Part 2 of a two part series
A MUCH sought after construction material found in its finest form in only Bowral and parts of Russia helped to shape a Highlands community once dubbed "Struggletown".
Quarrying of Bowral trachyte became a boom industry in the Highlands as the igneous stone - similar to granite, but formed from finer grains - was sought by architects and individuals from across Australia and the world.
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Several quarries formed on Mount Gibraltar from 1885 took advantage of a new railway, established a few years earlier in 1867.
This linked the Highlands to Sydney and provided transport opportunities for the valuable stone resource found on Mount Gibraltar.
Quarries situated around Mount Gibraltar became important employers in the community, providing jobs for quarrymen, stonemasons and various supporting industries such as farriers, carriers, wheelwrights and blacksmiths.
Bowral man Bill Pope watched the trachyte quarrying industry evolve through what was almost a century-long rein in the Southern Highlands.
The fourth generation quarryman and stonemason from the Pope Quarry remembers a family business established by his grandfather in 1897.
Mr Pope said his grandfather Francis John Pope was already an experienced quarryman and stonemason when he moved to Bowral and began trachyte quarrying.
He said his father Don and uncle Arthur continued to run the family business into the 20th century and he began working at Pope's Quarry from 1948.
"I started in the quarry after I left school and continued to work there until it closed in 1975," he said.
Mr Pope said the extraction of trachyte, which he referred to as dimension stone, was always a labour intensive process that didn't change very much over the years, despite technological advances in society.
He said dimension stone was extracted by drilling holes into the side of the mountain and "blown out" with black powder.
Mr Pope said the stone slabs were then cut down to size by drilling holes that were filled with "plugs and feathers to split the rock".
The plug and feather process involved two tapered bars (feathers) being inserted into a hole drilled in stone between which a narrow wedge (plug) was hammered to help split stone.
"Trachyte is one of the best splitting rocks around," he said.
Mr Pope said the greatest changes in the industry occurred in the transportation of the heavy and often large slabs of stone.
"In the earliest days slabs or cut Bowral trachyte was loaded onto wagons and transported down the hill to the railway station by draught horses," he said.
"The stone was then loaded on freight trucks and transported to Sydney by train.
"This process continued until the 1930s when lorries became available to transport the stone from the quarry."
Mr Pope said a sideline to the quarrying business was the crushing of stone to make aggregate.
He said the aggregate side of the business took advantage of smaller stone which was created in the quarrying and cutting process.
"Aggregate became a big part of our business as it was used in the construction of roads," he said.
"It was also used in the construction of the Mittagong air strip which was built during the war [WWII].
"Quarrymen worked six days a week to produce aggregate for the air strip."
The Pope Quarry closed in 1975 although Mr Pope continued to make headstones and monuments from Bowral trachyte for many years.
The last trachyte was extracted from Mount Gibraltar in 1986 at the Loveridge and Hudson Quarry.
Mr Pope said that while there was still "plenty of Bowral trachyte in the Gib", housing development around the mountain, coupled with a drop in demand for the stone, had brought an end to the once-thriving quarrying industry.
However, he conceded that he still received inquiries for the stone on occasions.
The sites of the Pop and Loveridge and Hudson Quarries are still visible along the Mount Gibraltar Walking track that sets out near the water reservoirs on Oxley Drive, Bowral.
Some of the information used in this article was sourced from the book created by Mount Gibraltar Landcare and Bushcare group, The Gib: Mount Gibraltar Southern Highlands.