In 1825 the 6th Earl of Stamford and his Leicestershire estate
agent Robert Martin went to the opening of the Liverpool and
Manchester Railway. Both the Earl and Robert Martin recognised
the possibilities and potential of a railway at Groby to take
granite from the village quarry (Now the Druck industrial premises
Fir Tree Lane) and into Leicester. Granite was needed in large
quantities by John Macadam, who was in charge of building and
improving the roads within the City of London at this time.
George Stephenson and his son Robert
came to Groby and advised the Earl and his agent on how a line
might be engineered alongside the Ratby Road and onwards across
the fields to Glenfield. The Leicester and Swannington Railway
opened officially on July 17th 1832 but the Groby granite railway
was completed prior to this date. In fact Thomas Chaplin was
given the order to supply granite setts to the Leicester West
Bridge Wharf, by the railway at 4/- per ton. The firm understanding
being that the work had to be completed by 18th May 1832.
The official opening day of the Leicester
and Swannington Railway was 17th July 1832. That same evening
the 0-4-0 steam locomotive 'Comet' of the LS&R returned to
Groby after the festivities to collect twenty-four wagons of
Groby granite. By January 1833 nearly one thousand tons of granite
were being transported from Groby to Leicester West Bridge per
month. The granite was then transferred into canal barges and
taken to Macadam's storage depots around London.
The c1832 Groby granite quarry did not
use steam locomotives. There was a winding system driven by a
stationary steam engine by the side of the Ratby Road and loaded
wagons were drawn from the village quarry up hill to the level
area opposite what is now Victoria Cottages. Once a certain number
of wagons had been assembled two horses were carried down with
the full wagons to the Groby Granite sidings which were alongside
the Leicester and Swannington Railway near Glenfield. The loaded
wagons travelled from Groby down hill under their own loaded
momentum under the watchful eye of a brakes-man. Once at the
sidings empty wagons were drawn by the horses back to Groby.
The loaded wagons were collected by the Leicester and Swannington
Railway locomotives later in the day.
Pairs of canal boats transported the
granite onwards to London from West Bridge. Problems frequently
arose however and West Bridge soon became ' glutted with coals
and granite' according to the L&SWR inspectors in May 1833.
The winter months brought more problems if the canals froze over.
In 1837 John Martin - son of Robert Martin the Bradgate estate
agent - who was in charge of all the transport arrangements reported
that he had twelve pairs of boats and upwards of one hundred
men busy making preparations for the boats to move at the first
sign of a thaw.
The Groby granite sales were to be directly
affected by the Midland Counties Railway reaching Leicestershire
in 1840. Mountsorrel granite quarry was linked to the new line
and within three years the order book at Groby decreased to such
a degree that it was decided to operate the granite quarry for
the Bradgate estate needs and local orders only. In transporting
the Groby granite to London by canal boats the length of time
to be allowed was three weeks. Mountsorrel granite quarry, linked
through Rugby to London was in a position to supply on the day
an order was received. Until a rail link was established linking
Groby to London in the same way there was no way that Groby could
compete on equal terms. John Martin had by 1843 taken up the
lease on the Mountsorrel granite quarry.
The Leicester & Swannington railway
was later joined to the Midland railway at both Knighton (south
of the Leicester railway station) and Burton upon Trent but this
was not until August 1849.
Groby Granite Co. Ltd was not formed
until 1865. The new company issued shares with each share having
a value of £10.00. The Rt. Hon. Earl of Stamford &
Warrington is recorded as purchasing 368 shares, Henry Hall (the
Earl's Leicestershire Estate Manager) 213, George Harrison, Haymarket,
Leicester 200, Henry Nuttal, Surgeon, Leicester 150, A.J. Payne,
Oughbungton Hall (Lymm, Cheshire) Needham Shelton, butcher,
Belgrave Gate, Leicester 122, Thomas Hall, Newarke Street, Leicester
100. Others are listed as Samuel Odames, Mrs Wildes, 7 Princess
Gardens, South Kensington, Benjamin Burrows, Factory manager,
Henry Flude, Coal merchant, Red Roofs, Cropston and Mr Brown,
Innkeeper, Leicester. The new company re-instated the old railway
lines and by 1870 business had increased to such a degree that
moving railway wagons with horses was proving very difficult
with increasing orders and was really no longer an option.
Locomotive No 1 was purchased from Hunslet
of Leeds and delivered to Groby by way of the canal system in
July 1870. By 1893 the number of locomotives from Hunslet had
increased to four, works numbers 38, 97, 515 & 588. All were
4' 8" gauge and 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotives. The village
quarry was by 1880 almost worked out and moving the working face
to the north or south was impossible due to dwellings alongside
the Markfield Road northwards and allotments to the south. The
decision to move the quarry location down to what is now known
as Sheet Hedges quarry, opposite Groby Pool appears to have been
taken at this time. By 1893 a decision to use small 2' 0"
gauge locomotives to take the granite from the working face to
the crushing machines was taken. The first two small locomotives
called 'Junior' and 'Sextus' were delivered in May and October
The numbering, rather than naming, of
the larger 4' 8" locomotives continued and Groby Granite
No5, Hunslet works No 747, was delivered in 1901. In 1909 a large
4' 8" 0-6-0T locomotive was delivered to Groby from Hunslet,
works No. 978 This was called Groby No1, having replaced the
original c1870 locomotive. This large loco' was often used to
pull the Sunday School special once a year between Groby, the
Glenfield sidings and back to Groby for a tea party.
Although fondly remembered it frequently
came off the rails, largely due to the coupled 0-6-0 wheel arrangement
being so inflexible and the fact that the Groby Granite Railroad
was almost totally formed of ancient second hand rails, chairs
and sleepers bought from the main line railway companies!
The 0-6-0 was serviced by Hunslet and sold on to Ocean United
Collieries, Risca in 1936.
After 1909 three more smaller locomotives
were added to those already working inside Sheethedges quarry.
'Nonus', Hunslet works No. 992 arrived in 1909 and 'Sextus' Hunslet
No. 1021, presumably replacing the earlier locomotive of that
name arrived in 1910. The last small loco' called Junior, again
replacing the earlier locomotive arrived in 1921 - Hunslet No.
1417. The last 4' 8½" locomotive arrived in 1915
and also became the last locomotive to work at Groby being scrapped
in March 1966.
Once the second world war was over surplus
war department road vehicles were used increasingly to move granite
and other road making materials and the railways less so. The
late smaller locomotives used in Sheet Hedges quarry were scrapped
between 1945 and 1947 - unfortunately they just missed the slightly
later public interest in saving locomotives of this type. A Fowler
diesel locomotive was tried at Groby in the 1960's and worked
for 18 months before being sold to Croft English China Clay Co
in December 1968. The Groby Granite railway track was lifted
Little remains within Groby village
to indicate how even one railway once operated within the village.
The best preserved stretch of the former railway line is now
a footpath. It starts at Oaktree Close and skirts Cowpen Spinney
running along the former railway line towards Glenfield.