Monument record MDR13552 - Hoptonwood Quarry, Via Gellia, Middleton

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

After the original Hopton Wood Stone quarry was abandoned by about 1780, a second quarry was established as early as 1789 by the Gells. The Gells retained the trade name Hopton Wood Stone for material from the new quarry, implying that the stone had established a firm position in the market by that date. In 1821, George Pickard was described as an ironmonger and stone mason of North End, Wirksworth. By 1835 he is recorded as a stone merchant for Hopton Stone and again, as a stone mason at the same address. In an indenture (dated 31 December 1835) 'Philip Gell and Edward Sacheverall Chandos Pole granted Pickard 'a yeomen', a seven year lease on 38 acres of their Hopton Middleton and Griffe Estates 'to dig and take away all such stone as they shall think proper and expedient in certain places', 'called Hopton and Middleton Wood Quarries', 'to erect hovels, kilns, or sheds for the more convenient and better getting and working up of the said stone or for burning the same into lime' the Gells were also entitled to work the stone in their own right but had to pay Pickford accordingly. References are also made to squaring and dressing. The lease was to expire in 1842 and the annual rent was set at £138. Comparison of areas shown on later plans and the acreage noted, implies that in reality most if not all of this related to Middleton Wood. By 1853, both Pickard (1842) and Gell had died. The latter's Trustees granted two parallel seven year leases confined to the Hopton Wood quarry at Middleton Wood, to Edmund Lloyd Owen, a mineral agent of Bilston, Staffordshire and James Haywood then described as an iron founder of Derby. David Wheatcroft took up occupancy in December 1855, a formal variation to the assigned lease being concluded in 1857. (1) The Hopton Wood Company's main operations at the time of formation included Hopton Wood Quarries in Middleton Parish employing 60 people in 1865. The company set up new saw mills at Hopton Wood Quarries in the 1870s. [There is a little confusion of the name of this quarry, varying between Hopton Quarry, Middleton Wood and Hopton Wood] (1) The list of 19th and 20th century buildings public and private, in which the beautiful cream Hopton Wood Stone has been employed for flooring, staircases, interior cladding or sculpture might suggest that few self respecting grand houses, great churches or impressive municipal edifices lacked examples. In the trade until the Inter-War period, it was frequently sold as 'marble' and even justified as such, using mistaken geological reasoning. The overlying lava was presumed incorrectly to have been a heat source which altered the original limestone to a marble. Once the original quarry source of both the stone and the name Hopton Wood had ceased to be active in about 1790, this quarry was one of the main sources, along with Middleton Quarry. An economically negative effect of local vulcanicity was the increasing amount of weathered lava which had to be removed to facilitate access to the Hopton Wood beds. This was such that it eventually led to the demise of surface quarrying at Hopton Quarry. (2) From before 1850, the concerns then or later involved with Hopton Wood Stone were operating quarries at Hopton, Middleton (village), Coal Hills and Middle Peak (roadside). From these sources by 1879 if not earlier, they were producing at least five types of decorative stone, all capable of taking a high polish and frequently cited as 'marble'. These were: 'Classic' Hopton Wood, Dark Hopton Wood, Birds Eye 'Marble', Black 'Marble' or Grey or Black Birds Eye 'Marble' and Derbyshire Fossil 'Marble'. (2) The 1770 lease to John Chambers refers to both Hopton Wood and Middleton Pastures, i.e. Middleton Wood (termed here for convenience, Hopton). Certainly by 1789, a second suite of quarries had been opened up, still on Gell land in the same small Ryder Point valley and in the same beds, but over the parish boundary to the east in Middleton Wood. Indeed quarries in Middleton parish as a whole were to be by far the main source of the stone until the 1950s, the product continued to be marketed throughout as Hopton Wood Stone and the Middleton Wood quarries themselves have almost always confusingly been referred to as Hopton Wood or more often by the operators, simply as Hopton Quarries. In 1846 the Middleton Wood quarries were struggling to meet a large order to supply stone paving for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament. Later than 1846, sawing and finishing was conducted at the Hopton Quarries themselves, in buildings, the last of which were demolished in 2006. (2) By c. 1930 almost any country house of substance, numerous (mainly) northern municipal edifices, as well as many churches and cathedrals subjected to Victorian make-overs, now possessed grand staircases, flooring or wall cladding in Hopton Wood. The rigours of World War 1 were followed by a demand for countless local memorials, as well as 120,000 headstones