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Stone Quarrying in the Matlocks
Quarrying for both limestone and gritstone has been a major industry in Matlock and Matlock Bath
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G.S. Drabble's advert in Kelly's 1891 Directory shows the wide range of use local stone was put to because of its weather resitance and weight bearing qualities
Image Copyright Ann Andrews
Late nineteenth century advertisement, from Kelly's Directory[1891]

"In the early years of the sixteenth century the quarry at 'Brokewalcliff' or 'Brodewalcliff' in Matlock manor was let on lease at an annual rent of 20d"[1]. Stone has been quarried in the district, and used for building and walling, for hundreds of years.

Before the development of the Britain's canal system and the railway network farmers would have their own quarries. Production was small in scale and where the underlying, or outcrop of, rock was limestone local farmers would also have had their own lime kiln[2]. So when John Smedley was building Riber Castle, for example, he used stone from a quarry on Riber Hill just a short distance to the north east of his castle[3]. The large blocks he needed did not have to travel far.

Demand for local stone increased when it became easier to transport the raw materials further afield.

George Stendall Drabble's advertisement, above, is an excellent example of the many uses for Matlock and District's stone, which was used in country wide building projects.[1891] His brother, Mr. Thomas Cooper Drabble, owned quarries at Bentley Brook, Farley, Cromford and Matlock Moor though his business amalgamated with the former Darley Dale stone quarry (the Darley Dale Stone Company) in 1897. They became the Stancliffe Estates Company Limited, chaired by F. C. Arkwright of Willersley, with Mr. Drabble and Mr. J. H. Dawson as managing directors[4]. Stone from Bentley Brook Quarries was used to build the depot for Matlock's Cable Tramway on the corner of Rutland Street and Wellington Street the following year[5].

The main gritstone quarries in 1903, when Benjamin Bryan was writing his "History"[3], were at Cuckoostone, on Matlock Moor, and in Lumsdale. The stone from these quarries was used for making millstones and grindstones and for local buildings.


Gritstone outcrop, Jackson Tor, Matlock, DBY. © Ann Andrews
Gritstone outcrop, Jackson Tor, Matlock Bank.
Jackson Tor was a former quarry and the exposed stone in the photograph has clearly been cut at some stage. There are other disused quarry sites close by, including Bank Quarry to the west (hence the road called Quarry Bank off Smedley Street West)

There were sawing sheds in the station yard at Matlock and large blocks of gritstone from several local quarries were taken there to be sawn. George Boden quarried his stone at Tansley but cut it at Matlock Bridge Station. The "Masonry Work" George Boden advertised below included headstones for the memorials in St Giles Churchyard. Examination of the lists of known monumental masons for St. Giles compiled by the Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group[6] shows that George Boden, the Boden Brothers and the Dakin family supplied the largest proportion of headstones in the local churchyard[7].

George Boden advertised in Kelly's Directory.[1891]

Andrew Bridge was also a stone merchant at Poor Lots. See the report of his funeral in 1892.
George Boden's advert in Kelly's 1891 Directory - he owned the Poor Lots Grindstone Quarry in Tansley
Image Copyright Ann Andrews

Limestone has a variety of uses. For example, broken limestone was crushed and used for road surfaces. An example of the use of broken limestone in the Matlocks was given in 1885 when the Highway Committee of Matlock's Local Board discussed road surfaces in Starkholmes. Mr. Fisher was reported as saying that stone from "Mr. Statham's quarry at Matlock Town could be had on the payment of 2d per load, and with a stone breaker they would save money"[8].

Limestone was used as a flux in blast furnaces when smelting iron; lime-burning also took place in the district. The stone was also used as railway ballast, for making building mortar, cement and ground for agricultural use.

There were several limestone quarries in and around Matlock.

