Quarrying 'surface-granite'

- the original source of granite


The term 'surface-stone' or 'surface-granite' is used for:-

  • weathered granite, exposed on the surface in granite areas;
  • random boulders deposited on the surface by glacial movement in non-granite areas. 

By its nature 'surface stone' is decayed and softened and has poor durability. 



Examples of Surface Stone use

  • In County Carlow, more granite was produced from surface stone than from the local quarries.
  • In Castledermot, County Kildare, there are intricately carved Irish High Crosses which are made of granite and weigh many tons.  These are in an area where the underling rock is limestone, not granite.  These High Crosses were quarried from 'surface stone', which in this case comprised blocks of granite transported from the Wicklow Mountains to Castledermot by ice sheets.
  • In north-west Wicklow, surface stone was a minor source of granite relative to the output of the local quarries. 


The progression from working surface stone to quarrying

The history of the Osborne family demonstrates the progression which sometimes took place from working surface stone to quarrying. 


Osbornes were working surface stone in the Rathnaboe area in the 1850s before Robert Osborne opened a small granite quarry in Ballynastockan. 


Robert's son, William Osborne, moved to Ballyknockan around 1877 and took over Reilly's granite quarry in 1879 after it had failed.


Similarly, the Foster family progressed from carving surface stone to opening a quarry at Ballyknockan.



Surface stone and the 'Land War'

In 1884 the Leinster Leader newspaper featured an interesting case involving granite surface stone. 


For many years two men named Lawlor and Norton, who lived near Lacken, had employed a few men who carved the granite surface stone which lay on the lands of neighbouring small farmers. 


Their landlord sought injunctions to prevent the small farmers from allowing this process to continue and also seeking 'damages' from Lawlor and Norton for the stone previously removed. 


This case has to be viewed in the context of the tit-for-tat actions between landlords and tenants in the 1880s, due to Land League agitation.  However, it suggests that quarrying of surface stone not only continued, but thrived, in the 1880s.






This page created by John Hussey in 2012.  Revised May 2013