Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:20 UK
Quarrying away the Malvern Hills
Quarrying at North Hill - one of the biggest quarries on the Malvern Hills

It's hard to believe in these more environmentally aware times that once there were more than a dozen quarries taking stone out of the Malvern Hills.

Indeed quarrying was still going on at Gullet Quarry near Castlemorton Common in the 1970s

The scars of the quarrying are still clearly visible today.

It took an Act of Parliament, and the designation of the hills as an area of outstanding natural beauty, to stop the quarrying.

Malvern stone was much sought after at the turn of the 20th century, becuase of its exceptional hardness which made it very suitable for use in road building.

Even then the quarrying was controversial - the famous writer George Bernard Shaw wrote to the Times complaining about the effect the work was having on the Malvern skyline:

"The approach to Malvern from the great plain of the Severn, with the hills displayed on the western horizon, has always had a peculiar charm. It now has a peculiar horror.

Quarry on the Malvern Hills
Hayslad Quarry in the 1930s when it was still being worked

Visitors from Worcester used to see the unspoiled North Hill with an indescribable pleasure. They now see it hideously disfigured by three gigantic scoops reaching so nearly to the top of the ridge that they bring home with a shock the appalling conviction that before very long the scoop will go right through, leaving a couple of enormous jagged teeth of hill, which will presently be blasted away in their turn changing the Malvern Hills into the Malvern Flats."

Buying the rights

Ironically it was the setting up of the Malvern Hills Conservators, in 1884, to protect the hills, that contributed to the growth in quarrying.

Local landowners were allowed to maintain their quarrying rights in return for agreeing to the setting up of the Conservators.

They then leased these rights to private firms who began the quarrying.

Quarry working in the 1930s
Machinery working in the Earnslaw quarry in the 1930s

In the 1930s, at the height of the great depression, there was a real split in the town between those who wished to stop the quarrying to protect the hills, and those who wanted to keep the quarries open, because they provided jobs for local people.

In the end, the Conservators had to buy out the quarrying rights in North Malvern and Little Malvern, taking out a loan to do it.

After the second world war, the Malverns were declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the Labour Government, and the drilling and blasting all but stopped on the Malverns.

Quarrying at Gullet quarry though continued until 1977.

In Pictures: The quarries - then and now

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