My Introduction to Whinstone
We were chatting away about whinstone when he said “A new sill visitor centre is to be built on the site of the existing centre and YHA hostel at Once Brewed, Bardon Mill, adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre along Hadrian’s Wall”. I love getting a chance to talk to Bill Purvis, because we both know so much about subjects that the other knows so little about!
I get to learn about rock formations, quarry operations, wagon safety features, how to lay roads and so much more and because Bill is passionate and knowledgeable about his subject, I find it all fascinating. It helps of course that he can explain it all in layman’s terms! I’m all about building websites, producing videos, promoting small businesses and keeping them safe at the same time – so what I understand about Bill’s world could be written on the back of a matchbox! Well – maybe that used to be true. I’ve got a ways to go yet, but I’m improving!
Photo of Hadrians Wall by Jimmy McIntyre – which Hollywood blockbuster was filmed here?
What is Whinstone?
Whinstone is a term used in the quarrying industry to describe any hard dark-coloured rock. It is the main material used in all construction work in Northumberland. Because it is available locally the haulage is relatively cheap compared to hauling from quarries up to 150 miles away. As it is common, it is frequently used for driveways as well.
Bill’s company D Renton & Sons (Alnwick) get their whinstone from quarries in the Holy Island sill and the Alnwick sill.
Up in the Alnwick, Belford and Berwick areas of Northumberland you get a blue variety which can be used for decorative gravel. It’s ideal for drives and the like because it is hard wearing.
Further down, in the County Durham area, whinstone is found mainly in the areas of the Pennines. Limestone quarries are predominantly down the coastal strip, and commonly known as dolomite.
Durham County Council have an interesting page that shows a mill from 1915 where whinstone was excavated – I may not have known the term, but it’s clearly been around for a long time!
I’m not sure what the miners of the early 20th century would have made of this, but although Bill’s company supply and deliver all types of crushed aggregates, for domestic and commercial customers, the blue whinstone featured here is one of the star attractions in the range of decorative gravels they have available.
So, tell me, is there anything you’d like to know about North Northumberland or the construction industry? I know a man who knows!
What do you know? Why is whinstone called whinstone?
Put your answers in the comments. I’m sure we have plenty of other local experts!