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Double Arches Pit Heath and Reach

Double Arches Pit June 2008
Double Arches Pit June 2008

The very large Double Arches sand pit leads north from Eastern Way opposite the junction with Mile Tree Road. It was opened by Joseph Arnold (later J.Arnold & Sons Limited) in 1916.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 ordered every piece of land and building in the country to be assessed to determine the rates to be paid upon it. The valuer visiting Double Arches Pit [DV1/C254/43] noted that it occupied 19.149 acres.

 Double Arches pit in 1927
Double Arches Pit in 1927

The site contained: a weather boarded and corrugated iron mess hut; a weather boarded and corrugated iron stable for four horses; a weather boarded and corrugated iron engine house and brick and corrugated iron sifting sheds 38 feet by 56 feet by 23 feet and 49 feet by 49 feet by 23 feet. there were also fifteen sifters, a brick and corrugated iron workshop and engine room measuring 15 feet by 32 feet by 17 feet, one Hornsby oil engine rated at 11 horsepower, another rated at 15horsepower, a sifting shed measuring 14 feet by 49 feet by 22 feet, 140 feet of 2 inch shafting, a weather boarded and corrugated iron bicycle shed and a weather boarded and corrugated iron boiler shed.

The valuer noted: "Saw foreman 22/8/27. Pit started during war. Plenty of sand, but has run out on east side near brook. Untopping now about 12 feet, increasing. About fifteen men working. Does not know output. Sand taken in trucks pulled by engine and horses to road. Light Railway from there. Excellent sand. Sifted for special contracts before it leaves the pit". Untopping referred to the amount of soil, or overburden, which had to be removed before the layers of sand were reached.

In 1935 an area of land east of Overend Green Lane and north of Eastern Way was put up for sale by auction [BML10/30/61]. It was described as: "An area of 101 acres 1 rood 32 perches of valuable silica sand bearing land situate in the Parish of Heath & Reach, about 3 miles from Leighton Buzzard. The approach is good and the land is bounded by a good hard road on two sides, thus giving access for removal. The Land adjoins existing workings of these valuable deposits. Borings have recently been made on the land, and have shown excellent depths of this important mineral. The grades varying from fine grained white to coarse grained white, with a variety of other tinted descriptions all at workable depths. The adjoining workings are served by the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway. The property is divided into the following Enclosures":

  • Ordnance Survey Number 245 - arable - 26 acres 3 roods 29 perches
  • OSN227 - grass - 25 acres 3 roods 26 perches
  • OSN244 - grass and buildings - 26 acres 3 roods 23 perches
  • OSN228 - grass - 13 acres 12 perches
  • OSN212 - grass - 8 acres 2 roods 22 perches.

Land for sale at Overend Green in 1935 
Land for sale at Overend Green in 1935

The closes are shown on the map above, please click on the image for a larger version. It is annoying but the particulars do not reveal who, if anyone, bought the land. The next year an article on J.Arnold & Sons Limited appeared in a magazine called, enthrallingly, Cement, Lime & Gravel. The article said this of Double Arches Pit: "The Double Arches Quarry is the largest and most important of the Firm's workings, and contains a large drying and screening installation. The Quarry is actually in the form of three quarries, the largest of which presents a wonderful 30 feet face, about 600 yards long. The whole length is beautiful white sand, covered by a layer of 12 feet of overburden".

"The overburden is stripped by a ¾ yard Ruston-Bucyrus steam navvy mounted on caterpillars and a wide strip of sand is uncovered in advance of the sand workings. On several counts this is good practice. A safe bearing area for the navvy is necessary, premature falls of overburden, due to frost and rain, do not mix with the sand, the dangers of the extra height of a single face are avoided and large quantities of uncovered sand are available in rush periods".

"Locos haul the overburden in tip wagons round the top pf the quarry and it is dumped into the old workings at the back. In this way the waste dumps in no way interfere with the workings".

"The sand is worked in benches and by hand. Hand methods of loading are necessary to give a good primary selection of grades. The sand is transported in 1 yard tipping wagons to the washing or to the drying and screening plants".

Double Arches was the furthest point on the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway, opened in 1919 to serve the various quarries, including those of George Garside. The pit closed in 1985 but continued to be used as a water source for washing sand.

View to Overend Green from Fourne Hill December 2008
View from Fourne Hill to Overend Green sand pits December 2008