Updated 14 Jan 2001

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Hopton Wood Quarries

Susan Graham sent this interesting piece about Hopton Wood Stone Quarries, and the names KILLER, HODGE, FOX, DOXEY and others. See more about Hopton-Wood Stone.

Compiled, indexed, formatted and copyright © 2001, . All Rights Reserved.

KILLER Bros. owned Hopton Wood Quarries from 1850. From the text it
seems as though it later became known as Hopton Wood Stone Company.

The following is from the booklet - "A Rake Through The Past" by Barbara Haywood.
Printed by Greenaway Workshop, Greenway Lane, Hackney Matlock, Derbyshire.
Tel. 01629 734089. No ISBN No I'm afraid

The front of the book is red and shows a line drawing of the quarry and
underneath says

               Stone for Architectural Purposes
                    KILLER BROTHERS
                        owners of
                     Hopton-Wood Stone
In block and Sawn Slabs for Landings, Steps, Monuments, Headstones, Paving etc.,
Manufacturers of Hopton-Wood Stone Chimney Pieces, Fenders, Hearth-Stones,
Sills and Monumental Stones etc., etc. Setts, Kerbing, Gravel for Asphalting
or Carriage Drives. Limestone for Fluxing. Road Metal etc.

This celebrated stone has been supplied to the following:-

New Law Courts, London
New Council Chambers, Guildhall, London
Houses of Parliament
Tower of London
London & Counties Bank
St Augustine's Church, London
Fine Art Institute, Derby
Normanton Barracks, Derby
Water Works Office, Derby
Lloyd's Bank, Birmingham
Clayton Church, Manchester,
Harris' Free Library, Preston
Rugby School
L&NW Railway Co.
St Michael's Church, Coventry
Water Works Offices, Nottingham
Baliol College, Oxford
Keble College, Oxford
Palace Hotel, Buxton
Bass & Co's Offices, Burton
Ashbourn Church
St Mary Magdalene's Church, Lincoln
Cloud's House, East Knoyle
Southwell Minster
Sir Henry Allsop, Alsop-en-le-Dale
Sir Joseph Whitworth, Darley Dale
Her Grace Viscountess Ossington, Carl? on-Trent
And to many of the Nobility and Gentry of England"

THE QUARRY (pp12-15)

Lead mining had been the main industry in the area for many years. In 1850,
the KILLER Brothers - Joseph, John and Adam - opened The Quarry, situated
to the West of Main Street.  Here some of the finest block stone was produced.

The menfolk of the village were strong hardy offspring of their lead mining
ancestors and they were capable of very hard work.  They learned skills
which were necessary to win the stone from the rock face, prepare the
blocks for sawing and polishing, and for carving into the most intricate
designs. Quarry workers were low paid.

In wet weather, working on the quarry face was dangerous, so work was
suspended.  The rain would dislodge stones, and without warning , they fell
to the bottom.

Over the years there were a number of accidents, workers were hit on the
head by falling stones, and others working high-up on the rock fell to
their death.

In the 1850's, the Hopton Wood Stone Firm acquired the quarry, and
established the Saw Mills on the opposite side of the Main Street.

"These men who have passsed their lives within a few yards of the Quarry
know the virtue and foibles of the Hopton Wood better, perhaps, than they
understand the chemical mysteries of their own bodies.  They can tell at a
glance good stone from bad, and fromn a sense attained only by experience,
diagnose a fault which is invisible to the naked eye.

Stones were chosen for their characteristics, and Hopton Wood is notable
for its style.  Yet Hopton Wood is strong, as well as beautiful, so it is
especially suitable for columns, palisters, staircases, ashlar and

It is a particular characteristic of the stone, that while it may be
quarried in fairly large sizes, it is equally capable of the utmost
delicacy - it can be used for massive effects or sawn to three-quarter inch
thickness, for all linings."

(Extract from book "Hopton Wood Stone", a limited edition)

The highly skilled carvers (stone masons) were known locally as The

These men were chosen to apply their skills for large numbers of headstones
for war graves after the 1914-18 War.  Their work still stands in cemetries
for the fallen, around the world

A gang of stone carvers from Preston, were brought to augment the local
men. "The Preston Men" lodged with local families and many friendships were
formed.  this work was honoured by a Royal visit by the then Prince of
Wales in 1928, who toured the Quarry, Saw Mills and the Mason's Workshop.
The school children were given a standpoint on a spoil heap at the quarry

I remember we cheered and waved our "Union Jacks". to actually see a member
of the Royal Family in the flesh was a memorable event in the life of the

During these years, a sculptor John HODGE, was commissioned to work on a
"famous" pair of lions, which for many years graced the entrance to
Sheffield City Hall.  In recent years they have been discarded by
Sheffield, and now can be seen, proudly displayed, at the front of
Hadfield House in Dale Road, Matlock.

Mr HODGE was a mysterious figure.  A tall man, who wore a black cape and a
large brimmed black hat.  He lodged with Mrs FOX in "The Pitchings", and as
he worked mostly at night, we children were a bit scared when we met him in
the dark - going to and from his work.

There were other Quarrymen who served an apprenticeship, and they dressed
kerb and set-stones.  This was skilled work, for which only hand tools were
used - measurements being judged by hand and eye.  The kerb stones were
used for edging pavements, and the set-stones for paving streets.  Some can
be seen around the country today.

One Middleton man, who spent most of his working life as a kerb dresser, on
his retirement, when asked by a Director of Tarmac, what the stones were
used for, replied "Ta mak causey edges".  Meaning, to make causeway edges!

Local Stone Masons - some of whom were in business as Monumental Masons,
produced headstones which can be seen in many local cemeteries.  I
apologise to their descendants if I have missed anybody out, but they
include among others:
Harold KILLER (son of Adam Killer), Bert PETTS, Laurie PETTS, J.R.BIRLEY,
Sidney BIRLEY, Isaac HARRISON, Will BRACE, Jim BRACE, John FOX, 
Isaac & Jack SPENCER, Laurence FLINT, "Boss" SHELDON, Joe SPENCER,
Frank SPENCER, Loll SPENCER, Jim SPENCER, Joe-Sam SPENCER (who also
conducted the Middleton Victoria Silver Prize Band).

Mr Jack DOXEY, who died in Wirksworth in 1993 aged 78, was a well known
authority on quarrying in the area.  He was often called upon to give
talks, with illustrated slides to various Societies in the District,
Mr DOXEY, his parents and grandparents were all Middletonians.

The above includes illustrations of the following:-

"The Sower" on Broadcasting House 1924
Lions outside John Hadfield House, Matlock
Panels on the Moot Hall Wirksworth.

Sue Graham

Compiled, indexed, formatted and copyright © 2001, . All Rights Reserved.