Tuesday, 21 October 2014



The Peak District of Derbyshire became Britain's fist National Park in 1951.


One of the greatest church curiosities in the land, the ‘twisted spire’ of St Mary and All Saints church at CHESTERFIELD, dominates the skyline.  This church was built between 1234 and 1360 and, rising to 228ft, the spire leans 9ft 5ins from its true centre.  Its eight sides are covered by a herringbone pattern of lead slates which trick the eye into seeing sixteen faces from the ground, and the result is a crooked spire.  
Legend has it that a powerful magician persuaded a Bolsover blacksmith to shoe the devil, who took flight over Chesterfield where he lashed out, caught the church spire and twisted it out of shape.
The truth probably lies in the fact that unseasoned timbers became distorted over the years due to the heavy lead covering.


ARKWRIGHT TOWN, south east of  Chesterfield, was for many years a coal mining village with its close knit community of terraced houses, until mining privatisation in the 1990’s  when the local pit closed down.   To add insult to injury it was subsequently found that methane gas was seeping from the old workings into the houses and the village had to be abandoned.    The village was rescued by a company who wished to opencast mine the area and in 1995 all 200 families were given new homes in a new purpose built village close by.


Time goes by at a leisurely pace in OLD BRAMPTON near Chesterfield.  One of the reasons for this is probably due to the fact that the church clock has 63 minutes marked on it. Nobody seems to known how this came about but  perhaps the man who painted the clock face spent too much time at the George and Dragon opposite.


Pretty villages abound in the Peak District and BASLOW, situated on the River Derwent close to Chatsworth, is no exception.   An ancient stone bridge crosses the river in this small village and there is a curious little stone toll booth built into one end.



  One face of the church clock at Baslow uses letters instead of the usual numbers.
              It commemorates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and reads :       
                                                      VICTORIA  1897.



The Little John Inn at HATHERSAGE reminds us that Robin Hood’s trusty lieutenant,  known as Little John, is reputed to have hailed from there.    A huge grave in the churchyard at Hathersage is claimed to be that of this man, having died in a nearby cottage.   In 1847, the occupant of the cottage, Jenny Shard, a woman of 70, who had had the story from her father and which had been handed down in the family, remembered the grave being opened by Captain James Shuttleworth, when a thigh bone 32ins long had been found, indicating that it was of a very big man.   Added to the story is the fact that there was at one time in the church a long bow and cap, said to have belonged to Little John.   At some stage they were taken away for safe keeping?  by the local squire and their present whereabouts are not known.





The old village of EYAM is known as The Plague Village. When the village was struck by the plague in 1665, the 350 villager's put themselves in quarantine to stop it from spreading and 257 of them died.
An old Bull Ring is preserved in The Square.
The old village pub, The Miners Arms, at Eyam dates back to the early 17th century.  We are reminded of an unusual incident which took place in the pub in 1684 when the village rector, The Rev. Joseph Hunt took part in a mock marriage between himself and the landlord’s 18 years old daughter Ann.  This bibulous frivolity proved to have dire consequences for the rector, because when the bishop heard about it he made the Rev. marry the girl properly, despite the fact that he was engaged to another woman.  We are not told whether the marriage survived.

This fine gravestone can be seen in the churchyard at Eyam.
The pretty little town of BAKEWELL is a favourite tourist destination being close to Chatsworth House, and is famous for its 'pudding'.
   The recipe for this desert was discovered by accident as the result of a misunderstanding between the cook and the mistress at the Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell around 1860  Instead of stirring the egg mixture into the pastry and then filling the tart she was making with jam, the cook put the jam into the tart and then poured the egg mixture over it.   The resulting desert was so successful that it became renowned as Bakewell Pudding.


Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire is close to Bakewell. Unfortunately I don't have any photographs of the house at the moment.    
Early in the 19th century, the 6th Duke of Devonshire made various alterations  Chatsworth House.   At that time he decided that the village of  EDENSOR,  close to his fine house, was any eyesore and razed it to the ground.   He then had the village rebuilt away from the house, leaving his fine estate uncluttered by houses.
His new ‘model village’ was built just one mile away and no two buildings are the same.  At the entrance to the village is a lodge which looks like a small castle, whilst in a corner stands a mock Swiss chalet in brown stone.   Other houses have Tudor chimneys, Italian style windows, with a jumble of gables , porches and odd windows. 

In 1601 a duck flew into a tree outside the Devonshire Arms in the tiny village of SHELDON just west of Bakewell and disappeared – or so the story goes.  Apparently, when the tree was felled many years later and sawn into planks, the outline of a duck could plainly be seen in the wood.


ALFRETON  is a small former colliery town close to the M1 motorway which dates back to Saxon times. The old single storey lock-up in King Street dates to 1820 and bears the name, 'House of Confinement'.

