How did " Deep Arse Delph" get it's name?

Deep Arse [House] Delph

'Deep Arse Delph', was the original name of a Sandstone Quarry on the outskirts of Oxenhope near Keighley, and here is the story of how it got its name together with the details of the Bancroft family who ran it for about 30 years.

There were many Bancroft men involved with the stone business in Yorkshire, either as Stonemasons, Quarrymen [also known as Delvers], Labourers, Carters and Quarry Owners, and Joseph Bancroft was one of them. He was born on 11th February 1820 on an isolated farm called ‘White Hill’ on the outskirts of Oxenhope, the son of John and Susannah Hartley.  His father was a tenant farmer and weaver, and  had a large family of at least eleven children.

As was common practice within many families at this time, the whole family would have been involved in weaving as a way of supplementing a poor income from their small farm, and Joseph at the age of 20 years old is described as a ‘Stuff Weaver’ on the 1841 census while still living at home with his parents. Stuff weaving produced a cloth made from long or combed wool, and unlike higher quality cloth, had no pile or nap. It was common practice for cloth merchants in the area to provide the raw material of combed wool to many families in their home, so that they could then produce cloth on their hand-looms. The merchants would then call back later and collect the finished cloth and then take it by horse and cart over the moorland tracks to sell weekly at the Halifax Piece Hall. This cottage industry of hand-loom weaving died out with the arrival of the new Woollen Mills, which had already started springing up in the villages and towns of West Yorkshire by the 1840's, and a vital raw material that was required for the building of all these new mills, was STONE…or to be exact quality sandstone, and it was required in large quantities. It is therefore not surprising that stone quarries started opening up all over the area where large supplies of sandstone were available to anyone who was prepared to open a quarry on land they either owned or rented, and many men therefore changed from combing or weaving wool at home, to working in a stone quarry, where the wages were much higher and employment was more assured, albeit with much tougher and dangerous working conditions.

The men worked with hand tools in this bleak open moorland with no safety equipment, using only hammers, picks, crow bars and sledge hammers forcing the stone from the rock face after removing the overburden of clay and soft rock  to expose the usable flat top surface of the bed. They would first mark out the extent of the block to be broken free. Then rows of tapered holes would be cut along the marks and wedges hammered into the holes to split the rock, allowing the block to be prised free with crowbars, and then lifted out either by horse and man power, or in later periods by a crane.The block of sandstone, weighing several tons,could be then moved to the work area to be split again into manageable sizes and the  masons could finally shape the sandstone to the correct measurements.

 Even  inclement weather would not stop them trying to earn a days work to feed their often large families. If the weather was bad, the only shelter available was usually in a dry stone shelter, built from all the smaller pieces of discarded stone that was usually strewn around the quarry. It was only during  the most severe winters when the men couldn’t work because the rock was difficult to get out, and the work would have been too dangerous. Whether you worked as a navvy, a rock getter, a mason, crane driver or carter, once the snow had fallen, work was suspended until it thawed and this would often lead to hardship for the families of quarry workers.

By the time of the 1851 census Joseph was been married to Pricilla Sunderland for seven years, and they had three children. He was still living at White Hill but his occupation was now as a Quarryman.

Within 10 years, the family had moved to a nearby house at Sawood Hey Top and Joseph had become the operator of a Stone Quarry, having taken over the lease from a James Stanworth around 1860.  At that time the quarry was known by the the unfortunate name of  ‘Deep Arse Delph’ [more about how the quarry got its name later!]. It seems quite likely that Joseph had been working at Deep Arse Delph, which was within walking distance of his home, and saw a good opportunity to take the lease over at a time when there was high demand for the good quality stone flags and slates the quarry was able to produce due to the construction boom that was going on in the area with the building of new mills and reservoirs. In fact Thornton Moor Reservoir, which is very close to the quarry, and was constructed in the 1870's, may well have used stone from Joseph's business in its construction. Even today, about 100 years after its closure, there is still much evidence of the main product of stone flags which were extracted from this quarry as there are vast quantities of these laying about on the ground around the quarry when I took this photograph recently.

