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Matlock Station Stone Yard: Messrs Beck, Boden & Drabble
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Matlock Station

Smart's Quarry, 1928

From Jackson Tor, 1928
Another view of the yard.

Darley Dale: Stancliffe Quarry and Saw Mill
The Stancliffe Estates Co. Ltd. initially involved T. Cooper Drabble.

Midland Railway Distances
shows their sidings

From the Vernon Lamb Archive

9849, Miss Beck

9852, Miss Beck

At the beginning of the twentieth century "the staple trade of Matlock" was gritstone. The blocks from Poor Lots Quarry and Ashover were worked on in the Station Yard, where large blocks were turned into slabs. Bryan tells us that substantial numbers of elongated cylindrical millstones were also made; they were sent to Scandinavia and Switzerland where they were used in the manufacture of wood pulp, which was then used to make paper[1].

Here is a packed and very busy stone yard, believed to be that of Arthur Beck. He was trading as Thomas Beck, the name of his late father. The photograph is dominated by the derrick crane with supporting A frames. The control cabin, where the crane driver worked, was steam driven. A horizontal plume of smoke is coming out of the cabin's chimney and the coal to drive it would have come from the coal merchants who were based in the same yard.

When the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire visited Matlock in 1894 Matlock Bridge residents and the Station yard workers had surpassed themselves. The station itself was festooned in red, white and blue bunting and outside flags were "visible floating here, there and everywhere. ... Even from the tops of the steam cranes employed in the stone yard adjoining the station Union Jacks appeared"[2].

Whilst the landscape has changed considerably since those days, we can see the roof and tops of the windows of Matlock station on the right. The station master's house is to the left of the cabin, Riber Castle is up on the hilltop and on the left is the tall chimney of the former rag mill, later Poyser's and the works of the Curtis Cultivator Co., Ltd.[3]

There are three main surnames associated with the station yard at the beginning of the twentieth century - Beck, Boden and Drabble. Apart from quarrying stone, they had something in common. Thomas Beck (Arthur's father) and Samuel Boden, the father of George, owned land in Matlock in 1873. So did George Drabble, father of Thomas Cooper Drabble and grandfather of John Walter Drabble[4].

close up of some of the masons
Close up of some of the masons. Although the men are posing for the camera, many are
holding the tools of their trade - heavy wooden mallets and chisels.
The foreman is standing in the middle of the group.

Thomas Beck and his family arrived from Nottingham either in early 1864 or shortly before and settled in Pope Carr[5]. Not long afterwards Thomas sustained a leg injury whilst helping unload stone in slippery conditions. He was said to be working for Messrs. Ward and Sons, stone merchants, at the time although it was not clear if he was just helping them out[6]. However, by 1870 he had taken over the Wards' business and was supplying "stone ready for fixing, securely packed in trucks and forwarded to any part of the kingdom"[7]. In 1871 he was shown to be a "Stone Quarry Man Master Emplg 25 Men & Boys", so he had a quite considerable work force[5].

He was chastised by the Matlock Board for using a tail-pole when carting from the parish quarry in 1883. Such use was not uncommon as they provided a very basic method of braking but he seems to have damaged the road surface and was asked to desist. Beck's response was that using a tail-pole was not prohibited and he would continue to use it, although he promised to repair any extraordinary damage[8].

The 1880s also saw Thomas winning a number of contracts to build or repair local churches[9]. These included Matlock All Saints', a very dilapidated Winster parish church in 1884-5, a new church at Edale in 1885 and work on St. Mary's, South Darley (Wensley), in 1886. All Saints' was later said to be one of his most notable undertakings[10].

In addition to the stone wharf at Matlock Bridge Thomas Beck had quarries at Sydnope, Lumsdale, and Dutton, near Ashover. An obituary notice in 1895 said that he "had pursued his business with great activity up to the week of his death"[10]. His eldest son, Henry Thomas, passed away just a few months later, on Monday 31 December[11] and Arthur Beck took over the business[12]. He seems to have worked alongside the Matlock builder William Boden for some years as the pair occupied land, as yearly tenants, belonging to a property called "The Cottage"[13].

Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 20 May 1910.

Under Deed of Assignment. RE. A. BECK.
M.R. CO. STONE YARD, MATLOCK. [M. R. = Midland Railway]

J. HODGKINSON & SON have been favoured with instructions from R. Hall, Esq., Trustee under the above Deed of Assignment, to SELL by AUCTION, on
Wednesday, May 25th, 1910,

8 h.p. HORIZONTAL ENGINE with Vertical Boiler, by E. S. Hindley; Counter and Harpin's STEAM MASON, STEAM Saw by John Smith, Wood-built blue slated OFFICE, and 4 Wood and Corrugated Iron SHEDS, 2-ton JIB CRANE by J. E. Gledhill, set 4-ton Pulley Blocks, about 23 ft. Shafting, Wither's Iron Safe, new Wire Rope, Leather Driving Belts, quantity various Blacksmith's and Quarry Tools, Dressed and Undressed Stone, Grinders, Grindstone, etc., etc.

