Hessle Chalk Quarries
Quarries and Whiting Works
Chalk has been quarried at Hessle for centuries. The first chalk to be quarried was alongside the foreshore where access was easier but over the centuries the quarries gradually moved inland towards Hesslewood and beyond Ferriby Road. Hessle chalk was quarried in pre-Domesday times and may have been used to provide foundations for the church. Records exist showing that chalk from Hessle was used to pave the streets and build the walls of Hull. Much of the land along the Foreshore where the quarries were was owned by the Chartehouse, which received it from the de la Pole family in mediaeval times. The land was subsequently leased to a number of people over the years who exploited its natural resources.
Excavations in the 1920s for the development of the Square suggest that Southgate is a very old route (probably the ancient broad military highway mentioned in a Charter of King Aethelred) with chalk foundations. Hessle chalk was used in the building of Anlaby Road in the early fourteenth century and for most of the roads in the area. It was used for the building of the Hull-Hessle turnpike road in 1826, and chalk from the railway cutting at Hessle was used as ballast when laying the tracks to Hull and Brough.
In the twentieth century quarrying took place beyond Boothferry Road at Humberfield, which has now been filled in and re-developed. The quarrying continued until the second half on the twentieth century with the last load of chalkby rail from Hessle went to Earle’s cement works in Wilmington in July 1970.
Within the quarries there
was a tramway and then a railway system used to transport the chalk to the whiting works on the foreshore. Hessle chalk was shipped across the Atlantic to make cement in the USA.
When Joseph Pease came to live at Hesslewood, in the second half of the eighteenth century, he also had in mind the nearby quarries which would provide raw material for his paint works in Hull.
Chalk from the quarries was processed at the black tarred brick Whiting mill on the foreshore close to the Humber Bridge was built around 1810 replacing another building which had used horse power to turn the huge chalk crushing stones. It was a six storey, five sailed mill, built to a design of John Smeaton, and is the only one of its type left in the county which retains some of its original workings. The sails were removed in 1925 and the machinery converted to be powered by gas.
Among the companies that worked the quarries were Hearfiled's, Marshall's and Earle's.
The building was restored by the East Riding Council and was opened to visitors for a time but is no longer open. Around the mill and in the old quarries there are many fascinating reminders of the industry that was carried on hereabouts and of the men who toiled there.
The East Riding Council is now redeveloping the area of the Country Park in order to make it more accessible and interesting to the public.