Alabaster mine

Hurcott on the north side of the River Cary is on Keuper marl, unlike the rest of the parish which is on lias limestone. The Keuper marl contains strata of gypsum in the form of nodules of alabaster. It is thought the alabaster was exploited in Roman times, and there is a Roman 'villa' beside the spring at Hurcott. The Romans used the alabaster for decorative carvings and in the form of gysum it was used to preserve bodies in coffins.

In medieval times alabaster was very popular for religious figurines, but there is no evidence that the Hurcott mine was in use then. Since Victorian times, gypsum has been the main ingredient of plaster-of-Paris, used to make casts for broken limbs.

 

The Hurcott mine was used then and up until 1953 to extract the gypsum which was crushed and taken away by train to be converted to plaster-of-Paris and for use in paper-making, paint, schoolroom chalk and many other industrial products. It was an open-cast mine and much of the work was done by hand.

This photo was provided by Mrs M Martin of South Hill. The men are thought to be Mr Martin, George Webber, Tom Lodge and Ernest Strang.

Miss Abbott, daughter of the family who owned the mine, was an artist. The nodules which showed veins of pink and green were selected and she carved them into pots and bowls, before polishing them to a gentle translucent finish.

The mine closed in 1953 when the workings became too deep to be economic. The  area was filled in with landfill materials and is now mainly under trees.