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Stone Lane Hill Pit Heath and Reach

Stone Lane Hill pit about 1920
Stone Lane Hill pit about 1920 [Z1130/57/13]

Heath and Reach is dotted with a number of sand pits or quarries, some in use, some disused. Many of these were created by two principal local firms, J.Arnold & Sons Limited and George Garside (Sand) Limited. One of these was Stone Lane Hill Pit, owned and worked by Arnold's.

In 1896 an article in Gardening World said of Stone Lane Hill pit: "This is at Heath [actually Reach], otherwise named Heath-and-Reach, about two miles from Leighton Buzzard. It is a hill of no great extent situated on the side of the main road. The hill has been broached on two sides, and though of no great size, it contains sufficient sand to last for the next 50 years at the rate of 100 tons a day [it finally closed in 2008]. The superficial area is only 3 acres, but it contains much in little space. There is a depth of 10 feet of stratified soil on the top, below which is a depth of 120 feet of sand. The lower pit consists of iron-yellow, orange, or red sand utilised for brick-making. Better sand goes down for a depth of 80 feet below the present level of the working. The other opening is on the other side of the hill, at a higher level, and at no great distance off…The west upper side of the Stone Lane Hill pit is the oldest; the upper side was next opened, and contains the finest silver sand of all. Some of it is very sharp and gritty, like the finest crystalised sugar, but in other spots it is as fine as pounded loaf sugar, and as white after being exposed for a time to rain and wind. It is remarkable that sand of such quality should occur so near the red sand opening. Wood, and other fossils occur in the latter. the finest horticultural and filtering sand is supplied from the Stone Lane Hill pit, as well as the Mile Tree Road Pit, Shenley Hill, which is next in order or age. Reach Green Farm, adjoining Stone Lane Hill, is also Mr.Arnold's property, and comprises 13½ acres of sand of all descriptions, of the same depth as the last-mentioned pit, containing several million tons". 

In 1898 Joseph Arnold objected to the poor rate levied on the pit by the Leighton Buzzard Board of Guardians (who ran the workhouse and provided relief to the poor, using the poor rate monies). Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a lot of correspondence regarding this dispute [Z720/250 and BML10/42/290] and one of the records with the correspondence is a simple account for the pit showing that 1,178 tons were dug in the preceding year at a price four shillings and two pence per ton yielded £246 and 469 tons at a price of one shilling and eight pence per ton yielded £39 - a total of £285. Expenses were as follows:

  • Carting and filling at 1/- per ton: £82;
  • Untopping and pushing down at 3d per ton: £21;
  • Wharfage dues: £2
  • Total expenses: £105

Stone Lane pit in 1927 and by another name
Stone Lane pit in 1927 and by another name

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 ordered that every piece of land and building in the country be assessed to determine the rates to be paid upon it. The valuer visiting Stone Lane Hill pit [DV1/C233/56] noted that it covered just 2.425 acres.

In the May 1934 edition of Cement, Lime & Gravel magazine a feature on J.Arnold & Sons had this to say: "Stone Lane is another quarry, not extensively used at the moment, but a small and regular output is maintained".

Chances Pit and Stone Lane Hill Pit June 2008
Chances Pit and Stone Lane Hill Pit June 2008

In the latter part of the 20th century this pit was joined with Chances Pit, obliterating the path which used to separate the two, which joined Overend Green Road north of the junction with Bryants Row. The pit finally closed late in 2008 and began to grass over, a small lake occupying the bottom.

In recent years Heath and Reach has benefitted from the presence of former sand pits. Part of the Stone Land Hill pit was filled in and the new surface converted into a sports field, with tennis courts and a pavilion. The field and the white pavilion can be seen in the photograph below taken from the top of Bryants Lane.

View from Bryants Lane to Stone Lane Hill Pit January 2009
View from Bryants Lane to Stone Lane Hill Pit January 2009