The Bugsworth Basin
Heritage Trust Ltd

Written by
Peter J Whitehead
Web version by
Don Baines

The Bugsworth Legacy
From the High Peak to the Mersey Basin and Far beyond

available in booklet form, price £2.50, from BBHT sales


In Elizabethan times life in Britain was largely based on an agrarian economy. Civilisation relied upon materials such as wood, straw, mud, clay, stone and a few metals such as copper, zinc, lead and iron. These materials allowed dwellings to be built for ordinary folk and, as the country was more peaceful, stately homes for the gentry. The great stone-built cathedrals had more or less all been built. Wooden sailing ships were the order of the day and these tiny vessels were being used to explore the world and bring back many exotic goods never before seen on these shores. Gold and silver had been known for aeons but, being noble metals, they were mainly used as a means of exchange.

Going back still further in time, the collapse of the Roman Empire heralded the long period of the Dark Ages. This was a time when the technological progress made by the Romans appears to have been largely forgotten or, if not forgotten, put on one side. Eventually the Dark Ages ended and the Renaissance commenced, first in Italy and then spreading throughout Europe. This was a period when fine art flourished. It was the era of Michelangelo, Cellini and Leonardo de Vinci. Leonardo is best known as an artist but he was also something of an engineer and scientist. He is credited with the invention of a flying machine and a submarine but he was a man ahead of his time. He lacked both the materials and the machines with which to make them but above all he lacked the technical know how.

During the Renaissance period slow progress was being made in technology. The first charcoal-fired blast-furnaces were being developed in Belgium around 1400 or even earlier. Later, in Britain, a certain ‘Dud’ Dudley was experimenting with the use of coal to fire blast-furnaces but his experiments were unsuccessful. It then appears that he went on to experiment with the conversion of coal into coke for use in blast-furnaces but he was called up for military service in the Civil War and that was the end of that.

The 18th century ushered in a long period of good weather and farmers were able to produce bumper crops during the long summers. Life was good and British society, even though it did not yet know it, was poised for the greatest upheaval it had ever experienced. The days of Merrie England were numbered and were soon to vanish forever. The Industrial Revolution had begun and this was the age of technology. Today, by common consent, it is recognised that Britain was the birth place of the Industrial Revolution.

Knowledge of metallic and non-metallic materials increased and the entrepreneurs of the day were finding commercial value in the discoveries. Industrialisation was quickly followed by social upheaval as people began to leave the countryside to live in the new industrial towns. Industrial housing was needed to enable the workers to live next door to the factory, mill or mine which employed them.

The impact on the north west of England was momentous. It already possessed an ancient communication system base upon the rivers Mersey, Weaver and Irwell and there was mineral wealth to be exploited. Limestone from the White Peak and North Wales, coal (and fireclay) from the Lancashire coal field and ironstone from the north of the region. The climate was even right for spinning cotton, ‘and the rest’, as they say, ‘is history’.

Limestone, as a naturally occurring mineral affects all our lives. Without it, and the raw materials derived from it, we would have no buildings because there would be no mortar to hold the bricks and stone together, nor windows to look through. Our crops would fail because the soil would become too acid for them to grow properly. We could not wash ourselves or our clothes because there would be no soap. In fact, without limestone life as we know it simply would not exist. Limestone and the raw materials derived from it are, therefore, the actors in our play; the dramatis personae, so to speak.

Peter J Whitehead


Foreword Acknowledgements
Setting the Stage
Limestone Burning
A Perspective of the Industries
    Associated with Limestone
The Agrochemical Industry
The Construction Industry
The Civil Engineering Industry
The Alkali Industry
The Iron and Steel Industry
The Trade in Limestone and Lime
10 Competition
11 Finale
Canals of the Mersey Basin
Castle Quay at Castlefield, Manchester
Bugsworth Basin
A typical continuous draw kiln
Coal seams in the vicinity of Bugsworth
Stages in the Leblanc process of
    producing soda ash

Details of a blast furnace
Details of a Bessemer Converter
An Extract of Merchandise carried on
    the MS&LR Western Canals, 1894

Quarries known to have been worked
    around Dove Holes Dale and along Great
    Stone Dale

Boats known to have been stationed
    at Bugsworth
A list of essential reading

End Notes
These are accessible by clicking the blue superscript numbers in the text

1 Setting the Stage

Bugsworth Basin owes its existence to the vast limestone deposits of the White Peak which are located in the plateau lying to the south of Castleton.

In the late 1780's proposals were being mooted for a trans-Pennine canal to link Manchester and Sheffield but these came to nothing. The beginning of the 1790's witnessed schemes for canals to link Manchester with Ashton, Rochdale and Cromford. The canal to Cromford never materialised but in its place a scheme to extend the Ashton Canal eastward from Dukinfield to exploit the limestone deposits in the White Peak was receiving serious consideration. The economic reasons for this were sound.

As the end of the 18th century approached the demand for alkali by the expanding glass, soap and textile industries could no longer be supplied from natural sources such as the ash of seaweed (1) (soda ash). A synthetic source had to be found. In 1789 Nicholas Leblanc, a French surgeon and chemist, devised a way of making soda ash synthetically and by 1791 he had developed this into a workable method. This method converted salt into soda ash using limestone and coal.

The first Leblanc soda factory in Britain was at Walker in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and this was followed by another in Glasgow and in 1823 by one in Liverpool. The latter factory was opened by James Muspratt and there were sound economic reasons for selecting Liverpool. It was close to the Cheshire salt deposits and within easy reach of ready markets such as the Lancashire textile industry. There was also ready source of labour. There were good transport facilities such as the rivers Mersey and Weaver, new canals and the sea. Coal was available from the Lancashire coal fields and limestone from North Wales and the White Peak. The position of Liverpool relative to the two limestone deposits made it more likely that limestone was brought in from North Wales using sea-going Mersey flats.

With remarkable foresight the promoters of the eastward extension of the Ashton Canal had anticipated the rapid expansion of the alkali industry in the Mersey Basin and that it would need a steady supply of limestone. The principal towns in the Mersey Basin where the alkali industry was located is summarised below, together with their navigational connections:

North of the River Mersey

Widnes:   St Helens (Sankey) Canal
                Mersey and Irwell Navigation

Fiddler's Ferry: St Helens (Sankey) Canal
                         Mersey and Irwell Navigation

Warrington: St Helens (Sankey) Canal
                    Mersey and Irwell Navigation

St Helens: St Helens (Sankey) Canal

South of the River Mersey

Runcorn: Mersey and Irwell Navigation
                Bridgewater Canal

Winnington: River Weaver

Northwich: River Weaver

Winsford: River Weaver

Weston Point: River Weaver/Weston Canal/River Mersey

Middlewich: Trent and Mersey Canal/Shropshire Union Canal via Middlewich Branch

The Trent and Mersey Canal joins the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook and after 1875 the River Weaver and Trent and Mersey Canal were connected by the Anderton Lift at Winnington.

Liverpool was connected to these towns by the River Mersey while Manchester had a choice of two routes. One was the Mersey and Irwell Navigation and the other was the Bridgewater Canal. Prior to 1810 the two navigations conducted a continuous freight war with each other but after that they levied identical tolls and in 1845 control of the river company was transferred to the Bridgewater Trustees (2).

