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, remembered 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.
Get yer washin’ in – memories of Tommy Poppleton
The locomotive driven by Tommy was built in 1902 by Hudswell Clarke in Hunslet. It had 11 inch by 16 inch cylinders and 2 feet 9 and a half inch driving wheels. It was given the number 603 and along with an identical loco, 604, was first hired out to the Pinxton Coal Company in Derbyshire where they were given the names Dick and Tom. Company records indicate it was the policy at Pinxton to hire locos for a number of years and then replace them with newly hired engines. After 603 and 604 were returned to Hudswell Clarke they were sold on. 603 was bought by Armitage’s in 1907 for £400 and renumbered No.2. According to the Industrial Railway Society Handbook for West Yorkshire the loco was repaired at Robin Hood although its not clear at which workshop. It’s doubtful Armitage’s had their own suitable equipment and skilled men so it’s possible the work was carried out at a workshop connected to the East and West Yorkshire Union Railway, most likely at Low Shops at Rothwell Haigh which was the engineering facility of the Charlesworth pits. After being used for about ten years by Armitage’s at the Thorpe quarry and brickworks No. 2 is recorded as moving to Woodlesford in about 1918. It lasted for another 40 years before being scrapped in 1958.