Glendon Ironstone Quarries Remembered

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Forty years ago this month the last workers employed at the Glendon Ironstone quarries in Northamptonshire were sent home for the last time. The extraction of ironstone at the quarries ceased in late December 1979 but the staff were kept on for a few months to help with the close down programme. Barford East Quarry closed on 8th December 1979 leaving locomotive No 25 (ex D9523) the final task of moving the last 654 tons on ironstone loaded into 31 wagons from Geddington Quarry face on the last day of December 1979. This movement brought to an end a rich history of the longest working ironstone quarrying area in the East Midlands.

The first workings carried out by the Glendon Iron Co started production in 1863 on land leased from the Glendon Hall estate being located south west of the Midland Railway mainline. Further extensive land leases followed whilst a blast furnace was established at Finedon in 1866. The Glendon Iron Co was dissolved in 1885 but in the following year a reconstructed company took over but only operated until it failed in 1891. James Pain Ltd took over in 1892 with the company obtaining further land leases which saw the expansion of operations encompassing the enlargement of the mineral quarry railways, modernisation with new steam locomotives on the tramways and the introduction of steam powered excavators.

The three distinct ironstone quarrying areas at Glendon were bisected by the Kettering to Market Harborough/Corby mainline railway and operated independently of each other.


Quarry land at Glendon North, not far from the MR railway, was worked on a modest scale from the very early years but under James Pain Ltd control standard gauge sidings and quarry locomotive shed were built to provide accommodation for the smaller steam saddletanks favoured by the company. Three steam locomotives are known to have worked on the quarry lines under James Pain’s ownership – namely GLENDON (built by Fox Walker), FORWARD (a larger 0-6-0st) and ROTHWELL.

The first quarry loco named Glendon; built by Fox Walker of Bristol in 1876                                            Photo Courtesy T & D Smith


Post-World War 1 the economic recession saw the ironstone workings temporarily cease operation but in 1928 James Pain Ltd was taken over by the Stanton Ironworks Company (SIC). Rather than re-open their own Rothwell Hill pits the SIC elected to re-open Glendon and transferred men and quarry machines to the revitalised quarry workings. Locomotive GLENDON was replaced by IRONSTONE from Market Overton ironstone quarries in Rutland.


Peckett 0-4-0st named IRONSTONE replaced loco GLENDON in 1928 when it was transferred from Market Overton Quarries in Rutland




Ruston Bucyrus 55RB dragline removing overburden in Glendon North Pit in 1950 


Ironstone production at Glendon ceased again in 1931 with the locomotives and quarry machinery dispersed to other workings. The Quarry did not re-open until 1941 due to the increased demand for iron and steel during World War 2. The quarry reserves under thin cover were worked and ore loaded into wagons by a Ruston Bucyrus 55RB dragline. In December 1941 a brand-new locomotive was supplied through the government’s Ministry of Supply to work the quarry trains. This locomotive named SWORDFISH, built by Andrew Barclay, worked all of the rail traffic unaided. In later years the excavated ironstone was consigned by rail to Lancashire Steel and Wellingborough Ironworks until closure of this set of workings in February 1957.

To be continued ……