Figure 1 Canals of the Mersey Basin

39b1 Peak Forest Canal.  39a1 Ashton Canal.  87a Rochdale Canal.  64b1 Bridgewater Canal
64d1 Mersey and Irwell Navigation.  61d1 St Helens Canal.  76a Trent and Mersey Canal

The outcome of the scheme to extend the Ashton Canal from Dukinfield was a plan, drawn up by the resident engineer, Thomas Brown, for the Peak Forest Canal and Tramway. The Act of Parliament for this was passed on the 28 March 1794 (3) and Benjamin Outram was appointed as the consulting engineer. The tramway and upper level of the canal were opened to trade on the 31 August 1796, according to the Derby Mercury, and this may be compared with the earliest known permit which is dated 31 July 1797 (4). The lower level of the canal opened in 1798 and the Grand aqueduct at Marple opened on 1 May 1800. The two levels were connected by a temporary tramway during the construction of Marple locks. The locks opened on the 13 October 1804 and it appears that the temporary tramway remained operational until 1807. Certainly, by 1801 (5) limestone was on offer at Piccadilly and Castle Quay, Castlefield, Manchester.

Although a through route between the quarries and Manchester and beyond to the Mersey Basin had been established for the first time it was not without its problems. A direct canal connection between Bugsworth and Castlefield was still denied to the canal company and it had to wait a little longer for this. Limestone had to be trans-shipped on the temporary tramway at Marple and the Rochdale Canal was still under construction in Manchester. The latter problem necessitated the limestone being carted through the streets of Manchester from Piccadilly for it to be on sale at Castle Quay in 1801. The Rochdale Canal opened in September 1804 (6).

Figure 2 Castle Quay at Castlefield, Manchester

Small quarries were already in existence in the White Peak and had probably been in operation for some considerable time. The quarries accessed by the new canal and tramway were located between Dove Holes and Tunstead, the former village lying some 8km to the south west of Castleton. When completed, the canal and tramway formed an integrated transport system and the interchange between tramway and canal was located at Bugsworth. The scene was now set for the ecosystem around Bugsworth to be irrevocably altered as the basin developed both as a limestone depot and as a centre for limestone burning.

The oldest part of the basin was known as Bugsworth Wharf, now known as the Upper Basin. Here on the north side of the canal adjacent to Silk Hill bridge and fronting the Navigation Inn a revetment was built and integral with it deep limestone pens were constructed. These pens were purpose built as a repository for limestone discharged from tramway wagons while awaiting distribution by canal.

Figure 3 Bugsworth Basin


By 1800 a kiln for burning limestone was managed by Messrs Wright and Brown but it is not known whether or not this was the first. As the 19th century progressed more kilns were built and some of the earlier ones fell into disuse. In all, 19 kilns were built; three in the Navigation battery, eight in the two Gnat Hole batteries and eight in the New Road battery.

By the last quarter of the 19th century, circa 1880, road and rail communication had improved considerably and it became easier to transport coal to the quarries. Consequently modern kilns began to be built at the quarries near Dove Holes to enable burnt lime to be produced on site (7) (8). Burnt lime generates considerable heat when it comes into contact with water and this can be dangerous. Accordingly, there ensued an adjustment in the operation of the tramway. In order to keep the lime dry as it travelled down the tramway special high-sided wagons were introduced. After filling, these wagons were sheeted over with tarpaulin to keep the contents dry. The problem of trans-shipping at Bugsworth was overcome by building a lime shed over a short arm of the canal in the Upper Basin. Two boats could access this building and it was serviced by two tramway tracks, one on either side of the arm. In this way lime could be trans-shipped from tramway to canal under cover. This had considerable impact at Bugsworth because it enabled the lime burning facilities to be completely bypassed.

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2 Limestone Burning

Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed principally of calcium carbonate and it can be calcined by heating it in a kiln. The heating process chemically converts the stone to burnt lime (quicklime, calcium oxide, CaO). To do this the stone must be heated to a temperature of between 900° and 1100°C. This causes the limestone to dissociate yielding burnt lime and carbon dioxide gas.


limestone + heat = burnt lime + carbon dioxide gas

CaCO3 = CaO + CO2

Burnt lime is an alkaline inorganic compound of calcium. It may be used either in its primary state or crushed to a fine powder (ground burnt lime). It may also be slaked (hydrated) by the addition of water. This produces slaked lime (9), (hydrated lime, calcium hydroxide). Lime putty is produced by adding an excess of water.

Figure 4 A typical continuous draw kiln.

It shows a partly loaded pot with limestone and coal in alternate layers. The ratio used was 3 to 5 parts limestone : 1 part coal. Pots were from 2.5 to 5m diameter at the widest part and from 6 to 10m deep. The profile varied in shape, but it usually curved in at the top. The lining was either hard stone or firebrick to allow the kiln to be continuously fired for several years. The Bugsworth kilns appear to have been lined with stone. The number of draw-holes was normally between one and four.



burnt lime + water = slaked lime + heat

CaO + H2O = Ca(OH)2

There is no evidence that facilities ever existed at Bugsworth for the specific purpose of crushing burnt lime or even for slaking it. It would always have been shipped in bulk from the basin in its primary burnt state. In this condition it was also known as lump lime or lime shells. In every instance it was essential that only fresh burnt lime was used and that there was no delay in using it after delivery to its point of use, otherwise it would denature and not slake properly. Burnt lime which had become wet was said to have fallen.

Limestone leaving Bugsworth for calcining elsewhere was not exclusively burnt in kilns along the side of the upper level of the Peak Forest Canal. In 1801 an Edward Stelfox was offered £50 towards the cost of building two kilns somewhere on the Ashton Canal on condition that only limestone brought along the Peak Forest Canal should be burnt (10). In 1803 it was also being offered at Piccadilly, Manchester for the purpose of calcination at 7/8d per ton inclusive of the tonnage charge (11). Following the opening of the Bridgewater Canal the basin at Castlefield expanded rapidly and this included the construction of lime kilns (12) once a reliable supply of coal was guaranteed from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines at Worsley.

Figure 5 Coal Seams in the vicinity of Bugsworth
1 Yard, 2 Ganister, 3 Red Ash, 4 White Ash

Coal for firing the Bugsworth kilns was available locally. Geologically the area consists of shale, sandstones and thin coal seams collectively known as the Lower Coal Measures or Lower Westphalian. The coal extracted was generally thin, shaly and sulphurous and considered to be only suitable for lime burning. Mines in the vicinity of Bugsworth known to have supplied coal to the kilns were Dolly Pit, Lady Pit, Clough Head Pit and Bugsworth Hall Pit on the north side of the valley and Mosely Hall Pit on the south side of the valley and the coal seams worked were called Yard, Red Ash, White Ash and Ganister (13). Yard coal was fairly clean and was primarily used for domestic purposes but coal from the other seams was sulphurous and dirty and considered to be only suitable for lime burning. Coal was also brought in by boat from nearby mines and two such were Pingot Colliery (14) at New Mills (15) and Thomas Gisborne's Waterloo Colliery at Whaley Bridge.

Clough Head Pit had a direct tramway connection to the basin but, curiously, the tramway connection from Mosely Hall Pit stopped short at a coal-staithe at Gnat Hole. Coal for delivery to the kilns from there would have required transporting by cart. A more likely explanation is that this mine principally supplied Yard coal which was of domestic quality.

