Quarries were opened and exploited from soon after the Roman conquest to the end of the Roman period in the fifth century. The majority were used for a very limited period of time and met the requirements for building stone within their immediate areas. A few, including the Purbeck marble quarries, produced very high quality building stone which was transported for use over a wide area. Many were under military control to produce stone for forts or defence works such as Hadrian's Wall. Others were under the control of town authorities. In some instances they may also have been privately owned. Most provided building stone, but a few were used for more specific purposes to produce quern or mill stones. Quarrying techniques were relatively simple and involved the use of wedges, separation trenches and percussion to split lumps of rock from the parent material. Irregular blocks of stone were usually dressed to shape before being transported from the quarries. Tracks and pathways enabling the removal of stone from the quarry would also have existed. Visible remains include working faces, waste heaps and dressing floors.
Today, however, very few Roman quarries can be positively identified because reuse in later times has removed much evidence for Roman activity, whilst the continued use of similar quarrying techniques over long periods often makes it impossible to determine the exact date of surviving remains. Most of the quarries which are considered to be Roman are dated on the basis of surviving inscriptions or carvings, usually on the worked face. Fewer than 50 quarries have been confirmed to retain evidence for Roman activity. In view of their rarity and the insights they provide into Roman technology and building works, all surviving examples will be identified to be nationally important.