The Duke of Cornwall first granted a licence to quarry granite in this area in 1847, aside the summits of a couple of tors (Pew and Roos) being protected areas, being defined by inscribed marks on large boulders around them. Latterly (at Roos Tor) uprights were added to define the protected areas. At that time, the quarrymen were limited to taking surface granite. There is still evidence of their work with lots of tare / feather marked (splitting of granite) blocks still being seen . The demand for this granite had increased during the 19th century, especially for paving stones, kerbs and cobbles (or setts as they are known) as part of the revolution to improve roads especially around Plymouth and Tavistock.
On the slopes of the Staple Tors (and other locales on Western Dartmoor), there are a considerable number of small granite structures (benches) which are believed to date from around 1870 (Helen Harris), although some suggest as early as 1850 – 60. These benches, known as Sett Makers Bankers, were used in the manufacture of the aforementioned kerbs and setts. The demand for granite setts appears to have out-stripped the sett makers ability to find suitable moorstone lying around slopes of tors and it is this which was the catalyst for the need to a quarry.
The demand for sett granite, lead to William Duke opening ‘Tor Quarry’ in 1875 (some observers state 1876). The enterprise was taken over by his son after his death. The quarry although originally known simply as ‘Tor Quarry’ has also been known as ‘Duke’s Quarry’ and of course latterly as ‘Merrivale Quarry’. The quarry was operational for around 120 years and eventually closed in 1997. In its final years the quarry had been operated by the Tarmac Group and was the last operational quarry on Dartmoor. It is recorded that granite from the quarry provided granite for New Scotland Yard, Portcullis House (in Westminster) and the paving of Trafalgar Square. Granite here was provided for the Falklands Island War Memorial commemorating the Falklands War of 1982.
- A.J. Passmore, 2006, Archaeological Assessment of Historic Buildings at Merrivale Quarry
- Helen Harris, 1968, Inductrial Archaelogy of Dartmoor
- Simon Dell and John Bright, 2008, Dartmoor’s Sett Makers’ Bankers (an industrial mystery solved)
- Mary Stanbrook, 1991, Old Dartmoor Schools Remembered