Coal in the area was sometimes referred to as Simmondley coal and it was worked around Glossop (Simmondley), Hayfield and as far away as Dane Bower Colliery some 7km south west of Buxton on the Buxton-Congleton road. Geologically it was all part of the great Barnsley Field.

An examination of lime waste along the banks of the Black Brook showed that the coal used was, indeed, shaly and coal recovered from the site produced thick sulphurous smoke when burned.

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3 A Perspective of the Industries Associated with Limestone

In the 19th century limestone products fell into five broad categories:

Bugsworth Basin was certainly associated with agrochemical, construction and civil engineering but the crucial association with the alkali and iron and steel industries does not appear to have received the same degree of attention by researchers.

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4 The Agrochemical Industry

An agrochemical is a chemical produced specifically for use in farming and much of the output of the kilns at Bugsworth fell into that category.

In those areas of Derbyshire where suitable limestone strata could be easily accessed or limestone boulders were readily available in glacial drift deposits, the stone was initially either quarried or simply collected to be converted into burnt lime. In those days local farmers would build their own kilns in field corners, using wood, peat or coal as fuel. These primitive kilns were quite small, often only a few metres high. They operated in an intermittent fashion, that is, they were loaded with limestone and fuel and then fired, cooled and emptied. It is quite possible that kilns of this type existed at Bugsworth prior to the construction of the canal and tramway but there is no evidence beyond the apocryphal to support this theory. Coal and wood were available nearby but limestone would have had to be brought in, possibly by packhorse.

High quality limestone was available in Dove Holes Dale. Because of its exceptional purity the lime produced from it is known as rich or fat lime. It is often upwards of 99% pure. The accessible strata lay to the east of the village of Dove Holes and stretched along Great Rocks Dale in the direction of Tunstead. The limestone in this strata belongs to the Chee Tor and Miller's Dale beds. This resulted in many small quarries being opened, some of which had their own kilns. It is quite possible that some of these quarries were initially opened by landowners and farmers who quickly found that it was more lucrative to continue quarrying than it was to farm.

After firing in these small kilns the burnt lime was raked out and, as we have seen, it was known as lump lime. This was unsuitable for spreading on the land but farmers would nevertheless take it to their fields being mindful of its propensity to cause fires if it got wet. The lump lime was first spread over the fields in small heaps. It was then left, sometimes after covering with soil, for the rain to slake it. It would then fall to a powder which was then ploughed in. Another method adopted was to heap the lump lime along field sides and leave it for the rain to slake it, after which it would be spread and ploughed in. However, this method did require the lump lime to be turned occasionally to assist the slaking process.

Agricultural land is susceptible to a build-up of acidity from humus deposits and liming counteracts this process by neutralising the acidity. A neutral or slightly alkaline soil promotes growth in most plants and calcium is needed for healthy growth. Lime breaks down heavy clay soils, making them more workable and better drained. Additionally, lime promotes beneficial bacterial processes such as nitrification. Thus lime is a soil improver and not really a fertiliser. Soil loses lime due to leaching by rain and as crops are lifted. This loss has to be replaced and it explains why so many kilns were built to supply the demands of the agrochemical industry.

The opening of the canal and tramway improved transportation and this demanded an improvement in local lime burning technology. Continuously burning kilns were required and these were better built into hillsides to take advantage of the high ground at the back for charging the raw materials (limestone and coal) and the low front for drawing the burnt lime and lime waste. Suitable topography existed at Chapel Milton, Bugsworth (on both sides of the canal), Disley and Marple.

Following the development continuous draw kilns in circa 1750 it became uneconomic for farmers to burn limestone in field corners and this practice eventually died out. However, intermittent kilns in some of the small quarries would, in all probability, have continued working and over the years these would have been replaced by continuous draw kilns as the quarries converted to properly constituted businesses.

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5 The Construction Industry

Lime is an important ingredient of building mortar but before examining this in detail it is first necessary to establish the function of mortar. It is a material used to bond bricks or stones into a structure. It must be inert and have an aggregate (e.g. sand) mixed with a bonding agent and water in proportions which will make it plastic, smooth and easy to apply with a trowel. It must be able to flow slightly but not collapse under the weight of the bricks or stones being used. On setting it must harden to a stonelike mass and be capable of distributing the weight of the structure evenly and provide weather-tight joints.

The use of lime as a bonding agent for building mortar goes back several thousand years. The burning (calcining) of limestone to produce burnt lime and the subsequent slaking (hydration) of this has already been discussed. It is now necessary to examine the reversion (hardening) process.


slaked lime + carbon dioxide gas = calcium carbonate (16) + water (from the atmosphere)

Ca(OH)2 + CO2 = CaCO3 +H2O

In practice when making lime mortar this becomes:

lime putty + sand + water = lime mortar

When lime putty is mixed with sand and water, building mortar is produced. This sets hard as the reversion process back to calcium carbonate occurs. This is a slow process and initially the mortar is fairly weak but it continues to harden for many years.

The aggregate initially used was sand as it was readily available but as the Industrial Revolution progressed applications were sought for what were then waste products. This led to ground cinders (17) being used as an aggregate. There was certainly no shortage of cinders as this was a waste product from the many boiler houses of the Lancashire cotton mills.

Lime mortar was made in the proportions by volume of:

1 part lime putty : 3 parts sand + water

Lump lime was delivered to the site where it was slaked with excess water to form lime putty. This was then mixed with the sand in the correct proportions and water was added. The whole was then well mixed together after which it was allowed to stand for 24 hours before use. It was possible to make lime mortar in relatively large quantities because of the long setting time.

Towards the end of the 19th century, hydration plants were developed. Burnt lime was ground and sprinkled with water to slake it. The resulting hydrated lime was dried and the powder bagged for delivery to site.

Lime mortar using hydrated lime was made in the proportions by volume of:

1 part hydrated lime : 3 parts sand + water

Lime mortar made by this method could also be made in relatively large quantities but the standing time was unnecessary.

Lime mortar using cinders was made in the proportions by volume of:

1 part slaked lime : 3 parts crushed cinders + water

This was made in a mortar mill which was a machine having two edge-running mills with a revolving pan. Burnt lime and cinders were placed in the pan with the necessary quantity of water and the mill was set in motion. The water would immediately begin to slake the burnt lime and this chemical process, together with the action of the mill, would rapidly cause it to crumble. Simultaneously, the mill would crush the cinders and mix them in with the lime. The process continued until the slaking action had ceased and the correct mortar consistency had been obtained.

The proportions given above would be right for a good mortar but the starting proportions of burnt lime, cinders and water were very much a matter of experience on the part of the operator. The amount of experience required can be judged from the fact that slaked lime is 200 to 300% greater in bulk than the original bulk of burnt lime.

The manufacture of the many types of cement which became available, particularly the hydraulic cements which would set in the absence of air, is beyond the scope of this booklet. However, mention must be made of Portland cement because it was used in the manufacture of gauged mortar.

Portland cement was patented by Joseph Aspdin in 1824. It is produced by firing a mixture of limestone (or chalk (18)) and clay at a temperature high enough to cause a chemical reaction resulting in the formation of calcium silicates and aluminates. The resulting clinker is ground to a powder. When this powder is mixed with water the reaction between the water and the silicates and aluminates produces a hard rigid mass. Suitable clay materials were obtained by crushing furnace slag, shale and slate. Joseph Aspdin called it Portland cement because, when mixed with water and allowed to harden, he considered that it resembled stone from the Portland quarries in Dorset.

