Under lying the lower mountain mine are deposits of “white earth” or fireclay. This fireclay is reputed to be the best for refactory purposes. The fire clay in the Rishton colliery was transported by canal to the Norden fireclay works, which was founded by Mr George Clarke in 1851. It was a small enterprise compared with the large Enfield and NORI brickworks of Clayton Le Moors. A high quality of firebricks, furnaces and destructor blocks were made and the products sent to foundries in most parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire. After the closure of the pit in 1941 fireclay was obtained from Huncoat colliery and other sources, but increased costs and competition from Scotland compelled the closure in 1959.
The extensive beds of grit, sandstone, and flagstone that characterises the millstone grit and coal board rocks, have paid a heavy contribution to the economic life of Lancashire. Every bed has been quarried in one location or another and has been used for walls, roads, and buildings.
Besides the rocks that have been quarried for local use, there are others of importance that have supplied wider markets and foremost amongst these are Haslingden flags. This trade has almost died out, due to competition from artificial flags.
Lower Haslingden flags vary from 140 to 180 feet in depth. In Rishton, at close brow quarries and Harper clough the base of the flag is a white massive sandstone known locally as “lonkey”. It is 11 to 12 feet thick and is valuable for setts. It has been mined to a depth of 50 to 60 feet below the quarry floor, and it emerges at an angle of 50o. Above the floor lies about 40 foot of flag and shale which are waste. The lonkey gradually diminishes in thickness towards Blackburn.
The lonkey from these quarries was used as paving stones, the smaller material made excellent squared building stone of which many of the terraced houses in Rishton are built. The thinner stones were formally used as tile stones.
The natural flagstone was transported to Rishton by horse drawn vehicles. The lonkey is no longer cut because competition is too great from sandstone, manufactured setts from slag, and red brick as a building material.
The quarries are not used at all now, except for close brow quarries that are used as a testing ground for earth moving equipment, and the Cunliffe quarries which are slowly being filled in by Blackburn corporation for refuse disposal purposes.
Now, come the turn of the century, the Cunliffe quarry has been filled for many years, and is used for grazing sheep, and close brow is a place of beauty with streams cascading down the rock face creating beautiful pools, and lush plants.
Stone quarrying has been recorded in Rishton back dating to the seventeenth century and early workings were situated in the Cunliffe and Dunscar areas. By 1848 a large sandstone quarry was operating near Windy Bank (linked to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal by tramroad) and during the 1850's George Clarke commenced major workings at the Close Brow and Star Delph regions. The Lower Cunliffe Quarries were later worked by Edward Noble, and finally by J. H. Spencer and Co. Extraction appears to have ended during the First World War.
Evidence of the use of local sandstone can be seen in a number of mills and in terraced housing erected during the third quarter of the nineteenth century. By the 1880's Yorkshire stone and machine brick was being used for the bulk of building projects, local stone having been relegated to minor works and foundations.
Industrial Rishton by Kathleen Broderick.