The Devon Karst Research Society.
The Homepages for the
CATTEDOWN BONE CAVES,
Cattedown, Plymouth, Devon, England, U.K.

Section  18.0.    SHAPTER'S FIELD AND FOX'S FIELD,
CATTEDOWN EAST QUARRY (PRINCE ROCK QUARRY AND THE OLD CORPORATION QUARRY), CATTEDOWN.

Cattedown Thru' Cave and Cattedown Pigeon Cave.

Text revised on 16 April 2007.

18.1....INTRODUCTION :
An entry in the 1877 edition of the Three Towns Directory for Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse, indicates that " .... Wm. Johns Shapter, dairyman ....", was a tradesman resident at Cattedown, where, presumably, he was grazing his dairy herd. This is the only reference that we can source for the possible origin of the word "Shapter", in the context of naming the area.
Subsequent to this, the Shapter's Field area became an area for garden allotments and then subsequently a base for a U.S. Military Garrison during the 2nd World War, using Nisson Huts for accomodation. After this period of use, this important karst area then became a commercial scrapyard for motor-vehicles. In the last decade of the 20th century, the land was cleared and largely quarried away for the construction of a low-quality light industrial business area - "The Plymouth Trade Park".

Fox's Field is the limestone area, still partly surviving, immediately to the north of Shapter's Field. Historically, this has been used by various Gas Utility Companies and still contains an operational gasholder. Environmentally, this area is of great importance and may be dealt with separately in a dedicated Webpage.

The purpose of this Section 18. is to offer further details of this largely destroyed limestone grassland area in what was until the very end of the 20th century, one of the few surviving unimproved karst surface areas of the original "Cat Down". The area was extremely cavernous. What remains of this area now is hardly discernable thanks to the incompetence of the so-called "competent authorities" amongst which the Plymouth City Council looms larger than most. We have lost forever the treasures of the karst underground representing vast quantities of the fossil record. This destruction will also be detailed.
Looking to the future, we shall also greatly detail the little of this area that survives to be studied in the future. The Society's deep regret is that we could probably have stopped the destruction had we not been otherwise engaged in other long-term karst issues elsewhere in South Devon. As far as we are concerned, the successes we achieved with karst preservation in various other parts of South Devon were paid for by the losses at Cattedown. This is irreconcilable.

18.2....LOCATION OF SHAPTER'S FIELD AND W.B. MOORE'S / THE OLD CORPORATION QUARRY :

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The location of Shapter's Field can be best described as the area of unquarried land situated between the westerly limits of Prince Rock Quarry and Cattedown Middle Quarry. The far western section of this quarry was once operated by W.B. Moore and was later to become the Corporation Quarry, having subsequently been owned and operated by the Pymouth City Council's Works Department.
The earliest photograph we have of Shapter's Field currently dates from 1931 and was taken in the context of the developing Oil Terminal Installations and includes the north-western parts of Prince Rock Quarry. The most complete view of Shapter's Field is shown in Photo 18.2.1. below, viewed from an aircraft.

The photo on the left is a very interesting historical record of the north-western part of Prince Rock Quarry, indicating the following industries, activities and features other than the Oil Industry :-

In the Quarry Area :-
1...W.B. Moore's Limestone Quarry in the background is providing limestone for the Lime Kilns situated in the bottom-right of the view, opposite the Oil Terminal on the other side of Oakfield Terrace Road.
2...The limestone is being transported out of the quarry by horse and cart.
3...In the bottom-left corner is the Lomas Gelatine Works.
4.  The road crossing diagonally up from the bottom-right to the middle-left, terminating in an unfinished condition, is Maxwell Road.

In the Shapter's Field Area :-
5...In the extreme top left corner is the Higher Cattedown Road (Cattedown Lane), with its stone walls on either side.
6...Shapter's Field itself seems to be grassland.

