A century ago, many houses and public buildings were built with stone foundations. Corner stones (quoins) were used on larger buildings to provide additional support for brick walls as well as for decorative effect. Gardens featured stone walls and pathways, while crushed stone was used as road base and to repair roads that had been made impassable after heavy rains.
The demand for all types of stone accelerated with the increasing subdivision of suburban areas and the incorporated municipal councils that assumed responsibility for local roads and drainage works. Most councils eventually bought or developed quarries within their own area. This was essential, not only to meet the constant need for stone, but also to limit the cost and difficulty of its transport.
For many years Foxcroft’s Quarry situated in what is now the car park of Massey Park Golf Club served Concord’s needs. The quarry-master, Arthur Foxcroft, was a well-known local businessman and former alderman on Concord Council. He purchased the quarry in 1912 from the estate of Michael Foran and c.1914 built a federation-style sandstone cottage, which he named “Foxcroft”, using stone from his quarry. Arthur Foxcroft died in April 1929 at the age of 85. His quarry was taken over by Concord Council.
Like most suburban quarries, it attracted a deal of unfavourable attention from nearby residents. Their concerns about noise, dust and safety were amplified by occasional stories in the press about dangerous conditions and the tragic deaths of those who ventured too close to the edge of the pit. Periodically, newspaper editors would garner public indignation and call on local councils to impose further restrictions on quarries or to close them altogether.
Despite an impassioned plea from the Evening News, the quarry remained open. There was, however, a more concerted effort to reclaim land using garbage as landfill. A number of Concord’s parks are testament to this determination.
During the 1930s Depression, Concord Council employed day labour to quarry stone used in local road works. The scheme, known as Relief Work, provided men with limited hours of work, but little pay and poor conditions. The exhausting work and lack of facilities prompted the men to form the Concord Dole Workers Council to petition for set work breaks, water tins to reduce dust, shelter sheds and decent toilets. They succeeded in their claims and even achieved an agreement for an engineer and paid work inspector to oversee safety and working conditions.
One incident that attracted state-wide attention was a mysterious blast that destroyed the explosives store at the quarry, severely injuring Frank Jones, who had been attempting to steal gelignite by breaking into the store just before dawn. Police reported that on 29th July 1935, Jones attempted to cut through the lock, using an electric torch. When that failed, he lit a match. What followed was described in graphic detail in a dozen or more journals. Jones suffered horrific injuries to his face, chest and arms. Blinded, he staggered towards the cliff with his clothes on fire. Jones then either jumped or fell and was later found semi-conscious at the bottom of the pit with two loaded revolvers close by.
Jones was already “known to police” who were seeking to interview him in relation to a robbery and attempted murder at North Strathfield Station two nights before. He was taken to Western Suburbs Hospital in a serious condition where he was kept under police guard. Reports as to his condition and speculation as to his motives continued for several days. When asked by police why he had two loaded revolvers in his possession, Jones said that as he did not know this area, but had heard there were some dangerous fellows about, he wanted to feel safe. Police claimed the revolvers were the same as those used to shoot at the station master and a bystander in the earlier robbery at Concord West Station.
Jones appeared in Burwood Court two months later, his head swathed in bandages. He was charged with more than 50 offences including the theft of jewellery found in his possession, armed robbery and attempted murder. The police prosecutor decided not to proceed with charges relating to his break-in at the quarry, perhaps deciding he had been punished enough for that transgression.
In 1948 the Cabarita Progress Association proposed that the disused quarry be filled in and turned into a golf course. The surrounding wetlands, described as “an evil smelling swamp,” were to be drained to provide “a more pleasant amenity for the community”. The Riverside Golf Club operated on the reclaimed land until 1953 when the Massey Park Golf Club was formed. The quarry was filled with household rubbish and sealed with a layer of ash from the nearby Mortlake Gasworks. It took twelve years to fill. A similar process was undertaken to form adjacent Brewer Park. (Andrew West