1. The History
The Peak Forest Canal Company built the Peak Forest Tramway between 1794 and 1796, they cut into a bed of gritstone by the hamlet of Lower Crist. As the stone had good non-slip properties, they decided to open a quarry there. The gritstone bed extended south of the main line of the tramway at Lower Crist and a branch line was made into it. Another deposit adjoining the nearby hamlet of Barren Clough was also discovered. They purchased the land but it too another 56 years before Barren Clough Quarry was opened in 1850 and Lower Crist quarry closed. Before Barren Clough Quarry could be opened, however, the road between Barren Clough and the hamlet of Eccles had to be diverted.

Additionally, a single-track tramway branch into Barren Clough Quarry was constructed. It was located 80 yards to the east of the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal. At 145 yards from the main line it entered the tunnel before arriving on the quarry. The tunnel was 158 yards long and was driven under the hillside. The spoil from this and the overburden from the quarry site was deposited on the hillside to the west of the line of the tunnel and also to the south of the quarry adjoining the hamlet of Barren Clough. Although the tunnel was relatively short, a vertical shaft was first sunk at a distance of 76 yards from the north portal (just under halfway) to enable it to be excavated from four faces at once rather than at each end. When the tunnel was completed this shaft became an air-shaft, although probably unnecessary for such a short tunnel. A refuge was provided in the tunnel for workmen to stand in it whenever a gang of wagons passed by. Despite of this, a workman was killed when a gang of wagons passing through the tunnel struck him down. A cross was carved in the wall where the fatality occurred.

Enlarged OS map of the area:

Barren Clough 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The quarry was used to produce stone for bridges, wharfs, walls and buildings that were needed alongside the canal and tramway. The gritstone also became in demand for paving flagstones in the rapidly expanding industrial towns of the North West, especially in Manchester. Stone from the quarry was taken by tramway to Bugsworth Basin, where it was loaded into boats. Barren Clough quarry produced stone up until its closure in 1928, with the last load of gritstone leaving the quarry via the Peak Forest Tramway four years earlier in 1924.

Two pictures circa 1930 after the tramway had been decommissioned:

Barren Clough 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Barren Clough 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

In the 1980s when the Chapel-en-le-Frith and Whaley Bridge bypass was constructed, the route of the new road nestled between the Peak Forest Tramway and the north portal of Barren Clough Tunnel. Spoil from the bypass was used to fill and landscape both quarries, leaving just a small rock face at Crist Quarry visible along with the Barren Clough Tunnel on the south side.

2. The Explore
Like my tunnels and done a few over the last few years. All I can say of this one is that it is the cutest tunnel I’ve done, and it also wins the award for the hardest one to find. The southern exit has been infilled and the quarry as a whole landscaped. In terms of the north portal, it was a case of knowing roughly where it was, however, finding it was a totally different matter. Having found the cutting, which is now heavily overgrown, I battled through the undergrowth and negotiated what is best described as a trampoline made up of wire fencing and I was in. Really enjoyed the atmosphere in this place. It was very remote but yet close to civilisation – a secret enclave under people’s noses that they had no knowledge of. Anyhow, enough of my waxing lyrical. Here’s the pix.

3. The Pictures

So, into the cutting we go:

img1636 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Is that something?

img1635 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ah ha!

Barren Clough 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Yup – that’s what we’re after:

img1630 by HughieDW, on Flickr

On the inside looking out:

Barren Clough 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img1625 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Nature’s plant pots:

Barren Clough 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And we’re in – here’s looking back:

img1620 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img1618 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img1611 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And looking southwards:

img1609 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Pretty basic facilities toilet-wise:

Barren Clough 03 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the seating is a bit dubious:

img1598 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Worker’s refuge:

Barren Clough 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Landfill at the airshaft:

img1590 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Barren Clough 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the blocked-up airshaft itself:

img1595 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Pushing on:

img1591 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And then it all comes to a bit of an abrupt end:

img1603 by HughieDW, on Flickr