The following record is from the Haworth Valuation List of the time, and shows Joseph Bancroft & Co, renting the quarry from a William Hartley for an estimated rent figure at £10 per annum

Haworth Valuation List

It looks as though Joseph’s livelihood prospered because by the time of the 1871 census the family had moved again to the nearby Dog & Gun Public House and he was now described as a ‘Farmer, Innkeeper and Quarrymaster, employing 7 men’. Looking at the census for other Bancroft individuals in the area, most of these employees seem to have been family members, because at different times Joseph provided a living for four of his sons, three of his brothers and two nephews in various related jobs as quarrymen, carters and stonemasons.

He was still running Deep Arse Delph up until shortly before his death in 1889, when the lease was passed on to a James Sunderland in February of that year. Joseph died at the Dog & Gun on 28th September 1889, having outlived his wife Pricilla by six years, and both was buried at the Oxenhope Methodist Chapel’s graveyard at Lowertown on the outskirts of the village. For some reason, the only names on the family gravestone are those of two of Joseph & Pricilla’s children, Susannah who died at 2 years old, and David who was 29 years. A clue to the hardship the family must have endured in those early days was the fact that at the tender age of only 11 year, David was listed on the census records as a coal miner!

Lowertown Burial Ground - Oxenhope
So why was the quarry originally  called 'Deep Arse Delph’?... The name of the quarry, or 'Delph', using the old name for a quarry, is listed as this as far back as  the official Tithe Award Survey of 1851. It is sited near two small valleys, known locally as ‘Cloughs’.... which are known as the Great Clough and the Little Clough. From lower down the hillside and anywhere else down below, these look like the clefts in the buttocks.  The quarry was carved out behind them, actually nearer to the Little Clough, so was named after them. This original  name was changed in the late Victorian era to ‘Deep House Delph’ at a time when more maps of the area were being produced, and it was probably felt  inappropriate to carry on using the original name, because names such as this would have been frowned upon in the prim and proper Victorian Society of the time.

The following map, circa 1900, show the proximity of the various locations….The quarry, by now renamed as 'Deep House Delph', is marked in red…. Joseph’s birth place at White Hill, marked in green….. and the Dog & Gun Pub marked in blue
Circa 1900 Map

As can be seen from the following close up map, taken probably at the height of it’s production, the quarry was a sizable venture. Little Clough, where the original name came from, can be seen running down the west side of the quarry. It ceased to operate in the early 1900's, probably due to the fact that its isolated position, and consequential high transport costs, made it impossible to compete with newer quarries nearer the areas where all the building work was being undertaken.

Handling heavy stones has always presented a problem for quarrymen. So it is not surprising that as quarries expanded in the late 19th century, cranes became one of their dominant features. Most  working quarry had at least one crane which would be used to lift the stone and swing it into a new position to be worked on. They were also used for removing waste. They were positioned at the edge of a quarry hole for lifting the stone out and the above map shows two cranes in operation which, at the time would have been hand-operated rather than mechanical. There is some evidence on site of where the cranes were possibly situated, by the following photographs which shows the bases of them.

On a recent visit to the quarry, you can see from this photo how it is hidden from the front by all the overgrown waste heaps. It is clear from all this waste which was dumped all around the edge of the quarry when it was operating, that it  must have been quite a scar on the landscape because it would have been visible from many miles away. Thankfully today with all the heaps being  so overgrown,  the quarry itself is now quite hidden from view.

And here is a picture that tells a story.... the well used track into the quarry, worn down by many years of horses and carts transporting the stone off site.

Unfortunately there are no pictures from this period, showing the quarry, possibly because few people saw this as a subject for future history at the time… but here is a drawing of another nearby quarry at a place called Flappit, near Cullingworth, which gives some idea of the activity which went on in these enterprises around this time, with cranes, horse and carts, and stone slabs laying about everywhere after being cut to size...One can only guess what the rate of accidents and injuries were  in these workplaces....just look at the hazardous work of those men pushing carts full of waste on that overhead gantry! would have been a health and safety nightmare today!

Flappit Quarry - Cullingworth
 I am grateful to Chris Mace, who provided some of the information for this article. Chris is currently undertaking an historical study of quarries in the Oxenhope and Warley areas. If you wish to contact him, his  email address is:

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