"Parish" or the town quarry was on Dale Road opposite the footbridge across the river at the beginning of the twentieth century[3] and limestone was quarried here; it became known as the Harvey Dale quarry (see right). Next door to it, behind the Boat House Hotel, was Holt Quarry[9]. In 1930 Messrs. J. Greatorex and sons, the limestone quarry owners and tarmacadam manufacturers of Harvey Dale Quarries, bought the Dale Road quarries, having already purchased Holt Quarry. This gave them a monopoly, with sole quarrying rights from the Dale to Holt Lane[10]. In late 1935 the Harvey Dale Quarries were under the ownership of the newly formed Derbyshire Stone Ltd.[11] who became big employers in the district[1941].

At different times over the years there must have been other Parish Quarries. In 1848 there were five; Lumshill, the Wishing stone area, Jackson Tor, Harvey Dale and a piece above Starkholmes. At the time, Holt, accessed via the lane by the Rock Inn, was owned by Wm Smith & Brother and occupied by Wm Webster[9].

Cawdor quarry, to the north-west of Matlock and beside the railway line, was also quarried for limestone. Early maps show quarrying activity on either side of Bakewell Road[12]. In 1854 the quarry, part of the Megdale estate, was owned by George Nuttall and leased by his friends Sir Joseph Paxton and Job Knowles. The quarry was subsequently left to Knowles, subject to conditions of the lease and with the proviso that Knowles should not "injure destroy or interfere with the occupation road leading to Megdale"[13]. Interestingly, at the end of the nineteenth century the quarry was considerably bigger and was much closer to the Megdale property. Megdale was to survive a further fifty or so years before it finally disappeared from the Masson hillside. It was still shown on maps in the 1950s but had gone from the landscape before 1967[12]. The house had been used as offices by Derbyshire Stone in the 1940s when the accounts department was based there. A wooden staircase lead down the quarry face to the canteen and other offices below[14].

The Matlock Bridge Limestone Company at Cawdor had been taken over by 1886 and in 1891 William Edward Constable & Co were listed as tar paving contractors there; their stone was used in asphalt macadam.[1891] Constable became Constable, Hart & Co. and their quarrying activities at Cawdor eventually became part of Derbyshire Stone.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Josiah Smart took "the field between the station and the Snitterton road, which overlies the limestone rock"[3] and successfully applied for a license to store explosives there in 1902[15]. Smart advertised as a tar paving contractor at Matlock; he also owned Station Quarry, close to the railway tunnel entrance at Matlock Bath[16]. By 1922 the Station Quarry in Matlock had expanded considerably and by the maps of 1967 Cawdor and Station quarry were almost joined, extending almost to the edge of Snitterton Road. The two quarries were operating as one concern by 1931[17]. By the 1970s the Hall Dale quarry, slightly higher up on the Masson hillside between Snitterton Road and Salter Lane, had also become large. It had been opened by Derbyshire Stone in the 1950s but is no longer quarried.

Other names listed as quarry owners in Matlock Directories over the years include John William Wildgoose of Matlock and Thomas Twyford, who lived in Matlock Bath[18].

Derbyshire Fluor Spar Co. Ltd. were mineral merchants at High Tor works in Matlock Dale 1932[1932]. Quarrying for fluor spar also took place in the Upperwood area of Matlock Bath and in what had been the grounds of the original Matlock Bath Pavilion[19]. However, fluor spar was mainly mined and lead was found amongst the fluor spar rock.

Whilst providing both employment and building materials for local people, it was the existence of the large quarries that prevented Matlock from being included in the Peak District National Park.

Many will recall the warning whistle followed by the thump of the blast, the dust that seemed to cover everywhere and the large lorries with their massive tyres thundering along the narrow local roads.

The conflict between need and nature is highlighted in the poem by the English poet John Betjeman, a visitor to nearby Chatsworth and a friend of the Duke's family, in his poem entitled 'Matlock Bath'[20] . On 31 March, 1999 a newspaper article by Linus Gregoriadis was published in The Independent which also drew attention to conservation matters and used the extract below from Betjeman's poem[21].

