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Peak District Towns and Villages: Monsal Head
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Villages around Monsal Head
|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.|
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.
Ashford in the Water Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
The town was built on the West bank of the Wye at a spot where it was fordable and the site was probably occupied in Roman times (there is a Roman altar at Haddon Hall, found nearby). The Saxons left their mark here and in 924 Edward the Elder ordered a fortified borough to be built here.
The church was founded in 920 and some Saxon fragments can be seen in the porch. However, although parts are Norman, most of the modern building dates from the 13th century and it was then virtually rebuilt in the 1840s. It contains many interesting monuments and is well worth a visit.
A few yards up the hill from the church is the award-winning Old House Museum, housed in one of the few genuinely medieval buildings of the area. This house serves as a local history museum and is in the care of the Bakewell Historical Society. Other places of historical interest include Bagshaw Hall, a fine 17th century house built by a rich lawyer, and several old buildings down King Street, such as the Old Town Hall, the Red Tudor House and the Hospital of the Knight of St John. Just off the Buxton Road lies Victoria Mill, which ground corn from water power until 1939.
One such building is the Rutland Arms, overlooking the town square and built in 1804. Jane Austen stayed here in 1811 and in Pride and Prejudice she has Elizabeth Bennet stopping here to meet the Darcys and Mr Bingley. However the Rutland Arms' chief claim to fame is as the place where the Bakewell Pudding (Bakewell has never heard of tarts) was invented by a chef of 1859 who made a mistake. You can now buy Bakewell Puddings at several establishments across the town, all claiming to have the original unique recipe.
Bakewell has one of the oldest markets in the area, dating from at least 1300. The first recorded fair was held in 1254. Markets are still held every Monday and, unlike most of the other local centres, there is a thriving livestock market at the recently rebuilt Agricultural Centre, which is well worth a visit. The big event of the year is the annual Bakewell Show, which takes place the first Wednesday and Thursday in August and attracts farmers and many others from all over the Peak District and surrounding area.
Bakewell has a full range of shops, pubs and restaurants. There are numerous options for accommodation and there is also a Youth Hostel.
Bakewell has an annual well dressing and carnival, held in late June and it is the home of the Peak District National Park Authority, who have their main offices at Aldern House, Baslow Road. They also operate the town's information centre which is in the old Market Hall in Bridge street, with a parking area (except on market days) and public toilets next to it. It is open daily 9.30am - 5.30pm in summer and 9.30am - 1pm in winter. Telephone: 01629 813227
Bakewell Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Cressbrook is located on the River Wye about 4 miles north of Bakewell. It grew up around a cotton mill and consists mainly of former mill cottages, though some of the oldest houses in and around the village are lead miners' cottages, testifying to a history that predates the mill. |
In 1820 the tiny cottages in Ravensdale (known locally as 'The Wick') were built followed in 1840 the model village of pretty cottages at the top of the hill. The Cressbrook mill owners were generally philanthropic and as well as fine housing they provided piped water pumped up the hill from a spring near the river and they funded the village band, which still survives.
Above the mill is Cressbrook Hall, the house of mill-owner Henry McConnel. The house stands on a bluff overlooking the river and is a fanciful piece of Gothic architecture. The position is superb, with magnificent views down Monsal Dale. Farther up the hill is the rest of the village, for the most part consisting of the cottages once occupied by the millworkers.
The heyday of the mill was the 19th century when it produced high-quality cotton for lacemaking. After World War I all the local mills struggled to make a profit and cotton spinning ceased here in 1965. The mill finally closed in 1971 after which it was allowed to decay for several years before being restored.
The demise of the cotton industry brought great changes to the village. As there is now almost no employment within the village the population has declined and faster transport links have meant that they have been replaced by an influx of older professional people who work within a wide radius of the village. House prices have risen so that local young people can rarely afford them. This has meant that the population has aged - to the extent that the local school closed in 1997, when its roll was down to 6 pupils. A number of the cottages have become second homes or holiday homes, and of course many of these are empty for much of the year.
The scenery around is magnificent. Along the River Wye, just upstream of Cressbrook Mill lies Water-cum-Jolly, a beautiful river gorge with fine limestone cliffs which attract many rock-climbers, bird-watchers, walkers and fishermen. North of the mill lies Cressbrook Dale, or Ravensdale, a fine gorge-like limestone dale with numerous crags and the remains of several lead mines. Most of this dale is a National Nature Reserve renowned for its range of rare flowers.
The village has a fete and well dressing each year in early June.