Gauged mortar was most often made in the proportions by volume of:

1 part cement : 2 parts hydrated lime : 9 parts sand + water

This particular mix was considered to be suitable for most conditions except those of severe exposure. Because of the shorter setting time of Portland cement, gauged mortar was always prepared in small amounts.

Mason's Putty was made in the proportions by volume of:

2 parts Portland cement : 5 parts lime putty : 7 parts stone dust + water

As previously explained, ground cinders could be substituted for sand. Certainly building mortar made with cinders was still being used in the 1930's. This mortar is exceptionally hard and is easily identifiable by it bluish-grey colour. Possibly by that time it also contained cement and would fall into the gauged mortar category.

Building mortar was perhaps the most important constructional application for limestone arriving at Bugsworth for burning. The call for lime mortar for use in building mills, factories, warehouses and industrial housing, epitomized all over the industrial North West and beyond by countless rows of terraced houses, caused a phenomenal demand for burnt lime.

Plaster was also a major constructional application. Two types were made called coarse stuff and lime setting stuff.

Coarse stuff was a lime and hair plaster applied as a first coat in the rendering of brick and stonework and the wood laths of ceilings. It was comprised of 1 part slaked lime : 3 parts coarse sand + water, with the addition of about 9lb of clean, well-beaten animal hair to 1 cubic yard of plaster.

Lime setting stuff was the setting or finishing coat of plaster. It was comprised of 1 part slaked lime : 2 - 3 parts fine sand + water. The usual thickness of the finishing coat was about 1/8 in.

As we have seen, the White Peak has been the location of limestone quarrying for centuries. Even the most casual of visitors to the area cannot fail to notice the colossal amount of limestone present in dry-stone walls which are a characteristic feature of the White Peak landscape. Dwellings such as houses and farms were either built with or were faced with limestone.

In commercial and other prestigious building work, ashlar walling was often carried out in limestone which was set in mason's putty. Ashlar work consisted of carefully worked stones, finely squared and dressed to enable them to be laid in courses. No evidence has come to light to indicate the quantities of limestone which may have been used in this way. Limestone is known as free stone which means it is easy to cut and shape and as such it is ideal for ashlar work but it does have disadvantages. It is attacked and eaten away by acid rain and being somewhat porous it absorbs water which makes it susceptible to being split open by hard frosts.

Glass is also used in the construction industry and this will be considered in Chapter 7 concerning the alkali industry.

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6 The Civil Engineering Industry

Surviving records of the Peak Forest Canal Company do refer to the sale of limestone for use as road stone. For example, in 1801 it was being offered at Bugsworth and at Piccadilly, Manchester and again in 1803 it was being offered at Bugsworth. The price at Bugsworth was 1/6d per ton exclusive of tonnage charge and 2/8d inclusive of tonnage, whereas at Manchester it was 5/-d and 6/3d per ton exclusive of tonnage (19). The higher price in Manchester reflects the longer distance travelled and possibly that the limestone was of a better quality. The road stone at Bugsworth would only have been required for surfacing little used country roads but the road stone at Manchester would have been required for more heavily used roads. It is interesting to note that there is no evidence for the existence of stone crushers at Bugsworth at that time. It may be that the stone was crushed and screened at the quarries.

In 1846 the Peak Forest Canal Company was leased to the Sheffield, Ashton-u-Lyne and Manchester Railway Company. Shortly afterwards this company merged with other companies to become the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company.

Following this, probably in the 1860's, a stone crusher house was built on the south side of the Lower Basin. In the MS&LR Western Canal Distance Tables (20) this wharf was referred to as a Company Wharf. The crusher house was for the sole purpose of producing aggregates from limestone. Aggregates are materials used to provide bulk and they consist of gravels, crushed stone and sand. The crushed limestone was screened and loaded directly into boats. It is not known how many crushers there were, their type and size, or how many grades of aggregate were produced. These aggregates were suitable for application in construction and/or civil engineering for a variety of purposes from making concrete to providing road stone and hard core (ballast) for the rails and sleepers of the MS&LR's rapidly expanding rail network. Considering that the crusher house was railway owned it is self-evident that the bulk of aggregate produced would be for the latter purpose.

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7 The Alkali Industry

The role of limestone in the alkali industry is of such critical importance in the history of Bugsworth that it cannot be ignored. It concerns the manufacture of soda ash (anhydrous sodium carbonate, Na2CO3). Before discussing the production of soda ash and its many applications it is necessary to examine the links between Bugsworth and the alkali industry.

As we have seen, the shortage of limestone for the bourgeoning chemical industry situated in the heart of the Mersey Basin was the principal reason for the construction of the canal and tramway in the first place. Ironically, during the period of decline and closure of Bugsworth Basin (1880 to 1927) the direct links with the present-day alkali industry were getting stronger. This was the period when the canal and tramway were becoming obsolete. The MS&LR was able to use its canals for a longer period than was, perhaps, justified because it had wisely integrated its rail and canal network. This enabled it to penetrate the markets of two major competitors, the Midland Railway and the London and North Western Railway. Eventually it had to admit defeat because it could no longer tolerate traffic in one direction only from Bugsworth, the boats then having to be taken back empty. The canal and tramway was subject to the laws of the market place and had become a victim of new technology.

The discovery of rock salt (halite, sodium chloride, NaCl) in Cheshire in the late 1600's laid the foundations of the modern alkali industry which began to develop in the Mersey Basin. Ludwig Mond, a German chemist, was a director of one of the many factories which had been set up to manufacture soda ash by the Leblanc process. In April 1872 he acquired the rights from Ernest Solvay, a Belgian chemist, to manufacture soda ash by Solvay's ammonia-soda process. Mond then went into partnership with John Brunner to form Brunner, Mond & Co. They purchased the Winnington Estate just north west of Northwich on the Northwich-Runcorn road. Here they set up a new factory which opened in 1873.

This new venture was a great success and by the 1880's Brunner Mond's product was in demand all over the world. The business expanded and other soda factories opened in Sandbach, Middlewich and Lostock. Brunner, Mond & Co Ltd soon became one of the four largest chemical manufacturers in the country and in 1926 it amalgamated with the other three, namely, United Alkali Company, British Dyestuffs Corporation and Nobel Industries to form Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (21). Winnington became the headquarters of the ICI Alkali Division as it was strategically placed for the supply of its basic raw materials of salt, limestone and coal. Today it is known as Brunner Mond & Company Limited.

By 1870 a William Pitt Dixon was operating kilns in the New Road battery. His association with Bugsworth was a long one and it is he who forged the direct link between Bugsworth and the alkali industry of the Mersey Basin. A weighing machine was installed on the tramway leading to the head of these kilns for the purpose of weighing the limestone. This machine was accommodated in a small stone-built weigh house bearing a date stone incised 'WPD 1870'. By 1890 it appears that Dixon was operating all eight of the New Road kilns at Bugsworth and he also had an interest in limestone quarries around Dove Holes (22).