From "Matlock Bath"
by John Betjeman[20]

How long before the pleasant acres
Of intersecting Lovers' Walks
Are rolled across by limestone breakers,
Whole woodlands snapp'd like cabbage stalks?
O God, our help in ages past,
How long will Speedwell Cavern last?

There's a story behind the poem. In the early part of the twentieth century George Drabble owned the saw mills near Matlock Bath station and Josiah Smart owned the quarry. At some stage it was proposed to extend the quarry near the station. If the plan had been carried out a whole section of hillside would have been removed and the Lover's Walks beside the River Derwent would have disappeared.

Matlock, The Quarries
See Greatorex's "Coffee Pot" at Harvey Dale Quarry
Harvey Dale Mountain Limestone Quarry, about 1900
The Dale, The Heights, High Tor & the Quarry, 1920s
Matlock Bank and Bridge - from near the Quarry, 1907
Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & River, early 1900s
Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & River, about 1908, with list of licensees 1827-1950s
Dale Road, Boat House Hotel & Quarry
Constable and Smart had their own sidings at Matlock Station
Matlock Station: Smart's Quarry, 1928
The Staff of Derbyshire Stone, about 1945

Business Letterheads - S

The huge Cawdor quarry is no longer operational and the site has now been put to other uses. These photos date from 2008.

The "change of use" includes services , built close to the rock face

A supermarket has now been built in Cawdor Quarry

There's another photograph showing the extent of the quarry and its impact on the landscape at the bottom of this page.

Photograph of Knabb Quarry, Sydnope, Darley Dale
(Vernon Lamb Archive - VLA5015)

Matlock Bath's quarries also included the former Long Tor Quarry on Dale Road (see right). One of Matlock's longest living residents, Thomas Green of the Rock Inn, had worked as the Manager at Long Tor for Mr. S J Claye of Long Eaton Ironworks. In 1909, aged 97, he said spoke of the blasting ruining the beauty of the rock, although the quarrying provided employment[22]. The Shaw brothers, who were involved with the Dale Road and Holt quarry in Matlock[7], owned Long Tor quarry at the beginning of the twentieth century but could not make it a going concern[9] [23]. It was later run by first George Crowther and then by Job Greatorex[23].

There were two basalt quarries in the Dale opposite High Tor, between the High Tor Guest House and the houses surrounding Riversdale.

A quarry on Temple Road, shown as no longer in use on very early OS maps, also existed at some stage and stone was also removed from behind what is now North Parade. The quarry face is especially obvious behind the former Derwent Terrace Chapel.

Tufa is a hard stone with a cellular texture and stone from Matlock Bath's tufa shelf has also been quarried over the years. It has been used for both garden rockeries as well as for building (see right)[24]. We can see it on the riverbank in Matlock Bath in an engraving of the Old Bath in 1776, in a photo of about 1880 before the Derwent Gardens was built and there is a large stone in the middle of the fishpond today. It was also used to build stables at the New Bath (subsequently demolished) and for shelters at the Old Bath, in the Derwent Gardens and on Lovers' Walks.

Matlock: Looking south from Jackson Tor, 1928 shows clouds of dust rising from the Dale
Matlock Bath: Photograph of Dale Road From High Tor
Long Tor Quarry
Matlock Bath from Cat Tor (2)
Shows an area where tufa had been quarried
Matlock Bath: Holme Road from High Tor
Another view of Long Tor Quarry
Matlock Dale: Artists' Corner from High Tor, 1920s. One of the quarries in the Dale
Matlock Dale - Another view of the quarry. Read about Ernest Carline
Via Gellia, Tufa Cottage, near Matlock Bath

By modern standards quarrying was extremely hazardous and until better safety measures were introduced loss of life and serious injury were commonplace. There were a large number of accidents and fatalities at several Matlock quarries in the first three decades of the twentieth century. For example, in 1900 a quarryman named Adam Smedley laid a charge of explosive for blasting purposes at Cawdor but it did not fire. He rather unwisely went to see what had happened when it exploded, hitting him fully in the face and he was lucky not to lose his sight[25]. A few months later there were two accidents at Cawdor; J. Marsden of Bonsall received hand injuries and _ Charlesworth broke his leg[26]. In 1908 a serious explosion at Smarts caused another Adam Smedley, who was unmarried, to lose part of one hand; he also sustained terrible leg injuries whilst William Land, a widower, badly injured his hand[27].

