It seems I’m on a history kick, where I enjoy historical research that educates me about our past.
Earlier this year I listened to a talk – Ragstone to Riches – by historian and archaeologist Simon Elliott. His talk was on how Kentish Ragstone, a very hard grey limestone found in seams in Kent, was used by the Romans as a major building resource for London.
Around AD200 the Romans decided to surround Londinium with a protective wall. Large parts of that wall remain, with a prominent part at Tower Hill near the Tower of London. To build the wall the Romans needed a source of building material. They found it in seams of Kentish Ragstone, which they quarried, then shipped by boat into the heart of London via the River Medway and River Thames.
Simon Elliott’s research identified the quarries they were used by the Romans, concluding that the quarrying, dressing, and shipping of the Ragstone was on an industrial scale, where the Roman military were key to the smooth running of the process. Simon calculated that they shipped more than one million blocks of ragstone, quarried near Maidstone, in Kent – amounting to some 1750 boatloads – up the Thames, and set about building a massive wall around the city. The remains of a medium sized ship was unearthed, containing ragstone, during building excavations.
While the locations of quarries has changed, the exact same seam is still used today by The Gallagher Group, the company which owns the last two ragstone quarries in Kent at Hermitage Lane, Maidstone and Blaise Farm, West Malling. Hermitage Quarry supplies everything from quarried aggregates to blocks for walling and high-quality finished stone for use in London and across the South East.
Here’s a photo of the Roman wall at Tower Hill, courtesy of Rept0n1x in Wikipedia. This is followed by photos of some of Simon’s slide show of his talk. [Click on images to expand]