Cressbrook Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Eyam is one of the best-preserved villages in the vicinity and is the famous 'plague village', which went into voluntary quarantine when the plague was imported from London in 1665. Above the village lies Eyam Moor which is a fine area for walking, with good views across the Derwent valley and many Bronze Age remains and monuments.|
The Rectory next door to the church was the birthplace in 1747 of Anna Seward, the 'Swan of Lichfield', a noted literary character of the 18th Century who wrote poetry in the 'Augustan' style, which is now thoroughly out of fashion. Amongst many other works, she wrote a touching poem 'Eyam' which was about the village, and she was a friend of Sir Walter Scott amongst others.
Also on the main street lies Eyam Hall, built in 1676 but in a style which was already out of fashion, so it looks like an early Jacobean mansion. It is the home of the Wright family who built it and have lived there ever since, and the house is open to visitors in the summer months, as well as housing a small craft centre.
To the West of the village, off the road to Foolow, lies Little and Greater Waterfall Swallet, good examples of natural potholes. The water which disappears into these swallets reappears near Stoney Middleton.
Eyam has several shops and tea rooms, plus one pub, the Miner's Arms. This is dated 1630 and is the former meeting place of the Barmote Court, which dealt with lead mining disputes. It is also is reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Derbyshire, which would surely add interest to a night's stay! Just outside the village is a public carpark and toilets with a small museum opposite. On the edge above the village there is a Youth Hostel.
Eyam has a well-dressing in late August.
Eyam Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Flagg is located between Monyash and Taddington, high up in the centre of the limestone dome that makes up the White Peak. It is rich pastureland and Flagg is a predominantly farming community. Aside from the many local farms there is a Hall of 16th Century origin.|
On the A515, which pass Flagg to the south, lie two pubs, the Duke of York and the Bull I' th' Thorn. The latter has been a hostelry since 1472, much added to since that time, but is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the area. It is well worth a visit to sample its interior, in the centre of which is the medieval hall house which predates the hostelry.
Flagg races, a point-to-point event, take place here on Easter Tuesday every year. This is a quite unique event of the area and usually attracts large crowds. Point-to-point over an area of limestone walls is a notably dangerous sport!
Flagg Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge
The area around is limestone and the village stands on the 'Foolow Beds'. Huge, deep slabs of Carboniferous limestones that mark the transition from the Dark Peak in the north to the White Peak in the south. There is much evidence of lead-mining locally. There are also some interesting geological features, such as Waterfall Swallet, where one of the local streams disappears underground. This lies along the road to Eyam. To the north the ground rises up to Eyam edge and the landscape changes rapidly to gritstone. The whole surrounding area is a fine one for relatively gentle walks.
Foolow has a well-dressing in late August.
Foolow Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Hassop has an imposing look, due to the splendour of the architecture left behind by the Eyre family, the local landlords and builders of Hassop Hall. The Hall is now a private hotel but it retains the fine buildings and classical park (with lake) that the Eyres erected. The Eyres were devout Catholics and so the large Classical style church which draws your eye as you pass through the village is a Catholic one. As well as being landowners, the family made much money from lead-mining and it is said that there are two large manholes in the floor of the cellar of the Hall which lead to a former lead-mine.|
The village has a pub called, not surprisingly, the Eyre Arms.
|Litton is a small village lying 2km East of Tideswell. It is situated in a picturesque area just to the east of Tideswell and the eastern end of the village overlooks Tansley Dale and Ravensdale, a National Nature Reserve. It is a popular area for walkers.|
Litton's derivation is as the historical seat of the Lytton family, who settled here shortly after the Norman conquest. Sir Gilbert de Lytton accompanied Richard III on the crusades and his descendants held many sovereign positions including Sir Rowland de Lytton, who served Elizabeth I. Subsequent to the Lyttons the land passed down through the Alsop, Bagshawe, Upton and Statham families as well as Lord Scarsdale.
There is a pub, the Red Lion, and a small shop. Litton has a well dressing in late June.
Litton Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Longstone is made up of two small villages, Great and Little Longstone. The villages have many fine 18th century cottages, built during an era of prosperity from lead-mining and shoemaking. There is a village green in Great Longstone, with an ancient cross and a nearby manor house which has medieval origins. Across the road is Longstone Hall, originally built during the 14th century, but rebuilt in the mid 18th, with a prominent brick facade. There is a rather nice church hidden round the back of the village.|
Great Longstone and Little Longstone have well-dressings in late July.
Just along the road, to the west of Little Longstone, is Monsal Head, a famous beauty spot and viewpoint. There is a small car park with a fine view down the valley, and a much larger car park, with public toilets, 100m away. A few hundred metres towards Ashford there is an old Quaker burial ground.
