Tommy Poppleton worked at Armitage’s quarry in Woodlesford for over 50 years. He was born in Airedale Grove in 1903 and probably went straight to the quarry when he left school at the age of 12 during the First World War. His older brother Joseph had already worked there as a carter delivering stone to local building sites and it’s likely that Tommy had helped him on his rounds.
Their father, also called Joseph, was born at Naburn just south of York and their grandfather, William Poppleton, who was a farm bailiff, hailed from Nun Monkton on the other side of the city not far from the villages of Nether and Upper Poppleton.
In 1881 Joseph Poppleton and his young family were living at Fleet Mills where he was working as a horseman and groom. After that he got a labouring job at Bentley’s brewery and later graduated to being a drayman delivering beer.
Tommy Poppleton married Mary Ashton from near Rawmarsh in 1934 after they met when she was working as a barmaid in the Old Masons pub. They brought up their family at 16 Aberford Road in a house overlooking the quarry.
Tommy’s son, also called Tommy, remembers that by the time he came along his father’s main responsibility was operating the “scrappling” machine which dressed large blocks of stone blasted from the quarry.
The blocks were then cut up into smaller pieces in the sawmill before Tommy, helped by Wilf Hutchinson, moved them with a small four-wheeled travelling crane believed to have been manufactured by Thomas Smith of Rodley in Leeds. The stone was then cut to make grindstones or lintels.
Tommy drove a tank locomotive which was mainly used to take wagons to the railway sidings next to the brewery and to the canal side. When the engine returned it had to put on steam to climb the line which crossed Eshald Lane and divided Bernard and Sydney Streets, with the women who lived there shouting to each other “Get yer weshin in. Tommy Pop’s here agin.”
Tommy and Albert Tolley were the last two men to work in the quarry after most of the production stopped in the 1960s. They were kept on by director Leonard Armitage for about 18 months to scrapple blocks of stone and put them through the mill.
Click on the link below to hear Tommy Poppleton, who was a miner at Primrose Hill, Temple Newsam and Allerton Bywater collieries, talk about his father and his job at the quarry.