Monument record MDR13565 - Stoneycroft Quarry, B5032, Wirksworth

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

There are frequent unattributed references to quarrying having started around Middle Peak '200 years ago', others more specifically mention limestone working and dependent limeburning here being in the hands of the Shaw family for at least 200 years. Another commentator (unpublished) even suggested a 'start date' for Middle Peak of c. 1792 but could not support this with documentary evidence. These earlier references are to a section later known variously as Stoneycroft, Bowne and Shaw, Bottom Hole or since about 1980, the Limekiln Quarry. In 1881 Bowne and Shaw is given as a lime and limestone works. Bowne and Shaw's Quarry developed as three entities: the Bottom, Middle and Top Holes, respectively; the Top and Middle (approximate to the modern area of Middle Peak Quarry), the Bottom Hole located in the Stoneycroft (also known more recently as Limekiln) Quarry to the south and functioning rather earlier and almost autonomously until the 1930s. Stoneycroft Quarry soon became a secure and major source of fluxing stone for Stanton Ironworks near Ilkeston following the opening of the Ecclesbourne line in 1867 eating into markets previously serviced by the Wheatcrofts from Hopton Wood via the Cromford and High Peak Railway and Cromford Canal. Stoneycroft was worked by Bowne, Shaw and Goodwin. The latter disposed of his interest shortly afterwards, the frim being registered as Bowne and Shaw Ltd in 12905. In 1910 John Shaw died and his son Clifford, took over. In 1921 Stanton Iron Company gained a 50% interest in Bowne and Shaw to ensure supply. Stoneycroft became incorporated into the rest of Middle Peaks Quarry in 1947. A crusher had been installed in Stoneycroft in about 1910-12 and was considered innovatory at the time, this was subsequently replaced by larger capacity equipment around 1925 due to investment from Stanton Ironworks. The original had been steam powered; later, gas engines were introduced. At the face, 'hand-loading' into horse drawn trucks was still in progress. A parallel tramway operated (3ft/ 91.5 cm gauge) from Stoneycroft. Later, presumably as the quarry deepened, a standard gauge line ran from the bottom of Stoneycroft, behind Cavendish Cottages to the main sidings. In the major 1954 upgrading, an overhead conveyor was introduced to feed bins loading directly onto the main Cromford Road sidings. Only the last two lines were to survive until a few years before the quarry closed, the standard gauge being lifted in c. 1990; the conveyor housing remains. Immediately after the Second World War, Stewarts and Lloyds acquired the remaining 50% of Bowne and Shaw and plans were put in hand for major investment, mechanising the whole process from face to dispatch. The rail system within the quarry abandoned. Large electric and diesel face shovels and special side tipping dumpers emptied into the primary crusher using an overhead mounted winch system. The labour force virtually halved to 89 whereas actual production was approaching double previous levels. The next major change came in 1965. Stewarts and Lloyds profits had fallen significantly, re-nationalisation was imminent and it was recognised that the company had an asset with unrealised potential, particularly in roadstone sales during the initial motorway construction period. It was therefore decided to sell Bowne and Shaw to Derbyshire Stone Ltd for £1.6million. Built into the sale was a 25 year agreement to supply Stewarts and Lloyds with fluxstone. Derbyshire Stone immediately set about a further round of development involving an investment of £2million. In 1967-8 the combined Middle Peak Quarries, along with most other rail connected Carboniferous Limestone quarries were called upon to supply 4-6 ton blocks of stone to create a new breakwater for Port Talbot Steelworks in South Wales. This required five trains a week, each carrying 600 tons of stone. (1) Just to the south of the railway is the massive Middle Peak complex of quarries, effectively incorporating Middle Peak itself, Monkey Hole, Bottom Hole, Stoneycroft, Dale (each with various alternative names) and effectively, the neighbouring Baileycroft Quarry. The earliest extraction probably began in the 18th century around the Limekiln public house and at Middle Peak sensu stricto in the 1790s. It became a major source of fluxing stone for Midlands' iron and steel works from Corby to the Black Country, then a principal supplier to sugar beet refineries and latterly a major aggregates producer. The historical emergence is equally complicated, but precious little remains to be seen on the ground, mainly as a result of large scale extraction (up to 1.5 million tonnes annually) from the late 1950s until virtual closure in 1992, and infilling of Stoneycroft (to create Stoneywood Community Park) and partially, of Dale Quarry. The site still carries substantial permitted reserves which are 'kept alive' by intermittent working. However there are a range of interesting links to the railways which have already been largely interpreted on the ground and some other features such as a magazine which are not covered. There is a growing accumulation of archival material for this site, held both by the National Stone Centre and in private hands. (2) Stoneycroft Quarry, Wirksworth is shown on the 1st edition 25" Ordnance Survey map of c. 1880. (3)

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Tarmac Ltd. 2000. Tarmac Papers: The Archives and History Initiative of Tarmac Limited Volume IV. p 271, 272, 274-7.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Thomas, I (National Stone Centre). 2012. The Lower Derwent Valley: The Exploitation and Use of Historic Building Materials. p 27.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1882. OS County Series, 1st edition, scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile).

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred SK 2850 5437 (281m by 317m)
Civil Parish WIRKSWORTH, DERBYSHIRE DALES, DERBYSHIRE

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Record last edited

Dec 14 2017 4:29PM

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