To the north of Longstone lies Longstone Edge, a fine viewpoint for the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately the top of the edge has been intensively quarried for lead and, more recently fluorspar, which has left some impressive holes in the ground but rather detracts from its scenic value.
Longstone Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Miller's Dale was once an important railway junction, where passengers for Buxton joined or left the trains between London and Manchester on the old Midland Railway. Since the railway was closed in 1970 the station has become an important car park and access point to local walks. The hamlet is still dominated by the impressive, massive railway viaducts across the Wye valley here.|
Downstream lies Litton Mill, a small hamlet grouped around a former cotton mill on the River Wye. The mill was built in the late 18th century and burned down in 1897 (there is a photograph in the Angler's Rest in Millers Dale), but was then rebuilt. In its early years the mill was known locally and nationally for its harsh treatment of its apprentices, many of whom were orphans both local and from as far away as London. This was the subject of an expose in the form of a book by Robert Blincoe in 1832 which is said to have helped the passage of the Factories Act of 1833 and may have inspired Dickens when he wrote Oliver Twist.
There are two Nature Reserves near Miller's Dale. Priestcliffe Lees and Station Quarry belongs to Derbyshire Naturalists' Trust, while Monk's Dale (a dry tributary valley of the Wye) is a National Nature Reserve. Both are rich in classic limestone flora and fauna of the area.
There is a small church and a pub, the Angler's Arms and 1km away is Ravenstor Youth Hostel.
Miller's Dale Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Monyash is an unspoilt village clustered around the village green, its main preoccupation is now farming and tourism but at it was an important lead-mining centre from medieval times to the end of the 19th century and had its own Barmote Court. The village cross dates from 1340, when Monyash was granted a licence for a weekly market and two annual fairs. Around the village may be seen characteristic narrow fields which were enclosures of medieval strips and, further away, the larger fields which resulted from the 1771 Enclosures Act. |
Monyash and the surrounding area have been settled since Neolithic times, as can be inferred from its proximity to Arbor Low, which dates from 2000BC or earlier. The village has a good water source and sits on a deposit of clay, which means that the water does not sink immediately into underlying limestone, as it usually does in this area. This led to the creation of several ponds or 'meres' and at least one survives until the present day. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'Maneis', which is often translated as 'many ash trees' (cf. Oxford Dictionary of British Placenames), but research by Professor Bob Johnston indicates that it is more likely derived from the Old English words mani and eas for many waters.
The Romans built a road which follows the ridge to the south-east of the village, and which probably follows the line of a much earlier trackway. Later, the Saxons overran the area, which became part of the territory of the 'Pecsaete' tribe (some people believe that 'Peak District' is derived from this tribe's name) and a celebrated Saxon burial at Benty Grange just south of Monyash was probably one of their chieftains.
The lead mines for which Monyash was famous also provide a Quaker connection, since they were worked in the 17th and 18th centuries by the London Lead Company, a Quaker firm. Sheldon House was once one of the mining offices and the miners were said to have queued for their pay here.
Evidence of other industries of bygone days may be found in the local names of Shuttle Lane and Chandler House. Monyash's most recent claim to fame is as the burial place of Sir Maurice Oldfield, a local man who became the head of MI6 and was the model for 'M' in the James Bond books.
The village lies at the head of Lathkill Dale and is therefore very busy with walkers and hikers at weekends, since it is a good base for exploring the surrounding area. There is a pub, the Bull's Head, where the Barmote Court still meets twice yearly. Next door to the Bull's Head there is a popular cafe. Monyash has an annual well-dressing at the end of May.
Monyash Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Over Haddon is a picturesque former lead-mining village clinging to the top of the steep side of Lathkill Dale to the south of Bakewell. It is a popular stopping point for weekend walkers in the Lathkill valley and has a useful car park, though using this does involve a steep descent (and thus ascent) into (and out of) Lathkill Dale below. The village has a pub called The Lathkill.|
Lathkill Dale is a beautiful and fascinating place. An alternative perspective can be achieved by following the gorge top access land from the access point to the south of Haddon Grove Farm, one mile to the west of Over Haddon.
Over Haddon Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Pilsley is one of the villages of the Chatsworth Estate and is built of a mellow local sandstone. There is a public house (the Devonshire Arms, naturally) and on the other side of the road there is the Chatsworth Farm Shop, housed in the former Shire Horse Stud building.|
Pilsley has a well-dressing in mid-July.