PHOTO 18.2.1...(left):
A view of the north-western part of Prince Rock Quarry showing the B.P. Oil Terminal Installation, Oakfield Terrace Road, Cattedown, before the Company's merger with Shell-Mex on 01 Jan 1932.
Note the Shapter's Field limestone grassland at the top of the Image and the Higher Cattedown Road just within view in the very top-left corner.
(Photo :  Surrey Flying Services, Croydon Aerodrome, Surrey, dated 1931., from the Shell UK Oil Plymouth Terminal photo-archive. 979 kB.)
18.3....HISTORICAL USE OF THE SHAPTER'S FIELD AREA AND THE PRINCE ROCK QUARRY :
The Prince Rock Quarry (the most easterly of the Cattedown Quarries) is the largest of the quarries on the Cattedown Peninsula. It was originally operated by various limestone extraction companies, mostly small family concerns, who over the course of more than a century, combined into fewer but larger operations. The names of Moore, Symons, Sparrow and Scott are all connected historically with mineral extraction or lime production in the Cattedown area.


PHOTO-MONTAGE 18.3.1...(above) :
A view looking towards the western quarry face of Prince Rock Quarry. The view shows the development of the B.P. & Shell Mex Oil Terminal's No. 1. Site and the Plymouth City Engineers' Depot just in view on the right. Above the quarry face is a
complex of abandoned temporary buildings - accomodating a former US Military Base during the 2nd World War. Behind this in the far distance is the Mount Batten Civil War Artillery Tower.
To the left on the line of the Higher Cattedown Road can be seen H.M. O.S. Triangulation Pillar atop the support base for the earlier chimney stack of Burnard & Alger's Chemical Works, formerly situated in the Cattedown Middle Quarry on the other side.
At the foot of the quarry face in the top-left corner of the view is the entrance to the East Portal of the masonry-lined Railway Tunnel.
The road in the bottom-left is Maxwell Road. The new road separating the Oil Terminal and the Plymouth Corporation Works Department is Macadam Road.
(Photos :  unknown, from the Shell UK Oil Plymouth Terminal photo-archive, No. R34. [left, 947kB.] and part of R35. [right, 322kB.], both dated 07 November 1950.)


 
 

PHOTO 18.3.2...(left):
The view shows in the background at the top of the quarry face, the Shapter's Field area being used as a motor-vehicle scrapyard, with cars piled up.
In the foreground is the northerly limit of of the B.P. & Shell Mex Oil Terminal's No. 1. Site and beyond the galvanized sheet-metal fence is the Plymouth City Enginerrs' Depot, separating the Oil Terminal from the Plymouth Corporation Works Department is Macadam Road.
The gasometers are situated in Fox's Field., on the northern ground of the Cattedown limestone, where it slopes gently downwards to join with the lower-lying slates and shales at Coxside.

(Photo :  unknown, from the Shell UK Oil Plymouth Terminal photo-archive, No. R34. dated 07 November 1950. 279kB.)

THE CATTEDOWN "REGENERATION" SCHEME.
THE DEGENERATION AND DESTRUCTION OF A UNIQUE LIMESTONE KARST ENVIRONMENT -
THE LEGACY OF INCOMPETENCE :
 

Destruction of Shapter's Field, Cattedown.

pdf. file, 132 kB. incl. 4 x images
18.4....THE CATTEDOWN "REGENERATION" SCHEME -
THE DEGENERATION AND DESTRUCTION OF A UNIQUE LIMESTONE KARST ENVIRONMENT - THE LEGACY OF INCOMPETENCE :
A substantial part of this very inappropriately-named project involved the complete removal of the surviving part of Shapter's Field. The principal contractor for this work was T.J. Brent.
Please click on the Link opposite in the left-side column to view a .pdf document summarizing the destruction of the karst area. The document is a product of T.J. Brent, who refer to a "Shapter's Field Quarry". This was in fact the Old Corporation Quarry, formerly owned and operated by the Works Department and the City Engineer's Department of the pre-Unitary Authority Plymouth City Council. Their view of the project was, of course, very up-beat and positive. When considering the amount money they received for this work, they would obviously be positive!! However, as a result of this work, T.J. Brent now rank high in the list of those responsible for karst-environmental destruction in this County.

