Limestone rock - a source of high purity calcium carbonate
Limestone rock - a source of high purity calcium carbonate

The origins of the Derbyshire limestone industry

A history stretching back 2000 years

History of the limestone industry in Derbyshire

Limestone was first quarried in Derbyshire in Roman times for building stone and lime. Early stone masons often used block limestone in the construction of Round Towers in the country. This probably reached a pinnacle around 1000 AD, though intermittent working for both purposes 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. But in general up until the early 19th century quarrying methods were primitive and total production small.

Hopton Wood Stone used in the UK's finest buildings

Derbyshire limestone is widely used in the interior of the Bank of England

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, it provided thousands of head stones for cemeteries worldwide. However, accessible deposits were virtually exhausted by the early 1960’s and demand declined. However, small-scale quarrying of Hopton Wood Stone has recently been revived by Longcliffe.

The Limestone Industry comes of age with the Industrial revolution

The use of coal, decline in timber supplies, plus the use of gunpowder in blasting at the beginning of the 19th century eventually established limestone quarrying, and burning, as a distinct industry for agricultural and the newer industries that developed with industrial revolution. For example, limestone rocks was crushed and used for road surfaces. In 1891 William Edward Constable & Co were listed as tar paving contractors and the stone was used in asphalt macadam. By the early 20th century large volumes of limestone were used as a flux in blast furnaces for smelting iron and in the large-scale manufacture of glass.

The development of ground calcium carbonates for modern uses

Paint containg ground calcium carbonateThe latter part of the twentieth century has seen major changes to the extraction of limestone, and the manufacturing and finishing capabilities of the industry enabling a new generation of finely ground products to be produced. Uses of Ground calcium carbonates (often called GCC) range from animal and pet feeds, ceramic tile adhesives and concrete to plasters and textured finishes, carpet-backing, plastics and rubber. Applications that our forbears, even less than a century ago, would have struggled to have imagined.

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 industry.

Natural Chemistry...Pure Science

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