Pilsley Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Sheldon is a small farming hamlet perched high above the River Wye, South of Ashford. From just outside the village there are fine views of the Wye and the lower part of Monsal Dale.|
Lead mining flourished around here in the 18th and 19th centuries and most of Sheldon dates from this period. One of the most famous and certainly the best-preserved Peak District mine, the Magpie Mine, lies just 1km south of here.
Sheldon has a pub, the Cock and Pullet, popular with hikers.
Sheldon Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Stoney Middleton lies at the foot of Middleton Dale, a spectacular cliff-lined valley which has been much affected by long years of quarrying. The village centre lies just off the main A623 road and is surprisingly secluded and quiet. |
There is a small church, St Martin's, which was originally built by Joan Eyre to commemorate her husband's safe return from Agincourt in 1415. Only the tower is original, the nave having burnt down in a fire in 1757 to be replaced in 1759 by an unusual octagonal building.
Nearby are some low buildings which are advertised as the 'Roman Baths', though the current building was constructed in the 19th century. These are fed by some warm springs which issue from the hillside and historical evidence indicates that they were in use from Celtic times, probably forming the focus of a shrine to an aquatic goddess. The earliest documented references to the springs are medieval, but numerous Roman coins have been found locally.
Clustered along the main road is the former toll bar, now a fish and chip shop, a pub called The Moon and an Indian restaurant. Just above the restaurant is 'Lover's Leap' where, in 1762 the jilted Hannah Baddaley flung herself off the clifftop, only to be saved by her voluminous skirts, which acted as a parachute. Sadly she died of natural causes only two years later, still unwed.
Higher up the valley, at the foot of Middleton Dale, the scenery is dominated by Windover Buttress, home of some of the most spectacular rock climbs of the area. There are also several important pot-holes in this dale, notably Carlswark cavern.
Stoney Middleton has a well-dressing in late July.
The upland area to the south of Middleton Dale (between Stoney Middleton and Longstone Edge) has been mined extensively for Fluorspar, leaving large settling ponds full of 'tailings', and resembles a moonscape. It is well worth a visit just to see this scene of desolation. Further south there is the open moorlands of Longstone Edge, one of the few ecologically sensitive Limestone Heaths in the area. Longstone Edge offers excellent walking and views.
Stoney Middleton Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Taddington is clustered around an ancient well on the north side of a ridge formed by a sill of Dolerite in the surrounding limestone. It is one of the highest villages in the area.|
The church is mostly 14th century and has an enigmatic decorated shaft in the churchyard. The origins of the shaft are obscure, but it dates from at least Norman times.
At the eastern, lower end of the village (known as Town End), is a pub, the Queen's Arms, and outside the village on the A6 lies the Waterloo Hotel. Taddington has a well-dressing in mid-August.
Blackwell and Priestcliffe are two hamlets of a dozen houses each, sited between Taddington and the River Wye. Most of the dwellings are active farms.
The area below Blackwell, between it and the River Wye, has a series of ridges and terraces in the fields which are the remnants of a Britano-Roman field system, dating from around 400 AD. This was centred around a fortified settlement on the top of Chee Tor, overlooking the River Wye.
Taddington Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
This fine church was funded by the local wool trade and by lead mining - for Tideswell was a major centre for the lead-mining industry from medieval times to the nineteenth century. As the mining declined from 1850 onwards so did the population of the village and it has only started to recover in recent years.
The nearby hamlet of Wheston is one of the smallest hereabouts with about 15 houses, mostly farms, and a hall which is reputedly haunted. There is an agricultural supplier here but no shops or amenities.
The main point of interest is the fine, recently restored 15th-century cross just on the western edge of the hamlet. Unusually, the cross is essentially complete despite its age. It is thought it once marked the boundary of the Royal Forest and has the Virgin Mary on one side and Christ crucified on the other.
Tideswell Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Wardlow is a small farming and former lead-mining village strung out along a road which follows the route of the Portway, an ancient Iron Age track that ran from Southern Derbyshire to the great Iron Age fort on Mam Tor. Later adopted by the Romans to reach thier fort at Navio, near Brough, the road is still called Castlegate but known locally as 'Scratter'.|
The village layout, with farms spaced out along the through road, has probably changed little since Saxon times.
The area around is dotted with relics of the local lead-mines, which were numerous and extended into nearby Cressbrook Dale and Ravensdale and towards Longstone. The village provides excellent access to Cressbrook Dale National Nature Reserve and Longstone Edge, one of the few Limestone Heaths in the Peak District. There is a pub and a roadside cafe at Wardlow Mires.
Wardlow has a well-dressing in early September.
Wardlow Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
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