THE story of how stone was won from the Pennine slopes over hundreds of years is a fascinating history which has been explored by geographer and landscape archaeologist David Johnson in his book "Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, An Illustrated History."

UNTIL relatively recently hundreds of mostly men were still working hewing stone from the Yorkshire Fells and in 2006 there were still 45 operational sandstone quarries. But by 2013 only 39 remained in operation.

Behind these figures hides a story of how for centuries men and boys have laboured often in the most difficult and dangerous conditions, in all weathers and at remote locations.

It was an industry crucial to the development of Yorkshire as a hub of the industrial revolution and in their hewing and shaping sandstone these men were at the centre of the growth the West Riding cities, towns and villages including at that time, Skipton, and the construction of the huge stone textile mills and factories which dominated the Pennine valleys.

"From Roman times, rocks have been worked for a wide range of purposes, initially as building stone. As time passed more and more was needed for high status buildings like castles, halls and monasteries and for bridges, walls and road building," said Mr Johnson.

"Almost every parish has abandoned quarries that exploited limestone, sandstone, flag stone, millstone grit, chert - or what quarrymen used to call granite and slate."

The Factory Act of 1878 defined a quarry as "any place not being a mine in which persons work in getting slate, stone, coprolites or other materials.

But the men who worked in the quarries did not see themselves as miners despite the fact some of their work resembled the mining of coal as the book illustrates in a photograph of two men undercutting stone in the 1940s. They referred to themselves as quarrymen.

"Most quarries went out of use long ago as cheaper imported stone or artificial substitutes dominated the market.

"Nowadays very few quarries remained in business and the story of how stone was won was an important part of the nation's disappearing heritage," he added.

The book illustrates how those quarries that had ceased to work were still visible in other guises. Some had slowly morphed back to the wild or had been deliberately re-wilded as open spaces for country parks. Others, like Skibeden at Skipton, part of the Haw Bank workings, became used for landfill and others, such as Lothersdale quarries, filled naturally with water and are now used for leisure fishing.

The Lothersdale quarries tell an interesting tale of how three generations of the Spencer family from Lothersdale opened up several quarries at Thornton in Craven, Swinden and Giggleswick and were one of the first to used wagons.

In 1899-1900 P.W.Spencer bought a fleet of Mann's Patent steam wagons with a capacity of eight to 11 tons each for use at Giggleswick quarry. It resulted in the end of the transport of stone by horse and cart for more than a mile to the railway sidings. They remained in use until the 1950s .

The owners of Cool Scar quarry at Kilnsey, which was closed down in 1998 and was left to slowly revert to vegetation, were also pioneers of mechanisation and installed a powered jaw-crusher in the 1880s.

And Foredale quarry at Helwith Bridge replaced ponies which had to haul full skips along a tramway at the top of an incline with a locomotive in 1940.

But brute human strength was still the order of the day at many quarries even into the 1950s and the book shows quarrymen pushing skips along tramways to the processing area. These skips often weighed over a ton.

The book is divided into nine chapters which explore early quarries and stone getting, quarrying slate, limestone and chert, sandstone and millstones, ganister and fireclay, how materials were moved within the quarries and processing the stone and transport.

It is crammed with colour and black and white photographs and it is these that bring home the complexity of the job and the all pervasive spread of the industry and its impact on everyday life.

There were even public houses linked to the industry such as The Slaters Arms in Bradley a beer house since the 1850s. The pub perpetuates the working of "stone flags" which were Bradley flags rather than true slate.

Several quarries south east of Skipton exploited Bradley Flags with Bradley quarry being the largest turning out thackstones - stone slates - and flagstones from its 18-metre high working face which was tackled from underground.

Perhaps the most staggering illustration is of the Walls of Jericho built from the enormous quantities of waste stone generated at Elland Flag Quarries in the settlement of Egypt near Bradford. The waste was piled up along either side of Dean Lane and held back by towering retaining walls. They were declared unsafe in 1982 and demolished.

Mr Johnson's book, which has 98 pages and 180 illustrations and costs £14.99.