Digger Man

Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Wed 31 Mar 2021

Stone in the Family

Continuing my look back at another of my articles previously published in Earthmovers Magazine, brought to life here on the internet, un-edited with alternative photos and video footage.

Purbeck Stone, which is found on the south coast of England, around the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, is probably one of the best-known varieties of stone in the country. It was first quarried there during Roman times and continues to this day.

Stone in the Family

One family business in the area, Haysom Purbeck Stone, recently celebrated an historic milestone of 100 years of trading, during which time 11 generations of the Haysom family have been involved in the quarry extraction process and the highly skilled stone masonry work.

Mark Haysom is the current Managing Director and the 11th generation family member to be working the famous Purbeck stone, having taken over from his father Treleven, when he retired from physical work some four years ago.

Haysom quarry the Purbeck-Portland stone beds at 4 different sites locally. These quarries consist of sedimentary limestones which were formed in the Jurrasic/Cretaceous eras, around 130-140 million years ago, which contain numerous beds of stone with very different colours whilst all containing freshwater fossil shells.

Photo: Courtesy of the Haysom family archives. 

Talking about the material Mark said, “These limestones are generally hard wearing and suitable for any application ranging from internal paving to architectural masonry with a medieval precedent, which includes structural columns/paving and effigies, which can be found in Westminster Abbey, and columns in Salisbury Cathedral and Wells Cathedral amongst others.

Most recently, Westminster Abbey converted the Triforium space into the Queens diamond Jubilee Gallery to display artifacts, in what was the first external additions in 250 years, and we (Haysom Purbeck Stone) supplied the stone for the display cases, entrance paving and commemorative plaques. Other recent high-profile projects we have been involved with include a new courtyard at Eton College, paving in Windsor Castle and Rochester Cathedral”.

While the company has supplied stone to most of the English Cathedrals, churches and numerous royal properties, stone has also been supplied to large office buildings, and a variety of projects across the UK, they have also sent stone as far away as the United States of America and Japan.

Photo: Courtesy of the Haysom Family archive, showing how rock used to be extracted using a Cat 977L track shovel.

For many years now the company has run heavy equipment to assist in the extraction of the stone and to move it around at the various quarry and yard locations, back in the day dragline cranes and large heavyweight tracked loading shovels were the order of the day. Today though the modern fleet of machines consists of 2 x Manitou 732 telescopic handlers, 1 x Claas 630 Scorpion telehandler, 1 x CASE CX130D hydraulic excavator, 1 x Doosan DX225LC hydraulic excavator, 1 X Bell B25D ADT, 1 x Volvo L90G loading shovel, these machines are supported by four counterbalance forklift trucks.

One machine that has had a constant presence in the business for the past 25 years is the venerable JCB backhoe loader, the previous model of choice was the 3CX, “They are brilliantly versatile!” Said Mark, adding, “We just find them to be such an all-round useful machine for general handling, and of course they offer us the ability to travel between our various site locations on the road under its own power which means more flexibility for our operations”.

Towards the end of last year Haysom took the decision to invest in a larger 4CX which was supplied by local dealer Holt JCB out of their Blanford Forum depot. This machine is the Haysom’s first venture into this heavier, equal sized wheel model, a decision that was based on the fact that they are usually carrying relatively heavy loads on the front end, and as such with the smaller front wheels on the 3CX models they struggled with tyre longevity. Talking about this latest model Mark said, “The 4CX gives us an uprated and stronger front axle, and in addition the ability to specify more industrial-lug tyres whilst the rear-steering feature also helps with tyre wear too, whilst offering us increased mobility in tight areas”.

The tyres Mark refers too are high tech Michelin BibLoad 440/80 R 28’s, which are technically the hard surface version of the manufacturers well proven XMCL all-terrain backhoe tyre, are ideally suited to this application where they typically spend around 60% of their time on hard surfaces such as the concrete yard areas and while roading between sites and 40% on off-road muddy areas.

These innovative, industrial grip radial tyres feature the block diamond tread pattern which provides a larger surface area in contact with the ground, reducing vibration, but still offering optimal traction in sticky situations.   

The impressive JCB 4CX, which tips the scales at 8585kgs, is powered by JCB’s own 4-cylinder, 4.4 litre, EcoMAX engine which is Stage V emissions compliant and offers a power output rating of 81kw (108hp) @2200rpm.

This particular example is fitted with front bucket hydraulic quick coupler which they use to fit a variety of modified buckets and attachments that they use in the quarry and around the yard area, including a riddling style bucket which allows and fine materials to drop out through the bottom.

Mark demonstrated the benefits of this bucket as he delivered a few bucket loads of stone into the hopper and onto the conveyor belt which feeds stone to the stonemasons, who cut and craft the stone as is required for the particular product they are working on.

Stone is constantly arriving at the yard from the various quarries they operate in the area, more often than not by tractor and dump trailer combinations, for which the JCB is always on hand to tidy up the heaps once tipped, some of the largest slabs of rock are very skilfully stacked using the front bucket.

Further demonstrating the machines versatility Mark swapped from the segregating bucket to a more general-purpose front shovel and set off from the yard to do some rock breaking, another task that the 4CX excels at.

Heading out of the gate Mark then proceeded to travel the machine to their St Aldhems Head Quarry & Masonry works some 3.5 miles away. To quote a well-known song, it’s a long and winding road down to the quarry, passing through the tiny village of Worth Matravers, and we followed as Mark negotiated some very tight spots along the route.

This just further confirmed what a useful addition to the Haysom fleet this machine is, it would certainly be a challenge to take a larger tracked excavator down this route for instance as the road would be impassable for low loaders.

They have been quarrying literally a stone’s throw away from the coastline at St Aldhems since 1934, and as you descend into the quarry there are remnants of those historical old days all around, with a triangular framed jib crane still present, but then at the other end of the scale the previously mentioned modern Volvo L90G loading shovel, does much of the moving of the rock at this location.

On a really hot summers day the place had a magical air to it, and as I walked around, I could envisage the scene back in the early days with teams of men armed with drills and picks and if they were lucky a rope-controlled excavator to help out. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Haysom Family archive.

When the 4CX is not moving stone around within the yards, its other primary role is breaking down stone with its hydraulic hammer which is directly mounted on the machine and as such very rarely comes off. Once again on the business end the machine features an extending dipper arm which can offer a maximum dig depth of around 5m.

However, with dedicated tracked excavators on hand for any serious heavy excavation work, dig depth and the machines powerful digging performance is not high on the list of priorities in this application. Generally, this machine has one dedicated operator but on the day of our visit Mark was at the controls.

Summarizing about the latest JCB to take its place at the quarry Mark said, “We really like the extra engine power this machine offers, the light seat mounted control joysticks are a welcome addition and we really notice the extra space in the cab particularly when using the backhoe as there are no levers in the way down by your feet, which is a vast improvement, we are very happy with it”.



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