Photograph of an unknown man injured at Cawdor, 1910-14
(Vernon Lamb Archive - VLA5172

Fire was another risk and in 1913 a huge oil tank at Constable Hart's tar-making works in the Cawdor quarry caught fire. Within a few minutes flames and volumes of dense black smoke filled the sky and the valley between Matlock and Darley Dale was polluted by oil fumes. Fortunately there were no explosions and no injuries were reported[28].

Joseph Statham of Riber, who was 50, was working at the stone-crushing plant at Cawdor in 1915 when he became entangled in the machinery, which threw him into the running shaft and on to the roof. He was killed instantly[29]. In 1922 William Frost, who worked for Smarts as a foreman blaster, was badly injured when a stone knocked his feet from underneath him as he was standing on a 40 foot high ledge. He fell to the base of the quarry and two days later died at Whitworth Hospital[30]. Ernest Carline (46), of Scarthin, was struck on the head by a piece of falling stone at a quarry in Matlock Dale in 1926. He also died at Whitworth, leaving a widow and a large family[31]. Fred Flint, a single young man, of Cross Green, Darley Dale was working on the rock face in 1928 when he he lost his footing and fell 16 feet into the bottom of the quarry. The men would not wear the harnesses at that time as they got in the way[32].

However, possibly the worst accident was in 1929 when Joseph Taylor (53) of Wensley and Herbert Holmes (28) were killed within twelve hours of each other. Joseph Taylor was killed when 20,000 gallons of tar exploded and he was caught in the flames. Herbert Holmes fell into a crusher, having been hit by a 15 cwt. [hundredweight] piece of stone that became dislodged[33].

Derby Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 17 December 1929
Is Limestone Dust Harmful to Health ?

Complaints that the noise of the machinery in the limestone quarries and the amount of smoke and dirt from them were detrimental to the value of the property and menace to the town in its position as a centre for the treatment of invalids, was made in a letter from Matlock and District Publicity Asscociation, read at a meeting of Matlock's Urban District Council last night. ...

Mr. C. W. L. Cross moved that the Association be informed that the council were capable of managing their own business. High Medical opinion, he said, has been given that limestone dust was in no way injurious to health and possibly it did the invalids some good.

Mr. White, seconding, remarked that the industrial undertakings were of vital necessity and they would have been in a sorry plight without them this winter. One could not have industry without a certain amount of dirt.

Mr. Baxter said that the idea that limestone dust was harmful to health was dead years ago. It was too valuable today to waste.

The resolution was carried.

[Note: it is accepted today that respiratory problems and even silicosis can be a result of inhaling limestone dust but to be fair to these Councillors they would not have known that in 1929, whatever you think of the rather high-handed manner with which they dealt with the complaint.]

The industry was a large employer in the Matlocks, but with hindsight it should have taken better care of its employees and Councillors should have listened about the dust problem. The problem resurfaced in 1955 when over 50 Matlock Dale residents signed a petition to then local M.P., Mr E. B. Wakefield. They were asking for his help to minimise an "alleged" limestone dust nuisance arising from the Harvey Dale quarry, claiming that dust was not only a "long-standing nuisance" but injurious to health. Some years previously similar complaints had been made at Wirksworth, but the Medical Officer at the time stated that there was no evidence to show that limestone dust was in any way injurious to health![34]

Hall Dale and Cawdor Quarries, 2001
This panoramic view of Masson provides a sense scale and shows just how extensive the quarries were.
The photograph was taken from Farley Hillside on a misty June morning on 23 June 2001.

