1830 - 1850

Following the successful opening of the first quarry and the connection to Bullbridge, a period of expansion was taking place. The gangroad itself was relaid, converting it from a plateway to a narrow gauge railway. Links  to the rest of the country were developing fast, as the railway age began in earnest. Demand for limestone was also increasing, leading to opening of a new quarry closer to Crich, involving extension of the gangroad and some re-routing, and further development of the unloading and processing facility at Bullbridge.

At the beginning of the operation, the purpose of the gangroad was to move stone from the quarry to connect with the Cromford canal at Bullbridge, and from there to be carried mainly to the iron works at Butterley. But formation of the Midland Railway in 1844 – under the forceful chairmanship of George Hudson – led to the spread of railway connections throughout the Derwent, Erewash and Amber valleys.

At the meeting of Midland Railway shareholders held in Derby on 2nd May 1846, George Hudson persuaded them to approve an unparalleled application of 26 parliamentary bills in line with an aggressive expansionist and defensive strategy. One of the bills was for the “Erewash Valley Extension” from Pye Bridge to Clay Cross, which it was said “provided better means for dealing with the mineral traffic in the district”. The plans for the Erewash Valley Extension, prepared in 1845, included two branch lines to replace existing tramroads in the Amber Valley and one of these was a branch to Crich. The Bill received Royal Assent in July 1846 and in its final form still included the branch line to Crich. Three years were allowed to buy land and five to complete construction, but no construction took place.

18301850 - Map

The Butterley Company’s response was to extend and modernise the gangroad to meet the new Midland Railway line at the west of Bullbridge. It was to remain a separate operation – with its own narrow gauge and alignments. Problems of transshipment between gangroad wagons and standard gauge railway wagons, which would otherwise impose a further set of difficulties, were avoided by the extension of the limekilns at Bullbridge – the product from the limekilns – quicklime – was then to be loaded directly into standard wagons for onward transportation.

The modernisation of the line was undertaken by re-routing it most of the way using the alignment and works proposed by the Midland Railway. Eliminating the curves of the original route would have been a significant advantage, reducing wheel wear and derailment risks. The 1849 tithe map of Crich shows that by then the new alignment was in use from the Hat Factory down to Fairfield Farm, north of Fritchley.

The original quarry in the 1840s was becoming increasingly difficult to work, because of the depth and declining quality of the stone itself, and a second quarry – known as Hilt’s – was opened up nearer to Crich. To serve this, the gangroad was extended by the addition of a new branch, joining the original route at the Hat Factory, necessitating changes to the alignment and height of the railway.

See more information on these changes at the Hat Factory.

Joseph Mather was the first recorded agent acting for the Butterley Company and living in the manager’s house (now Lime Grange). The census return for 1841 shows Joseph Mather living with his wife, Martha, and their seven children and one servant at Bullbridge. The family emigrated to America in 1849 sailing from Liverpool to New York. Unfortunately shortly after arriving in New York Joseph Mather died but descendants of his son have been traced to living in the USA today.

In 1848 a new agent was appointed to manage the Limeworks, this was Peter William Bowne who was born at Codnor Park in 1821. The 1851 census return shows him living at Bullbridge with his wife, Mary, and one son and one house servant. His occupation is specified as employing 27 men as manager of the limestone quarry and lime works and as an agent for customs due to having a gunpowder magazine.

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