The Doric Columns
The Granite Industry
Gabbros & Granites
Metamorphic changes are not the only evidence of the increased temperatures that affected the Dalradian rocks as the Iapetus Ocean was consumed. Large volumes of magma (molten rock) were injected into the deformed and metamorphosed Dalradian strata as the crustal plates collided. The magma cooled and crystallised to form large bodies (plutons) of igneous rock; different types of magma produced different types of igneous rock, such as granite and gabbro. The granites are closely associated with the Dalradian rocks which had experienced the highest temperature metamorphic changes. In such areas, some of the metamorphic rocks were heated to such a degree that they began to melt, producing magma that coalesced into larger bodies and eventually cooled to form granite. Many examples of this transformation process can be seen in the coastal outcrops south of Aberdeen at Cove. The Aberdeen granite, famously quarried at Rubislaw, is one of the best known of the granite intrusions generated in this way.
Rubislaw granite quarry, showing stone blocks brought down by a recent blast. The quarry opened in 1741 and reached over 90 metres deep, and was described as the 'deepest hole in Europe'.
In the British Isles, intrusions of granite and related igneous rocks are present in a variety of localities, and range widely in geological age and origin. Differences in mineral composition and conditions of emplacement mean that British granites show a wide range of colours and textures.
Granite forms from the cooling of large magma bodies at depth in the crust, the slow cooling allowing the growth of large and interlocking mineral crystals. Compositionally, granites typically contain 55-75% silica and are commonly pale coloured with medium to coarse grained crystals discernable to the naked eye. The interlocking crystals provide cohesion which adds strength and makes them suitable for polishing without plucking of the grains. Finer grained granites were typically used for structural purposes (e.g. foundations, walling, kerbstones, setts and paving), while coarser grained and porphyritic (i.e. with large crystals usually of feldspar) varieties were valued for ornamental work. The predominance of silica and other relatively stable minerals in granite make it particularly strong and durable.
Men of Granite - 1933 A glimpse of these great granite quarries in times past starting with an Aerial shot of the quarry. Quarrymen at work, Blasting, Machinery, Rockface, Splitting etc. "reaching the ground." shows a man pressing the plunger on a detonator, resulting in an explosion and Avalanche of granite rocks. Shows sett making, stone dressing and turning of Columns and Pedestals
Aberdeenshire Granite. The Aberdeen granite industry developed from the 18th century, with stone first sent to London for paving in 1764 and the construction of Portsmouth Docks a few decades later. Through the 19th century the industry expanded and the area became a world-renowned producer of granite. The industry was of huge importance to the local economy, and materials and skills were so plentiful that much of the City of Aberdeen was constructed from granite. A relatively sophisticated transportation system (canal and railways) allowed material from quarries further inland to be transported to the coast, and the stone was exported in great quantities to the main urban centres. There were many granite quarries in Aberdeenshire, producing stone of varying colour and texture, and exploited for a wide variety of uses. A number of the major quarries are described below.
Peterhead, one of the most important Aberdeenshire granites, was produced as two varieties, known as Red and Blue Peterhead, both exported throughout the UK and abroad during the 19th century. The red variety was better known and used for ornamental construction and monumental work e.g. London, Cambridge (St John's College Chapel pillars) and Liverpool (St George's Hall pillars). Blue Peterhead was used for decorative building and ornamental work, e.g. the base of fountains in Trafalgar Square and the Prince Albert Mausoleum. Peterhead granite is still quarried at Stirlinghill and Longhaven quarries, where it is mostly crushed for aggregate.
Kemnay quarry began production in the mid-19th century producing building stone, setts and kerbs, with the best material reserved for polished monumental work. It is a light grey muscovite-biotite granite. Examples include the Queen Victoria Memorial in London, the Forth Railway Bridge and, more recently, as cladding for the new Scottish Parliament.
Aberdeen Journal 1891
Dancing Cairns Quarry
Dancing Cairns Quarry works were close to the Bucksburn Howe. The quarry had been working since the late 18th century, when it was opened by Messrs Snell, Rennie & May. Many stones were hewn from this quarry for Telford's North Pier extension.
Our Pier can
neither firmly stand,
their natural tendencies,
Above Bucksburn village was the Dancing Cairns Granite Quarry. It was over 200ft deep. As children we used to go and play in and around the Quarry, catching Tadpoles, Frogs, Newts and Sticklebacks. It has now been filled in with City refuse and on the surface today is now a Golf course, which overlooks Dyce Airport.