By the 1880's some 17 independent quarry companies were operating in Dove Holes Dale and along Great Stone Dale. Since none of them was large enough to satisfy the demand for limestone individually they became engaged in unprofitable competition with each other. The solution was a merger and 13 companies agreed to this and they formed the Buxton Lime Firms Company (23). This competition was also affecting the Dixon business and in about 1892 he transferred his quarry interests and the lease of his Bugsworth kilns to BLF. By 1899 it appears that BLF had also gained control of the, probably disused, Gnat Hole (east) kilns. They also owned coal mines in the area to ensure a supply of coal for their kilns.

In 1919 BFL became part of Brunner, Mond & Co Ltd based at Winnington in Cheshire. Thus Brunner, Mond administered kilns at Bugsworth between 1919 and about 1922. It is believed that all limestone traffic on the tramway ceased in about 1922 because it had been transferred to rail and road haulage. It is uncertain whether or not any of the kilns were still in operation by this time. Considerable research has failed to produce any firm evidence concerning the sequence of closure. All that remains are unreliable apocryphal stories.

It is self-evident that Brunner, Mond & Co would probably not even be aware that they had gained control of kilns at Bugsworth. It was merely an accidental acquisition as a result of the incorporation of BLF into Brunner, Mond & Co. Their primary interest lay in securing the source of limestone, a vital raw material for their business. The kilns were of no concern to them. A steady supply of limestone was all they required and this was guaranteed by a more modern transport system.

Having established a link between Bugsworth and the alkali industry in the Mersey Basin, the production of soda ash will now be examined. In determining just how far afield the Bugsworth limestone and its derivatives actually got, two important considerations must be borne in mind:

The earliest method of producing soda ash synthetically was by the Leblanc process and the different stages of this are now outlined.

Stage 1 - Furnace

salt + sulphuric acid = saltcake + hydrochloric acid waste

The hydrochloric acid waste was released into the atmosphere as hydrogen chloride gas. This was highly detrimental to the environment and as the gas drifted over the surrounding countryside it caused much damage and protest.

Stage 2 - Black Ash Revolver

saltcake + limestone + coal = soda ash + calcium sulphide waste

The solid calcium sulphide waste was dumped to form large alkali waste tips. This waste reacted with rain to form 'rotten egg' gas (hydrogen sulphide) which was obnoxious. Carbon monoxide gas was also produced and this was released into the atmosphere along with clouds of thick black smoke produced by the low grade coal used in the furnaces.

This ultimately led to the passing of the Alkali Works Act of 1863 to reduce air pollution. A way round this problem was quickly found. The hydrogen chloride gas was liquified to hydrochloric acid and poured into nearby rivers where it quickly killed all life. An effective way of dealing with the severe pollution caused by the Leblanc process had to wait for further advances in chemical knowledge to enable waste products to be utilised for beneficial purposes. Meanwhile the Solvay process only produced calcium chloride as a waste product and its disposal did not cause pollution.

Figure 6 Stages in Leblanc process of producing soda ash

Soda ash (sodium carbonate) and calcium chloride occur as natural minerals and they will react with each other naturally to produce salt (sodium chloride) and limestone (calcium carbonate). The Solvay process of producing soda ash reversed this naturally occurring process.

The raw materials required are limestone, brine (salt dissolved in water) and ammonia (which can be recycled). The limestone is crushed, ground and sifted before being introduced into lime kilns. The burnt lime and carbon dioxide gas produced in the kilns are essential materials which, together with brine and ammonia produce soda ash which is dried into a white powder. The waste product is calcium chloride. During this process the salt in the brine is reacted with slaked lime derived from the burnt lime produced in the kilns.

In 1890, to meet the competition from the cheaper Solvay process of producing soda ash, the Leblanc manufacturers amalgamated to form the United Alkali Company Limited. One of the companies in this amalgamation was Gaskell, Deacon & Company, based at Widnes, and they had an interest in limestone quarries around Dove Holes. United Alkali was one of the companies which amalgamated to form ICI Ltd.

Before examining some of the many products which need soda ash in their manufacture it must be emphasised that limestone, not burnt lime, was the raw material required by soda ash factories employing the Leblanc or Solvay processes.


The main ingredient of glass is silicon dioxide (SiO2) which is found as naturally occurring silica sand. Sand will only melt or fuse at a very high temperature (in excess of 1500°C). The melting temperature can be lowered to about 800°C by adding a fluxing agent and the agent used is soda ash. If these two ingredients are mixed in the ratio of,

25% soda ash : 75% silica sand

it will melt at about 800°C and the resulting substance is waterglass. As the name implies, this glass is soluble in water.

To prevent the glass being soluble a stabiliser is introduced and this is limestone. An average glass consists of about,

25% soda ash : 55% silica sand : 20% limestone

to which is added from 15 to 30% of cullet (24) of the correct composition. The purpose of the cullet is to assist melting.

The glass industry of the Mersey Basin was (and still is) centred in St Helens. Among the earliest companies in St Helens were:

The British Cast Plate Glass Company

The St Helens Crown Glass Company

The Union Plate Glass Works

These firms subsequently became Pilkington Glass (UK) Limited.


The growth of the wool and then the cotton industries created a demand for soap. Soap is basically a mixture of an alkali and a fat (or oil) and two types were used. One was hard soap based on soda ash and the other was soft soap based on potash. The ingredients were boiled together for considerable periods to emulsify them, coal being the fuel used for this purpose.

The soap industry required a reliable source of soda ash and this was initially met by the new factories using the Leblanc process. As a result, the soap industry developed in the Widnes, Warrington and Liverpool areas. Eventually it became the home of one of the world's largest soap manufactures when William Hesketh Lever founded Port Sunlight on the Wirral. Today the firm is known as Lever Brothers Limited. Another large soap manufacturer was William Gossage who established a saltcake factory on Spike Island, Widnes in 1850. Three years later the company began manufacturing soap for domestic consumption as well as for export. Gossage's offices are now home to the Catalyst, the museum of the chemical industry.

Soap was not only required by the textile industry but by the general population as well. The relentless progress of the Industrial Revolution caused the industrial towns to become much dirtier places in which to live and this increased the domestic consumption of soap.


Bleach was also a major requirement of the textile industries. A workable method of producing chlorine-based bleach was first developed by Charles Tennant at Glasgow and he opened a factory there in 1799. His method produced bleaching powder which was much less harmful than the bleach based on chlorine in an aqueous solution (25). It was known as chloride of lime or dry bleaching powder and it was made by passing chlorine over lime; the lime absorbing the chlorine gas. The powder decomposed rather easily and it had to be used as quickly as possible after manufacture. Its introduction was considered as one of the milestones in the evolution of the British chemical industry.

In the 1860's two industrial chemists, Walter Weldon and Henry Deacon, devised a way of recovering chlorine from the waste hydrochloric acid produced by the Leblanc soda factories. This became the principal method of producing bleaching powder and other chlorine-based products and it became a major source of income for the soda factories. It also helped to reduce pollution.

Caustic Soda (Sodium hydroxide, NaOH)

The established method of making this powerful alkali was to treat soda ash with lime and this was the way it was manufactured for many of the alkali-consuming industries. However, in the late 1800's two industrial chemists, Castner and Kellner, found a way of producing it by means of electrolysis.