Sale at 11.30 a.m.

The above newspaper notice, selling Arthur Beck's assets in the station yard, is describing what we can see in the first image. By 1911 he and his family had moved into a newly built property on Edge Road[14]. He was still a stone merchant at Matlock station yard, but Kelly's 1912 Directory shows he was also producing spar gravel[12], which he continued to do until the late 1920s. His interests had diversified and by 1918 he was a member of the Grand Jury at the Barmote Court in Wirksworth[15].

More stone masons
More masons, working on the left of the main image.
They are dressing large pieces of stone. Some blocks are almost finished
whilst others are much rougher, so probably only recently cut.

He and two of his brothers passed away within a few weeks of each other. Arthur, who was the first to go, was described as a well-known Matlock authority on lead mining and Derbyshire folk lore. Exactly a week later Walter, who had lived in London for many years, passed away. A few weeks afterwards David Beck, of Wellington Street, was the last of the three to go[16]. In 1939 his daughter Annis was carrying on the business as a Mineral Merchant and Mine Owner[17] whilst his grandson Jack was a Fluor Spar Foreman in Matlock Bath.

Probably Mr. Beck
This man is standing by himself, away from the workmen. He was
probably Mr. Beck, the owner of the stone masonry business at the time.
Behind him are some of the waggons in which the finished stone would be
transported if it was going some distance.

Another quarry owner operating from the station yard was George Boden of Matlock Green who owned the Poor Lots Quarry at Tansley[18]. His 1891 advertisement can be seen on Stone Quarrying in the Matlocks. One of his neighbouring quarry owners at Poor Lots had been Andrew Bridge; the pair were brother's in law and shared an interest in horse racing[19]. However, some years after the death of Mr. Bridge the new owners advertised Poor Lots for sale; the notice described the Poor Lots stone as being of excellent quality and colour, and suitable for grinders or for building. The other interesting comment made to attract would-be purchasers was about access to Matlock Station, a couple of miles away. As the descent was gradual, it meant that the stone was easy to deliver to the station[20]. This was important as stone was still being taken to the station on drugs at this time. A few years later, Kelly's 1912 Directory for Tansley described the Poor Lots quarry as "celebrated".

George Boden's son, Thomas, worked for his father as the Sandstone Quarry Manager and, after his father's death in 1920, took over the business. Unfortunately, the demand for their stone had gone and, despite best efforts, the business went into liquidation (also mentioned on Stone Quarrying in the Matlocks).

The third major surname associated with the station yard was Drabble. The family were originally timber merchants in the Matlocks and Thomas Cooper Drabble (1844-1900) had begun his working life as a railway clerk. George Stendal Drabble's large advertisement in 1891 (at the top of Stone Quarrying in the Matlocks) illustrates how far the family's fortunes had progressed. He has been involved with the stone industry for about ten years or so at this point but his brother Thomas took over the stone side of the family's businesses. The third brother, Frederick H Drabble, ran Tansley Cotton Mills.

Following his father's death in 1900, John Walter Drabble took over in the station yard[21]. In 1902 he wrote to the Council asking if they would let him quarry on Matlock Moor on land bought from Mr. Twigg. The response was that it was not ready for consideration[22]. Earlier that year he had advertised a 2 ton hand Derrick Crane (Gledhill's patent); some of the guys and ropes that were also for sale had been bought just a short while before[23].

One of the new companies that were registered in 1903 was that of Walter Drabble and Company, Ltd., quarry owners and contractors, Matlock Bridge. It was hoped to extend Walter's business of quarry owner, etc, at Matlock Bridge[24]. His last trade directory entry in Matlock was in 1908, when his company were said to be lead mine owners; office, Station yard (Kelly's 1908 Directory, Matlock, Commercial). Walter Drabble and Company Limited was struck off the Register of Joint Stock Companies in 1912[25].

Walter married Ethel Webb on the Isle of Man in 1904, but has not been found in the 1911 census although by 1921 he was living in Heaton Norris. His mother and 2 brothers were staying at Rockside Hydro - as visitors - in 1911[14]. He does not seem to have returned to live in Matlock after this although his 1939 Register entry shows him to have retained his interest in quarrying; he was said to be a Quarry Owner (Sandstone) Ret[ired][17].