Buildings in Aberdeen. Used in London for kerbs, paving, etc. Composed of quartz, orthoclase, oligoclase, and mica.
Bankhead, Bucksburn - Now an Industrial Estate
The Corrennie Quarry at Tillyfourie. Granite building blocks stacked ready for transport. The quarry is still in operation.
Corrennie Quarry Granite from Tillyfouries is a medium grained biotite granite with a salmon-red colour making it favoured for decorative use. Examples include the Glasgow City Chambers and the Tay Railway Bridge. The light grey speckled muscovite-biotite granite from the Dancing Cairns quarry has been used in Trafalgar Square, the Thames Embankment and part of London Bridge. Fine-grained dark greyish-blue biotite granite from Dyce Quarry was favoured for the interior of London Banks and exported overseas to Australia (Bank of Australia, Melbourne). Both Kemnay and Corrennie quarries are still active, along with a number of other granite quarries in Aberdeenshire, but their granites are mostly crushed for aggregate and roadstone, although dimension stone can still be obtained.
This large, now disused granite quarry, which is situated at the foot of the South flank of Tillyfourie Hill. A single large pit initially, but by then that quarry had been abandoned in favour of new workings higher up on the South face of the Hill.
The extensive trade in Granite appears to have originated with the Messrs. Adam, architects, of London, who, having entered into a contract for paving the Metropolis, in 1764, commenced some quarries in the rocks on the sea-coast, near the lands of Torry, and brought the stone, when prepared, to London; but, finding this mode of supply too expensive, they employed the Aberdeen Masons to furnish them with stone, and, in a short time, a very extensive trade was established, not only in paving-stones, but in large blocks of granite for public buildings and works of great magnitude. Many of the largest blocks were sent to Sheerness, for the construction of the docks at that place, and to London, for the erection of bridges over the Thames, and the foundation of the new Houses of Parliament. The granite, which is extremely hard, and of great beauty when polished, has lately been brought into extensive use for chimney-pieces, vases, pedestals, and other ornamental works, by the application of machinery to the purpose of polishing it, by which the expense is reduced to about 1/3rd of that by hand labour. The quantity of granite exported in 1844, exceeded 27,400 tons.
Corrinnie Granite was used for the Base and Cornice of Pedestal of the Albert Memorial, 'an exquisite variety of granite from the estate of Captain John Gordon of Cluny Castle.
Image from the mid 1930s of a Sett Maker in front of his Skaithie in Persley Quarry. He was a ‘Cassie’ maker hewing stone setts for the roads from granite with just a hammer and chisel. The ‘lean-to’ or Skaithie in the rear of the image was the only shelter he had in all weathers.
There was a need for men who had the skill and patience to reduce huge blocks of granite into manageable pieces by chipping it with a variety of hammers, and chisels to produce the required shape and size. In this 1920's photograph we see a sett maker at Persley Quarry on the north side of the River Don in Aberdeen, at his wooden shelter or 'skaithie'. These shelters provided some sort of wind break for these men who had to sit on blocks of granite patiently working on the hard stone. Settmakers made cobblestones for roads and Aberdeen setts were used to pave streets in London. On his left is a Shearleg structure which acted like a small crane to lift the bigger stones into position. Note the lack of protective safety equipment apart from some extra leather padding on his knee to prevent chafe wear on his dungarees. Men were as tough as the material they worked with in those days.
A short stone early Bronze Age Cist containing an imperfect adult male skeleton and an imperfect urn of red clay, an arrowhead and a flint knife. Found in Persley Quarry in 1868. Circa 2,000 BC
John Adam was one of the Adam Brothers responsible for the building of Dumfries House as well as the Adelphi Buildings in London. The firm was also a contractor for Fort George in Inverness. John Adam, though a competent Architect, worked primarily as the firm’s business manager, overseeing contracts, legal business, and money and resource building activities such as the quarrying business at Torry. The lands of Torry in question were mortified to Aberdeen by the influential Menzies family of Pitfodels, who retained a say in the use of their mortification. David Menzies, as part-heritor, was able to relate a number of concerns to the Council and Magistrates over the use and abuse of the lands under the tenancy of Mr. Adam.
The quarries referred to were situated in Nigg and Cove, and came under the jurisdiction of Aberdeen’s Master of Mortifications as heritor of half of Torry. Aberdeen let the land to John Adam by means of an Act of Council dated 27th March, 1766, as well as a subsequent act of 1st July, 1767. These can be found in volume 63 of the City’s Council Registers. The original Tack of 1766 granted him a 21yr lease of the quarries lying to the south of the town’s quarries at Cove for an annual rent of £10. The 1767 notation in the Council Register claims the annual rent stands at £5, as well as granting him quarrying rights to the lands of Torry and Cove as far as the southernmost extent of the Barony for an additional £15.
