Mountsorrel is a village that has played it's part role in English history. It's 11th century castle which was known as "a nest of the Devil and a den of thieves and robbers" became a thorn in the side of King Stephen. Eventually in 1217 he had it destroyed, and today only a few undulations in the ground now remain on the hill where it overlooked the flood plain of the River Soar. This raised escarpment of extremely hard granite eventually became a commercial quarrying proposition in the early 19th century. In 1854, the Mountsorrel Granite Company was formed to extract the rock and to sell it on as granite sets, kerbstones and headstones. Many streets in nearby Leicester and Loughborough bear testament to the durability of the igneous rock, where even though road surfaces have been upgraded to tarmac, the granite kerbs have been reused a number of times. The rock, which was formed some 450 million years ago by a volcano that never burst, is favoured for it's attractive pink colour. In the 19th century, it was used for the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, thus rather loosely maintaining a 700 year old local link with royalty. It used to be said that "the streets are not paved with gold in London - they are paved with Mountsorrel granite!"
As quarrying activities grew and with distribution activities limited to road and canal routes, the need to improve links to more distant markets demanded a connection to the Midland Railway Company's arterial route running along the Soar Valley. In 1860, a bridge, interestingly built of red brick and not granite as are many local buildings, was built across the navigated River Soar to carry a rail spur to the quarry, thus making it the first major industry to have it's own link to a mainline railway. It is a striking design, with the figures "18" and "60" born above it's central arch. With a 40 foot span, and 16ft foot height above the river, it was reputed to be the longest single span brick arch in England.
It has been said that everyone in England has at some time come into contact with Mountsorrel granite; it has been used in the construction of "all major airports and motorways in the UK" in addition to being extensively used as rail ballast. In 1989, at the height of it's production, the quarry produced 7.8 million tonnes of material. Today, it is one of the 10 largest quarries in Europe, and whilst the "1860 bridge" no longer supports a railway line, a rumbling conveyor carries many more tonnes of crushed rock to the Midland Mainline railway sidings at nearby Barrow Upon Soar.