From vivid activity...to desolation and tragedy

Backsbottom Bridge, Wray. The road to Backsbottom Quarry left the Roebirndale East road approximately a quarter of a mile past Wray Mill; it then followed the eastern side of the river for half a mile before making a sharp right turn across the bridge to the western side of the River Roeburn; it then followed the river for approximately three quarters of a mile to the quarry and Backsbottom Farm. Two carts can be seen crossing the bridge loaded with flagstones, possibly on their way to Lancaster. The road and bridge were washed away in the flood of 1967.
Backsbottom Bridge, Wray. The road to Backsbottom Quarry left the Roebirndale East road approximately a quarter of a mile past Wray Mill; it then followed the eastern side of the river for half a mile before making a sharp right turn across the bridge to the western side of the River Roeburn; it then followed the river for approximately three quarters of a mile to the quarry and Backsbottom Farm. Two carts can be seen crossing the bridge loaded with flagstones, possibly on their way to Lancaster. The road and bridge were washed away in the flood of 1967.
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In the second week of a two-part feature, Wray historian David Kenyon looks at the history of Backsbottom Quarry.

The following passage was written by a Lancaster Guardian reporter in 1889 and gives a vivid account of Backsbottom Quarry at this time.

“One cannot but contrast the busy scenes at Backsbottom Quarry in the past with its present state of desolation:

The hammering of flags, the ringing sounds of the drills, the merry shouts of the men, the numerous wooden hen-cotes, the cackling of hens, the shrill crowing of the cocks, and the scattered broods of chickens made up a wonderful hive of human and feathered industry. The mid-day meal gave additional vividness to the scene. The men sat on flags, grassy mounds and piles of stones to munch their frugal repast. Mastication was ever and anon relieved with merry laughter and harmless jokes. The dessert was the much-loved Indian weed, and the cracking of matches for a time was incessant. The curling smoke diffused its aroma far and wide. The vivid pictures of life and activity left an impression that cannot be effaced. How changed and desolate was the scene on a second visit. There was the silence of the desert, and the wreckage of a once prosperous industry. The lofty rocks with their naked rugged sides were grand in their loneliness. But where were the craftsmen who once made the desert ting with their tools? Though there was no human response, the awful silence of the wilderness, with dumb voice, said as distinctly as any articulate sounds, necessity has driven them from their comfortable homes to win their daily bread amongst strangers.”

The following article is taken from a 1903 edition of the Lancaster Guardian.

WRAY. FATAL QUARRY ACCIDENT.

A deplorable accident occurred at Backsbottom Quarry, Wray, on Thursday, August 27th, resulting in the untimely death of James Frederick Rogers, aged 29 years, a married man, residing at the Back of the Beck, Wray. It appears that shortly after eight o’clock he had been working on top of the quarry, along with Herbert Dennison, trying to remove a stone with bars.

The stone on which deceased was standing gave way, and he staggered backwards, lost his balance, and fell to the bottom of the quarry, a distance of 46ft. 3in. He sustained terrible injuries, fracturing his skull and crushing his face, and died almost immediately. -The inquest was held at the George and Dragon Inn, Wray, on Saturday, before Mr.L. Neville Holden, deputy coroner, Mr J Gerrard, inspector of mines, Manchester, was present. The following evidence was given:

Mary Jane Rogers (the widow) said the deceased was her husband, James Frederick Rogers, quarryman, Back of the Beck, Wray. He was 29 years of age.

Herbert Dennison, quarryman, Wray, said: I have worked at Backsbottom Quarry, belonging to Col. Foster, for the last six months. I knew deceased. He was working with me on Thursday. We started work at 7 a.m., and were under the direction of Samueal Robertshaw. We were working at the top of the quarry, just at the edge, and getting stone out. About eight o’clock deceased and myself were standing just at the edge. I was about 4ft. from him, and were pulling out pieces of loose stone about 6ft from the edge of the quarry, and in a line with it. The stone at which deceased waspulling gave way, and he fell back, lost his balance, and went down to the bottom of the quarry, falling a distance of 46ft. 3in. I looked over the edge, and saw him lying with his face down. I went down to him, and saw him breathe once, and then he died. There was no one standing nearer than ten yards away from the place where we were working. This was the ordinary way we use to work at the stone, and I have seen deceased do similar work before. I did not think it risky to work in that way, and he never made any complaint to my foreman. It would not be possible to fence whilst we work in that way.