“STOKE” PULP STONES

This article was published originally in The Paper-Maker and British Paper Trade Journal,
1915-16; pp23-27, and was discovered by John Mather.

This transcription by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2001

A VISIT TO A FAMOUS QUARRY

IT was recently our privilege to visit a locality which from time immemorial has been famed for its grindstones. Those of our readers who are not familiar with the tit-bits of the North Derbyshire scenery would find a very pleasant surprise at the end of a comparatively brief railway ride from Sheffield. Preferably, however, the journey should be by road, for it is doubtful if there is a more wonderful panorama in existence than is afforded by a journey of a few miles from Sheffield through Dore, then upwards over wild moorlands, touching the famous hostelry known as “Fox House” en route. At “Fox House” we obtain a view as far as the eye can reach of hill and dale, with a river, famous for its fishing, winding in the valley below. After a circuitous drive we find ourselves at Grindleford, and to the tourist Grindleford Bridge is a treasured memory. The name Grindleford was fittingly bestowed on a district famed the world over for its grindstones, and although the cutlers of Sheffield used grindstones from this locality centuries before the idea of grinding wood for paper-making was conceived and perfected, it is of direct interest to our readers to know that some of the finest stones produced for the grinding of wood pulp are quarried and finished ready for grinders at the “Stoke” quarries, which are situated at Grindleford Bridge, geographically in Derbyshire, but as the crow flies, within a comparatively short distance of Sheffield, which lies in a hollow, so to speak, apparently at our feet from the hillcrest near the quarries.

Mr. Percy J. Turner is the principal and managing director of Messrs. Percy J. Turner, Ltd., owner, of the “Stoke” quarries and other undertakings associated with the production of stone, which is quarried from what is really the backbone of England. Until one gets into touch with a person who has devoted his life to this line of business it is not realised how much it is necessary for an expert to know when providing grind-stones for the many diverse purposes they have to serve. Mr. Percy Turner takes some pride in the fact that he was born in the business, and as a matter of fact, his father (Mr. Joseph Turner), who is nearly eighty one years of age, has also devoted his life to work incidental to stone production, but Mr. Turner, the elder, does not now touch the pulp stone industry. This particular line of business, so far as the Turner family is concerned, has been conducted by Mr. Percy J. Turner for some years past, and it is a matter of interest to know that as far back as the year 1899 “Stokes” stones were being supplied to well-known pulp grinding mills, and the same mills are using stones from the same quarry to-day. It is claimed that this experience, extending over twenty years, is of great service when stones of a reliable quality, devoid of imperfections and of altogether exceptional wearing qualities required. The “Stoke” grindstones possess merits which seem to fit in with the modern requirements of a big output, good grinding and lasting properties, and Mr. Percy Turner remarked, when walking over the quarries, “we have so much faith in our stones that we have, for some time past, been perfectly willing to supply a stone for a trial to any reputable mill our own risk. This appears rather a large proposition, but we have so much faith in our ‘Stoke’ stones that the offer is a very sound one for us, as it is a means of demonstrating what the genuine 'Stoke' stones, really are, and the offer is a fair one to which no reasonable person can take exception. As a matter of fact, we have never had a complaint concerning a genuine ‘Stoke’ stone, such as we are now offering to the pulp trade and have been supplying for some time past.”

A walk round the quarry afforded some indication of the intricacies of selecting stone devoid of flaws and the method of preparing them by hand. Mr. Turner also incidentally mentioned that the policy he favoured was that of extending his business by giving satisfaction, a very sound business proposition it seems to us, “for”, he added, “we are sending stones regularly to Canada, America, and Scandinavia, and naturally it is an unprofitable business to run any risk of complaints in this respect, but up to the present we have been very fortunate.”

The views we are able to reproduce convey some idea of what the “Stoke” quarries are like, and the extent of the business done here, and it is gratifying to know that during the many years pulp stones have been sent out from “Stoke”, the volume of busines has steadily grown, owing largely to repeat orders. When at the quarries, we had the opportunity of seeing some letters from well-known pulp mills, and these afford interesting reading to those whose business it is to obtain reliable pulp stones. One firm writes: “We are very pleased with the results: one record we have relates to a ‘Stoke’ stone (54 by 30 ins.) which ground 3,400 tons of pulp.” The writer of that letter added that another stone was in use and that this promised to beat the record of the one previously referred to. Another communication valued by Mr. Turner is from a famous American firm. They write: “We are greatly pleased with the stones you sent us; they have finished up good and clean.”

Mr. Turner was good enough to explain some of the technicalities associated with pulp stones, and showed to the writer two samples of stones, very similar to the eye, but not quite of the same shade, and produced a letter written by a friendly customer, which stated: “In the many years we have followed the pulp stone business from England we have never seen a good pulp stone that was any other colour than yellow.” Incidentally, it was pointed out that the “Stoke” stones have this feature, and obviously colour conveys a good deal to the mind of the expert.

Most men holding a commanding position in our industrial world, whatever their particular forte may be, are enthusiasts, and this remark certainly applies to Mr. Percy J. Turner, who, practically all his working life, has concentrated his efforts on stone, and very largely on grindstones. In order to obtain a closer personal knowledge of what pulp mills really needed, Mr. Turner, a few years ago. made a lengthy tour over the pulp mills of Canada and America, and frankly says that he acquired first hand a good dead of information which has been very helpful to him in this connection. He also remarked to the writer that it would be a very good thing for all concerned if, when a firm is placing an order for pulp stones, they would be good enough to give details of what the stone was expected to do, and the class of work it was to be applied to. This information, it was pointed out, was of very great value in the final selection of a grindstone for pulping exactly suitable for the work to which it was to be put.

In the course of our walk over the quarries it was extremely instructive to learn some of the intricacies incidental to the quarrying, selection and shaping of what looks to the eye an ordinary pulp stone. We learned that although very many beds of stone appear at sight - even to the initiated - very similar in regard to their properties, this does not necessarily follow, and the test under working conditions is the only real guide to what a pulp stone will and will not do. “Hence it is”, remarked Mr. Turner, “that after many years of experience we have been enabled to produce a pulp Stone in which we have every possible confidence, as you may imagine from the offer we are prepared to make”, and he pointed out that it was to the mutual interests of the producers of the pulp stones and the purchasers to frankly compare notes, as by this means a considerable amount of disappointment and loss might in all probability be avoided.

The views we are enabled to give convey some idea of the importance of the business conducted by Messrs. Percy J. Turner, Ltd., and those of our readers who are interested in this subject, and are in a position to do so may find a good excuse for a very delightful excursion if, on a sunny day, they find their way to Grindleford, and see for themselves Derbyshire at its best, and also an industry which is already well-establislied and will undoubtedly attain far more importance yet.

Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie on 10th October 2001.

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