The mention and detailed consideration in this Webpage of this particular event in the so called "development" of Cattedown is highly relevant to the task in hand. As previously mentioned, Shapter's Field was, until the very late 20th century, one of only three remaining "unimproved" areas of the original "Cat Down" karst plateau area. The area has now been removed and a large part of a wonderful cave system has gone with it. The cave system was breached because of the ill-advised decision of the Plymouth City Council to clear land for the development of yet another low-qualtiy Trade Park, presumeably resulting in a very short-term gain to the mismanaged Treasury of the City. The whole process leading up to this event is surrounded in controversy and is still being investigated by the Society. In this connection, various individuals once in the employ of the City Council have offered very interesting information.
However, it should be noted that there is much more scope for the continuation of this type of "development" or, more correctly - "karst environmental degeneration and destruction" at Cattedown. If left unchallenged, our hapless political "leaders" (the term is used advisedly) would probably get away with it and without having to account for their incompetence.

THE CATTEDOWN "REGENERATION" SCHEME.
A RECORD OF THE DESTRUCTION OF A CAVE SYSTEM -
THE LEGACY OF INCOMPETENCE :
 

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF A CAVE SYSTEM - THE LEGACY OF INCOMPETENCE :
Cattedown Thru' Cave and Cattedown Pigeon Cave.


 

PHOTO 18.4.1...(left):
This general view illustrates the completed and stabilized western quarry face of the former Corporation Quarry, with very little of the former Shapter's Field area remaining above.
These cave passages are part of the same cave system, as their adjacency would indicate.
They are completely different in their speleogenesis and subsequent development than those further south on the Cattedown Peninsula, beyond both the postulated synclinal structure and another large structural geological feature located further south again..
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 26 April 2003. 320 kB.)
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  


Photo 18.4.2...(right):
A more detailed view of the very large walled-up cave passages in the quarry face at the eastern flank of the surviving area of Shapter's Field.
The limestone quarry face is covered with steel mesh, which has been further anchored in place.
These two Images can be seen in greater context in the Photo-montages below.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 26 April 2003. 551 kB.)
 
WESTWARD REGRESSION OF THE EASTERN


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Following on in this direction (south) from the adjacent Photo-montage 18.4.4. is the Plymouth Abattoir Site.
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BOUNDARY OF THE SHAPTER'S FIELD / CORPORATION QUARRY AREA AND ASSOCIATED CAVE SYSTEM :


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PHOTO-MONTAGE 18.4.3.
The above series of Images depict a cross-section (from left to right and south to north respectively) of the heavily karstified Middle-Devonian Limestone geology along the final position of the regressed Corporation Quarry faces comprising the new westerly limit of the Prince Rock Quarry (Cattedown East Quarry), as seen in late 2000. In the process of having to avoid fencing barriers, it was not possible to record the images from exactly the same point. However, we think we have captured the information to a useable quality.
This cross-section depicts the varied and interesting relationship of the cave passages with the structural geology and lithology of the limestone. The above view has been interpreted by others as being a cross-section across a syncline, within the base of which most of the cave system has formed.
This is an over-simplistic interpretation. Sources external to the Society have also determined that the base of the syncline appears to be located at ca.18m (59 feet) AOD. The positions of the walled-up cave passages can be clearly seen.
Another locally-important structural geological feature is indicated further south again, in the left-two Images above. The position of this latter feature marks the boundary between the difference in cave evolution (speleogenesis) of the caves positioned on either side.
The fence running along the top edge of the quarry face marks the line of a section of the extant Higher Cattedown Road, now an extinguished highway, which once crossed the grassland-covered limestone plateau of "Cat Down". 
(Photos :  B. Lewarne, 13 October 2000.)

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PHOTO-MONTAGE 18.4.4.
The above series of Images depict the southerly continuation of the cross-section in the Photo-montage 18.4.3. above, again running from left to right and south to north respectively.
(Photos :  B. Lewarne, 13 October 2000.)

