Hamlin, Timothy (b.1901)

Timothy Hamlin was born at Norton-sub-Hamdon in 1901.  He left school at the age of thirteen.  In 1914 he became an office boy at the Ham Hill and Doulting Stone Company in Norton.  He left the firm after about eighteen months to work for Sparrows of Martock, a firm of iron founders and wheelwrights, where his older brother, Charles, was already employed.


His pay in his first job was just one shilling a week, and the rise to 12/6d at Sparrows made him feel wealthy.  The company made tent pegs for the army and wheels of every kind.

A Mendip stone quarry c.1890. A Mendip stone quarry c.1890.
Sound File
Listen to Timothy Hamlin - 1.47MB Duration 3:12 min.

MG: Can you tell me about what the quarry was like?


TH: The quarries, oh yes.  Now they’m, if you can go up and see the quarries now they’re nothing like they used to be. Um, the quarrymen, they were wonderful men in my opinion, the quarrymen.  They used to have a, a pickaxe, that was a long pick on about so long and it was about, about three-quarters of an inch wide, the pick, and they were only one arm down, one pick you know, not a, there was a little bit on the top to balance it, but they’d cut a, cut a channel in the stone because you know stone is in beds... do you want this?


You know the stone is in beds, a sand bed underneath, and depends on the, the depth of the stone, the deeper they go down the deeper, the deeper the stone was and some of them was that deep, marvellous things, and I don’t know, I don’t know how they did it, but these quarrymen they’d, they’d pick away for that for hours and they’d cut a channel down where they wanted it and they’d cut a channel across there to cut off and huge iron bars and, and drive them underneath to lift the stone off the bed.


But you know, they’d cut a channel about that wide with these picks, they’d drop them down. It was marvellous how they did it, drop them down and chop off bits and bits and bits until they got a channel through down to the bed, that is, where the sand is between the layers of stone.


You know, stone do sit in beds. Bluestone anyway is in beds. Well this was up there, and they had huge iron bars to push in under to, to lift it off of the bed, and then of course if they lifted it off the bed they could put something under it to get the chain underneath for the crane to pull up.  I can remember, I can remember er going up to...


My father used to do as I said, he used to do the, the maintenance jobs and he used to shift the cranes, move them from one place to another, and some of those cranes were enormous, heck of a height to  go out over the, out over the quarry, the quarry.  Course the crane had to be far enough back to be safe, and these huge cranes would go right over the lorry, to ease up these stones, and they had steam cranes, steam engines… cranes.  I remember, with father, standing in one of these steam cranes, frightened meself to, to bits “Woo, woa, wah!” and the coals shaking like anything, pulling up these huge blocks of stone.  'Cause they weighed several tons.


MG: Where was the stone worked?


TH: Pardon?


MG: Where was the stone worked?  Did it go back to a mason’s yard?


TH: Oh yes, it was that’s, that’s where the, at, on the Hill. Actually all of it was on the Hill, the quarries and the stone yard and, of course, the, the saws and the, and the masons, it was all on the top, it is there now still, the masons. There’s a mason’s shop still there and I suppose a lot of the other is too, but of course the, the yard itself is gone to glory, I suppose.


Well they had saws; they had vertical saws, go up and down.  They put this block on the, on the moving table, the tables like, like they do today, put the block of stone on there and weight it were they wanted it to keep it steady and they’d put several saws in this huge frame saw, about as wide as that.  They’d put several saws and they’d cut down several ...[] as well, and at that time they had, oh they had about four, four or five of those, made by Sibley’s of Parrett Works.


They had four or five of those and of course they could saw these down, like for window bars, anything like that, big stuff, and they had a Ruston & Hornby engine to drive it.  They also had a, they also had a planing machine, you know, windows, mullioned windows, they’d plane those, plane the mullioned windows in that one.


Otherwise they had to be cut by hand. But of course they couldn’t plane the sills and they couldn’t plane the heads because they had mounts on them where the ...where the mullioned windows came, but they’d do the mullioned windows or any plain moulding, planing machines they had up there at that time.


MG: When did those arrive?


TH: Pardon?


MH: When did the planing machines arrive?


TH: I don’t know, I don’t know. They were there when I, I was there.


MG: So what did you do next?  When you left the office there, you were how old?


TH: Oh yes, yes, I, I used to have to go to the Hill pretty well every day, actually, it was an excuse for me to run round Stoke and bring the paper back for the boss, which I did.  But at that time you know I could run all the way up the Hill and all across the Hill without stopping, and that’s Norton side, then run across the Hill to the Stoke side, run down over the Hill to the paper shop, [Nott’s] paper shop it was, and back through the lanes to Norton.  Course half of that was an excuse to fetch the paper, which I did, and, oh, when I, well I left there eventually.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Mary Gryspeerdt in March 1990. Photograph ©SMES. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.