Driving from Temple Mill towards Hook Norton on your right hand side there used to be a working quarry – known as Gibraltar Quarry. Having made several enquiries with folk who remember the working quarry it has not become clear why it was called Gibraltar. Speculation might suggest that the Cotswold limestone quarried there resembled the limestone rock which comprises the true Rock of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea – who knows?
Limestone rock is often rich in fossils and during its excavation a fossil six to seven feet long, identified as Dynasol Ichthyosaurus (a crocodile-type dinosaur from the Jurassic period) was found there.
The Stewart family rented the quarry from the company which owned it with the rights to quarry the stone until it was worked out. Harold Stewart was born in 1900, and initially worked on a farm in Middle Barton, but he started his own business with a single lorry – a steam Foden and a pile of coal from a local railway yard. By the early 1930’s he had rented Gibraltar Quarry in Sibford, together with some adjoining fields. In addition to the stone quarry some animals were reared and sheltered in sheds there near to the road bend. The fields above were cultivated for corn.
The entrance to the quarry was by a track, still visible today, just beyond Temple Mill. As the business grew machinery was stored in three tin sheds. A fourth shed further up the quarry was used to store the gelignite that was used to blast areas of stone before it was removed by hand, barrowed and loaded into lorries for distribution. This store was destroyed in a huge explosion – the dynamite was thought to have ignited during a thunder storm. No Health and Safety in those days governing the storage of flammable and explosive materials! There was no electricity or running water on the site. Petrol was hand pumped from a storage tank for fuelling the lorries and water was carried in buckets from the mill stream running on the opposite side of the road at Temple Mill. On another occasion, following a heavy rainstorm, the stream running along the left-hand side of the road flooded a barn on that side destroying the bottom wall and serious damage was done to all the farm machinery stored there.