Ashford is an attractive and popular little village lying on the River Wye
, just upstream of Bakewell
. It has a long history, and from the Iron Age or earlier was one of the major crossing points on the Wye. The river and the bridges across it are major features of Ashford. Sheepwash Bridge dates from the 17th century and has a pen next to it for the purpose of washing the sheep, a practice which continued until quite recently. Downstream, Mill Bridge is dated 1664, but is newer than Sheepwash Bridge.
The church has some parts dating from the 12th century, including a south door with its original Norman tympanium showing a tree of life in the centre with a hog and wolf facing it. There is a 14th century tower and font, but the church was heavily restored, nay rebuilt, in the 1870s, and most of the building dates from then.
An ancient local custom unique to this village was that of hanging funeral garlands from the roof of the church. Four garlands still hang there, the oldest from 1747. They were made of white paper cut to form rosettes and fixed to a wooden frame. They would then be carried before the coffin of a young virgin in the funeral procession, before being hung up.
In the church is the grave of Henry Watson (d. 1786), who was responsible for the commercial exploitation of Ashford Black Marble. Not a true marble, this impure limestone comes up an attractive shiny black colour when polished. It was quarried from Kirk Dale and Rookery Wood just outside Ashford and was used at an early date in both Hardwick Hall
and Chatsworth House
. Watson's invention in 1748 of machinery for cutting and polishing the marble allowed it to be mass-produced and it became very fashionable. Watson's machinery used water power from a mill on the River Wye near the foot of Kirk Dale, which closed in 1905, though the foundations may still be seen. Examples of Ashford Marble are on display in Buxton Museum
A further 2km upstream, on the River Wye, lies the outlet for Magpie Sough, built in 1873, an impressive 2km long underground 'drain' for the Magpie mine at Sheldon. Lead mining was extremely important in this area until the end of the 19th century.
Ashford has an annual well-dressing
which is held during the week of Pentecost - six weeks after Easter (usually late May/early June). There are about 6 wells to dress, and this is one of the largest such festivals.
The village has a shop and a couple of pubs.