Photograph, untitled and undated, in the collection of and © Grenville Smith. Matlock Station Stone Yard is written in pencil on the reverse.
Researched and written by and © Ann Andrews. With thanks to Grenville Smith for his suggestions.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured hyperlinks lead to more on site information):

[1] Bryan, Benjamin (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish" London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited.

[2] "Derbyshire Times", 16 June 1894. Ducal Visit to the Matlocks. Opening of the New Baths at Smedleys.

[3] The mill chimney can also be seen on the following on-site pages:
The Popular Album of Matlock (scroll down), Matlock - looking towards Hackney and Matlock: Holt Lane and Dale Road, about 1900.
You have to look hard, but it is also on Matlock Bank & Bridge, about 1900 (2) and Matlock Bank, the Hall Leys and Dale Road, 1912-20 (top image).
There are other views of the rag mill on The Bridge (4), and the Broad Walk and Looking south from Jackson Tor, 1928.

[4] See: "Nineteenth Century Lists: Return of Owners of Land 1873 - Derbyshire".

[5] The Becks can be found in the 1871 census | the 1881 census and the 1891 census. Trade directory entries for Thomas Beck include Kelly's 1876 Directory | Kelly's 1891 Directory and Kelly's 1895 Directory.
He also owned land in the Matlocks; Lists
Through the Centuries: The Nineteenth Century: Return of Owners of Land 1873 - Derbyshire
Thomas passed away in 1896. See Wills, Surnames B.

[6] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 4 March 1864 and "Leicester Guardian" 5 March 1864. Accident at Matlock Bridge Station.

[7] J. G. Harrod's 1870 Postal and Commercial Directory of Derbyshire, etc.

[8] "Derbyshire Times, 24 March 1883". Using a Tail-Pole.

[9] See Matlock Churches, All Saints. "Derbyshire Times", 17 May 1884 (Winster), "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 20 March 1885 (Edale) and "Derbyshire Times", 1 May 1886. Reopening of St. Mary's South Darley (Wensley).

[10] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 15 March 1895. In 1883, for example, Thomas Beck had signed a lease of quarry in Matlock with Mr. Garton (Derbyshire Record Office, D504/3/4/8).

[11] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 January 1896.

[12] Arthur Beck and family can be found in the 1891 census and the 1901 census. He continued to trade under the name of Thomas Beck and advertised in Kelly's 1899 Directory | 1908 Directory (Matlock, Commercial) and Kelly's 1908 Directory (he was then living on Lime Grove walk) | Kelly's 1912 Directory and Kelly's 1916 Directory. He passed away in 1937 (HMRC Probate records)

[13] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal". 25 February 1910. The property was for sale.

[14] The 1911 census can be found on FindMyPast.

[15] See Lead Mining in Matlock & Matlock Bath. He is mentioned in the section From 1910 to the 1940s.

[16] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 27 May 1937

[17] The 1939 Register is available on FindMyPast.

[18] George Boden was christened at St. Giles' in 1844. Census references for him include: the 1851 census | the 1861 census | the 1871 census | the 1881 census | the 1891 census and the 1901 census.
He advertised in a number of trade directories: Tansley, Kelly's 1891.
Matlock directories: Kelly's 1891, Matlock Bridge | Kelly's 1891, Matlock Green | Kelly's 1895, Matlock Bridge | Kelly's 1895, Matlock Green | Kelly's 1899, Matlock Bridge | Kelly's 1899, Matlock Green | and other years.
On the Council: Kelly's Directory, 1908 | Kelly's Directory, 1912
Probate info

[19] "Derbyshire Times", 6 March 1936. Fiftieth wedding anniversary of Mr. Shore, who had ridden for them both.

[20] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 17 August 1904. Sale of Andrew Bridge's quarry at Poor Lots (by this time being worked by the Matlock Stone company). It is interesting to note that Mr. Bridge's name was used to help sell the business as he had died in 1892 - see report of his funeral.

[21] "Derbyshire Times", 7 July 1900. Death of Mr. T. Cooper Drabble, J.P., C.C., of Darley Dale.

[22] "Derbyshire Times", 2 April 1902. Quarrying on Matlock Moor.

[23] "Sheffield Daily Telegraph", 7 Jan 1902.

[24] "Derbyshire Times", 25 April 1903. The new company was dated 26 March, 1903 and the capital was £20,000. The directors were J. Walter Drabble and E. Percy Drabble, with H Lowe as secretary.

[25] "The London Gazette", 9 April 1912. Announcement that the Company would be struck off the Register after a period of three months had elapsed. This was followed by a further announcement on "The London Gazette", 26 July 1912, stating the company had been struck off the Register.