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Jones Sand, later Jones Sand Limited

Little has been discovered about the Jones’ family who quarried sand after World War two. In the late 1960s they had three operational pits:

Fox Corner, Heath & Reach, for dry building sand and when that quarry was worked out they moved across the road to Home Farm. Watling Street Quarry, also known as Potsgrove Quarry, pumping specialised sand. Ledburn Quarry, Linslade, opposite what is now Tiddenfoot Waterside Park, for concreting sand. They had also worked out Tiddenfoot pit, when they had struck water, but retained their office on that side of the road adjacent to Tiddenfoot.

Trevor Wilkins, as a 15 year old, recalls starting work in 1967 for Jones Sand in Linslade. His recollection is that the business was operated by a Miss Jones, her sister Mrs Gaysford and her husband Bert. Their children Ann and Jan were also involved. Trevor’s mentor was the General Manager, Stan Pritchard, for whom he had a high regard as he encouraged Trevor to gain relevant qualifications. As a trainee mechanic Trevor helped maintain the machinery for the three pits. He left the firm, as Assistant Production Manager, in 1976.

The company was taken over by Ready Mixed Concrete Ltd around 1977. In 1982 their name changed to RMC Group plc. Cemex acquired RMC Group plc in 2005, thus doubling their size.

Trevor Wilkins interview
Bob Blake interview

LB Silica Sand Ltd; the last private company in the sand industry in the Leighton Buzzard area.

medal1950. The Silica and Moulding Sand Association Medal awarded to John Delafield. By kind permission S. Delafield the savoy1952 Savoy Hotel London. Silica and Moulding Sand. Second from left H.F. Delafield, John Delafield is the last one. By kind permission S. Delafields

In the 1930s Frank Walpole, a young man, successfully used his tractor for contracting work in his home county of Norfolk. One of his customers had a contract to build Cheddington and Wing airfields, during World War 2. Frank assisted him, and bought extra-large earth moving machines. On completion of the airfields, and using his machines, he helped with open cast coal mining in South Wales and the Midlands.

Sand quarries in the Leighton Buzzard area were being worked by steam engines and horses and carts. Around 1947 Frank Walpole saw the potential to save time and money by using a big bulldozer, pulling a large earth scraper, to remove the Clay overburden or Gault, on top of the sand in the sand pits; he demonstrated that his one machine could do in a day, what it would take a steam engine and horses and carts to achieve in three or four months.

Mr Delafield, from George Garsides, was the first sand operator to allow Frank’s newly purchased machinery to uncover their sand, soon followed by Joe and Fred Arnold, from Joseph Arnolds. Garsides, in particular, also made use of the machinery to restore worked out quarries.

Frank’s son, Richard Walpole, was born in 1943. Shortly after then, realising that there was a good working base in Leighton Buzzard, Frank settled in the area and bought a house in Wing Road, Linslade. His business expanded, more machinery was purchased, and a manager was appointed to oversee the Welsh mining operations. For a short time there was an office in Bridge Street, Leighton Buzzard, and around 1948 a plant yard was opened in Grovebury Road, with an office.

As Frank’s knowledge of the industry increased so did working opportunities, and as well as local sand pits, he worked in gravel pits for larger companies further afield. Whilst there was competition for the work, Frank’s excellent reputation and meticulous way of working won him the contracts.

He bought his first derelict sand pit in Heath & Reach around 1955. Sheepcote Quarry contained a lot of rock and was worked out, but Frank’s machinery managed to move the rock to reveal sand. Around 1959 Frank acquired his first batch of Bedford Silica Sand Mine in Heath & Reach.

With Richard in the business, acquisition of quarries in Heath & Reach continued, and in the early 60s Frank formed LB Silica Sand. As well as local mining, they continued to do contracting work for companies outside Bedfordshire.

After LB Silica Sand bought out Hanson’s, the old Bedford Silica Sand Mines, the names Bryants Lane Quarry and Reach Lane Quarry were adopted. Then the company had the washing and drying facilities, from the former Bedford Silica Sand Mines, they were able to move into the processing of sand.

richard wapole aged 41947 Mundy Hill. Bulldozer TD18 with Richard Walpole age 4. By kind permission R. Walpole richard wapoleRichard Walpole

Frank Walpole died in 1996 and LB Silica Sand Ltd is managed by his son, Richard, from The Plant Yard, Grovebury Road, Leighton Buzzard. During his career Richard has witnessed the increased mechanism for excavating, and seen many changes in the method of transport of and the uses of sand. Their industrial sand goes for foundry work; others for the leisure markets. This includes horse arenas, and artificial surfaces for football, tennis and lacrosse. Their sand matched the requirements of NASSA, the American space agency, who used it as a growing medium for food in space.

Their sandstone is used to restore churches, and large sandstone lumps can even be found at Whipsnade Zoo in the animal enclosures.

A by-product of the industry is the use of the quarries for filming. Revenue comes from both major films and television work.

Richard Walpole interview 07/08/08

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