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Bardon Hill Quarries

1858-1918 An introduction part 1

William Marshall in his 1798 General Survey, from personal experience, observation, and enquiry of the rural economy of England tells his readers that there abounded in Leicestershire ‘yeomanry of the higher class’ who had ‘travelled much and mixed constantly with one another’. The 19th century development of the Leicestershire quarries of Bardon Hill and Croft owes much to the initiative and resourcefulness of this local yeomanry of the higher class, as represented by the Ellises, Everards, and Pochins, nonconformist in their religious sympathies and liberal in their politics.

The earliest known printed reference to quarrying at Bardon Hill seems to be in the topographer William Burton’s 1622 Description of Leicester Shire. The commercial development of Bardon Hill stone, however, was made possible by the opening in 1833 of the Leicester and Swannington Railway, the first steam-worked public railway conveying both passengers and freight in the Midlands. The success of the line was largely due to the initiative and enterprise of the Ellis family of Beaumont Leys, who were active quakers. George and Robert Stephenson were consultants in building the railway and at its opening the first train carried banners promising cheap coal and granite, warm hearths and good roads. The granite for the good roads was to come from Bardon and other local quarries.

The Leicester and Swannington railway prospered and in 1845 it was purchased by the Midland railway and the Ellis influence expanded correspondingly. John Ellis became MP for Leicester, Mayor of the borough, and Chairman of the Board of the Midland railway. His son, Edward Shipley Ellis, became chairman of the Midland railway in 1873 and continued the company’s quaker values.

Joseph Ellis II, whilst continuing the family tradition of farming, and being a director of the Leicester and Swannington railway, entered into partnership with Breedon Everard of Groby, first as coal merchants and then extending their interest in granite.

When Joseph Ellis II died in 1857, his sons, James and Joseph joined Breedon Everard, now the senior partner and in 1858 they leased the Bardon quarries of Robert Jacomb-Hood II, of Bardon Hall.

Breedon Everard now abandoned farming, and made his home at Bardon Hill House. The affairs of the Bardon estate at this time were in some disarray, and in 1864 it passed into the hands of William Perry Herrick of Beaumanor who renegotiated the lease of Bardon quarry to Ellis and Everard. The quarry was now developed and mechanised with the introduction of Charles G Mountain of Birmingham’s steam crusher. Workmen’s cottages were built and a school provided, both at the joint expense of Ellis and Everard and the Perry Herrick’s.

In 1898 this paternalism was extended to the provision of a parish church and a contribution to the clergyman’s stipend. The architect of school, houses, and church was John Breedon Everard, Breedon Everard’s second son, who worked for the Midland railway. He became a partner in the firm of Ellis and Everard in 1874 and was responsible for the design of the magnificent Bardon mill house which was doubled in size in 1902, thereby giving Bardon an industrial building which is still deemed to be ‘large and spectacular’.

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