There was a recruitment drive for school leavers in the aftermath of the Second World War and in 1946 an Industrial Exhibition was held at the Grand Pavilion Matlock Bath. Derbyshire Stone was amongst the exhibitors hoping to attract youngsters to join the company. Below is a page from the exhibition catalogue.
More about the exhibition

In 1947 the men from Matlock's quarries, who were unable to work because of the terrible conditions, were amongst those helping to clear the snow.

  See: Matlock Bath: Winter Scenes, 1947

  Industrial Exhibition

An external site well worth visiting is:
Derelict Places - Cawdor Quarry Complex, Matlock, Jan 2007. Photographs of the quarry prior to re-development

Also see:
Peak District Mines Historical Society
Peak District Mining Museum

The Peak District Historical Mines Society has the following available:
Mining History: The Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Volume 14, No. 2, Winter 1999
Jack Beck and Masson Hill, a tribute to a Man and a Mountain by Neville Gregory.
(All Peak District Mines Historical Society publications are subject to copyright and their online publication is purely for personal use and should not be quoted without permission).

To view the PDF file, you may need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Images of Cawdor Quarry supplied by and Copyright © Paul Kettle
Derbyshire Stone advertisement part of Jane Leslie's personal collection and photographed especially for this web site by Andy Andrews.
Other Images Copyright © Ann Andrews.
Information written and researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured hyperlinks lead to more on site information):

[1] "The Victoria History of the English Counties. A History of Derbyshire Vol. I.", Constable & Co., Pall Mall, London (1907) : (Ed. 1970) University of London. ISBN 0 7129 0447 6, p. 365.
Also see The Wolley Manuscripts, Matlock - a major collection of pre 1828 documents - for more information.

[2] Willis, Lynn and Parker, Harry (1999) "Images Of England: Peak District Mining and Quarrying", pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Gloucester ISBN 0-7524-1710-X.

[3] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited.

[4] "Derbyshire Times", 2 October 1897.

[5] "ibid", 22 October 1898. See: Bank Road & the Steep-Gradient Tramway.

[6] See Matlock & Matlock Bath's MIs, Monumental Masons - St. Giles' Church, compiled by Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group (there are also Contact details for the group).

[7] See Boden and Dakin on Letterheads of Local Businesses, 1900-1949 (1) and T. Shaw & Son on Letterheads of Local Businesses, 1900-1949 (5)

[8] "The Derby Mercury", 14 January, 1885.

[9] Colin Goodwyn has most kindly checked the Annual Returns of Quarries under the --- Act for 1925 and 1931.
The 1925 Return shows: -
i. Shaw, Alfred, Dale Road Quarries, operating at Dale Road (9 people). By 1931 Alfred Shaw was no longer in Matlock, but had interests in a Limestone Works at Wirksworth and quarry sites at Coal Hills, Pensend, Steeplehouse and, at Brassington, Royston Grange.
ii. Shaw, Wm B., Holt Cottage, Matlock operating at Holt, Dale Road (15 people).
iii. Job Greatorex & Son of Harvey Dale Quarries were operating Harvey Dale and also Long Tor quarries.
The 1931 Return shows: -
Job Greatorex & Son were operating Dale Road (5 people) and Holt Quarry (9 people).
So like Cawdor joined Station quarry, Harvey Dale joined Holt.

[10] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 November 1930. Matlock quarry merger. Greatorex's had already bought Holt quarry from Mr. W. B. Shaw when they merged with the Dale quarries of Mr. Alfred Shaw.

[11] "Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette", 28 December 1935. Derbyshire Stone, Limited, had just been formed to take over all or part of the businesses of Constable Hart and Co., Ltd., and John Hadfield & Sons Ltd., and not less than 90% of the issued shares of Greatorex and Son, Ltd., the Hartington Quarries Ltd., and the Hopton Wood Stone Firms. Also "The Times", 12 Jun, 1936. Notice of shares, Derbyshire Stone Limited.

