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24 September 2014
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Much more than a hole in the ground
Delabole Quarry
 

The north Cornwall village of Delabole grew up around the world famous slate quarry.

Delabole slate has been mined in the area since the Medieval Times.

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Delabole Slate
Find out more about Delabole Slate, its uses, history and future plans.

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FACTS

+ Delabole Slate has been used in buildings for more than 600 years.

+ The company is based in the Pengelly area of Delabole.

+ To this day the majority of the workers at the quarry live in Delabole.

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Delabole Slate has been used as a building material for well over 600 years, and has been quarried continuously since the early 17th century, when Carew in his survey of Cornwall wrote 'in substance thin, in colour fair, in lasting long and generally carrieth good regard'.

Old machinery
Old machinery exhibit at Delabole Slate's headquarters

During the reign of Elizabeth I, the five quarries that existed within the vicinity of the present pit assumed considerable importance, delivering slate 'throughout the realm, and even exporting it by sea to Brittany and the Netherlands'.

In 1841, the five quarries formed themselves into a single controlled unit, and the Old Delabole Slate Company was formed, becoming the present Limited liability company in 1898.

King George VI
King George Vi on a visit to the Delabole Slate Quarry

The Old Delabole Slate Company had a long and chequered history before finally being liquidated in 1977 by the company's bankers.

After this, the quarry moved into corporate hands but this era was short lived and in June 1999 a management buy-out returned the quarry to local ownership.

Looking down Delabole Slate Quarry
Delabole Slate Quarry as it looks today

The Delabole Slate Company Ltd is now, once again, a private Cornish company.

"The slate quarry probably started in Medieval Times," says George Hamilton, the Managing Director of The Delabole Slate Company. "The village grew up around the industry. The quarry itself is about half a mile long and a quarter of a mile across. The quarry is around 400 feet deep."

Delabole slate
Delabole Slate is still shipped all over the United Kingdom

Over the years the slate from Delabole has been shipped all over the world. Now business is mainly contained within the UK with a lot of slate remaining in the south west.

The mining for slate in Delabole has changed over the years.

"It is not like it used to be," smiles George. "There would be lots of men with digging tools using dynamite too. It is all fairly quiet now and more environmentally friendly. We only have about five people in the actual quarry. What they do is drill down a vertical hole, then they put in two little horizontal holes to join up. Then they pass wire through the holes and join it up. And cut it out that way."

The slate is used to create indoor and outdoor ornaments
The finished product - the slate can be found in many gardens

The Delabole Slate Company has many plans for the future. George Hamilton is hoping that in the next few years the area will have its own visitor centre.

With many old pictures and artefacts the centre would be able to tell more about the fascinating story of slate from Delabole and the men who mined for it.

Meet Wesley Mills, Delabole's old meter reader
Chris Hore is the village webmaster
Visit the Gaia Energy Centre in Delabole

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