Hedging & Walling Stone... Blue/Grey and Rustic mixed stone as it comes from the quarry and suitable for roadside, garden and farm hedges. — Delabole Slate, "Landscape and Paving."

A Cornish Slate "Hedge" on the road from Tintagel to Boscastle, Cornwall. "The Devonian rocks of Cornwall comprise slates and limestones as well as red sandstones," explains Arthur Salmon (2). Looking back to 1900, he could say, "In quarries the duchy employs 5672 persons, and during 1900.... raised 38,485 tons of slate, chiefly at Delabole. These figures show that Cornish quarrying is prosperous, whatever may be said of its minings" (20). One result of this work is the preponderance of attractive slate "hedges," as shown above, with the slate arranged in a herringbone pattern. In his book about Cornwall, John Betjeman recalled:

bicycling to the inland and unvisited parts of Cornwall from my home by the sea. The trees at home were few and thin, sliced and leaning away from the fierce Atlantic gales, the walls of the high Cornish hedges were made of slate stuffed in between with fern and stone crop and the pulpy green triangles of mesembryanthemum, sea vegetation of a windy sea coast country. [59]

This example was seen along a stretch of the B-road between Boscastle and Tintagel.

Delabole Quarry. Source: Baring-Gould, facing p. 87.

The Delabole works is still selling slate suitable for such walls or "hedges." Its history goes back centuries: "Delabole Slate has been used as a building material for some 800 years, and has been quarried continuously since the early 17th century, when Carew in his survey of Cornwall wrote 'in substance thin, in colour fair, in lasting long and generally carrieth good regard.'" What is more, unlike the tin and copper mining industries, it continues to thrive, with "an average of 120 tonnes of slate block" still being quarried each day (Delabole Slate, "History").

Shipping slate from Port Gavin (Port Gaverne, further down the north coast of Cornwall). Source: Baring-Gould 87.

Photograph (1999), image acquisition, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. Many thanks to Dr Helen Wilson for alerting me to the exact nature of these walls, which Betjeman describes so well. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer/person who scanned the image, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web project or cite it in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


Baring-Gould, S. Cornwall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. Internet Archive. Contributed by Robarts Library, University of Toronto. 5 January 2021.

Betjeman, John. Betjeman's Cornwall. London: John Murray, 1984.

Delabole Slate. 5 January 2021.

Dolcoath Mine. Cornwall Calling. 5 January 2021.

Salmon, Arthur L. Cornwall. London: Methuen, 1903. Internet Archive. Contributed by University of California Libraries. Web. 5 January 2021.

Created 5 January 2021