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Hannaford's 1920 sale catalogue of Coombe property makes clear that the Quarry was "in the occupation" of Mr Nott on a lease for ten years from 29th September 1919. So 1920 is confirmed as the purchase date).

In the 1920's Mr A Nott put in a stone crushing plant. The material was hauled where required by traction engines and ten ton trucks. The trucks had four iron wheels and caused a great deal of damage to the roads, which at that time were waterbound surfaced. Later the transport was replaced by steam wagons which had rubber tyres. Later still an overhead ropeway was put up to carry the materials to a site adjoining the A373, two or three hundred yards West of Newbridge. The stream adjoining Coombe Quarry was forded in the early 1920's it was piped across the road.

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."

Foden Lorry

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. 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.

(FD) was put on a five ton Foden steam lorry, where the assistant's task was to steer beside the driver who fired, changed gear and controlled the speed. When the 5-tonners were replaced by 6-tonners, it was the assistant who fired and changed gear, whereas the driver controlled the speed and steered. There was seldom any confusion between driver and assistant, in spite of the apparent scope for misunderstanding. This was just as well as (FD) was put on a lorry as assistant his first morning, hauling tarmac. The 6-tonners had three gears, and second and third could be engaged on the move by revving up the engine. For first gear (always used when going up or down steep hills) the lorry was always bought to a halt. Coasting was often done but was risky as the brakes were uncertain. There was a rope-brake that you wound on, and a footbrake (later, two footbrakes - one that was "clicked on" with a ratchet action and the other was then progressively applied). Trailers also had rope brakes that could be wound on for descents.

In spite of the need to work as a team, some of the drivers were rough on their young assistants and "some of the boys used to cry their hearts out." By the age of 19, however, (FD) had been promoted driver, and was away from the bullying.

In the 1920s, the foreman was a 6ft 3in man called Bill Welch with a stiff leg and a thirst; he was reputed to drink a bottle of scotch in the Angel between the hours of one and two pm. Bill Welch did not like Archie Nott's methods of payment, if a man's pile of cash was a penny short, he would take a penny off the pile due to the next man. Bill persuaded him to engage a clerk. This was to be Bill Vernon, who at that time lived in South Molton and rode a motorbike, earning the nickname "leatherneck". His office was in Black Dog in Witheridge Square. When "Kissing Kate", also referred to as "Old Partridge", came down to the quarry to preach to the men, Bill Welch refused to allow her to preach during the hours of work. Rumour has it that her nickname originated from her habit of kissing every woman she met and shaking hands with the men. Hours of work were 7am to 5pm, except that on Saturdays work stopped at 4pm. This was eventually changed to 1pm on Saturdays as a result of Union pressure elsewhere. There was a rate of nine pence half penny an hour, and if rain stopped work, the men not only received no pay, but nor were they allowed to go home either. In bad weather, a weekly wage might only come to ten or eleven shillings. The police checked the stock in the explosives magazine monthly. The workers all had Stone goggles, but nothing was done about the dust.

In the 1920's at the quarry it was all hand drilling; one man turned the drill and two men did the striking, but later on, Homlan's of Cambourne brought up a steam drill driven by a traction engine. This proved successful until the coming of the compressed-air drill with its compressor. Bill Baker, the blacksmith, used to sharpen the drills. At the quarry face two men worked together at loading a skip, the rate was eight tons an hour. The skip was then pushed on rails down to the crusher. A day's work was hard, and it you came to work at one minute past seven, then no work counted for wages until seven thirty. Once or twice men tried to organise to obtain better conditions, but it was unless, as Archie Nott would not give way and, had the men struck, there were plenty of the unemployed who would have been willing to be taken on in their place.

Clayhidon Parish Council 

The minutes of the council meeting held on 14.2.1941 show an Application from Archibald Nott of Witheridge asking for council permission to quarry approximately 5,000 cubic yards of stone at Grays Hill, for the War Department contracts on payment of royalty of 3 pence per cubic yard. (Permission granted)

The engine that drove The Coombe Quarry machinery was called "Shamrock," and it was Archie Nott's new engine, "Sylvia", that tipped over at the top of Coombe Ball, through not chocking up to rope up trailer. (A.B)

(A.B) At Coombe Quarry, George Ash lit the fire in the stationary engine and Bill Dart (the son of the Cutcliffe bailiff) led the horse that pulled the skips from the quarry face to the crusher before the winch was installed.

(A.B) Jack Winter, Bert Stenner, Bert Chapple and Dick Tanner drove for Notts.

(WV) was 22 when in 1922 he became Secretary/Office Manager to Mr Archibald Notts Quarry and Haulage business. Until (WV)'s arrival, Mr Notts accounts were kept on scraps of paper and even cigarette packets. WV. used to bring over to (OV) the timesheets and the total sum in cash, and (OV) had to put all the wage envelopes ready for Mr Nott to take down on Saturday mid-morning for the payout. (OV) also recalls the men coming home in the Lorries from Brayford covered in fleas after living in the vans out at the Quarries for a week. (OV) recalls many Witheridge men worked at Brayford but that nearly all those who worked at Coombe Quarry came form Drayford. She recalls that "old George Reed" was in one of Nott's caravans on Winsford Hill doing a road job there living on "a bit of bread and rusty bacon fat."

(OV) Archie Nott was responsible for his big steam engine turning over on Coombe Ball, and Bill Stenner was the driver.

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