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2022 / 2023 Edition

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Leaving no stone unturned

National Stone Centre

National Stone Centre at Wirksworth to compile detailed history of Derbyshire’s quarrying industry

VICTORY, Prospect, Bold Venture, Perseverance and Potluck are some of Derbyshire’s rather optimistically named quarries; others such as Grin, Topley Pike, Hoe Grange, Dove Holes, Water Swallows, Coxbench, Dunge and Middle Peak adopted local place names.

Many families and individuals – the Shaws, Hughes brothers, Hadfield, the Friths, Cantrell-Hubbersty – played a major role in the industry’s past. So too did thousands of quarriers, mostly men, who worked as getters and fillers, limeburners, drivers of wagons, dumpers and trains, engineers, weighbridge clerks and office clerks. All were as significant in their own way.

Today, with only a handful of operations left, Derbyshire still tops the UK quarrying league table with the county’s annual output of stone and gravel running at some 16 million tonnes. Yet, surprisingly, a detailed history of such an important local industry spanning more than 300 years has never been written.

Now, however, thanks to a small fund from the University of Nottingham’s Connected Communities scheme, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Stone Centre, in Wirksworth, is about to take the first small step to set the record straight.

Ian Thomas, recently retired director of the Centre, said: ‘There are fascinating stories to be told, of everyday life and working conditions, the influence of geology, power struggles, the transporting of stone, and changing technologies.’

To this end, on Monday 22 October, the Centre plans to gather together as many people as possible to explore how to bridge this gap in the county’s history. Attendance at the event is free of charge and refreshments will be provided, but spaces are limited so pre-booking is essential.

Mr Thomas says he would like to hear from anyone who has worked in the industry, has old photos, documents, memories or tools, or is simply interested in Derbyshire’s quarrying history, even if they cannot make it on the day. Email: [email protected]; or call him on tel: (01629) 824833.

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