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In Jack Frost's footsteps

The history of the Gravel Pit

The Gravel Pit was established in 1750 and was created on common land owned by the Manor of Lamberhurst.

The Pit was first dug for fertilizers. Loam (a sand, silt and clay soil), then marl (a sedimentary stone containing clay and lime) and finally, in the 18th Century, gravel made from crushed stone to surface the new local Turnpike Roads. Stone was also cut to create bridges and culverts. The cottages where the workers would have lived were known as Loam Pit Cottages in 1871, Marl Pit Cottages in 1891 and finally Gravel Pit Cottages in 1901; a solid reminder of the change of purpose for the quarry.

During the 19th Century the pond in the Gravel Pit was used as a water supply by travelling by steam engines working at local farms. Stone and gravel from the gravel pit was used when the (New) Spray Hill Road was cut from the centre of the village to Scotney Castle entrance, by-passing the old and very steep, Town Hill, at the time the New Scotney Mansion was built, c. 1835.

Postcard of the Gravel Pit iced over, c. 1860

At the turn of the century a cooper called Jack Frost lived and worked in the gravel pit. As well as making wooden hoops for barrels, he would coppice trees around the pit to make spiles for fencing and faggots for lighting fires.

Local man Ray Wright remembers Jack Frost from his childhood; known as ‘Frosty’, Jack was a kind and friendly man who would let the children watch him work and he lived out his days in the village.

Jack Frost (a.k.a

Jack Frost and wooden hoop barrels, early 20th century

Ray remembers the Gravel Pit as open scrub land with just a few trees and two natural springs - one which he believes fed the moat at Scotney. With his friends, Ray would guard the 3 nightingale nests that were at the Pit, as well as play football and collect scrub and firewood for the Bonfire on The Down that still happens every year to this day.

Around 1920 the last Lord of the Manor, William Morland, gave all the Manor Waste (Common Land) including the Gravel Pit, to the Parish Council. The next record was during World War II, when 2 tunnels were reputedly dug into the face of the quarry for use as air raid shelters.

Over time the quarry filled with water and became overgrown; the perfect playground for generations of local children. Local resident Barbara Uren remembers fun filled days of Cowboys and Indians, building camps, swings in trees, building rafts in an on-going mission to reach the island, as well as all day picnics.

On 16 October 1987, southern Britain experienced what was described as ‘the worst night of storms in living memory’. Lamberhurst did not escape the devastation of the hurricane and many of the trees within the Gravel Pit were blown over.

Picture of the Gravel Pit after ‘The Great Storm’, taken by Barbara Uren on 17th October 1987

Despite the efforts of the Parish Council, by 1992 the Gravel Pit was practically impenetrable and the pond barely existed. It was then that Gerry Thraves, a Parish Councillor and teacher at Uplands Community College inspired pupils to help reinstate the pond and make the land once more accessible to locals and visitors.