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Geoscientist Online

Quarrying industry in Wales - a history

stykThe first impression is of a weighty, colourful A4 publication but the greatest pleasure, in addition to the low price of just shy of £20, is the content. Despite the title (“a history”) this is a series of vignettes concerning quarries and their geological setting across the country. Fascinating stuff, and easy to dip into as the mood takes the reader.

The scene is set with a concise overview of the history of stone usage and extraction in Wales, taking the reader through to the planning and economic constraints faced by modern industry.

Arranged by general geographical area from north to south, one is taken on a journey through the quarrying industry with the principal focus on the last two centuries. The small geological maps introducing each chapter add a touch of colour as well as provide location markers but it took the reviewer a while to realise that there was also a fold-out key printed on the cover enabling him to interpret the various colours as well as act as a page marker!

The author has so much to share and has cleverly incorporated many extra insights using box inserts, for example “Limestone: the World’s most useful rock” which reveals the huge number of products for which this stone is used. Others range from types of buildings (e.g. the medieval Stanley churches), through people and organisations (e.g. the Institute of Quarrying), to a number of beautiful mineral specimens that have been discovered (e.g. azurite and xanthoconite, a rare silver/arsenic/sulphur mineral, from Dolyhir). Appropriate for the intended general readership, references are to background reading rather than rigorous listings of all relevant publications.

Mining is not addressed. There is only passing mention of underground workings for lime, slate and sand, plus one large photograph: of the Dinas Silica Mine, producer of furnace bricks.

The book ends with appendices pointing readers to sources of additional information, from the Welsh Stone Forum, through ideas for educational course development, to explanations of acronyms and a glossary.

The author is planning a similar volume on Quarrying in Derbyshire and the Peak District, and we can but hope that he will go on to write companion volumes on the quarrying industries elsewhere in England, Scotland and Ireland!

Reviewed by Mike Rosenbaum, Ludlow UK

QUARRYING INDUSTRY IN WALES: A HISTORY / Y diwydiant Chwareli yng Nghymru - hanes, by Ian A Thomas, 2015. Published by: National Stone Centre 224 pp (pbk) ISBN: 978 1 871 82738 5  List price: £19.95