CATTEDOWN THRU' CAVE and CATTEDOWN PIGEON CAVE. THE CAVE SYSTEM BENEATH THE SHAPTER'S FIELD AREA :

The walled-up breached cave passages, indicated in the Images above, belong to the Cattedown Pigeon Cave and Cattedown Thru' Cave System, which itself is a part of an even greater cave system within the Cattedown Karst Peninsula. This particular part of the cave system, originally beneath the Shapter's Field limestone grassland. was first surveyed by the Plymouth Caving Group in December 1963 and who, under the leadership of P. Price, produced a "Grade 4" cave survey.
Their cave survey managed to account for an estimated 700 feet (213.4m.) of accessible cave passage and it indicated a labyrinth of passages and chambers forming the comparatively small interconnected air-spaces at cave-roof level above huge quantities of natural cave-infill sediments. These sediments are sealed at their top surface within the cave passages by thick layers of stalagmitic floors, referred to as "false floors". Many of the cave chambers had inaccessible passages and  rifts leading off in various directions. The cave survey indicates some structural geological control over the direction in which many passages developed. As is the case with many other such cave systems in South Devon, these cave passages are mostly filled with cave sediment and breakdown materials, masking their full vertical extent. [A copy of this early survey is held in the Society's Library and Archives Facility.]
This part of the cave system lies within a locally-important structural geological feature, the location of which is indicated in the second and third Images from the left in Photo-montage 18.4.3. above. This feature has been interpreted as a syncline, with a base at approximately ca.18m (59 feet) AOD.

Cave chambers and passages act as both mixing and storage areas for the clastic sediments that they contain. Such cave sediments represent the input brought in from the surface by sinking streams entering via ponors; soil washdown from the epikarst and as the residual insoluble fraction remaining after dissolution of the limestone. Materials from these sources are mixed in conduit caves, differentiated according to density and particle size and further transported through the conduit aquifer when water flows through the aquifer reach the necessary thresholds. When hydrological activity under phreatic conditions gradually develop into vadose streamflows and then cease altogether, the remaining in-situ cave sediments, containing a wealth of palaeo-environmental evidence, may then be subjected to the effects of dripping and flowing of lime-rich authigenic water within the cave. This may well have the effect of depositing layers of stalagmite on top of the cave sediments and sealing them in position. This is what has happened in the passages and chambers of Cattedown Pigeon Cave and Cattedown Thru' Cave.
A large part of this scientifically-valuable and irreplaceable fossil record at Cattedown has been lost to science forever, just because the Plymouth City Council wanted to develop the area for low-quality industrial units!!

The extant remains of the Cattedown Pigeon Cave and Cattedown Thru' Cave will be described in a dedicated Link-Page, currently in preparation.

HANSON QUARRY PRODUCTS.
THE PROPOSED FURTHER DESTRUCTION OF A CAVE SYSTEM -
THE CONTINUATION OF THE LEGACY OF POLITICAL INCOMPETENCE, INTRANSIGENCE AND TOTAL DIS-INTEREST :

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The southerly extension of the limestone grassland of the Shapter's Field area would have been in the south-west corner of the Prince Rock Quarry (or Cattedown West Quarry). The monochrome Images in Photo-montage 18.3.1. show this area in its post-quarried condition, with the East Portal of the Cattedown Railway Tunnel shown in the top-left corner. This situation had arisen by about 1890, by which time the quarries faces in this corner of the area had been progressed as far west as could be achieved without undermining the Higher Cattedown Road above.
After the turn of the Century, this area was gradually taken over by the railways serving the storage and distribution depots of the expanding Oil Industry. In this area, just to the south of then extant Shapter's Field but on land to the immediate north of the East Portal of the Cattedown Railway Tunnel, the Plymouth Corporation Abattoir was constructed along with associated hide- and bone-processing factories. These installations survived until the 1990's when the redundant Abattoir was demolished. The Abbatoir Site was laid out on ground adjacent to and contiguous with the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave. This small parcel of land was prime development property and, unknown to the Society, was sold off by the Plymouth City Counil to Hanson Products, who wished to construct a concrete-batch manufacturing plant on the location.

Further details regarding the recent history of this parcel of land are beyond the remit of this specific Webpage. Please refer to the Special Link Page "Actual and Potential Threats to the Caves and Karst of the Cattedown Peninsula", where details of the recent story about this area are detailed in a dedicated Webpage.

PHOTO 18.4.5...(left) :
The Image depicts the southerly limit of the Shapter's Field "development" area, stopping next to the site of the old Plymouth Abattoir, here under demolition.
The tree-covered quarry faces date from the 1890's and are currently extant.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 13 October 2000.  205 kB.)
 

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