Historical records show that there have been a number of quarries in the Helwith Bridge area. This knowledge base lists (or briefly mentions) all of the known quarries and provides a brief introduction to the quarries that currently have - or once had - a physical or commercial connection with the Settle-Carlisle Railway.
These quarry notes are designed to be read in conjunction with the accompanying 'Geological Notes Relating to the Quarries at Helwith Bridge'.
Arcow Quarry (siltstone, active)
This quarry works rock from the Austwick Formation which, because the quarry is located on the north side of the Studrigg-Studfold Syncline, slope steeply down to the south. Lying in horizontal layers above these (and separated by an unconformity) are limestones of the Great Scar Limestone Group.
The earliest quarrying activity was in the 18th century, when two small quarries known as Arcow Wood Quarry were opened to extract flagstones and 'slates'. In 1878 a change of ownership saw work fall to very low levels as effort was concentrated on opening the neighbouring Foredale limestone quarry (see below). In 1931 the quarry reopened and rapidly expanded to become the single Arcow Quarry (a.k.a. Archa Quarry). At this time, production switched to crushing the rock for road stone, ballast and aggregate. The quarry's output was despatched by rail from a siding built to serve the lime kilns below Foredale Quarry.
In June 2016, Arcow Quarry applied for planning consent to produce high quality road stone until around 2026. Two thirds of the output are to be despatched by the new rail link that opened in 2016 - see 'New Siding (for Arcow & Dry Rigg Quarries)'. Details of the most recent planning application (Application Number C/44/101F, Date 20/06/2016) are available from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's website via the following link:
Combs Quarry (siltstone, closed)
This quarry worked rock from the Horton Formation which here, because the quarry is located on the north side of the Studrigg-Studfold Syncline, dip steeply to the south. Thin bands of soft white clay in the flagstones are weathered ash falls from distant volcanoes; most likely from those that existed at the time in the area we now know as the Lake District. Above the Horton Formation (and separated by an unconformity), lie the horizontal limestones of the Great Scar Limestone Group.
Combs Quarry dates from at least the 18th century and it was worked for flagstones, which were cut and finished on site. The quarry closed sometime in the 1880's. It is not known if this quarry made use of the railway, which opened for freight traffic in 1875.
Dry Rigg Quarry (siltstone, active)
This quarry works rocks of the Horton Formation which, in the western face of the quarry, can be seen dipping steeply to the north. This is because the quarry is located on the south side of the Studrigg-Studfold Syncline. Lying above these (and separated by an unconformity) are the horizontal limestones of the Great Scar Limestone Group.
Dry Rigg Quarry is believed to be the oldest quarry site in the Helwith Bridge area. The earliest recorded quarrying activity on the site was in 1739, when there were two small quarries called Coombs Thorn Quarry and Dry Ridge Quarry (a.k.a. Coum Rigg Quarry). These worked flagstones and 'slate' but, by 1880, they were closed.
Dry Ridge (now known as Dry Rigg) re-opened in 1938 and began extracting rock and crushing it for roadstone. Since then the quarry has, under a series of different owners, expanded to the size it is today, removing all trace of Coombs Thorn Quarry in the process.
Dry Rigg Quarry currently has planning consent to produce high quality roadstone until 2021. Two thirds of the amount produced is taken by road to the new railhead at Arcow Quarry - see 'New Siding (for Arcow & Dry Rigg Quarries)'.
Details of the most recent planning application (Application Number C/49/603D, Date 05/05/2011) are available from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's website via the following link:
Unless permissions are extended, the quarry will close in 2021. The plant and equipment will then be removed and the area will be 'restored'. As part of the restoration process, part of the hole will be back-filled using the material that currently forms the surrounding 'bunds'. The rest of the hole will be allowed to fill with water, thereby creating a deep artificial lake. The adjacent relatively level areas will be landscaped to create a low altitude fenland and bog habitat. Nature will be allowed to colonise the steep south and western faces.
Foredale Quarry (limestone, closed)
Unlike the other quarries in the Helwith Bridge area, this quarry worked the Carboniferous age Great Scar Limestone that lies above the unconformity and forms the top of the valley side.
Quarrying on this site began on a small scale in 1878. In 1882 (after several changes of ownership), the site was acquired by a partnership of Leeds-based industrialists who had active interests in the iron industry (a key market for limestone). This partnership formed a new company - the Ribblesdale Lime and Flag Quarry Company Ltd (later shortened to Ribblesdale Lime Company Ltd) - to operate and expand the quarry at Foredale.
Although the quarry is hardly noticeable from the valley floor today, it actually covers (and has consumed) an enormous area of land high-up on the hillside above Ribblesdale. An extensive narrow-gauge tramway system was constructed along the quarry floor and a rope-hauled inclined plane linked the quarry with the stone processing plant, lime kilns etc. located in the valley bottom. Here, the stone was either crushed, ground or burnt (in the kilns) to make lime for agricultural purposes. These products were then loaded onto standard-gauge railway wagons in the Ribblesdale Lime Works Sidings prior to nationwide distribution via the Settle-Carlisle Railway.
Activity at Foredale Quarry increased significantly in the 1930's after the owners merged with other similar operations at Langcliffe and Horton. During the mid 1950s, a steep reduction in the demand for lime-based products gradually led to a decline in the profitability of the quarry and it had become inactive by 1958. The site was cleared in the early 1980's. The earthworks for the inclined plane are still clearly visible, but almost all traces of the processing plant were removed. All that remains is a small section of masonry associated with a loading bay close to the entrance to Arcow Quarry. In 1996 any planning consents that existed for further quarrying were cancelled and, in 1998, Hanson (the site's owners at the time), announced that the site would never be reopened. However, Foredale Cottages (built high on the hillside for quarry workers in the 1890's) remain in use as private residences.
Helwith Bridge Quarry (siltstone, closed)
This quarry worked rocks from the Horton Formation which here, because the quarry is located on the south side of the Studrigg- Studfold Syncline, dip steeply to the north.
The date of the first working is unknown, but in the 1870's two small quarries operated on the site. The 1893 OS map shows that one had expanded and was now called Sunny Bank Quarry. This was working 'slate' (more accurately, a slightly metamorphosed, thinly-cleaved siltstone).
In the 1930's the operation switched to producing crushed stone for road surfacing. Between circa 1938 and 1958, much of the quarry's output was carried across the River Ribble by an overhead conveyor belt system to Helwith Bridge Quarry Sidings, where it was loaded onto standard-gauge railway wagons for nationwide distribution via the Settle-Carlisle Railway. However, towards the end of this period, road transport became cheaper, more reliable and more flexible, causing a rapid nationwide shift away from rail freight. The siding and conveyor system were removed in 1958.
Quarrying operations at Helwith Bridge Quarry ceased in 1972 and, as the quarry was cut into the valley floor, the workings flooded almost immediately. The site has since been 'restored' and it now includes a picnic area and a commercial angling centre. (The 4½ acre fishing lake has been stocked with trout.)
Studfold Quarry (siltstone, closed)
This relatively small quarry worked siltstone, but it was located on the eastern side of the B6479, well away from the other quarries in the Helwith Bridge area. It does not appear to have had any connection with the Settle-Carlisle Railway, so its history has not been summarised in this knowledge base.
The following publications contain brief references to quarrying activities (and related industries) in and around the Helwith Bridge area:
- Johnson, David: "Limestone Industries of the Yorkshire Dales", Tempus Publishing Ltd (2002).
- Johnson, David: "Ingleborough Landscape and History" Carnegie Publishing Ltd (2008)