Glendon East Ironstone Quarry Recalled: Overburden Removal

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Glendon East

Whilst initial workings were carried out by the Glendon Iron Co, it fell to James Pain Ltd to both modernise and greatly expand the quarrying areas bordering  the MR mainline railway to the west from 1903. As with his workings at Corby James Pain introduced more steam powered machinery to replace the earlier hand working methods used to win ironstone from ironstone deposits where the overburden was relatively thin. However as the ironstone deposits came under deeper cover to the east the introduction of steam powered shovels became essential if production was to be maintained and increased. Major investment in steam machinery came about between 1914 -1918 as a result of increased demand for ironstone for war production during World War 1.

The Stanton Ironworks Company (SIC) acquired James Pain Ltd in 1928 and took over the workings. Upon the takeover whilst workings at Glendon North had been suspended in contrast the workings at Glendon East involved significant quarrying activity at Cherry Hall, Boughton and Gawthrupps pits.


Cherry Hall Quarry Face in the early 1930’s showing the 20 ton steam navy working with the Transporter moving overburden whilst loco HOLWELL No.14 waits for its train to be loaded with ironstone by the 20 ton steam face shovel.      SIC


At Cherry Hall face in the early 1930’s the overburden covering the ironstone beds had reached 33ft thick requiring the use of a steam shovel working in tandem with a steam powered 138 ft long transporter to move the overburden over the quarry railway to the worked-out part of the pit. Having cleared the ironstone bed, shot holes were drilled and explosives used to break up the 10ft thick ore bed to a suitable size for a second steam shovel to load the train with ironstone.

At the Broughton Quarry face the overburden was not so thick and a 20 ton long jib Ruston steam shovel was used to clear the material from the ironstone bed. At Gawthrupps the overburden above the 9ft thick ironstone bed was thin and could be easily handled by a smaller steam shovel.


20 ton Ruston long jib steam stripping shovel depositing overburden at Broughton Quarry                                                photo  T & D Smith


From workings around the Cherry Hall and Glendon Shallows area a quarry railway was extended eastwards under the A6003 Kettering to Uppingham Road to open up a large area for ironstone workings at Bridge Pit. Workings at Geddington were accessed via a concrete tunnel.

As at other quarries in the local area the smaller steam driven excavators were replaced by larger electrically powered machines with Bridge Pit receiving a new 700 ton Ransomes and Rapier 5360 stripping shovel during the Second World War and a Ruston Bucyrus 100RB face shovel in 1948. Working at Geddington Pit temporarily stopped in 1951, but was active again in 1967.

Ransomes and Rapier 5360 stripping shovel working clearing overburden with a smaller Lima dragline pulling back in Bridge Pit in 1964       Photo R Sismey

In 1956 the Barford Face was opened up being a re-opening of the much earlier Knobby’s Hole area. This however used dumptruck haulage to take the ironstone back to a rail tipping dock in Glendon East Yard.

In 1974 working at Bridge pit was put on hold whilst the huge a large 1200-ton Marion 5323 electrically powered stripping shovel named “Nicolaus Silver” was re-assembled having been brought from the now closed quarry workings at Colsterworth, S Lincs in support of part of the overall scheme of Corby blast furnace No.3 renewal. Weighing in at 1200 tons, with a height of 125ft, length of 145 ft long and mounted on small caterpillar track bogies this impressive stripping shovel was the largest to have been used in the East Midlands ironstone field.

Bridge pits 5360 stripping shovel and 100RB were transferred to Geddington Quarry whilst Bridge Pit received another 100RB loading shovel in 1973 from the closed Exton Park Quarry in Rutland.

Photo of the Marion 5323 stripping shovel NICHOLAUS SILVER moving overburden in Bridge Pit. In common with a number of other large quarry machines operated by the United Steel Companies Ore Mining Branch  this machine was named after a winner of the Grand National (1961). The machine became BSC No.45 at Glendon following transfer in 1974 from the closed USC quarry at Colsterworth, S Lincs.         Photo BSC

By the late 1970’s demand for steel fell and the financial position of the British Steel Corporation brought about a widespread closure programme of steelworks and plants. Production of ironstone at Glendon was affected by industrial action over the decision to close Corby Steelworks and was only resumed a few days before closure of the quarry at the end of 1979.

So ended a rich history of the longest working ironstone quarrying area in the East Midlands. Most of the quarry machines were cut up for scrap (including the Marion) where they stood, road bridges removed and the quarried land eventually restored to plantation and agriculture, although some areas were left to be restored following landfill.

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