos by Bagnalls of Staff. were in operation on its narrow gauge.  From an old photograph, a railway enthusiast, and former employee of Bagnalls, dated the locos as being built in 1890 and 1891.

When production started at Tutbury, and, as a result of some hard bargaining, the Railway Company agreed to charge eight pence per ton for the mile or so to Tutbury station if in owners wagons.  There was an increase of 4 per cent in 1913, in 1920 it had risen to 1/11 ton and it fell in 1922 to 1/6 per ton.

Part IV

The removal to Tutbury was made possible by a contraction in the cotton trade.

Woolcombing was the traditional industry of Tutbury followed by the spinning of silk.  At the end of the eighteenth century silk was giving way to cotton, so the owners of the silkmill, John Botts & Co. petitioned the King in his right as Duchy of Lancaster, to utilise common land between the Little Bridge and the Great Dove Bridge for the purpose of spinning cotton.  The prayer was granted, and the Duchy built a five storey, L shaped building, each arm being 100 feet by 30 feet.  To provide power to drive two water wheels was diverted from the Little Dove at the south end of Butt Green or Common by means of a dam and a waste channel to empty in the Great Dove near to where the old ford had been.

The mill was bought outright in 1823, there were extensions 1829, and new water wheels by Hewes and Wren to replace the old ones.  There were further extensions in 1868 in the form of a single storey building 220 feet by 140 feet in the widest part.  The roof was supported by cast iron columns ten feet apart with gangways of 20 feet, alternate columns serving as down pipes.  This section was motivated by a Wren and Hopkinson steam engine.  To provide more power two water turbines by Macadam of Belfast replaced the water wheels in 1880.  Referred to as Bass and Wiggin and Gladstone they commemorated the two Liberal victories in the East Staffs Division, and the return to politics as Prime Minister of William Ewart Gladstone in the momentous General Election of that year.

Alas!  This service to cotton was short owing to the falling off of orders.  In 1888 production was moved to the Tutbury Mill Co.’s other mill at Rocester, some miles up river, and the Tutbury mill stood empty for two years.

This closedown no doubt led to unemployment, which led to a letter being sent to the Editor of the “Burton Chronicle” and published on 5th May 1889.  It read:-

Dear Sir,

I cannot help but I must write to you.  I have known you for many years and have always found you to be my friend.  No doubt you will wonder who I am, but do not look at my signature until you have heard my complaint.  I am getting on for a hundred years, and have been a good and faithful servant.

There is plenty of work in me.  I am a teetotaller and have been all of my life, now I regret to say I am out of work.  I have plenty of water to drink but nothing to eat; my poor inside has nearly gone.  Why?  I cannot fathom.  Cannot something be done for me?  I have done well for my master, and will do so again; if only set going again would find employment for two or three hundred hands.

Do all you can dear friends.  Call a meeting and try to do something for me; otherwise I shall not know how to exist.

Truly I am nearly broken hearted.

Regretfully yours,


Help came from an unexpected quarter.  Henry Newton was aware of the advantages of water power, and of the sound buildings.  The good siding connection with the North Stafford Railway would be for the expanding Potteries trade, very advantageous, and the receiving of stone from nearby Scropton.  Accordingly, he negotiated with Walter John Lyon representing the mill company who made a firm offer to lease the mill with a purchasing clause, which was later taken up.

The lease became effective from first of July, 1890.