A peep into the past - 1936
Loughborough Echo - 11th December 1936
The granite pit of Quorn
Origin of name of village
The following interest historical details in relation to Quorn have been received from a reader who signs himself “Quornian”:-
“Interest today in a village such as our own usually centres round its sports, its business activities, its own welfare, and its religious life. It is, however, the intention of the writer to endeavour to awaken a certain amount of interest in some items of real local history. This subject is generally confined to a few generations in its extent. My intention, however, is to go back more than a period of a few years, indeed a few hundred years.
“For a start we will make our church of St Bartholomew’s, where renovations have just been taking place, the entrance to a peep into the past. The chapel of Quorn was, according to documents, still in existence, built prior to the year 1153 AD., and was at that time until the year 1868 a chapel of the Church of Holy Trinity, Barrow. This date tells one that its beginning was either early Norman or late Saxon. The portions of the church of this period that still remain extend from the angle of the wall next the stairway leading to the Priests’ Chamber as far as the Farnham Chapel. Two other smaller portions extend on its north and south sides part of the way into the chancel. The small Norman doorway and the window adjoining are quite a worthy feature, together with the east end of the Farnham Chapel.
“It has been frequently said by those who have real interest in the church and all that it stands for that Quorn church has no outstanding architectural features, and it is the intention of this letter to point out to these critics their short-sightedness, as they have failed to realise where the beauty of this old building lies.
TWO TONES OF COLOUR
“I would refer them to the granite which our ancestors used in the Norman portion. It is rather a mixed lot and contains two distinct tones of colour. One is a rich red, weathered to perfection, and age has smoothed out its roughness and increased the richness of its tone. The second is of a rougher type. The weather has eaten further into it, for the dust has dirtied the stone and its rougher nature tends to encourage lichen in its growth.
“Now, it has been for many years a matter of conjecture where these two types of granite had been obtained. There were no two quarried to produce these types and for them to be obtained from one quarry was almost impossible in the district, but beyond this no writer of recent years has ventured an opinion. I venture to say that they were from one quarry.
“Additions were made by adding the Farnham Chapel in the 13th century, at which time the porch and the Priests’ Chamber above were added simultaneously with the chapel, and the same granite was used, that is, of the two types.
“In the 14th century the tower was added, and it seems evident that the builders, or whoever had charge of the operations, had more thought for the work they had in hand than their present day followers, in the care of buildings. They reasoned together wisely and decided to use only the bright red sample, keeping out the rougher pitted material, and so the tower stood till 1886 without much more than an ordinary pointing; at that time, however, the battlements of the tower were considered dangerous, so they were taken down and rebuilt at a reduced height as they are seen today.
“This old tower is a worthy example of the precept “Let your light so shine before men”, as no doubt the builders of that generation planned and intended it.
“The clerestory of the nave was added in the 15th century and was executed in like manner with the same granite. I would point out that the forethought of these generations was responsible for adding what has been an asset to the church, which outweighs some of the so-called architectural features of other buildings.
“A RUDDY FACE”
“Can anyone mention a granite church or other building for that matter, with so ruddy a face and even surface as that of St Bartholomew’s Quorn? I doubt if a cleaner building of 14th century granite can be found anywhere. This cannot be said of the building as it now stands; the treatment of the pile has been considerably marred. The pride of many past generations has become a poor representation of its previous brightness and is spoilt for many generations.
“To return to the granite, of which I have already said there were two varying types used in the 13th and 14th century work. The place where this was quarried was usually referred to as being unknown. One historian, Nichols, mentions Quorn Pit in his Leicestershire records, but only as a place where granite was quarried.
“The granite No1 has a fair amount of quartz in it, particularly for a granite whose basis is red marl. Granite No 2 has no quartz at all, though on examination tiny pockets can be seen where once this mineral existed. This, the deep red granite of the 14th and 15th century work, is deemed by geologists to be of a reverting type and they refer to the lack of quartz as a proof of its reversion. However, the process may still take an age or two.
“Now, about the pit which Nichols mentions. If you could have looked into this pit a century or two before the Norman period you would, had you been permitted to reach the pit during working hours, have seen the beginnings of quarrying into a respectable hill . The work had at first been on an easy gradient through the soil. Until the granite rock was reached at this point you would have been surprised to find a shallow pit, the bottom of which was reached by several tiers of steps cut into the granite. They were arranged with a fairly wide tread and shallow rise and were cut in a quadrant at the narrowest place on the pit entrance and extending its full width at that particular point.
“Will you hazard a guess at their purpose? Naturally the obvious one is to carry the granite used for building purposes to the surface, but on taking a further peep to a spot in the far corner of the pit, in a sheltered place against the pit face, men are working on a large disc. It is getting near completion, and a square hole has been drilled through the centre. The visitors are asked to come again tomorrow to get a nearer view. Curiosity might lead you to a further visit on the morrow and this visit would introduce you to a most interesting spectacle.
“Look, now the disc has been moved to the lower steps of the quadrant. There are more men surrounding it, and they are placing a wood packing on the edge of the first step. The packing is about equal to the height of step No 1 and a wood pad has been lad behind the packing. Our disc is still more than double the height of step and packing combined. Now it is all hands to the disc, and it is placed leaning on the packing, and then with much effort by the workers the bottom of the stone is lifted till it cantilevers over the wood packing, then again lifted bodily into a vertical position on step one, and is now quire ready for repeat performances.
“What you have just witnessed is a millstone over the first step of its journey toward its windmill or watermill, as the case may be. You have witnessed this when the pit is shallow, but in later years its depth was around 40ft and its few steps of wide thread and shallow rise have been greatly added to as the work went on. The water is now draining from crevices which have appeared in the granite as the pit is made deeper, and later a real spring gave plenty of trouble.
“The work is not so profitable, for a pump has been added to the equipment, which requires the united efforts of two men. It is no longer possible to ask our former visitors to view the works, for a few centuries have passed and the last stone of rich red granite used on St Bartholomew’s has been quarried and is more richly weathered than ever in that solid looking clean sample of old English granite work, but its real meaning is not yet understood.
“The first date mentioned in the above refers to the 12th century. For a century or more the hamlet from which you might see the smoke arising above the trees, and which down the winding path is probably about a mile distant, was known by the name of “Quernedon”, and it was generally called by this name until the year 1551, when on one particular deed the name Quarryingdon appears.
“This name, however, does not appear to have become general, for in the latter years of the 16th century the hamlet was known by the name of “Querne”, and so it remained until the 18th century, when Quorn replaced the latter name.
“I am informed that in the Shetland Islands, where Gaelic is still the spoken language of the inhabitants, that Quernedon means millstones, and that Querne means a millstone. I give these as indisputable evidence of the origin of the name our good old village is known by as the language of our Saxon forefathers was largely Gaelic.
“Our stone quarry is no illusion, not even the steps of quadrant form at the entrance frontage to the quarry. They have been there for centuries, and they could become covered with water the latter part of the sixteenth century.
“The quarry giving us the name of our village also gave us both samples of our church’s granite. It would take considerable digging to uncover the steps for they now lie under the rubbish accumulated by the Barrow RDC from villages under their surveyance.
“Yet what Quornians can say that Keke Hill Pit was not without interest and worthy of a more noble use after giving us of its best for the best purposes of life? Quorn’s name, our stones to grind flour for bread, our ancient cottage dwellings, and, best of all, our church of red granite, now, unfortunately, being hidden by its contrast with the grey cement.
“There for the time being we must leave it, and so to my readers I commend by (sic) little spice of local history for their judgment”.