In about 1600, Anthonie Bradshaw erected his own memorial in his parish church at DUFFIELD near Derby. Although he described it as a ‘little monument’ it was in fact 12 feet tall and commemorated his living self, his two wives and his (then) 20 children. Born of an old Derbyshire family, Bradshaw became a successful London lawyer before returning to his native Derbyshire.
His monument is of sandstone, with obelisks and rusticated pillars, and is inset with alabaster panels. They are full of inscribed information, some in Latin and some in  English, about Bradshaw and his family. He and his family are portrayed  in half-figure incisions identified by initials with full names above and at the foot of the monument is an acrostic of his name. The whole thing is topped with his coat of arms and crest.   One thing missing is the date of his death in 1614.
Bradshaw had a further three children before he died.
The monument was restored in 2002.



Francis Brown was an 18th century yeoman farmer whose farm was near to the village of MUGGINGTON not far from Derby.  Mr Brown, who was a heavy drinker, had apparently misappropriated some public funds and was a very disturbed man.   It is not certain what happened one dark and stormy night in 1723 when Brown went into a field to get his horse, but the horse was rushing around, frightened by the storm and making it extremely difficult for its master to halter it.  One story says that Brown, in his drunken rage cried out ‘If I can’t halter thee, I’ll halter the devil,’ whereupon the horse vanished in a flash of lightening; whilst another version has it that Brown tried to halter a cow in mistake for his horse and was terrified when faced with a black horned face.   Either way Mr Brown was brought to his senses and he became a reformed man.  In witness of this he built a small chapel onto his farm house and endowed it with land.   A stone tablet, later broken up, was said to have been inscribed :  
'Francis Brown in his old age
  did build him here an hermitage 1723.
Who being old and full of evil
Once on a time haltered the devil'.
The chapel, known locally as Halter Devil Chapel, is still there and can be visited.  It is still used from time to time for Church of England services.
The entrance to a private garden at MUGGINGTON is through a huge privet hedge which has been cut into the shape of a cottage, complete with chimneys, and a wooden door completes the entrance.

The curiously named village of WHATSTANDWELL is situated on the River Derwent near Belper, and on the Derwent Valley Railway.
A house built over the entrance to a railway tunnel can be seen just outside the station. It is a fairly modern house and one wonders why it would be built on such and unusual plot.



In the 1700’s a family called Kenny or Kenyon lived in Shining Cliff Woods overlooking the Derwent Valley where Luke Kenny worked as a charcoal burner. It is said that Luke and his wife Betty actually lived in a huge yew tree reputed to be 2000 years old where they formed a house within the tree with a turf roof. Here they brought up eight children. A bough of the tree was hollowed out as a cradle and legend has it that this gave rise to the nursery rhyme ‘Rock a bye baby.’ Part of the yew tree still remains and is known as
the Betty Kenny tree.



There is a complex of old mills around the bridge over the River Derwent at BELPER. Around 1800, a covered passageway was built over the Ashbourne Road to connect the building on either side leaving an archway through which the road passes. At that time it was considered necessary to provide gun-ports to cover the road as a defence against possible attack by Luddites intent on sabotage. The ports can still be seen today, one on the town side and
two on the other side.


There are two conical lock-ups in the south west close to the Leicestershire border and similar in design to three more over the border.
 The one at SMISBY dates to the early 19th century and is Grade 11 listed.
The one at TICKNALL also dates to the same period and is Grade 11 listed.
It is said that in the 19th century, Eliza Soar was the landlady of the Staff of Life pub in the village and apparently her door key also fitted that of the lock-up. When the village constable had gone to bed, Eliza could be persuaded to release any incumbent of the lock-up.



You may not wish to linger in the village of GOTHAM south of Nottingham when you hear about the antics of the locals, but then it all happened a long time ago, and it explains the origins of The Cuckoo Bush Inn in the village     It actually relates to the 16th century ‘ Merrie Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham,’  which tells of the antics of a crazy group who built a hedge around a cuckoo in a bush to keep it and spring all the year round.  They also tried to drown an eel, put a cart on top of a barn to protect the roof from the sun and burned down a forge to get rid of a wasps nest.  Although referred to as ‘mad men’, their antics may have been designed to deter King John from building a hunting lodge in the middle of such a crazy village!

It is said that man’s best friends is his dog.   Lord Byron certainly thought that about his dog Boatswain, and he made sure that the dog would not be forgotten by erecting an unusual monument outside his ancestral home, Newstead  Abbey.    An urn, which contains the dogs remains, surmounts the fine monument and an inscription reads : 

“ Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence,
Courage without ferocity and all the virtues of man without his vices.”

 Byron also wrote a lengthy ode to his dog which is portrayed on the monument and finishes as follows :

“ Ye! Who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
to mark a Friend’s remains these stones arise.
I never knew but one – and here he lies. “

In his will of 1811, Byron directed that he should be buried in the vault below the monument near to his dog, but his wish was not fulfilled.
An apple tree which was grown from a pip in about 1805, became famous as the Bramley apple tree.  Fifty years later Mr Bramley, of Easthorpe, SOUTHWELL,  allowed grafts to be taken on the condition that they carried his name and so perpetuated the name Bramley.   The original tree still grows in the garden behind Bramley Tree House at Easthorpe and gives its name to the local pub.