Bent­heim Sand­stone

Quar­ry­ing Histo­ry

Sand­stone was quar­ried in the Coun­ty of Bent­heim as ear­ly as the 11th cen­tu­ry. The stone depo­sits in Bent­heim belon­ged to the domain of the Counts of Bent­heim and were lea­sed out. In the 17th and 18th cen­tu­ries, the inco­me from the­se lea­ses was the most important source of inco­me for the Counts. The rent nego­tia­ted with the Counts’ rent mas­ter was pro­ba­b­ly based on volu­me per order. The Bent­heim mines only recei­ved bet­ween two and just under four per cent of such ren­tal inco­me. The lion’s share came from the Gil­de­haus quar­ries, com­pri­sing a more cove­ted light-colou­red sand­stone, which is almost gol­den in appearance.


In the heyday of sand­stone quar­ry­ing, the­re were up to 22 quar­ries in the Upper Coun­ty. Many of their names recall the last ten­ants, such as “Schlü­ters Kuh­le”, “Köll­jans Kuh­le” or the “Voss­küh­le”. Curr­ent­ly, Bent­heim sand­stone is only quar­ried in a four-hec­ta­re area in Gil­de­haus (type: Gil­de­haus). The quar­ry at the open-air theat­re (Frei­licht­büh­ne) in Bad Bent­heim is being reac­ti­va­ted to once again source the red­dish sand­stone (type: Bent­heim).

The workers of the Bent­heim quar­ries — labou­rers, stone­cut­ters and stone­ma­sons — were known as “Kuhl­kerls”. The­se quar­ry workers remo­ved the rub­ble and over­bur­den and loa­ded the quar­ried stone for trans­port. Stone­ma­sons then remo­ved lar­ge slabs of sand­stone from the rock and cut the natu­ral stone to the requi­red dimen­si­ons. They also pro­du­ced simp­le work­pie­ces such as wall and cor­ri­dor stones. A dual-tip­ped point, the Bli­cke, was their most important tool. The rough­ly hewn stones were then fur­ther pro­ces­sed by the stone­ma­sons, doing the fine work. Their work­shop was loca­ted near the quar­ry, often direct­ly in the pit. They also fre­quent­ly work­ed on exter­nal buil­ding sites.

Work in the quar­ries was in high demand, as, asi­de from agri­cul­tu­re, quar­ry­ing was often the only source of inco­me. The pro­fes­si­on car­ri­ed a high health risk, with fre­quent acci­dents. Most workers con­trac­ted sili­co­sis (stone dust). Every third stone­ma­son died befo­re the age of 40.