We have very limited information about the early days of Higher Kiln Quarry but believe that it, and Bakers Pit Quarry at the top of Buckfastleigh Hill, became significant sites for the extraction of limestone early in the 19th century and continued in operation until about the time of the First World War. They were ued principally to feed the limekilns on the Higher Kin Quarry site with crushed limestone that could be turned into lime for use in agriculture. 

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The operation of the limekilns is described in more detail on

The section above shows the extent of the quarries in Buckfastleigh Hill. The limestone is shown in blue and it sits on top of the old volcanic ash, now tuff (in brown), and shales (green). Only Bullycleaves Quarry survived into the late 20th century but is now closed; limestone from this qaurry was used in the rebuilding of Buckfast Abbey. Caves (in dark grey) exist throughout the limestone – the largest of these is the Reeds-Bakers Pit system with a total passage length of some 5 km. Higher level passages in this system come close to the surface in the area of the churchyard.

‚ÄčThe quarries were developed downwards and into the Hill, destroying parts of the cave systems as they went. The tuff (of no interest to the quarrymen) is exposed in the floors of both Bullycleaves and and Higher Kiln quarries and was visible in Bakers Pit quarry before is was used as a landfill site. Some of the caves were known at the time of William Pengelly’s visit in the mid 19th century but there’s little evidence that most were explored until the period between the two World Wars.