Headington history: The quarries

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The Quarries of Headington


General introduction

Two former quarries that are now Sites of Scientific Special Interest

Magdalen Quarry (formerly known as the Workhouse and the Corporation Pit)
This is situated just to the west of Gladstone Road, off Willilam Kimber Crescent.

Rock Edge (formerly known as Crossroads Pit)
This is situated at the south-east corner of Windmill Road

Other pits and quarries

Saccy's Pit or Horwood's Pit
On the site of the present Beaumont Alley.

Pit on Green Road
Jack Phillips's Pit

Jack Phillips's Pit
This was on the corner of Green Road and Quarry High Street, as shown on the 1921 OS map (right). This is probably the plot of building land at Headington Quarry with stone pit attached (measuring one acre and five perches and with extensive frontages to two new streets) that Richard Pether sold to Mrs Phillips of Headington on 20 March 1893

Vicarage Quarry
This was opposite the vicarage in Quarry Road

Blondin or Munt's Pit
On the site of Quarry Hollow and the adjacent play park

Clayhills Pit, also known as St Ebba's Pit
On the corner of Quarry Road and Old Road, now the site of Stansfeld Centre

Harry Bear's Pit
This was on the east side of the Slade, 250 yards south of the junction with Old Road

Coppock's Quarry
This was to the west of the present Gladstone Road, to the south of the Magdalen Pit. It was closed in the 1880s. “Stone in Archaeology” Database: Coppock's Quarry

Mason's Pit
This was behind the Mason's Arms

Six Bells Pit
This was outside the Six Bells pub

Pound House Quarry
This was at Shotover Hill Place (the area of the east end of Old Road, which was in the ecclesiastical parish of Holy Trinity, Headington Quarry but in the civil parish of Forest Hill with Shotover).

Hundred Acres Pit
This was owned by Thomas White, the farmer at Wood Farm, in the late nineteenth century.
See this report in Jackson's Oxford Journal of 11 March 1899 on the inquest held at the Crown & Thistle into the death of Edward Morris (61), who was undermining the rock at this pit with a long-handled paddle for the purpose of bringing about a fall of rock by drawing out the sand when a large piece of stone fell on him and buried him alive.

Claypit at The Kilns in Risinghurst
There were brickworks to the south of Kiln Lane until the twentieth century, and the lake at C. S. Lewis's house is actually a flooded claypit.

Greening's Pit, later known as Gale's Pit, was worked by
a gang from Quarry, but was actually situated in Cowley.

Below: Boulders in a sandbank of one of the Headington Quarries in 1918
(Historic England BB73/00141)

The quarries around Headington are regularly advertised to let in Jackson's Oxford Journal. This advertisement appeared on 24 August 1822:

TO be LET on a Lease, for 12, 14, or 21 years, and either together or separately,—The two capital STONE QUARRIES on Shotover Hill, near Oxford, producing the celebrated Headington hard stone, and excellent free stone, in inexhaustible abundance. The multiplicy of new buildings, as well projected as in actual progress, in an near Oxford, and the extensive demand for stone from these quarries from distrant places, must ensure to them for many yhears a brisk and never-failing trade; and they undoubtedly offer to persons in that line a most advantageous opportunity of a profitable establishment.
   The Quarries may be entered upon immediately.
   For terms and further particulars apply at the office of Mr. H. Taunton, Oxford.

Paintings of the quarries of Headington by William Crotch

William Crotch was the Heather Professor of Music at the University of Oxford, and painted many watercolours of the city and of Headington:

  • “Jones The Stonecutters, Headington Stone Quarries WC [William Crotch] 1st Aug 1799”.
    (M.S. Top. Oxon .c 475 f.95)
  • “A House on the North Side of Headington Stone Quarries, 7pm Aug 4, 1800”
    (in private ownership, and for sale with Treneagle in October 2023)

Map showing the quarries in 1804

Below are the quarries shown on the Headington Enclosure Award map of 1804, rotated so that North is at the top: reproduced by kind permission of the Oxfordshire History Centre. Along the south side is the boundary lane between the Manors of Headington and Shotover. The pits clustered near the present Quarry High Street are not distinguished from each other, but just labelled “THE QUARRY”.

The road at the top numbered I is the London Road. The road numbered V starts at Old Road and curves around through Quarry village and then goes up to the London Road, and it very roughly follows the line of the present Quarry Road, Quarry High Street, and Toot Hill Butts. The footpath numbered XIII led up to Barton Road and is now part of Gladstone Road. On the left is the start of the diagonal footpath that led from Quarry to St Andrew's Church in Old Headington which still exists at the Quarry end..

The quarries on Enclosure map of 1804

© Stephanie Jenkins

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