Torr Works, formerly known as Merehead Quarry, occupies a 600 acre site 7 kilometers east of Shepton Mallet. It is one of the biggest quarries in Europe. It was renamed in the 70s by the Yeoman family.
It is owned and run by Aggregate Industries who bought it from Foster Yeoman in 2006. Historically the quarry produced up to 8 million tonnes of limestone annually which was then capped at 6 million. In 2012, approval was given to deepen the quarry by 112meters which has increased its capacity to 8 million tonnes per year dependant on need till 2040.
Out of the 600 acres, around 200 hundred around the perimeter are landscaped to blend in with the local countryside. Restoration of the land is on a continuous basis and when the quarry expires it will be flooded to provide a giant reservoir with leisure activities.
In 1959 Foster Yeoman bought Merehead Quarry from Limmer & Trinidad. This coincided with the beginning of the motorway age, as they spread out from London across the landscape. Mendip quarries faced a real challenge in producing the million tons of aggregate needed to feed this growing project. By 1965 the quarry had been redeveloped to make it one of the most efficient and productive on Mendip, and in 1967 Yeoman installed a giant Nordberg crusher with a capacity of crushing 1000 tons per hour.
Transportation soon became vital and in 1969/70 Foster Yeoman decided to link the then Merehead Quarry to the British Rail Network. The company laid a branch line into the quarry and within months it had handled over 1000 trains and carried over a million tons of stone. Three quarters of its annual production travels by rail, delivering primarily to the South East.
In 1985 Yeoman introduced the Orenstein & Koppel ‘Walking Crusher’. This giant mobile machine as high as a 7 storey building, has a capability of producing 22,500 tonnes in a single shift. It weighs 1050 tons and moves around the quarry floor by walking cylinders powered by electricity delivered by a trailing cable.
The quarry face exposes a mixture of carboniferous limestone which is grey in colour and Jurassic oolite which is buff. On a sunny day the rock face shines like gold revealing its angular unconformity. In these photographs, I have tried to convey the enormity of the quarry and the comings and goings of the machinery which excavate and transport the stone.