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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 538
Date assigned Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Date last amended


SUMMARY OF MONUMENT Cowdale Quarry, a lime extraction and processing plant of the late-C19 and C20. REASONS FOR DESIGNATION * Survival: the monument survives particularly well and retains elements of the complete industrial process of lime quarrying and processing, within its original, uncompromised setting. * Group Value: the survival of the buildings, elements of the transport infrastructure and process flows of the industry are nationally important both as a spatial grouping and from a time depth perspective. * Rarity: Cowdale is one of only five sites recognised as being of outstanding national importance because of the rare survival of certain building types and for the completeness and diversity of surviving features. * Potential: the site retains archaeological potential both within and between the standing structures. Earthworks indicate the survival of buried deposits and ruinous structures provide an insight into the continuity and change in the use and development of the complex as a whole. * Historical documentation: Considerable historical documentation is available providing a comprehensive record of the site and the companies involved in its development and function. HISTORY The Carboniferous Limestone beds around Buxton have been subjected to widespread extraction and processing since post-medieval times. In the mid-C18 production was industrialised, a process which was aided, in the Wye Gorge, by the building of the Midland Railway line in the 1860s. The earliest recorded workings at Cowdale were in 1870 when, it is understood, the kilns were built, although there is some debate as to whether they were built later in the C19. The quarry did not appear on Ordnance Survey (OS) maps until the early-C20, and a railway link to the quarry first appears on the 1924 OS map, but the industrial complex had been enlarged and extended around the railway by 1909 by Buxton Lime Firms. The Power House, gate houses, entrance buildings and subsidiary structures were added to the site at this time, positioned on graduated terraces cut into the rock face. The quarry finally closed in 1954 when it was understood to be the last site to use traditional, coal-fired shaft kilns in Derbyshire. The particularly pure limestone in the vicinity of Buxton makes quarrying an important industry still. DETAILS The monument is approached from the west through a double entrance; a wide gateway for vehicular access with an adjacent pedestrian entrance. The pedestrian entrance is constructed of reinforced cast concrete with dentilled decoration across the lintel. This motif is common throughout the complex and typologically dates these elements of the site to the 1909 expansion. The track way climbs to the east with a stone-built wall marking the northern edge and the southern side by a cast concrete retaining wall. Approximately 24m east of the entrance and immediately adjacent to the track is a gate house, constructed in reinforced, cast concrete. It is rectangular in plan, three bays wide and built against the rock face, with a flat, concrete slab roof. Tapering buttresses define the corners of the building as well as the individual bays, and reach to the dentilled eaves and roof. The central bay, with a door and single window opening, is flanked by three vertically-proportioned window openings in the bays either side. The dentilled decoration above the door and window openings runs as a single course across the front and around the sides of the building. A small open portico extends from the western end of the building, with tapering buttresses supporting a single slab roof. Internally, the rendered concrete construction incorporates concrete beams and brick piers which partition the internal space into three bays with a central 'reception' area and rooms either side. A series of door openings provide an open passage along the width of the back wall giving access to each room. None of the doors or window glass survives. Following the track eastwards it continues to rise until it meets a second terrace running east to west. Starting at the western end of the terrace is the site of the Power House, this was an imposing building constructed in reinforced cast concrete as part of the 1909 expansion. It was built against the rock face, and sat directly behind and above the gate house, but was a larger, more prominent and distinct building that replicated the powerful architectural style. The Power House was demolished in May 2011. It was rectangular in plan, with a single-storey wing either side of a two-storey central tower. The tower was both imposing and impressive with tapering buttresses on each corner reaching to the flat roof. A central doorway was subtly decorated with a dentilled lintel but displayed tapering door jambs of temple-like proportions. Above the door a cast-concrete date plaque read 'BLF 1909 TR' in recognition of the Buxton Lime Firms who were responsible for the development and running of the quarry at this time. The architectural style was distinctive and gave the impression of strength and wealth. The Power House would have been a dominant feature of the landscape, clearly visible from both road and rail when built in 1909. Inside the Power House was a single, open room with a central row of steel columns running east to west indicating the site of a tank, presumably for water, and part of the power source for which the Power House was built. Approximately 109m east of the site of the former Power House is a second gate house, constructed in reinforced, cast concrete and brick. The single-storey gate house is rectangular in plan, built against the rock face, with a flat, concrete slab roof and a short, single stack at the eastern end. The building sits on a triangular-shaped terrace, supported by a retaining wall and has an entrance at each end, both of which are approached from the southern side. That to the west is a double doorway but is half obscured by soil and stone which has slipped from above and accumulated on the terrace. The main north fa├žade is three bays wide with two horizontally proportioned, slightly recessed window openings within each. Tapering buttresses define the corners of the building as well as the individual bays and reach to the