Monument record MDR9431 - Steeplehouse (Smarts) Quarry, Steeple Grange, Wirksworth

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

Steeplehouse Quarry (also known as Middlepeak Quarry - Hopton Wood Stone Co.). Approximately 120m x 80m, and up to 10m deep. A large mound of quarried gritstone blocks remain in the quarry. (1) The name Steeplehouse Quarry was derived from the goods station/ wharf (in turn relating to the local hamlet of Steeplehouse). The alternative name 'Smarts' came from Josiah Smart and Son. It was mainly worked as a source of building and ornamental stone. The upper levels suggest that a small, much older shallow working (pre 1880) was overtaken by late nineteenth century operations. From map details, development of Steeplehouse Quarry took place after 1899. The lack of references in the Quarries Lists may be due to the possibility that workings were less than the 20ft minimum for operations to be recorded. In 1909, Smart obtained agreement from the railway company to build a siding. The same evidence suggests that the operation was at that stage a 'proposed quarry' extending to Old Lane and Porter Lane. The site was certainly operational by 1911. Some time shortly before 1930, Constable Hart Ltd took over Josiah Smarts and Company. Hart was primarily concerned with the London asphalt trade. In 1930 C H Salmon of Hopton Wood negotiated a purchase arrangement for blocks of marble, as it was suggested that Smarts may be able to meet the demand for Derbyshire Black Birds Eye Marble more economically than Coal Hills. This quarry had been traditionally the source of Derbyshire Fossil Marble which was used extensively in fire surrounds, indoor sills, shelves and tables as well as ornaments such as ash trays. The sequence of beds in the Coal Hills and Steeplehouse quarries is similar and the latter is geologically famed for its fossil shark's dermal denticle horizons, together with rare sharks teeth. The arrangement developed further so that in 1931 the Hopton Wood Company had an agreement from Hart to work the quarry directly for a further year. The last date of conventional working is unclear. A considerable quantity of large blocks wedged out by plugs and feathers, still remains. Some may have been removed and dumped to access particular beds below. Some reports suggest that a steam crane may have been operating here after 1945. There was very little if any extraction from the face after 1950 but occasionally blocks were retrieved by winch and lorry for specific commissions up until the 1970's. Cumbrian Stone Ltd was engaged in this in the later 1970s and produced stone for Blackburn Cathedral. They also listed Steeplehouse stone as being generally available. Evidence of the rail system was still in place in the mid 1980's. (8) Local varieties of 'marble' (Birds Eye 'Marble', Black 'Marble' or Grey or Black Birds Eye 'Marble', Derbyshire Fossil 'Marble') associated with the Hopton Wood companies were all won from a relatively high point in the Eyam Limestone sequence at Coal Hills and Steeple House Quarries, these being to the east of the Gulf Fault. (9) Bird's Eye Black or Grey Marble was won from the two quarries Coal Hills and Smarts (aka Steeplehouse) on the National Stone Centre site, north of the High peak Trail, especially in the 1930s. Examples of its use in London include the Geological Museum, Head Quarters for Lever Brothers and Thorn Electrical, then Heathrow Terminal 2. As recently as 1975, it was polished as paving for Blackburn Cathedral. (10) Site of a branch railway line to Middleton Quarry. Part of the line is now used by the Steeple Grange Light Railway. Nearby are quarrying remains of narrow-gauge tracks and small trucks. (11)

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1> Archive: Jessop, O. 2003. Cromford & High Peak Railway and Peak Forest Tramway Survey. ARCUS 738b. Feature number: 89.
  • <2> Photograph: ARCUS. 2003. Cromford & High Peak Railway and Peak Forest Tramway Survey, Project 738b. Digital photograph. 133-134.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 2003. OS Landline (2003) from EDINA Digimap. 1:2000.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1882. OS County Series, 1st edition, scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile). XXXIV. 10.
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: Coleford, I C. 1996. The Cromford and High Peak Railway. p. 9.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Rimmer, A. 1998. The Cromford and High Peak Railway. p. 30.
  • <7> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 2002. OS Explorer 0L24 (2002).
  • <8> Bibliographic reference: Tarmac Ltd. 2000. Tarmac Papers: The Archives and History Initiative of Tarmac Limited Volume IV. p 283/9.
  • <9> Bibliographic reference: English Stone Forum. 2005. England's Heritage in Stone: Proceedings of a Conference. 90-103. p 94.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Thomas, I (National Stone Centre). 2012. The Lower Derwent Valley: The Exploitation and Use of Historic Building Materials. p29.
  • <11> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1997. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part IV. Derbyshire Dales.



Grid reference Centred SK 28711 55378 (158m by 95m) Approximate

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR1790

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Record last edited

Jun 9 2022 4:19PM

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