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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Haytor Quarry

This is one of three posts about Haytor Quarry, The Granite Tramway and the Stover Canal. All three are linked and if you can, it is best to visit all three in the same day.


The Granite Tramway is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine a railway system built by The Flintstones with tracks carved out of stone and you have a Granite Tramway. But before we get to the Granite Tramway let's deal with why it was built at all.


Dartmoor is a granite upland in South Devon and in the past it was used for quarrying of various minerals and stones. Haytor is one of the highest natural outcrops of this granite and right next door, well hidden below the ground surface is Haytor Quarry.


This bump on the horizon is Haytor and to give an idea of size there are people scattered around it on this beautiful end of summer day.

In the 19th century steps were made to allow pedestrians up to the top of the tor and a metal handrail fixed to allow tourists easier access to the summit. This was not entirely welcomed and in 1851, a Dr Croker complained about the rock steps that had been cut "to enable the enervated and pinguedinous scions of humanity of this wonderful nineteenth century to gain the summit". The handrail was removed in the 1960s due to it rusting: the stumps of the uprights are still embedded in the rock.


pinguedinous - The word is from Latin pinguis, fat, which — directly or through its relatives in Latin — has given English a number of words, such as pinguedinise, to make fat, pinguedinous, fatty or greasy.


So you can see that some things never change and even 200 years ago doctors thought humanity had gone to pot. If he was that damining of society then, what would he make of today's enervated and pinguedinous scions of humanity? Well for a start we have taken away the steps and handrails so maybe that would have pleased him. Now the enervated and pinguedinous scions of humanity struggle up it panting and having heart attacks. Such an improvement.


The Haytor Quarry is a sort of negative tor, or the reverse of a tor, being a big tor shaped hole in the ground. It is out of sight behind that pile of boulders.


I have covered the wild ponies of Dartmoor before here. The spoil heaps from the 18th and 19th centuries are visible from afar but unless you know where to look the main Quarry is very easy to miss as it’s totally hidden from view. There are always lots of people walking up to Haytor Rocks to enjoy the magnificent views but the Quarry below is relatively unknown.


Just a quick mention of the Granite Tramway at this point because we came across the start point, right by the quarry entrance. Here it is, with it's hand carved tracks with an edge where the tram cart wheels sat. This was the start of a journey for every boulder that was cut. A journey that ended on building sites all over London.

Here is the tor again, this time with an enervated and pinguedinous scion right on top.


This is one of the overgrown entrances to the quarry, so you can tell how easy it would be to miss this site of special scientific interest.


A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Great Britain is a conservation designation denoting a protected area. They are the basic building block of site-based nature conservation legislation and most other legal nature/geological conservation designations in the United Kingdom are based upon them, including national nature reserves.


This is the main route in to the quarry once you know where to find it.

Looking back down the hillside more of the granite tracks are visible curving around to the right.


The granite below the tor has fewer large feldspar crystals than at the tor itself, and this was preferred for building. There are several quarries on the northern slopes of Haytor down which were worked intermittently between 1820 and 1919. Between 1820 and 1858 the rock from these quarries was transported by the Haytor Granite Tramway to the Stover Canal.


There is a tale to tell about how a large part of the stone from this hole ended up in Lake Havasu City in Arizona. Haytor granite was used in the reconstruction of London Bridge which opened in 1831. By 1962 the stone arched bridge that crossed the Thames at one of its narrowest points in London had started to sink into the river. Nobody ever foresaw the amount or weight of traffic that would eventually use it and the foundations were not strong enough to keep it standing.


When the London Bridge was put up for sale, a Mr. McCulloch thought Lake Havasu would be an ideal place for it. He put together a winning bid of $2,460,000 to buy the bridge. How was this figure arrived at? The first question was how much it would cost London to cut the granite so it could be used again. The figure McCulloch and C.V. Wood, Jr. came up with was $1,200,000 and McCulloch and C.V. Wood, Jr. doubled that. Since McCulloch and Wood, thought someone else might think the same way, they then added $60,000. The reason for this figure was that Mr. McCulloch would be 60 years old when the bridge was dedicated. So McCulloch and Wood added this amount, making the total $2,460,000.

The bridge was shipped 10,000 miles to Long Beach, California. From there, it was trucked to Lake Havasu City where it was stored in a seven-acre fenced storage compound. On September 23, 1968, the Lord mayor of London, Sir Gilbert Inglefield, laid the corner stone.

Robert Beresfornd, a civil engineer from Nottingham, was put charge of the reconstruction of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu and as a guide, he had a copy of the original plans drawn by John Rennie.

The Bridge was completed and dedicated on October 10th, 1971. Mr. McCulloch died in February 25, 1977.




Haytor granite was also used to construct The British Museum and The General Post Office, amongst other London landmarks. Here there are drill marks showing how the large pieces of granite were split from the natural rock.


The quarry is...... a magical place sheltered from the harshest of the Dartmoor weather being enclosed by high worked rock faces. In spring and early summer the small lake is teeming with tadpoles and newts and the occasional dragonfly hovering over the water lilies. In fact, when walking around it’s almost impossible nowadays to imagine the hustle and bustle and indeed noise that must have been the norm within this industrial site.




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4 Comments


Peter Smith
Peter Smith
Oct 05, 2022

I'm old enough, just!, to remember the bridge re-opening back in 1971 although then I didn't fully understand quite how it ended up in America and didn't appreciate where the stone came from either. It's a long time since I've been to Haytor so maybe another look is overdue.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Oct 05, 2022
Replying to

It's worth it just for the quarry. That was a real surprise.

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Unknown member
Sep 24, 2022

Really pretty horse

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Sep 24, 2022
Replying to

Dartmoor pony, they roam wild up there but are very used to people, so often hang around the busy areas, hoping for the odd sandwich. They were galloping all over that day, lovely to see them in a natural environment.

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