Dyce Quarries - Tyrebagger
Besides being used for crib, pavement, and causeway stones, and for house-building, the stones from Tyrebagger have been employed in raising the following works: the Bell-rock Lighthouse; Sheerness Quay Wall; Deptford Quay-Wall; West India Docks; and Sheerness Docks. Stones from the same quarry were formed into pillars for the groins of the London Custom House, and were dressed for the long steps and coping of St Catherine's Docks; and for the most prominent parts of the new Bridge of Don. They were likewise used in building the new London Bridge, and from the same place was that fine block of granite selected which encloses certain urns and other memorials of the present age, and forms the foundation stone of that magnificent structure. In these quarries also a few specimens of dolomite have been found.
Cairngall, leased by Messrs Alexander Macdonald, Field, & Co., a good substantial stone, known as Aberdeen granite, is Quarried. The Cairngall quarries, in particular, produce a fine small grained stone, admirably adapted for polishing and for ornamental work. In fact, for those purposes, no better material has as yet been found. It was from Cairngall that the sarcophagus for the remains of his late Royal Highness the Prince Consort was taken.
One of the most famous monuments the huge double Cairngall sarcophagus at the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, which contains both the remains of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The block for the sarcophagus is the largest block of flawless wrought granite in existence, and the 4th Block quarried: the first 3 attempts ended in failure when flaws were discovered underneath the stones after they had been detached. The block of granite originally weighed 30 tons. 12 Clydesdale horses were needed to pull it from the Quarry to the MacDonald Works. Manager Robert Fergusson stated that after the rough granite was shaped, hollowed out, and polished it gave a total weight of 9 tons. The lid alone weighs 5 tons and the whole sarcophagus rests on polished granite blocks. The 4 massive bronze angels attached to each corner were designed by Marochetti and cast by Barbeedienne in Paris.
Alexander MacDonald received Letters Patent as “Her Majesty’s Workers in Granite” in 1867 after completing the sarcophagus. When Victoria's coffin was to be placed therein it was discovered that sarcophagus was 6 inches too shallow and temporary wood infill were painted to match. Later matching granite inserts were added to the raised lid.
All over the Kingdom monumental work in granite from this and the other Scottish granite quarries were met with.
The quarries are situated in a hill which rises about 60 feet above the circumjacent ground; they are worked to some distance right into the hill, and then worked downward; and they have furnished some of the largest and finest blocks for public works and public buildings in the kingdom. They began to be worked, to any considerable extent, in 1808, when they were selected to furnish the blocks for the foundations of the Bell Rock lighthouse; and they furnished the blocks for the foundations of the then new London Bridge, for the pier-walls of the new Houses of Parliament, for the pillars in Covent Garden Market, for the great polished monolithic pillars of St George's Hall in Liverpool, and for the pedestals of several great public statues.
The Bell Rock Lighthouse is situated in the North Sea on a partially-submerged reef some 11 miles (17.5 km) southeast of Arbroath on the East Coast of Scotland. One of the major engineering feats of the early 19th Century, it was designed and built by Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), with John Rennie (1761 - 1821) serving as Chief Engineer, and came into service in 1811. The lighthouse tower was built from 4 types of stone; granite from Cairngall Quarry near Peterhead was used for the foundation, while the skin of the tower, which had to resist the brunt of the sea, comprises granite from Rubislaw Quarry (Aberdeen) with a core of Old Red Sandstone from Mylnefield Quarry, Kingoodie. Finer sandstone from Craigleith Quarry (Edinburgh) was used in finishing the structure and building the parapet around the light.
In 1936 the Provost Road, which goes past the derelict Victoria Hall, was the 1st to benefit from the new Tar Metal. In addition to this commercial sandpits were dug in the parish in the 1930s to serve the need for cement. Twenty years later there were workings at Millden, Wester Hatton and Blackdog, producing an annual supply of 1000s of tons of sand.
BlRSMORE - Aboyne Grey and pink.Very like Shap granite in appearance.
BODHAM – Peterhead - Grey - very large stones; Prince Consort's Memorial Fountain, Trafalgar Square
COVE – Kincardineshire Dark grey - Used chiefly for kerbs and sets.
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