Welcome to Dark Lane Quarry.
Dark Lane Quarry is a small former limestone quarry which operated from 1884 to about 1906-11. The total area of the site is around 11926 sq. yds. (9970 sq. metres), but the quarry itself is only 4829 sq. yds. (4038 sq. metres). The limestone beds exposed in the quarry are Eyam Limestone, a fine crinoidal rock which can take a high polish and was once widely used as a decorative stone. The quarry displays a wide variety of mineralisation and fossils and in addition there are a number of interesting plant species.
The 1880 Ordnance Survey County series map at 1:2500 scale (above) shows no evidence of quarrying on the site of what is now Dark Lane Quarry (field number 76). The map shows the original alignment of Dark Lane and a number of buildings at the junction of Dark Lane and Porter Lane. Oddly, there is no map evidence of lead mining in field 76, despite there being a lead vein running through the site. The 1884/5 6” to 1 mile map still shows no railway or quarry.
The 1899 25” to 1 mile (1:2500) map now shows the railway and the quarry. The railway was built in 1884 by the London & North Western Railway Company at the behest of Messrs Killer Bros. who worked the large quarry in Middleton village. The railway, which was of standard gauge (4’ 8.5” or 1435mm), ran from a junction with the Cromford and High Peak line (now the High Peak Trail) at Steeplehouse. The railway bisects the field 76 shown on the 1880 map. The quarry lies either side of the railway line, with the main workings on the north side. A siding is shown into the quarry and there is a small building in the northernmost corner of the site, with what appears to be a small spoil heap adjacent to it. There is no evidence on the map of any loading dock or crane in the quarry, so the extraction of stone was obviously on a small scale and probably almost entirely hand-worked. It would be interesting to know where the quarried stone was taken to be dressed ready for use. This may be the justification for the small building referred to above, but it seems more likely that the stone was taken up the line to the main Middleton Quarry and dressed there.
In the recent book ‘Delving the Derwent’ the authors refer to the building of the railway line by the London and North Western Railway in 1884 and its use by Messrs Killer Bros who ‘expanded the railway cutting to form Dark Lane Quarry’. Elsewhere in the book the authors refer to the quarry being opened shortly after the branch line itself, i.e. about 1884/5 and with the intention of competing with the nearby Coal Hills Quarry which was exploiting the same limestone beds. This latter quarry was operated by Hopton Wood Stone Firms and it seems very likely that, after the takeover of this company in 1905 by Messrs Killers, it was no longer thought economic to continue production at Dark Lane and the quarry was closed at some time between 1906 and 1911. By 1907, the railway line itself had passed into the ownership of the quarry company, but it retained its nickname of the ‘Killers Branch’ and this name persisted in use until closure of the line in 1967
The 1922 map shows the quarry considerably extended, to the limits of the boundary shown on the 1899 map. However, the siding has gone and it can reasonably be assumed that the quarry was inactive by this stage. The small building and spoil heap shown on the 1899 map is still shown on the 1922 edition and the spoil heap doesn’t seem to be any bigger than shown on the 1899 map.
6” to 1 mile maps of the 1930’s and 1950’s show no obvious change in the size or shape of Dark Lane Quarry, or the railway. By 1969 however, the railway itself has closed (last traffic 4th April 1967 and dismantled shortly afterwards) and the quarry is abandoned. The little building referred to above, has gone and the fence line has been altered to exclude the site of the building.
There is some evidence that spoil was dumped in the quarry after limestone extraction had ceased. How, when and why this was done is not known, but when the Steeple Grange Light Railway (SGLR) first reached the quarry in 19XX there was a considerable mound of spoil at the Northern end as shown on the photo.
The SGLR now passes through the site and the company has a station and a carriage and waggon shed in the main part of the quarry. The shed is open to the public on certain operating days (see details on the ‘Operating Times’ section of the website)