Darley Dale

from Derbyshire Heritage

St Helens Church in Darley Dale dates from the 12th century and contains monuments to Sir John de Darley who was Lord of the Manor over 600 years ago and one of the oldest trees in the country is the famous yew in St Helen’s churchyard at Darley Dale, estimated to be 2,000 years old.

An Act of Parliament was passed in 1666 to try and boost the depressed English woollen trade. It ordered that no-one was to be buried in anything other than woollen material.
The following notes were written in Darley Dale burial register: “No corpse of any person (except those who shall die of the plague) shall be buried in any shift, sheet, shroud, or anything whatsoever made or mingled with any flax, hemp, silk, heir, gold or silver, or in any stuff or thing, other than what is made of sheep’s wool, only upon pain of the forfeiture of £5.”
Many burial registers give names followed by the words “buried in woollen”.

Another interesting entry in Darley Dale burial register tells that in 1704 ‘a man died when the earthquake came’.

Celtic carvings have been built into some Christian churches. Small statues of Sheela-na-Gig, goddess of creation and fertility, can be seen at St Helen’s.

During the restoration of the church in 1854 a fragment of a cross shaft was found. The portion was 19 inches long by 15 inches wide by 11 inches thick which suggests that the original cross was of considerable height. One wide face has a plait and ring pattern which fails to match many other examples in symmetry, and one of the narrow faces a twist and ring pattern. It is now in the Weston Park Museum, Sheffield.

In 1635 Church Lane was known as Ghost Lane after a Scottish pedlar was murdered there. Ghost stories about murdered Scottish pedlars come from Darley Dale, Hayfield and Eyam wakes. Pedlars tended to be called Scottish only because they sold cheap Scottish linen.

A weaver’s tomb has carvings on the side of the table tomb dating from the mid-18th century when the Huegenots who were Protestant exiles fled from France to England.

The carvings of weavers frames show the trade they brought with them.

On the East wall of the St Helens Church in Darley Dale is a narrow window – these were sometimes called the ‘lepers window’. Lepers’ windows and were left open during services so that infected people could take part without having to go inside the church.
Historically, people with leprosy were treated with great suspicion and usually forced to leave their homes and settlements and live away from everyone else in ‘leper colonies’ depending on charity to survive. People were also made to wear special clothing to let others know they had leprosy, to walk away from others, and to ring bells to advertise their presence.
In 1873 Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen identified the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae as the infectious cause of leprosy and is also called Hansen’s disease.

Outbreaks of plague and smallpox broke out at Darley Dale in the 16th/17th centuries. “Ye sweatinge sickness” claimed nine lives in six days.

Church Lane at Darley Dale was known as Ghost Lane in 1635 after a Scottish pedlar was murdered there. Ghost stories about murdered Scottish pedlars come from Darley Dale, Hayfield and Eyam wakes. Pedlars tended to be called Scottish only because they sold cheap Scottish linen.

Darley Dale Hydropathic Establishment was offering the Mild Water Cure. Set in 50 acres of wooded parkland the hydro was promoted as ‘A great sanatorium, a noted pleasure resort, one of the most agreeable summer or winter holiday retreats … [with] … Tennis! Billiards! Golf! Fishing!’. Probably the last ice house to be built locally was constructed around 1890 at the new Darley Dale Hydro.

The Darley Dale Hydro was also run like a high-class hotel, sumptuously furnished and with every convenience from stables to an ice house but the owner went bankrupt. In 1904 the empty property was taken over as St Elphin’s school which is where Richmal Crompton was educated.

Public transport relied on the horse for many more years. Two Dales blacksmith Arthur Watts charged three pence (1.5p) for a journey to Matlock in his horse-drawn brake. James Smith, a nursery owner from Darley Dale, later ran the Primrose Bus at weekends. This was really his tree delivery lorry, freshly washed out and fitted with yellow seats.

A lone sycamore on Oker Hill, Darley Dale, was the inspiration for a sonnet composed in 1838 by William Wordsworth. In The Keepsake, he relates how two brothers each planted a sycamore on the summit of the hill before parting to make their way in the world. One brother became successful and his tree thrived, the other met misfortune and an early death – and his tree died.

To protect millstones during transit heather was packed around them. Also in the first half of the 20th century it was grown at Darley Dale nurseries especially for packing iron tubes and other goods. Large quantities of heather were sent in railway wagons from Darley station to Stanton Iron Works near Chesterfield.

From the 19th century, one of the largest nursery owners in Derbyshire was James Smith & Sons. In Victorian times they had nine nurseries at Darley Dale with many thousands of trees, but the firm was particularly proud of its one million rhododendrons and “flowers of every clime – from Indus to the Pole”.

Rhododendrons were particularly popular. After their first introduction to gardens from Turkey in 1763 they were planted extensively in the smartest gardens and estates. A reporter from the High Peak News informed readers in May 1899 that the rhododendrons were in full bloom in the pleasure gardens of Stancliffe Hall at Darley Dale, where “some of the finest rock gardens in the kingdom” were newly open to the public. The Hall had until recently been owned by Lady Whitworth, widow of Sir Joseph the great inventor.

Joseph Whitworth moved into Stancliffe Hall, Darley Dale in 1871 with his second wife Mary Louisa Orrell. Sir Joseph apparently planned many things for Darley Dale but carried out comparatively few. In addition to constructing new roads he built a number of cottages for his estate workers. The estate was a major source of employment for local people both in the house, on the land and in the quarry situated near to the house. Stone from the quarry was used in many local buildings including the staircase in the Painted Hall at Chatsworth House. Stancliffe stone also provided the paving stones for Trafalgar Square and the plinth of the Victoria and Albert monument.

Whitworth had a number of stone houses built on Church Road and Green Lane, their gables topped with wooden replicas of the shells fired by his famous cannon. Over time, these wooden shells have rotted away, leaving the remnants of just one survivor on Church Road.

Dr Wrench from Baslow qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) in 1870 and was Consulting Surgeon to the Whitworth Hospital, Darley Dale.

A unique ‘disc’ engine in the form of simple turbine was patented by the Dakeyne Brothers in 1830 who were flax millers at Darley Dale.

Johnson’s cattle-feed mill at Darley Dale was taken over for war production by Bakelite, who moved out of Birmingham to escape the blitz. Bakelite produced materials for armaments, including Mosquito aeroplanes. Most bomber and fighter aircraft had Bakelite insulation and control panels.

Darley Bridge was an important packhorse route crossing of the River Derwent. There was a packhorse route from here up to Beeley Moor via Darley Dale. As with many other river crossings the bridge was widened to cater for increased traffic. See Cromford Bridge.

On the South East side one of the original pointed arches and the ribbed construction of the bridge can easily be seen.

A reference to this bridge appears in 1504, again in 1666 and in 1682 when mention of seven arches is made. So it is possible two arches may be hidden beneath the present approaches.

Not far to the north of the bridge at Darley Dale is Church Lane; in 1635 it was known as Ghost Lane after a Scottish pedlar was murdered there.

Ghost stories about murdered Scottish pedlars come from Darley Dale, Hayfield and Eyam wakes. Pedlars tended to be called Scottish only because they sold cheap Scottish linen.

James Smith and Sons. In 1908 the nursery of James Smith and Sons began exporting boxes of ‘lucky Scotch heather’ to Scotland, the United States and also to Ascot racecourse during Ascot week. Presumably from the fields as shown in the postcard above.
There is also reference to bales of heather being sent by rail to Stanton and Staveley ironworks for packing cast iron pipes.