A quarry at Worth Matravers near Swanage – which supplies around half of Dorset’s crushed stone – is celebrating its centenary, and the impressive fact that one local family has worked there for all that time.
Swanworth Quarry, owned by Suttle Stone Quarries, began life as a two-man underground quarry called Sheepsleights in the early 1920s.
The quarry supplies crushed stone for foundations in construction, sea defences, decorative chippings and gabions – the steel mesh cages filled with stone.
The Swanworth quarry provides half of all Dorset’s crushed stone
Remarkably, although the quarry has changed hands over the years, four generations of the Samways family have been working at the site all that time.
Thomas Samways was the first to work at the quarry in the early 1920s as a digger. His son Pete Samways worked there for over 40 years as a shovel driver, along with his brothers.
Carly (third generation) and her daughter Lauren (fourth generation) currently work in the quarry’s weighbridge office, where they sell crushed stone to both trade and residential customers, for uses ranging from housing and civil engineering to private garden and driveway projects.
Lauren and Carly, third and fourth generation of the Samways family which has had members working at Swanworth Quarry for 100 years
“Quarry is in our family’s blood”
“My family has worked at the quarry for a hundred years – the quarry is in our family’s blood! I love working here. It has seen a few changes over the years, although when Suttles took it over, they woke it up again. It is a real privilege to work here.”
“I visited the quarry with my grandad as a tiny child, so it has always been a part of my life. I’m following the family footsteps by working at the quarry, which is really good.”
Both Carly and Lauren live in Corfe Castle.
Workers at the Swanworth quarry in the 1920s
The Suttle family has also worked in the natural stone and quarrying business on the Isle of Purbeck since the 1920s. Suttle Stone Quarries took over the Swanworth quarry in 2011.
According to a book entitled ‘Swanworth’ by David Pushman, the site was ‘quarried by Billy Brown, and, when the mood took him, Buff Bower!’
The quarry later became ‘Worth Quarries Limited’ in 1923, with its head office in Bournemouth, producing road stone; broken blocks for foundation; crushed and graded chippings; and tarmacadam.
A driller at the quarry
One large contract in 1924 was to supply material for the foundation of the lower valley road between Corfe Castle and Coombe Junction, replacing the cart track that was there previously.
From 1933, Swanworth Quarries Limited took over the site, at its peak producing 600 tons per day. The quarry changed hands again in 1980 to Tarmac Roadstone Limited, increasing to a peak of 450,000 tonnes per year in 1985.
The company has ambitions to become ‘carbon neutral’ and has installed a solar panel system
The company is working towards becoming ‘carbon neutral’ and has already invested in a fleet of 19 electric and hybrid vehicles and plant.
It has also upgraded the quarry’s crusher from diesel to an electric-powered engine and installed a solar panel system that powers the quarry’s workshop and crusher.
The stone has been used in many high-profile projects in the area, including Compass Point housing (Swanage), Pierhead development (Swanage), Priests’ Way regeneration (Langton Matravers), Durlston Country Park learning centre and footpath renewal (Swanage), and the Dorset Innovation Park (Winfrith).
Dorset Innovation Park, Durlston Country Park and the Pier Head in Swanage
“Community and charity initiatives”
Suttles’ Director, John Suttle, said:
“As well as supplying around 50% of Dorset’s crushed stone, we are also keen to support community and charity initiatives, too. For example, we donated materials for the extension at Corfe Village Hall, as well as stone sub-base for Dorset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Greengage’ project.”
Suttles also sponsors and helps to organise the annual ‘Big Night Out’, a local night of clubbing for people with learning disabilities, attended by more than 400 people from around Dorset.
Suttles donated materials for Corfe Castle Village Hall
The quarry plays an important role in the local economy too by providing employment.
Suttle Stone Quarries is a division of the Suttles group of companies, with 120 staff locally, 55 of them at Suttle Stone Quarries.
John Suttle added:
“We are very proud of the quarry’s one hundred year history and we are currently in planning for the next phase of operations.”