Johnston Quarry Group has bought Bath Stone Group from Elaine Marson and Bath & Portland from Hanson (part of the international Heidelberg Cement conglomerate with international sales of more than €15billion).
The Bath stones join the Ironstone and Cotswold and Lincolnshire limestones already produced by the Johnston Quarry Group.
Bath Stone Group produces the famous Stoke Ground Bath limestone from Limpley Stoke underground quarry near Bath.
Bath & Portland, which has for a long time been an awkward fit in the aggregate parent’s portfolio, lost its access to another famous source of Bath Stone, Hartham Park, at the start of last year, when the lease on the entrance to the underground quarry and part of the underground workings was taken over by Lovell Stone Group.
Bath & Portland still owned some of the underground workings at Hartham Park and had gained planning permission to open a new portal on land it owned, permission Nicholas Johnston, the owner of Johnston Quarry Group, says he plans to exercise.
The new adit will provide drive-in access to Hartham Park Bath Stone and the premium Box Ground beds. Nicholas says the Box beds are ready to go and he plans to continue to develop them.
After losing the Hartham Park portal at the start of last year, Bath & Portland moved its Bath Stone production to Monks Park, another underground quarry, to allow it to continue production of Bath Stone. Nicholas says he will have to decide how much stone will continue to be extracted from Monks Park after the new adit at Hartham Park is built.
The Bath & Portland purchase includes the substantial masonry works at Keynsham, which will remain open. Johnston Quarry Group already has a processing plant at Banbury and planning permission to build others at Great Tew, on the estate in Oxfordshire owned by Nicholas Johnston where the company’s ironstone is quarried, and at its Oathill Quarry in Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire.
Nicholas says block will continue to be supplied to other masonry companies but that Johnston Quarry Group also wants to supply masonry.
The Bath & Portland and Bath Stone Group businesses will be combined under the name of Bath Stone Group with the Bath & Portland hammer as the logo. It will be headed by Matthew Hawker, a Director of Bath Stone Group before the sale. Elaine Marson remains a committed supporter of the business, says Nicholas.
All the employees of Bath Stone Group and Bath & Portland transfer to the new owner and Nicholas says there is every likelihood of recruiting more people as investment in the new acquisitions bears fruit.
He says the investment might include additional mining capability at Limpley Stoke. “I think we will be looking to increase production there,” he told NSS.
He says: “We want to be a one-stop-shop, if you like, for anyone who wants to purchase Bath Stone.”
He says the purchases were a result of both the opportunity arising and because Johnston Quarry Group wants to spread its wings. If other opportunities presented themselves he says he would look at them. “I'm in it for the long term. I really do feel we are doing everything we can to be a standard bearer for the English Stone Industry.”