Trail: Humber Bridge Chalk Walk

Follow the pathways of the Humber Bridge Country Park and Hessle Foreshore, using archive images to experience the historic chalk quarry that existed here for several centuries before the Country Park was opened in 1986.

Wharf On The Foreshore

The historical success of the quarry can largely be attributed to its location on the Humber Estuary.

From the earliest days of quarrying, chalk left this site by water, with vessels loaded from wharves and jetties like the one shown in this photograph.

Hessle chalk was carried on the River and the connected network of inland waterways to sites where it was processed or used in construction.

Hessle Foreshore (circa 1980)

Hessle foreshore has been a place of leisure and recreation long before the Humber Bridge Country Park opened in 1986.

During the Edwardian period the waterfront was crowded by locals on public holidays, just as it is today. In the 1970s many came here to see the Humber Bridge under construction and since the opening of the bridge in 1981 many more have been to view this marvel of modern engineering.

Hearfield Brothers Engine Garages (circa 1920)

The Hearfield family was something of an industrial dynasty at the quarry.

Four generations of Hearfields were involved in quarrying. David Hearfield was the first and operated a quarry here during the 1830s. David’s son, William Hutchinson Hearfield branched out into chalk processing after he acquired the nearby windmill and whiting works in 1863.  John and David Hearfield, William’s sons, continued the family’s industrial activities in partnership following their father’s death in 1882.

This view shows the Hearfields’ steam powered lorries and garages around 1920.

St. Mary’s Chapel (circa 1900)

An Anglican chapel of ease was built here in 1864 to serve the growing community of quarry and mill workers. It was paid for by subscription and cost £68 9 shillings and 1 pence.

The chapel appears to have ceased its religious function prior to the Second World War and in 1946 it was used as a meeting room by a group of Hessle Sea Scouts. The chapel’s bell which can be seen in this photograph is now in All Saints Church in Hessle.

Hessle Whiting Mill (1905)

Also known as ‘Black Mill’ or ‘Cliff Mill’, Hessle Whiting Mill was built around 1810 and was designed to crush chalk from the nearby quarry to produce whiting, a purified powdered form of chalk that was used in paints and putty.

The mill, which replaced an earlier horse mill built in 1795, had its cap and sails removed in 1925, thereafter it was powered by an engine. This view shows the mill and the whiting works that were attached to the tower.

Railway Underpass (circa 1900)

Underpasses were built to allow access between the quarry and foreshore following the construction of the Hull and Selby Railway, which opened in 1840.

Although the line ran directly through the quarry, the site wasn’t connected to rail until 1913 when G. & T. Earle commenced quarrying operations. Until this time, quarried chalk left here almost entirely via the Humber estuary.

Little Switzerland (1910)

Little Switzerland, or ‘Little Switz’ as it is fondly referred to by locals, is an area of the park that has been enjoyed by the public since the late Victorian period. It was so named due to its steep slopes, woodland and white chalk cliffs that were once visible from this area, which were said to resemble the snow-capped Alpine mountains of Switzerland.

The Locomotive ‘Cuthbert’

There were several different quarry operators including Hearfield’s and Marshall’s.

In 1913 these companies were joined by cement manufacturers G. & T. Earle Ltd. Earle’s established an internal standard gauge railway system in the quarry which carried quarried rock from the cliff face to a crushing plant on this spot, from there the chalk was conveyed by a belt elevator to a silo.

Beneath the silo were railway wagons that transported the chalk along the mainline Earle’s Wilmington cement works in Hull.

Chalk Pit Workers (circa 1940)

During the 20th century,  quarrying operations became mechanised.

This view shows quarrymen in the bottom of the chalk pit with a powered hand tool. Mechanisation caused the pace of quarrying to quicken and the quarry roughly doubled in size between 1900 and 1950.

Chalk Cliffs (circa 1900)

Our trail begins at the very heart of the Country Park. You can get to the starting point from the main Humber Bridge Car Park via the Country Park’s Little Switzerland entrance (the entrance nearest to the Humber Bridge). Use ‘View on map’ from the trail’s homepage to reach point ‘1’ and the start of the trail.

The cliffs surrounding the park were created by centuries of chalk quarrying, dating back to at least the 14th century. Chalk was used extensively as a foundation stone for roads and buildings, but was also processed into lime and whiting.

Until the early twentieth century quarrying methods remained manual with chalk extracted by hand using picks and crowbars.

This image shows quarried rock being carried on horse drawn carts to the foreshore where it was crushed in mills or loaded on board vessels from wharves and jetties.