This method uses salt and is beyond the scope of this booklet. Suffice it to say that in 1897 the Castner-Kellner Company was set up at Weston Point, Runcorn, as a consequence of an agreement between the Belgian Solvay Company and the British Aluminium Company. Brine was supplied to this factory along a pipeline from Northwich.

Sewage Disposal

The purification of sewage before disposal was carried out in several stages using chemical precipitants. Lime was widely used for this purpose and at sewage-outfall works a mixture of lime and ferrous sulphate was often employed.


Slaked lime dissolves sparingly in water to produce limewater which was once used for medicinal purposes. It was also used to make whitewash (lime-wash) for painting walls. Whitewash was made by adding more water to slaked lime to form a thick suspension sometimes called milk of lime.

Soda ash was used in the manufacture of soda crystals (washing soda, Na2CO3.10H2O). It was also used in the manufacture of paper.

One use was even found for burnt lime in its own right. If a small lump of burnt lime is placed in a flame of hydrogen it will glow with an intense white light - 'limelight' - without decomposing or melting. This technique was used in theatres for stage lighting. Though no longer used for this purpose the word limelight has passed into the English language to figuratively describe someone who always enjoys the glare of publicity.

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8 The Iron and Steel Industry


Ironstone (iron ore) is the name given to a group of fairly common minerals in the earth's crust. However, the metallic iron in the mineral is always present in association with oxygen in the form of complex iron oxides depending upon the type of mineral. Removing the oxygen is called reduction and the method of doing this is called smelting. This is done in a special furnace called a blast-furnace. Carbon in the form of coke (26) is made to combine with the oxygen in the ironstone thus releasing the metallic iron and gases.

Before leaving the quarry the ironstone was given a preliminary processing. The freshly quarried ironstone was calcined directly on the quarry floor by burning coal mixed with it. The purpose of this was to remove most of the volatiles such as water and carbon dioxide gas before it was transported to the blast-furnace.

Figure 7 Details of a blast furnace

A 19th century blast-furnace consisted of a tall stack into which the ironstone and coke were charged at the top. In the upper part of the stack any remaining water and carbon dioxide gas were driven off. As the charge descended in the stack the iron ore was reduced to metallic iron. Close to the bottom of the stack, air pipes called tuyeres (pronounced 'tweers') were fitted. Hot air was blasted through these pipes into the stack to promote the necessary chemical reactions. The metallic iron (known as pig iron) was drawn off right at the bottom of the stack. There were two main chemical reactions in the smelting operation.

In the first, the ironstone was reduced by carbon monoxide gas produced by the burning coke.

iron stone + carbon monoxide gas = iron + carbon dioxide gas

Ironstone was never pure (27) and limestone was the third essential raw material in the smelting process, being required to remove the impurities. This was added with the ironstone and coke and its function in the second chemical reaction was to act as a flux to fuse the impurities into a slag. Once inside the stack the limestone calcined into burnt lime which had the ability to combine with the impurities and earthy waste in the ironstone. This formed a fluid slag which floated on top of the molten iron where it was run off separately.

impurities and earthy waste + lime = liquid slag

The slag was not wasted. It was broken up and used as an aggregate in concrete or for road building. It was even used to build road-side walls in some areas.

The molten pig iron drawn off at the bottom of the furnace was either cast into 'pigs' for subsequent use or it was transferred in its molten state to a steel-making plant.


Two methods of converting iron into steel were available in the 19th century. The first was the Bessemer converter introduced in 1856 and the second was the Siemens open-hearth furnace, patented in 1861 and first used in France in 1864.

The Bessemer converter consisted of a large pear-shaped vessel (or pot) about 6m high mounted on trunnions to enable the steel to be poured out. The converter was charged by pouring molten pig iron into it and then air was blown through it from the bottom of the vessel. The air oxidised the carbon, silicon and manganese in the iron. At the end of the 'blow' the slag was run off first and then the steel was 'teemed' into a ladle. A major disadvantage of this converter was that it did not remove phosphorous. It was known that lime would react with phosphorous and remove it but the lime attacked the firebrick lining of the vessel. To overcome this problem, calcined dolomite (28) bonded with fireclay was used to line the vessel. This became known as the 'basic' Bessemer process (29) and it enabled lime to be used as a flux to remove phosphorous and other impurities. The original Bessemer process became known as the 'acid' Bessemer process.

Figure 8 Details of a Bessemer Converter

The Siemens open-hearth furnace (30) consisted of an hearth heated by gas produced by low-grade coal burning outside the furnace. It worked on a regenerator principle, by which heat escaping with waste gases was captured to heat the air supplied to the furnace. The heated gases were able to flow over the hearth from alternate sides. The charge consisted of molten and/or solid pig iron, wrought iron and other scrap. Lime was used as a flux.

The open hearth process gradually supplanted the Bessemer converter because of its greater capacity and flexibility. It is ironic that of the two alternative processes available today, Basic Oxygen Steelmaking and Electric-arc Steelmaking, the former is not unlike the old Bessemer converter.

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9 The Trade in Limestone and Lime

Limestone and lime were both used as raw materials for other manufacturing processes and because of this documentary evidence is not readily available to show exactly where or who the final distributors were.

This booklet has attempted to demonstrate how vast quantities of limestone from the White Peak were consumed during the period of British industrialisation. Invariably the path of the limestone can been traced from the quarries, down the Peak Forest Tramway and Canal and then down the Ashton Canal to Piccadilly and Castlefield in Manchester. But what happened then? It did not simply disappear! There were extensive facilities at Piccadilly. Here, around Junction Street, Store Street and Meadow Street, many stone and lime wharfs were located. Most of these wharfs were company owned but others were privately owned by companies such as Satterfield and Carrington. Indeed, it appears that the demand for limestone was so high that it exceeded the supply at one time.

On the 30 November 1801 James Meadows, the Principal Agent for the canal company, was instructed......

'to wait upon the gentlemen of the Committee [the Directors] of the Peak Forest Canal and represent to them the necessity of immediately procuring sufficient numbers of boats to complete the orders for limestone according to the contracts entered into and to provide for the increasing amount' (31)

Not all of the stone was discharged at Piccadilly. Once the Rochdale Canal was opened in 1804, boats could enter it at Dale Street Basin and then proceed down through the nine locks to enter the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield. Here, as previously explained, some of the limestone was discharged onto the wharf at Castle Quay.

But that was not the end of the story. The Peak Forest Canal Company was very effective at marketing their limestone and lime. They did this by reaching agreements with other canal operators to quote a single rate for the cost of the material, toll and freight. They also negotiated cheap bulk delivery contracts with the trustees of turnpikes for some 50km around Manchester (32).

By synthesizing the available data from other manufacturing processes it has been demonstrated that these materials did travel along the Bridgewater Canal and/or the Mersey and Irwell Navigation to the heart of the Mersey Basin where the alkali industry was concentrated. Access to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal was also possible via the two staircase locks on the River Irwell in Salford. Mention must also be made of the significant chemical industry centred in Clayton, Manchester, at the side of the Ashton Canal. Finally, boats could also travel along the Rochdale Canal towards Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire and beyond.

During the 19th and into the 20th century, Manchester was a centre for the heavy engineering industry and it was a large producer of iron and steel. A battery of blast-furnaces stood on the banks of the River Irwell/Manchester Ship Canal at Irlam for the production of pig iron. This required limestone for use as a flux. Around Manchester there were also Bessemer converters and Siemens open-hearth furnaces which all required lime as a flux.

