National Stone Centre Opening in Wirksworth
- Credit: Ashley Franklin
The National Stone Centre at Middleton-by- Wirksworth has a new lease of life following a major refurbishment of its facilities
The Stone Centre’s patron, Professor Iain Stewart, cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of a new café, schoolroom, play area and ‘Story of Stone’ exhibition. Operations Manager Jerry Hildegard, who is delighted with the Centre’s new look, said: ‘We are an independent educational charity and as we receive no local or national government funding, we hope that the new facilities, especially the café and play area, will bring in more visitors and help to make our Centre financially sustainable.’
The celebrations at the official opening included musical contributions from the Wirksworth Community Choir, local band Left Hand Drive and the Middleton folk group Not Dead Yet, all performing in front of the unique ‘geo-steps’, a feature which includes examples of rocks from all the geological periods in Britain. There were also demonstrations by stone mason Mark Eaton and professional dry stone waller Andrew Brown-Jackson.
Officially opened in 1990 on the site of six disused quarries, the National Stone Centre tells the story of stone, in both geological and industrial history. Visitors can discover that the Derbyshire of 300 million years ago was a tropical lagoon and that when stone began to be quarried it was used not just for buildings, walls and roads but also in glass-making, sugar beet refining, toothpaste, tyres and cosmetics. The National Stone Centre is open all year and now includes a new ‘Rock Shop’ and has plans to improve the quarry trails with more information on geology, industrial history, flora and fauna.