Stone me! Quarry supplying about half of our crushed stone celebrates its 100th anniversary

Lauren and Carly, third and fourth generations of the Samways family. Members of the family have worked at Swanworth Quarry, in Worth Matravers, for 100 years.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: December 20, 2021 | Updated: 21st December 2021

A quarry which supplies about half of Dorset’s required crushed stone is marking its 100th anniversary.

Swanworth Quarry, in Worth Matravers, has grown from a two-man operation to employing hundreds over the years as well as producing up to 450,000 tonnes per annum.

Now owned by Suttle Stone Quarries, a division of the Suttles group of companies, the crushed stone is used as a sub-base for construction schemes, rock armour on sea defence works, gabions and decorative chippings.

Although the quarry has changed hands over the years, four generations of the Samways family have been a permanent working fixture at the quarry since 1921.

Thomas Samways was the first to work at the site in the early 1920s as a digger.

His son, Pete, worked at the quarry for more than 40 years as a shovel driver, along with his brothers.

Carly (third generation) and her daughter Lauren (fourth generation) currently work in the quarry’s weighbridge office.

Crushed stone from the quarry is sold to both trade and residential customers for a range of end uses from housing and civil engineering to private garden and driveway projects.

Carly said: “My family has worked at the quarry for 100 years – the quarry is in our family’s blood!

“I love working here.

“It has seen a few changes over the years, although when Suttles took it over in 2011, they woke it up again.

“It is a real privilege to work here.”

Originally, Swanworth Quarry was a two-man underground quarry called ‘Sheepsleights’, operating around the early 1920s.

According to a book – ‘Swanworth’ by David Pushman – it was ‘quarried by Billy Brown, and, when the mood took him, Buff Bower!’

The quarry later became ‘Worth Quarries Limited’ in 1923, with its head office in Bournemouth, producing road stone: broken blocks for foundation, crushed and graded chippings and tarmacadam.

One large contract in 1924 was to supply material for the foundation of the lower valley road between Corfe Castle and Coombe Junction, replacing the cart track that was there previously.

From 1933, Swanworth Quarries Limited took over the site, at its peak producing 600 tons per day.

The quarry changed hands again in 1980 to Tarmac Roadstone Limited, increasing to a peak of 450,000 tonnes per year in 1985.

Suttle Stone Quarries, part of the local Suttles group of companies, acquired Swanworth Quarry ten years ago.

Suttles employs some 120 staff locally including 55 at Suttle Stone Quarries.

Some of the Suttles team at Swanworth Quarry today are pictured.

The Suttle family has worked in the natural stone and quarrying business on the Isle of Purbeck since the 1920s, before purchasing the Swanworth Quarry in 2011.

The family-run business says it has sustainability at the core of its values.

It is working towards becoming carbon neutral and has made investments in the business reducing CO2 emissions by around 60 tonnes per year.

They include:

  • Investing in a growing fleet of 19 electric and hybrid vehicles and plant
  • Upgrading the quarry’s crusher from diesel to an electric-powered engine
  • Installing a solar panel system that powers the quarry’s workshop and crusher.

Suttles has provided crushed stone to many high-profile projects in the area including Compass Point housing (Swanage), Pier Head development (Swanage), Priests’ Way regeneration (Langton Matravers), Durlston Country Park Learning Centre and footpath renewal (Swanage), and the Dorset Innovation Park (Winfrith).

John Suttle, Suttles’ Director, said: “The quarry plays an important role locally.

“It boosts the local economy and employment levels; it significantly minimises the carbon footprint of Dorset’s crushed stone market (compared to bringing in stone from other areas) and keeps aggregate costs lower for local businesses and residents.

“We are very proud of the quarry’s 100 year history and we are currently in planning for the next phase of operations.

“As well as supplying around 50 per cent of Dorset’s crushed stone, we are also keen to support community and charity initiatives, too.

“For example, we donated materials for the extension at Corfe Village Hall, as well as stone sub-base for Dorset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Greengage’ project, too.

“Suttles also sponsors and helps to organise the annual ‘Big Night Out’, a local night of clubbing for people with learning disabilities, attended by over 400 people from around Dorset.”

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