roof. Dentilled decoration above the window openings mirrors that found on both gate house one and the former Power House and is typologically associated with the 1909 phase of the industrial complex. The tapering buttresses throughout give the distinct impression of strength and power and are of a style which has Art Deco overtones but some 15 years earlier than the height of the movement. The architectural style is distinctive and is repeated at various scales throughout the site. Internally, the rendered concrete and brick construction incorporates concrete beams and brick piers which partition the internal space into two compartments: a single room which runs the length of the building and a parallel, narrow corridor to the rear. Along the full length of the back wall of the corridor is a concrete ledge or bench suggesting it was used as a waiting area. The latter is accessible from both the double eastern entrance and that at the western end. None of the doors or window glass survives. Approximately 95m east of the second gate house is the bank of four draw kilns. These large stone-built kilns are rectangular in plan and stand to approximately 16m above the former track bed of the railway sidings. Reinforced concrete flying buttresses support the northern side of the kilns, reaching from the track bed to the top of the shafts. These were added to the kilns in 1931 to offer support on the northern, and down slope, side of the structure. The four kilns are served by two, brick-lined, drawing arches at their base, within each of which are four recesses each containing a large hopper. The rear wall of each arch comprises the exposed rock face. The draw kilns were continuously run with fuel and stone, loaded in alternate layers from the top and the finished lime drawn periodically from the base. The circular tops of the shafts are visible at the ground surface above the kilns but have been capped in concrete. The incline plane and Drum House were constructed just south of the kilns to, amongst other things, draw fuel up from the entrance to the site, to the top of the kilns. The kilns continued in use until 1954 when the site finally closed down. A further 140m east of the kilns is a large concrete structure retaining loading hoppers, pulleys and wheels which appear to relate to a lifting mechanism. Standing to a similar height to the kilns, the structure recedes into the rock face as it tapers back towards the top. It now survives as a ruin but the building is shown on photographs from the 1930s as a roofed structure. Again railway sidings formerly passed under parts of the building to serve the loading shutes which are at approximately first floor height. Sections of track are evident, scattered around this part of the site. Another c100m east of the loading hoppers is a rock-cut cave with a stone-built blast wall, surviving up to a height of approximately 1m, constructed across the entrance. The rounded, arched opening into the cave leads into a single cell, rough cut from a protruding rock face. This fuel or Powder House is a rare survival of this building type. The east-west terrace along which all these structures were built represents the railway track bed which served the Power House at the most western extent, and linked to the Midland Railway, Buxton Branch line to the east, a distance in total of approximately 766m. Although much of the track has been removed, there is evidence of track and sleepers protruding from the ground at various points along this length, particularly around the area of the kilns and loading hoppers. Here, sidings branched from the main track to allow trucks to get closer to the buildings. Approximately 53m east of the former Power House the track bed divides; the main track continues on a relatively level gradient to the east while a narrower, side track leads off to the south-east on a steep gradient towards the quarry face. Continuing along the east-west terrace, sections of stone and concrete retaining wall support the rock cut terrace on the southern side. Blocked entrances and small ruined structures along the line of the wall indicate both the continuity and change in the layout and use of the site probably from the mid-late-C19 onwards. The side track leading off from the main rail track is the line of the incline plane which served the upper levels of the kilns, crushing area and quarry floor. The Drum House, which housed the winding drum for the incline, ruined structures and buried features, evident as earthworks. Side tracks are documented extending from the incline to serve individual subsidiary structures and to continue to the top of the spoil heaps. At the eastern end of the monument, a network of track beds interlink, crossing to and from the quarry floor and spoil heaps. The scheduling aims to protect the standing, buried and earthwork remains of Cowdale lime extraction and processing site. Further remains of the quarry and elements of the extraction and processing areas lie outside the scheduled area, particularly to the south where the quarry face is exposed. Here, spoil heaps and sections of the transport infrastructure also survive. All of these features have archaeological potential but for the purposes of designation the focus of the scheduling should lie along the northern edge of the site, where a greater intensity of remains survive and the archaeological potential is at its greatest. Here the designation captures the rare and nationally significant group value of the monument, rarity of structures such as the Powder House, as well as the ruined structures and walling which represent the phases of change and continuity in the industrial function of the site. SELECTED SOURCES Chitty, G, MPP: The Lime, Cement and Plaster Industries Step 4 , English Heritage Report, 2001 Trueman, M., MPP: The Lime, Cement and Plaster Industries Step 1 Report, English Heritage report, 1996 Trueman, M. , MPP: The Lime, Cement and Plaster Industries Step 3 Report, English Heritage Report, 1999

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 2011. Scheduling Notification: Cowdale Quarry Limestone Extraction and Processing Site 540m north-east of Staden Manor. List entry no. 1399726. SM Cat. No. 538.



Grid reference Centred SK 0791 7247 (461m by 264m)
Map sheet SK07SE

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Record last edited

Aug 9 2013 4:19PM

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