[12] Information from various Ordnance Survey Maps. Although the Megdale property disappeared from its original position on the side of Masson hillside, the name has been preserved and there is a road in Matlock still bearing the name.

[13] PCC Will of George Nuttall of Matlock (Prob 11/2234), dated 15 Sep 1854. Nuttall left "the stone quarry situate in the Parish of Matlock ... in the occupation of Sir Joseph Paxton and Job Knowles of Matlock ... to Job Knowles to work the quarry". Nuttall died in 1856 and his Will caused much controversy, resulting in a very prolonged court case. See The Great Matlock Will Case, the Official Report.

[14] With thanks to Harry Salt, who worked there. He thought Megdale was a beautiful house.

[15] "Derbyshire Times", 1 March 1902. A short while earlier it was said that there would be employment for goodly number of men ("ibid", 25 January 1902)

[16] Smart advertised in Kelly's Directory 1908 | Kelly's Directory 1912 | Kelly's Directory 1916 Matlock) | Kelly's Directory 1916 Matlock Bath) and in 1922, 1925 and 1928.

[17] Colin Goodwyn has provided the business addresses from the Annual Returns of Quarries under the [Quarries?] Act for 1925 and 1931 for the following:
Smart, Josiah & Son, Great Northern House, 345 Gray's Inn Road, WC1, who operated Station Quarry, Matlock in 1925 but were not listed in the 1931 Return.
Constable, Hart & Co Ltd, of Broadway Buildings, Broadway, Westminster SW1, who operated Cawdor Quarry, Matlock Bridge in 1925, also operated Station Quarry in 1931. So like Harvey Dale joined Holt, Station joined Cawdor.

[18] Neither Wildgoose nor Twyford were linked to Matlock quarries in checked directories, but their occupation was given as quarry owner. Twyford's home and office were listed in Matlock Bath in 1925 and in 1931, but his descendants are known to have been involved with quarrying at or near Birchover. John William Wildgoose advertised in 1928 and 1932 directories, and his quarry was on Matlock Moor.

[19] Peak Mining & Minerals Co Limited, with a spar mine at Upperwood Mine, advertised in Kelly's Directory, 1925

[20] John Betjeman's Collected Poems, John Murray (Publishers) Ltd., 50 Albermarle Street, London, WIX 4BD © John Betjeman 1968, 1962, 1970. To read the poem in full go to the Poetry section

[21] The Independent: 31 March, Wednesday 1999, p.9 : 'Betjeman's 'pleasant acres' in danger' by Linus Gregoriadis

[22] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 19 June 1909.

[23] The Shaw brothers ran into financial difficulties and were listed in "The London Gazette" in 1915. Job Greatorex was operating Long Tor Quarry in the 1925 Annual Returns of Quarries under the --- Act. Crowther advertised in Kelly's Directory, 1928, Matlock Bath section, as the owner of the Tor Quarry. His name is in neither the 1922 nor the 1925 directory and this is the only directory entry for him.

[24] Tufa is mentioned in "Bemroses' Guide" | "Gem of the Peak" | "Holmes Hand Book"

[25] "Derbyshire Times", 7 July 1900. Adam Smedley's accident was on 2 July.

[26] "ibid", 19 Jan 1901.

[27] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 16 September 1908. The accident had occurred on the previous day. A shot had missed fire during the morning.

[28] "ibid", 5 June 1913.

[29] "ibid", 27 November 1915.

[30] "ibid", 25 October 1922

[31] "ibid", 30 September 1926.

[32] "ibid", 19 October 1928.

[33] "ibid", 15 January 1929.

[34] "Belper News", 8 April 1955. Nuisance at Matlock Dale.

[1891] "Kelly's Directory of of the Counties of Derby, Notts, Leicester and Rutland" (May, 1891) pub. London. There are online transcripts - see 19th century directories.
Kelly's Directory of Bonsall, 1891 refer to Drabble's advert
Kelly's Directory of Tansley, 1891 includes George Boden's one line advertisement.
[1932] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire", 1932
[1941] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire", 1941.