for the Imperial War Graves Commission. The Inter-War years saw the stone being utilised for example in the Liverpool (Anglican) and Westminster (Roman Catholic) Cathedrals, the Bank of England, Broadcasting House, South Africa House, Winchester College Cloisters, Shell Mex House, Sheffield City Hall and Leeds Civic Suite. This was also the acknowledged high point in the use of Hopton Wood as a sculpting medium. It became one of the English stones of choice for eminents including Eric Gill, Jacob Epstein, and later, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. (2) At some point in 1930, the Hopton Quarries stopped working and when they resumed, concentrated largely on industrial stone. The lower parts of the Hopton Quarry complex have been leased to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve since the late 1960s. (2) This is one of a number of quarries which sprang up or expanded following the opening of the Cromford and High Peak Railway in 1830/1. (3) There is a Hoptonwood Quarry situated above the Via Gellia on the 1st edition 25" Ordnance Survey map of c. 1880. Within the site is a stone saw mill, a number of old lead shafts and an old limekiln. (4) Disused quarry served by a branch from the CHPR at Hopton. (5) The Hopton-Wood Stone Firms, Ltd, produce stone for many other uses, and modern plant has been introduced for many processes involved in preparing the products of the quarry to meet needs. Its hardness and colouring have earned it a good reputation everywhere. The new Cathederal at Liverpool is paved with its marble and many of England'ss public buildings, statues and memorials furnish examples of its use. (6) Hopton-Wodd stone belongs to the carboniferous limestone series of the carboniferous system and is built up chiefly of comminuted parts of mollusca, corals and forminfera. It is with the the presence of admixed minerals that give the stone its colour, veins, markings and flowerings that make the material of such availability for purposes of decoration. Practically all the power required to drive the plants at Middleton and Hopton is taken from the mains of Derbyshire and Notts Electric Power Co. Two crude oil engines are still retained and give economical service. (7) As far as is known the only limestone mine in England is situated in the village of Middleton-by-Wirksworth, Derbyshire. The mine was opened in 1959 in order to extract the Hopton limestone. Entrance into the hillside was made from an old quarry and an area between two vertical faults was selected for the initial attempt. Primary crushing is undertaken underground and the usual haul from the face to the surface is approximately half a mile. Since 1959 approximately one million tons of stone have been extracted. (8) Derbyshire Stone Ltd are producing a high-grade limestone. An increasing thickness of overburden led to a decision to experiment with production from underground pillar and stall workings driven in the side of the quarry. This method has proved so successful that it is now being adopted at a second Derbyshire Stone Quarry where similar conditions existed and it is possible that the two sets of underground workings may ultimately be joined into a single mining operation. The success of the operations is undoubtedly due to the management creating quarrying conditions underground with all the mechanical advantages of quarrying without the disadvantages. Furthermore, if required at any time, the quarry type plant could be returned for further surface use. (9)

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Tarmac Ltd. 2000. Tarmac Papers: The Archives and History Initiative of Tarmac Limited Volume IV. p 299-303.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: English Stone Forum. 2005. England's Heritage in Stone: Proceedings of a Conference. 90-103. p 90, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 102 illus..
  • <3> Unpublished document: Thomas, I (National Stone Centre). 2012. The Lower Derwent Valley: The Exploitation and Use of Historic Building Materials. p 27.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1882. OS County Series, 1st edition, scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile).
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1997. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part IV. Derbyshire Dales.
  • <6> Article in serial: Derbyshire Countryside. 1931. 'Some Derbyshire Industries', Derbyshire Countryside.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Quarry and Roadmaking. 1931. 'The Hopton-Wood Stone Quarries', Quarry and Roadmaking.
  • <8> Article in serial: East Midlands Geographer. 1965. 'The Hopton Wood Limestone Mine at Middleton-by-Wirksworth', East Midlands Geographer.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Mine and Quarry Engineering. 1961. 'Quarrying limestone underground', Mine and Quarry Engineering.



Grid reference Centred SK 2636 5557 (578m by 1206m)

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Record last edited

Dec 21 2018 9:27AM

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