Industry History

A History Stretching Back 2000 Years

Limestone was first quarried in Derbyshire during Roman times for building stone and lime. Early stone masons often used block limestone in the construction of Round Towers in the country. It is likely the use of limestone by the Romans reached a pinnacle around 1000 AD, though intermittent usage for building stone and lime continued through the centuries.

Primitive Quarrying Methods

During the 17th century, lime-burning was established on the limestone deposits nearest to the coal pits around Whaley Bridge, Dove Holes and Grin. The use of coal from exposed seams had started to become more commonplace as a result of a lack of timber caused by deforestation. Small kilns were found on most farms providing lime for home farm use. In general, up until the early 19th-century quarrying methods were primitive and total production was small.

Hopton Wood Stone used in the UK's Finest Buildings

Hopton Wood Stone, a beautiful cream limestone, was first quarried near Ryder Point, west of Middleton from about 1750. The stone was used for interiors in numerous important buildings including, Chatsworth House, Windsor Castle, Houses of Parliament, the Bank of England and many cathedrals. Following the two World Wars, Hopton Wood stone provided thousands of headstones for cemeteries worldwide. However, accessible deposits were virtually exhausted by the early 1960’s and demand declined. Small-scale quarrying of Hopton Wood stone was recently revived by Longcliffe, providing quality stone for prestigious projects.

The Limestone Industry Comes of Age with the Industrial Revolution

At the beginning of the 19th century, the increased use of coal, a decline in timber supplies, plus the use of gunpowder for blasting, established the limestone quarrying and burning industry. Limestone became a popular material for agricultural applications as well as for the newer industries that developed during the industrial revolution.

In 1891, William Edward Constable & Co was listed as a tar paving contractor and the quarried limestone was used in asphalt macadam. By the early 20th century large volumes of limestone were being used as a flux in blast furnaces for smelting iron and for the large-scale manufacture of glass.

The Development of Ground Calcium Carbonates for Modern Uses

The second half of the twentieth century saw major changes to the extraction of limestone. The manufacturing and finishing capabilities of the industry were also improved, enabling a new generation of finely ground powders to be produced. Uses of ground calcium carbonates (GCC) range from animal and pet feeds, ceramic tile adhesives and concrete to carpet-backing, plastics and rubber, applications that would not have seemed possible less than a century ago.

Derbyshire – Still the UK's Largest Lime and Limestone Producer

Since the 17th century, the Peak District has been Britain's largest lime and limestone producer. Today, 20 million tonnes of limestone are quarried annually for hundreds of uses. The rich deposits of carboniferous limestone have provided - and are still providing - vast quantities of raw materials for use in many major industries.