|When the Saxons came to Spernall they called the area Spernore (later Spernall), which meant 'a hill of chalk.' They made a mistake, for the whitish earth which appeared on the hill which we today call "Spernall Park" was not chalk but a form of calcium sulphate which we call gypsum. We do not know at what date the gypsum was first extracted but various records tell us that pits and shafts dug into the hill were used to bring the gypsum to the surface between the 17th and 19th centuries. The gypsum, when burnt and ground, was used in making plaster of Paris and in the area at large, as wall plaster (e.g. Coughton Court accounts mention its use for the chapel walls). Many local farmhouses used this product to construct solid floors upstairs (often the attics), particularly in rooms for storing cheeses and other produce. It was thought that plaster floors helped to keep the room temperature stable.|
After a lull in production, the mining of the gypsum resumed in the first half of the 20th century but it was short-lived. The site has left few signs but for those who know about 'the hill of chalk' it will be easy to discern where Spernall Park Hill has been scarred and where the gypsum was brought out of the wood. Old maps always call this area 'the plaster pits. The gypsum seam appears to be confined in our area to the parish of Spernall.
Spring 1996 Index