The Yeoman Story celebrates the life and achievements of John Foster Yeoman, who is best known as the head of local quarrying business Foster Yeoman. The book begins with the family’s days as ship-owners in Hartlepool in the 19th century. It then goes on to tell how John’s father, Foster, worked in the iron and steel industry and, after seeing service in World War I, came to Somerset and established his first quarry at Dulcote near Wells in 1923. In the years that followed the company had its ups and downs, and when Foster Yeoman died in 1949 was on the brink of bankruptcy. In 1952 his son John married Angela and the young couple were so short of money that they set up home in a caravan in Dulcote quarry where they lived for four years. From this unpromising start John Yeoman turned the quarry into one of the most productive in Somerset, and in 1959 expanded the business by acquiring Merehead Quarry at Cranmore. In 1970 Merehead was renamed Torr Works – in honour of John’s brilliant chief engineer, Ron Torr. In the same year John took the bold step of linking the quarry to the railway network and went on to build up a network of distribution depots across the south of England. Over the next three decades the company led the way in switching from road to rail, and in 1986 introduced the first privately owned diesel freight locomotives onto the British Rail network. The 1980s also saw the company’s other major investment – the establishment of a coastal superquarry at Glensanda in the west of Scotland, the entire output of which is carried by specially constructed ships. In 1986 the first cargo of granite from the new quarry was sent to Houston and Texas, but within months it was also supplying the Channel Tunnel project, providing the aggregate for the concrete which lined the tunnel.
Foster Yeoman continued to be a family owned business until it was bought by Aggregate Industries in 2006. It was always a special company - one which looked after its workforce and was repaid by loyalty and high productivity. When John Yeoman died in January 1987 Wells Cathedral was packed with over 1,000 people who came to pay their respects to the man who had built up to one of the largest and most innovative businesses in the quarrying industry. In 2009 John’s role in reviving the railway industry in the post Beeching era was recognised when a freight locomotive was named “John F Yeoman Rail Pioneer” at a ceremony at the National Railway Museum in York. John Yeoman will also be remembered locally as the man who saved Marston House near Frome, buying it in derelict state in 1983 and restoring it to its present beautiful condition to provide company offices and a venue for community events.
The Yeoman Story is 348 pages, contains over 200 illustrations, hardback