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Born in 1909, Mr Davey (FD) joined the firm of Archibald Nott, quarry owners and contractors in 1928, as a drivers mate at the age of 19. He was married two years later, in 1930, and lived in East Emlett until 1932, at Marchweek until 1937, then at Bow Cottage, Gunhole and Butts Close from 1947. He retired early from Notts in July 1976 due to ill health.

As the Lorries were based at Brayford Quarries, Mr Davey did not travel to work daily, instead he cycled off early on Monday mornings with a week's food, and returned home on Saturday afternoon. At Brayford, up to 34 men lived during the week in rough living vans, on iron wheels, and with flock mattresses on board beds. They were often infested with rats and fleas, and one Sunday Bill Vernon was sent down to fumigate them. (FD) cannot recall any pub at Brayford, the nearest being at Yarde Down. They had to make their own entertainment during the week, playing cards and making music with voices, accordion and mouth organ, but it was a hard week parting for a newly married couple.

Notts always laid some men off for the winter due to lack of work, and re-engaged them again in April. However, Mr Davey was only laid off on one occasion. Drivers were usually more secure in their employment as Notts did not like to contract haulage to others. It was hard work, but "if you were in work, you were lucky." Sometimes at Brayford, the weather was too bad for work, and then wages stopped. Even though the men were at Brayford, it was a case of no work, no pay. When this happened, some lost the little they had at cards. Mr Nott was a hard man to work for, but knowledgeable in all the various jobs in his firm, having started himself from scratch. Some feared him, and "some ran away when they saw him coming."

Notts used steam Lorries until 1936, when they changed to diesels, part of the reason was the heavy tax on solid tyred vehicles. Before (FD) joined the firm, and before the Lorries, Notts used traction engines (a Burrell and a Marshall) with trains of wagons and had steamrollers (Aveling and Porter, Burrell, Tasker (the Tasker is now in Tasker's museum). (FD) recalls the Burrell steam Lorries (with hydraulic tipping) that he drove. "The driver sat at one side and the steersman at the other." Your lorry was your own and no one ever drove anyone else's lorry. You did your own cleaning and polishing, but Notts employed a fitter for repairs (Mr Lawrence, 63 Butts Close, held this post for 20 years). The Fodens used to have one big gas light in the middle and an oil light by each wing. There were also two small oil lamps with red glass at the rear. You used to wash out the boiler once a fortnight. From cold, it took two hours to get steam up, but during the week, the fires 'were banked down' at night and you could fire up in thirty minutes the next morning. Steam power was safe, and Mr Davey recalls no explosion. The danger came from the comparatively narrow solid tyres (some front tyres replaced about 1929 to semi-pneumatics) and the heavy weight. The Fodens were almost un-driveable on ice. They weighted nine tons unladen, and fifteen or sixteen tons laden, and this sometimes proved too much for the weak edges and shoulders of some of the roads of the time. Mr Davey recalls how once he was driving with Frank Gibbs near Driver's Cott on Exmoor, when they got too near the edge of the road, the nearside wheels sunk in the soft surface, and the lorry turned over on its side. Fire, of course, was the danger, but fortunately, both crawled out safe. They then ran to a nearby cottage for buckets of water to put out the fire in the engine. Later, a traction engine came and pulled the lorry upright, a little straightening of the cab stays and the steering mechanism and the lorry was as sound as before, so strongly were they made.

Water had to be taken on about every twenty miles (Brayford-Challacombe-Brayford could be done on one load of water). Drivers shared their knowledge of watering places, but when setting off for a new destination, they relied on picking up water where they could. They carried about 40ft of hose for this purpose) It was unlawful to take on water standing on a bridge. Once Mr Davey took on water between Instow and Bideford, but it was salt water, and this would not steam properly and corroded the valves. Most of the best steam coal they used came from the Forest of Dean; with anything of a lesser quality, it was hard to keep a good head of steam. You would "clinker out" twice a day. Much work was done for Somerset County Council and for Borough Councils such as Bideford and Ilfracombe. Amking up the road from Winsford to Brendon Two Gates, was a joint job with Scott's spread over five summers. After the Foden steam lorry (FD) drove the same Foden diesel lorry from 1936 to 1958. During the 1939-1945 war large quantities of stone were hauled from Holmingham Quarry for use in the construction of the airfields at Chivenor, Winkleigh and Dunkeswell. Notts also got contracts for army work on Salisbury Plain.

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The Brayford Quarries produced not only road stone, but also appreciable quantities of building stone, Somerset County Council used a lot, many of the road walls in and around Dulverton for example.

The Aerial Ropeway from Coombe Quarry to Notts Depot at Newbridge Hill was in place and working when (FD) joined the firm in 1928, and it probably began about 1924. (FD) suggests there were probably 10 to 12 trestles. He recalls it was Mr R. M. Stone who, as County Surveyor, fell out with Archie Nott not only over the use of county roads around Coombe Quarry (so necessitating the ropeway) but also over Bill Welch, the Coombe Quarry foreman, whom Stone wanted sacked. Nott refused, and the County Surveyor boycotted Nott's business for sometime thereafter. Mr Davey believes not only because lorries had problems with Hare's Hill and Coombe Ball (and were probably forbidden to use Drayford Bridge) but because a decision was taken to set up a tar plant, and the main road was clearly more convenient for communications. The Ropeway was about one mile in length, with trestles on concrete bases every hundred yards or so. A Shute at Coombe filled the buckets where there were screens and crushers. The Ropeway ceased working in about 1934, when the weighbridge and portable engine went to Scott's Holmingham Quarry at Cove. While it worked, road stone continued to be taken by lorry from Coombe, the depot only dealt with tarmac. It may have been because of the extra strain put on Newbridge Hill by the tarmac Lorries, that the village side of the hill was concreted in the early 1930's. The pulley wheels at the tops of the trestles had to be, they carried about 40ft of hose greased, and one day when Mr Rice was travelling along in one of the buckets carrying out this greasing his mates for a laugh stopped the endless rope and left him there for a time.

Although the quarries were at Brayford and Mr A Nott lived at Thelbridge Parish, the firm was known as a Witheridge firm. Photographs of Foden Steam lorries show TA7966 lettered "A Nott, Haulage Contractor, Witheridge" and TT8128 lettered "A Nott, Haulage Contractor, Witheridge"

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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