Further confirmation of the trade in limestone, lime and associated materials can be derived from the canal company's Classification of Merchandise Traffic. Referring to Appendix 1:

Class A merchandise listed:

Limestone in bulk.
Stone and undressed material, for the repair of roads
Stone, wholly undressed, straight from the quarries.

Associated merchandise listed under Class A:

Basic slag, unground. This apparently refers to slag from Bessemer converters.

Cinder, coal. Could have been used in the manufacture of lime mortar.

Hammer scale. This was used in the manufacture of wrought iron.

Iron-ore. This is unspecified ironstone destined for blast-furnaces.

Purple ore. This is haematite, a valuable ore of iron also destined for

blast-furnaces. Kidney ore is a form of haematite.

Waste sulphate of lime. This probably refers to calcium sulphide, the

solid waste from the Leblanc process of manufacturing soda ash.

Sand. Could have been used in the manufacture of lime mortar.

Coke. The fuel used in blast-furnaces.

Class B merchandise listed:

Basic material, burnt limestone, in bulk, to steel converters. This refers to burnt lime intended for 'basic' Bessemer converters.

Lime in bulk. This refers to burnt lime, probably for agrochemical use.

Associated merchandise listed under Class B:

Iron and steel (Of certain types).

Pig-iron. The produce of blast-furnaces.

Concrete, in blocks or slabs. Manufactured using Portland cement

with crushed limestone as the aggregate.

Class C merchandise listed:

Lime e.o.h.p. Similar to Class B but presumably of better quality, probably for use in the construction industry as builders mortar.

Associated merchandise listed under Class C:

Bleaching powder.
Cullet (or broken glass).
Iron and steel (Of certain types).
Oxide of iron
. This apparently refers to an unspecified ore of iron.
Soda ash
Whiting and whitening
. This refers to whitewash (lime-wash) but the difference between whiting and whitening is unknown.

Class 1 merchandise (not shown) listed mortar mills for grinding the materials used in the manufacture of builders mortar, especially for lime mortar made with cinders. Class 3 merchandise (not shown) listed limestone, polished or dressed. This refers to limestone suitable for ashlar walling.

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10 Competition

Competition came from a variety of sources, one of which, as we have seen, was in North Wales where limestone was brought into the Mersey Basin using sea-going Mersey flats. Another, which was a source of competition for the quarry owners around Dove Holes but a means of revenue for the Peak Forest Canal, came in 1831 when the Cromford & High Peak Railway opened. This railway connected the Cromford Canal near Cromford to the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. Limestone and burnt lime were brought down to the CHPR wharf at Whaley Bridge for trans-shipment to Manchester and beyond. It was supplied from quarries such as Grin (33), Harpur Hill and Hillhead. Some of the burnt lime from these quarries was produced in Hoffmann kilns (34). This type of kiln consisted of up to 20 pots laid out in an oval with openings into a central flue and chimney. Hoffman kilns were originally developed for brick making and were subsequently adapted for limestone burning. A major disadvantage was that they were labour intensive.

Competition also came from the West Midlands, particularly around Dudley. These limestone deposits were associated with a large coalfield nearby and iron ore deposits in the East Midlands. Geographically it was too far away to have any impact on the limestone trade of the Mersey Basin but its proximity probably meant that there was little or no market penetration for limestone from the White Peak and North Wales into the West Midlands.

Lord Dudley possessed the mineral rights and the method used to extract them was quite exceptional. When the Dudley Canal was being built in 1792 it was necessary to dig one of the longest tunnels in the country through limestone rock. Advantage was taken of this by digging a side tunnel from Dudley Tunnel to Tipton Colliery so that coal could be loaded directly into boats for delivery to site. This was later extended with the construction of a subterranean canal basin called Castle Mill Basin because of its nearness to Dudley Castle. The purpose of this was to serve the nearby limestone quarries. Between 1805 and 1837 Lord Dudley dug yet another tunnel some 1170m long from Castle Mill Basin to serve another limestone quarry at Wren's Nest.

Limestone from these quarries was required as a flux for the blast-furnaces of the West Midlands and for lime burning. At Dudley, Lord Ward built a battery of lime kilns served by the canal. The earliest kilns in this battery date from 1842.

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11 Finale

A £2.2m rail link to Manchester Airport was opened on Wednesday 17 December 1997. Without making any comments on the controversial issue of the second runway, the announcement was as follows:

'A new rail link to Manchester Airport has been opened by Transport Minister Gavin Strang. The £2.2m line has been built with the aid of a Government grant to transport 1.5m tonnes of limestone needed for the project to construct a second runway. The line will be used to ferry limestone from quarries in the Buxton area [Tunstead/Great Stone Dale] to the site of the new runway which is due to open in the year 2000.

With three trains a day, officials hope the line will mean 70,000 fewer lorry journeys a year on the region's roads.'

This announcement shows that the story of limestone goes on undiminished. Limestone is just as vital today as it ever was in the past.

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Appendix 1

An Extract of Merchandise carried on the MS&LR Western Canals

1894 (35)


Where in this List the letters "e.o.h.p." are placed after the designation of any article they mean "except otherwise herein provided".

Merchandise associated directly or indirectly with limestone and lime has been highlighted.

Class A

Basic slag, unground Limestone, in bulk
Cannel Manure, street, stable, farmyard, in bulk
Cinder, coal Night soil
Clay, in bulk, e.o.h.p. Purple ore
Coal Sand
Coke Slack
Culm Stone and undressed material, for the repair of roads
Gravel Stone, wholly undressed, straight from a quarry
Hammer scale Tap or mill cinder
Iron-ore Waste sulphate of lime

Class B

Asphalte [sic] paving in blocks Kainit
Basic material, burnt limestone, in bulk, to steel converters Lime, in bulk
Bricks, clay common and fire Manganese ore
Concrete, in blocks or slabs Pig-iron
Copperas, green, in bulk Quarls
Draff, or brewers' and distillers' grains Slates, common
Furnace lumps Tiles, paving, draining, roofing, or garden edging, common
Granite, in blocks, rough, or undressed Zinc ore
Iron and steel. (Of certain types)

Class C

Bleaching powder Keel bars Soda ash
Cullet (or broken glass) Lime, e.o.h.p. Whiting and whitening
Iron and steel (Of certain types) Oxide of iron Zinc sheets or rods

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Appendix 2

Quarries known to have been worked around Dove Holes Dale and

along Great Stone Dale (36)

Lower Hallsteads (with kilns) Clancy's Dale

Higher Hallsteads (with kilns) Victory Works (with kilns)

Holderness (with kilns) Perseverence Works (with kilns)

New Line Loads Knowl (the original quarry?)

Bibbington (with kilns) Gisborne (or Gisbourne)

The New Line and Dale quarries were operated by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company who sold their lease to S Taylor Frith & Company in 1923. The latter company remained independent of the Buxton Lime Firms Company.

In 1863 the Midland Railway line between Derby and Manchester opened and sidings were provided for the quarries. Consequently, the Bibbington traffic was lost from the Peak Forest Tramway in the same year. It is also known that the Perseverence Works was connected to the Midland Railway line.

