The History of Bargate stone
Bargate stone is classed among the Lower greensand group and Sandgate formation. These were formed around 100 million years ago by sands deposited by a shallow sea.
The Bargate beds are generally found closer to the surface and within an outcrop confined to a 3 mile radius around Godalming, Surrey.
The stone has a reputation for it's durability and wonderful honey colouration synonymous with buildings in Godalming, Guildford and surrounding villages.
The use of Bargate stone can be traced back to a Romano-British farmstead in Binscombe just north of Godalming. Other uses of the stone include Guildford Castle in the 11th Century, Waverley Abbey in 1128 and Charterhouse school which was founded in 1611.
Charterhouse school, Godalming
Guildford Castle, Guildford
Bargate stone has been quarried for centuries on numerous sites around Godalming. Local quarries were often opened for specific building projects and peaked towards the end of the 19th Century, when it was used to construct many of the local churches and public buildings.
Most of the quarrying ceased by the turn of the century and very little stone has been quarried since the second world war.
The stone was not an easy one to extract or work with. Much of the sand has been cemented by percolating water containing lime in solution. This created hard grey sandstone masses known locally as 'Doggers'. These boulders of Bargate stone vary in size but can measure up to 4 feet deep and 12 feet long. The larger and harder doggers tended to be the best for shaping into building stone blocks.
The Doggers were levered free from the bed with the use of a crowbar measuring around 6 feet wide and 8 feet long. One end was placed under the dogger and rested on an iron block. A timber plank was then rested against one end of the crowbar, with the other end resting on the floor. Several workers then stood on the plank and jumped in unison until it reached the floor. The crowbar was then pushed further under the dogger and the process repeated until the dogger was released.
This process is thought to be unique to the area and is known as 'Jumping the stone'.
"When the stone was heaved out it was manhandled to an upright position and then split with a hammer and wedge. The outside used for paving and the inside for walls.
All this was done manually.
When a new section of quarry was cut the top soil had to be moved to the other side of the pit using wheelbarrows.
Steadiers (planks) and deals were placed accross the pit - 24 feet long, 14 inches wide and 4 inches thick.
A nerve and skill needed when the drop to the bottom of the pit could be forty or fifty feet.
A lot of hard work for little gain"
Mr A.Pugmore - worker at one of the Bargate pits
Workers 'Jumping the stone'
Sources of innformation
With thanks to:
H.E.Morris - Bargate stone and its use over 8 centuries in the Godalming area of south west Surrey
Historic England - Strategic stone study - A building stone atlas of Surrey
Burton Brothers and Bargate Stone
Having grown up in a family building business in Godalming, we have been working with Bargate stone for many years. In the past, we relied extensively on local reclaimed Bargate stone for use in construction projects. Even though we have now sourced a supply of stone, we still put aside and reuse reclaimed stone on our projects wherever possible.
First and foremost, we are specialists in Brick and stonework building, and have acquired our own stock of Bargate stone to use for our projects. We are also happy to sell stone on a supply to order basis.
Our Bargate stone has been acquired as a by-product of large excavation works in Godalming. With most of the old quarries being filled in or developed, the chance of another Bargate quarry opening in Godalming is very slim. We are proud to be repurposing this stone which can be used to build with in the local area. We believe it is as important as ever, not just on an environmental level but also in order to protect the vernacular of our local towns and villages.
The majority of our stone has come from deep seams of Bargate, meaning very large 'Doggers' in excess of 3 tonnes. Although difficult to manage, these great boulders contain the hardest and most suitable stone for building with.
Some of the 'Doggers' weighed several tonnes
Our excavated Bargate stone
Unlike the 'Jumpers' of the old quarries, our stone has been excavated using modern heavy machinery.
Bargate stone however, is still a particularly difficult stone to manage. It is very tough and impractical to saw on this scale which makes coursed stone supply difficult and labour intensive.
Skill and experience informs us where to split the stone so as to not shatter it and also stay productive. All of our stone is finished by hand and in a lot of ways the same traditional techniques of processing and stone dressing apply today.
From the point of excavation, our stone has gone through 3 different stages of splitting before it is finished by hand and bagged up for use.
For most walling projects, Cropped random stone is used. This has been split and the worst of the edges taken off by hand.
Cropped Faced random stone is where the stone has all been squared off. All four edges have then been hand dressed so that the face is no longer flat but more protruding in the centre.
Cropped Dressed coursed stone is the same as 'cropped dressed random' but every piece of stone has been measured and grouped together so that it is ready to be laid straight away into courses. This is a very labour intensive process and usually reserved for high end projects, or where there is the need to match existing stonework.
Due to the nature of the cropping process, the depth will vary. Most of the stone is around 100mm depth, however we recommend that you allow 130 - 150mm depth 'on the bed' to avoid any further cutting.
All of our stone can be dressed to suit the bespoke requirements of our clients, with the ability to also cut all stone to the desired depth.
Hand dressing Bargate stone
Colour and Variation
It goes without saying that this is a natural product 100 million years in the making. No one piece of stone will be the same, with varying colour and pattern even among the smallest of boulders.
The iron oxide content in Bargate stone is what contributes to the wonderful golden/honey colour we are familiar with (and also it's incredible strength).
A large proportion of our stone is from harder deeper seams displaying more grey tones (the prized stone of past quarries). As the stone oxygenates and weathers, it will become even harder and the colour will change. This can easily be seen from splitting good quality reclaimed Bargate stone.
To purchase Bargate stone, visit our 'Bargate Stone For Sale' page:
New random cropped Bargate stone
New Faced Bargate stone
New dressed Bargate stone from a golden seam high in iron oxide
Reclaimed Bargate stone, the weathered face is golden but the inside is grey