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Monument record MDR11335 - Duke's Quarries, Oxhay Wood, Whatstandwell, Crich

Type and Period (1)

  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1800 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • World Heritage Site
  • World Heritage Site Buffer Zone

Full Description

A large network of 19th century stone quarries with tracks leading down to the Cromford Canal and railway. (1) By far the most widely exploited horizon within the Lower Derwent Valley was the Ashover Grit, i.e. a sandstone often locally referred to as 'gritstone'. North of Belper the main focii of activity were at virtually every point where these sandstone outcrops sweep down within reach of valley floor-based transport. So we find the largest cluster of building stone sites was around Whatstandwell including at Duke's, now the only operational sandstone site in the Lower Derwent Valley Area. Many of the sandstone quarries, for example Duke's, also provided crushed sand for mortars and concrete as a by-product of building stone. Quarries along the Derwent Valley had a national, indeed international reputation in the production of abrasives, a market which, on occasions, sustained the industry at times when the demand for building stone was depressed. Initially from the Medieval period, this was for millstones until the late 18th century, when French competition dominated; sales for grindstones then became the mainstay, until silicosis risks were recognised and safer synthetic materials increasingly replaced sandstone around 1900; attention was then directed to producing massive pulpstones for reducing timber to paper pulp - markets included Canada, Scandinavia, Japan and Russia but were of course vulnerable in wartimes and through the 1940s-60s, were replaced by steel scarifiers. The Sims family of Crich, through at least three generations, were highly instrumental in managing the quarries around Whatstandwell, most notably the nationally significant Duke's Quarry, under lease from the Chatsworth Estate, covering a century up until World War 2. The Sims' transactions fill many pages in the Strutt ledgers. Duke's Quarry supplied the massive stone blocks for Leicester and Birmingham prisons, Victoria Docks in London and the London and North Western Railway. It also produced grindstones for export and pulpstones for Norway into the post World War 2 period. The quarry is the only sandstone producer from c. 1800 to the present. Duke's Quarry, Whatstandwell is rather, an extensive zone (than a single quarry) of former and currently active operations with a long and at times reasonably recorded pedigree. (2) Dukes Quarry was included in a study into the potential to re-establish the roofing slate industry of the South Pennine region. Workings along the scarp slope above the Cromford canal. The current workings are in massive rock only and there is very little evidence of thinly bedded material except at one point north-west of the entrance in the oldest part. In the current quarry the overburden is thicker than usually seen - about 1m and is soil down to the rock. Below Dukes Quarry there may have been workings in the past but it is now so overgrown with mature woodland it is impossible to tell. There are the remains of a small building. Some garage waste tipped and partially buried in here. Ashover Grit. (3)

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1993. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology: A Gazeteer of Sites Part III: Borough of Amber Valley. p 7.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Thomas, I (National Stone Centre). 2012. The Lower Derwent Valley: The Exploitation and Use of Historic Building Materials. p 16-7, 21, 35 illus..
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Hughes, T (PDNPA). 1996. The Grey Slates of the South Pennines, Volume Two: The Quarries and the Slates. p 121, Quarry Number Q103.



Grid reference Centred SK 3339 5465 (418m by 793m)
World Heritage Site Derwent Valley Mills

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Record last edited

Dec 21 2018 9:27AM

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