Other families and companies known to have been associated with the quarries were:

Wainwright Gaskell, Deacon & Co (Bold Venture Lime Works)

Carrington Thomas Beswick & Son (Small Dale Lime Works)

Taylor Newton, Chambers

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Appendix 3

Boats known to have been stationed at Bugsworth

All these boats were stationed at Bugsworth at some period.

Maria (37) (used for stone at the Crusher) Charles (stone)

Mary Ernest [sic] (at the Pens, then goods) Saturn (stone)

Agnes (stone) Triton (stone)

Archibald (stone) Eagle (stone)

Lilly (stone) Josephine (bank boat)

Sophia (goods boat) Annie (goods boat) Kate (bank boat)

Only one mineral wagon from the Peak Forest Tramway exists. This is wagon No.174 which is now in the National Railway Museum at York. None of the high-sided wagons survived.

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Abson, James, Yeoman's Home - A History of Bugsworth and its 'Hall' in Derbyshire, (Kinder, 1981)

Atkinson, Richard & Francis, Rocks and Minerals, (Claremont, 1979)

Broadbridge S R, The Birmingham Canal Navigations, Vol 1, 1768 - 1846, (David & Charles, 1974)

Chudley, R, Construction Technology 1, (Longman, 2nd ed 1987)

Concise Dictionary of Chemistry, (Oxford Science Publications, 1985)

Cope, Wolverson F, Geology Explained in the Peak District, (David & Charles, 1976)

Cossons, Neil, The BP Book of Industrial Archaeology, (David & Charles, 3rd ed 1993)

Findlow, A J, Bugsworth Basin, A Chronological Perspective 1795-1927, (IWPS Ltd, 1996)

Hadfield, Charles & Skempton A W, William Jessop, Engineer, (David & Charles, 1979)

Higgins R A, Materials for the Engineering Technician, (Arnold, 2nd ed 1987)

Lee, Brian, An Introduction to Geology, (Crowood, 1987)

Rapaille, Maxime, Solvay, A Giant, (Hatier, 1990)

Rimmer, A, The Cromford & High Peak Railway, (Oakwood, New ed reprinted Jan 1998)

Ripley, David, The Peak Forest Tramway including The Peak Forest Canal, (Oakwood, 3rd ed 1995)

Rodolph de Salis, Henry, Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England and Wales, (Blacklock, 1904)

Williams, Richard, Limekilns and Limeburning, (Shire, 1989)

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1. The seaweed used was kelp.

2. Corbridge, J, A Pictorial History of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, (Morten, 1979).

3. Act of Parliament, 34 Geo. III cap. 26, 1794.

4. Unwin, George, Samuel Oldknow and the Arkwrights, (Manchester University Press,

2nd ed 1968).

5. Minute Book, Peak Forest Canal Company.

6. McNeil, Robina and George, A D (ed), The Heritage Atlas 3 - Warehouse Album, (The University of Manchester, 1997), p34.

7. Leach, John, Coal Mining around Whaley Bridge, (Derbyshire Library Services,

1992), p40.

8. An early mention of commercial-scale lime burning concerns a John Thomason, born at Bugsworth in 1799. He could remember when he was about 16 (circa 1815) carting coal from Ollerenshaw pits to Dove Holes for lime burning. These pits were near Combs Edge.

9. The word 'lime' is often applied loosely. It can mean either burnt lime or slaked lime.

10. Keaveney, E and Brown D L, A History of the Ashton-under-Lyne Canal,

(Published privately, June 1974), p14.

11. Minute Book, op. cit.

12. McNeil, Robina and George, A D, op. cit., p26.

13. The origin of the names for the coal seams is interesting. Yard refers to the general thickness of the seam. Red Ash and White Ash refer to the colour of the ash after burning. Ganister refers to the seat-earth below the seam. The plants which formed this coal grew on sand rather than mud which resulted in hard flint-like seat-earth called ganister often containing fossil roots. Ganister and the similar fireclay are used in the production of refractory products such as furnace linings because they are not readily fusible at high temperatures.

14. Needham, George and Whalley, Martin, The Memoirs of Mrs Martha Barnes,

(IWPS Ltd, 2nd ed 1997), p5 and p12.

'Fetched coal from Pingot Colliery. William Pitt Dixon owner of kiln'.

'[Joe Barnes] used to cart limestone for top kilns [New Road kilns] down to Basin

and to cart coal from Pingot'. Pingot Colliery was also known as Burn'd Edge Pit.

15. Leach, John, op. cit., p24.

16. Chemically this is the same as limestone. Materials can often exist in more than one form.

17. The solid residue from burning coal in air.

18. Chalk is a naturally occurring form of limestone or calcium carbonate.

19. Minute Book, op. cit.

20. MS&LR Western Canal Distance Tables, September 1888.

21. Needham and Whalley, op. cit., p12.

'Shed opposite Rose and Crown a loading shed. Wagons tipped lime on to chute and down into barges. May be used for coal as well. Joe took lime in barges down to ICI Ltd [sic] at Manchester -----'.

Martha Barnes meant Brunner, Mond & Co when she referred to ICI Ltd because she is speaking of a time before ICI was formed. However, she must have been aware of a connection between Brunner, Mond and ICI. In her reference to lime she meant burnt lime. It is interesting to note that Brunner, Mond were taking deliveries of burnt lime.

22. Ibid., p10.

'William Pitt Dixon always spoke well of, very friendly with Mrs Barnes. [Dixon] lived at Dove Holes, down Dale Road. He owned kilns at Bugsworth, quarries at Dove Holes. [Part of] Buxton Lime Company. When kilns closed at Bugsworth, lime burnt at Dove Holes to finish orders off. Canal used at Bugsworth even though kilns not used. Kilns closed'.

23. Harris, Helen, The Industrial Archaeology of the Peak District, (David & Charles,


The Buxton Lime Firms Company must not be confused with the Buxton Lime Company which was formed in circa 1856. The Buxton Lime Company became a part of Buxton Lime Firms Company when it was formed in 1891.

24. Scrap glass.

25. Liquid bleach was made by absorbing chlorine in a potash solution.

26. Coke was made by the distillation of coal in coke ovens with coal gas as a by-product.

27. Sand is often the main impurity.

28. A limestone consisting of magnesium and calcium carbonate, also known as pearl spar.

29. Also known as a Thomas-Gilchrist converter, it was introduced in 1877.

30. Also known as the Siemens-Martin process, it was originally developed for glass making.

31. Minute Book, op. cit.

32. McNeil, Robina and George, A D, op. cit., p34.

33. Near Ladmanlow, to the south west of Buxton.

34. Hoffman kilns were never built in the quarries near Dove Holes.

35. The 'Canal Tolls and Charges (Provisional) Order, 1894', confirmed by the 'Canal Tolls and Charges (Provisional) Order Confirmation Act, 1894', applicable to the canals of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company.

36. Canal Distance Tables, op. cit. and Jackson, L, Buxton Lime Trade.

37. Maria was built in July 1854 and is still in existence. She is used as a trip boat on the Ashton Canal.


The author wishes to record his thanks to the staff of the following institutions in respect of assistance rendered during the research for this article.  The Salt Museum (Northwich), Catalyst - The Museum of the Chemical Industry (Widnes), Stockport Heritage and Reference Library, The Inland Waterways Protection Society Ltd. 

Thanks to Peter A Johnstone for the use of his background graphic for the webpage version.

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Last updated 16 August 2014