Granite Setts

The West Wicklow granite quarries were not used for producing setts to any great extent, but setts have been produced by individual operators from field stones, rather than from quarries.  As setts are a low-value product, the cost of transportation from Wicklow to Dublin militated against their production in West Wicklow, as it was too far from Dublin.  Instead, most setts used in Dublin came from limestone quarries and there were many of these close to the city.


However, granite setts were produced in large quantities in the Mourne mountains of County Down, where they were produced by local farmers, mainly by clearing and breaking up the field-stones.  So one effect was the improvement of their land.

 

The setts were shipped by schooner from ports such as Newcastle, Annalong and Newry in County Down to Belfast and to the towns of Lancashire.  The cost of shipping to these markets by schooner was very low.  The schooners' primary cargo was coal from England.  The schooners were often empty or lightly loaded on the return journey, so they needed ballast.  Setts provided ideal ballast and had the benefit that they could be sold when the schooners reached Liverpool and other Lanchshire ports.  Similarly, setts provided 'back loads' for boats trading to Belfast.  


The demand for setts increased dramatically with the construction of tram-lines from the late 1800s, as setts were often used to pave the line of the tramways. 

In the Dublin area, granite setts were produced to some extent in the South Dublin granite quarries, which are in the Sandyford, Stepaside and Glencullen areas.  There were many very small quarries in this area, but the granite was too soft and badly jointed for building work, so setts provided an important market for this granite.

 

Individual farmers in South County Dublin also produced setts from small, private quarries and carted them to Dublin as the distance was only half the distance of the Wicklow quarries from Dublin.

The granite quarries at Dalkey and Killiney never produced setts, as the granite there is too hard and the grain structure is too large to allow the stone to be split into setts.  The main use of this granite was for engineering use - piers, harbour works and bridges.

 

 

 

Added 1/6/2012.

 

 

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