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Exhibition La Pierre de Caen

19 June – 31 October 2010

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The exhibition tour

2- Quarrying of Caen Stone

The lower layers of Caen limestone have a bigger clay content and so are less resistant to wear and tear over time.

Photo : Stone cuttersMining took place naturally, first open-cast, by working the natural slopes. The less interesting levels were first removed in order to get to the desired layers, which were worked in a succession of terraces.

When the surface waste rock become thicker and so took longer to remove, open-cast mine stone faces were used to excavate galleries and get directly to the superior beds. The parallel galleries were kept apart from each other by a few decimetres of stone that formed the walls and thus prevented them from collapsing.

Photo : Quarrier’s winchQuarrying then moved higher up the slopes, without the easier access via the stone faces. Hence a square shaft was dug down to the Caen Stone. The quarried blocks were brought up to the surface through these selfsame shafts fitted with a winch, a wheel of an average 6 metres in diameter which the quarrymen operated by raising the bars on it. The mining technique used underground was the room and pillar method. Every so often the quarriers would leave good stone in place which was not quarried. This formed pillars which held up the roof of the quarry.

The mining was directed by a master quarrier with perfect knowledge of the stone. He had several labourers to help him. It was a difficult trade, the tooling was heavy and rudimentary, consisting of bars, picks, wedges and sledgehammers. Accidents were a common occurrence in the quarries.

It was not until publication of the Order of Louis-Philippe in 1848 that the trade became organized and protecting the workmen became a concern. There were many petitions brought against this law, with the quarriers often defending the traditions of the trade in the face of social advances.

  1. Geology of Caen Limestone
  2. Quarrying of Caen Stone
  3. The Caen Stone trade
  4. Twenty centuries of heritage in Caen stone

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