90 years of the Hope Valley Cement Works
PUBLISHED: 09:38 29 August 2019
To some iconic, to others incongruous, the chimney of the Hope Valley Cement Works towering in the midst of the countryside is nevertheless familiar to all – Robert Falconer attends its 90th celebrations.
Anyone who has been into the High Peak of Derbyshire can't have failed to notice Hope Valley Cement Works dominating the landscape.
The stunning Hope Valley seems an odd place for a hive of industrial activity, but the Hope Cement Works first started in 1929, long before any mention of a National Park, and at one time employed thousands of people. The work force is now in the low hundreds but it is still a thriving business and can claim to be the largest cement works in the UK.
On 1st June it was opened to the public for its 90th birthday celebrations. The Earle's Club at the works was busy all day playing music and serving food and drinks. There was also an exhibition of items from the archives and photographs showing how the works have changed over the years.
Outside were displays of birds of prey and old and new transport, with a vintage lorry and traction engine in steam, as well as some of the massive modern machinery used on site.
The stars of the day were two steam locomotives brought in from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. 'Coal Tank' No. 1054, built in 1888, was in light steam and did a few runs up and down the yard. 'Nunlow' was on static display, but the engine has a long history with the Hope Valley. It arrived in 1938 to work the 1.5 mile branch line to the national rail network at Earles Sidings on the Hope Valley Line. Alongside another engine named 'Winhill', it hauled 350 tonne trains of coal, gypsum, and other goods, including 21 vans of bagged cement at a time.
'Nunlow' was named after the hill from where the stone needed for the products was quarried, but by 1968 the engine had been replaced with diesel power. First preserved at Dinting Railway Centre in Glossop, when this closed at the end of the 1980s the engine moved to its current home in West Yorkshire.
The railway, however, still plays a vital role at the works, transporting a large amount of the products in bulk, as well as receiving the raw materials needed to power the site.
On the open day there were also bus tours to the works and to the quarry on the hill - offering a seldom seen view of Derbyshire. Watching a large digger loading the giant trucks with stone from the quarry was quite a sight. Some two and a half million tonnes of stone is removed every year.
Statistics from the works show what an impact it has had on the UK's economy. Seventy million tonnes of clinker has been produced since 1929, the largest amount from any UK cement plant ever; 900,000 tonnes of waste used as raw materials since 2000 and 1 million tonnes of cement is transported to their depots by rail each year. Up to 1.5 million tonnes of cement is produced at the works each year, which is 15 per cent of the UK's production. There have also been 13,000 trees planted on site since 2003.
The works, now under the control of Breedon Group plc are serious about conservation and the restoration of the site for future generations. It is believed by the year 2100 the industrial scene will have been replaced with a place of special scientific interest.
The Hope Valley Cement Works keeps on working hard, providing employment, and being an integral part of the Peak District community. Only ten more years until the big Centennial!