With instant access to online registry records it has never been easier than now to research your family history. On holiday you will have time to find out who your ancestors were and where they came from. You never know you might discover a skeleton in the cupboard, or be related to royalty!
Discover your roots
If you are interested in tracing your ancestry you may find branches of your family tree rooted in here in Derbyshire and the Peak District. Staying in our cosy log cabins or gorgeous glamping pods at Hoe Grange Holidays is an ideal base for further research. As you unravel your personal heritage and family history you can enjoy the dramatic Peak District landscapes and visiting fascinating historical buildings.
Sir Richard Arkwright’s cotton mills were at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and drew their workforce from far and wide. Or maybe your family helped build the networks of railways and canals that connected the factories to the cities.
In our rural setting most families were involved in farming. David’s family all lived locally and were dairy farmers around the Ashbourne area. David’s Great Grandfather, John William Brown, was very progressive, customising Model T Fords for farm work. He was an innovator and ahead of his time and featured in several farming publications.
Where to start?
You can trace your ancestry by visiting birth places, work places and churches to discover where you came from and who you are, just like the celebrities do on the BBC programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’
Or you can work online.There are lots of ancestral and family tree websites with genealogy records to get you started, such as Find my past or Ancestry.com. It’s amazing how quickly you can work back through the generations using the online data.
We recently traced my family tree back to the 1700’s in a relatively short time, whereas when my father was working on it he had to physically visit registry offices or wait days for the post to arrive!
Are your relatives Derbyshire born and bred?
If so according to the local saying they were “Derbyshire born, Derbyshire bred, strong int arm – an quick in t’ead”
A good place to start building your family tree is the main family history collection and archives for Derbyshire County which is kept at the Local Studies library in the Derbyshire Record Office.
Derbyshire County Council has lots of useful links and places to research on their website.
Ashbourne Library has a small collection of local photos and documents relating to the town and surrounding villages. A microfilm reader is available for Ashbourne’s historic local newspaper, The Ashbourne News, later known as the Ashbourne News Telegraph.
Ashbourne Heritage Centre has displays and information through the years about the local businesses, people, buildings and customs of Ashbourne and the surrounding area.
You can also learn about the quirky game of Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football – an ancient tradition going back hundreds of years.
There is more information at Ashbourne History which has an interactive map exploring local places, people and events.
As the centenary anniversary of the end of World War 1 approaches I thought I would share a few fascinating facts about The Great War.
Trench warfare has always fascinated me. It’s almost impossible to imagine what it must have been like at the front line being under relentless attack, with the noise of artillery and the constant dangers of shells and gunfire.
However, World War 1 posed many other dangers such as boredom, trench foot, gang green and having to eat your ration surrounded by rats!
1. Britain’s secret weapon
One of the most effective weapons in World War One was the humble handwritten letter, which helped keep up morale among the troops!
A staggering 12 million letters were delivered to the front every week.
Today we think Amazon is speedy, but amazingly during World War 1 it only took two days for a letter from Britain to reach the front in France. Letters were sorted at a purpose-built depot in Regent’s Park before being shipped over the channel to the trenches. By the end of the war, two billion letters and 114 million parcels had been delivered.
Post was important for two reasons
Receiving news and gifts from home was one of the few comforts soldiers had on the Western Front. Difficult to believe but most soldiers spent more time fighting boredom than they did the enemy. Writing letters was one of the few hobbies available to them and it was a welcome distraction from the horrors of the trenches.
Letters sent home were censored. The British Army claimed this was to prevent the enemy finding out secret information, but it also prevented bad news from reaching the home front. Letters from serving soldiers kept families informed of the well-being of their loved ones, but more importantly helped to sustain public support for the war across the home front.
2. The youngest British soldier was just 12 years old!
Hard to believe but Sidney Lewis was just 12 years old when he lied about his age and joined the army during World War One! Sadly he was just one of thousands of eager underage boys who enlisted and ended up fighting alongside their adult counterparts on the front.
It makes you wonder why they would want to go to war, but for some it was an escape from their dreary lives and dreadful conditions.
How could this happen?
Officially you had to be 18 to sign up and 19 to fight overseas. However at the time most people didn’t have a birth certificate, so it was easy to lie about your age.
Recruitment officers were paid two shillings and sixpence (about £6 in today’s money) for each new recruit and would often turn a blind eye to boy’s ages.
Some officers believed the fresh air and good army rations would benefit some of the more under-nourished lads.
Medical checks were made to make sure a potential recruit was fit enough to fight rather than if he was actually old enough.
The minimum height was just five feet, three inches, with a minimum chest size of 34 inches, so a sturdy 16 year-old was very likely to be let through.
The rule of thumb seemed to be if the volunteer wanted to fight for his country and was physically fit enough to do so, why stop him?
3. Thankful Villages – why the lack of celebration?
A Thankful Village is a community where everyone who went to fight in World War One came back alive. Bradbourne just 3 miles from Hoe Grange is one of just 54 thankful villages in England and Wales.
You would think that being a Thankful Village would be a cause for real celebration, but at the time it was actually a source of embarrassment and shame for many.
The number of men who died in World War 1 was devastating and these villages were surrounded by others where loved ones had not returned.
For the Thankful Villages, it was almost as if they had not joined in the sacrifice. They benefited from the peace after the war but felt as if they had not paid the price.
However just because everyone came back alive, didn’t mean they were unaffected by the terrible traumas of war and what they had been through. In those days Post-traumatic Stress Disorder was not a recognised condition, and many found it hard to fit back in to civilian life.
Bradbourne is one of an even more elite group of villages, one of just 15 said to be doubly thankful, as again during the Second World War all those who fought against Hitler’s Germany and its allies came back home.
Perhaps the fact that they were all farming families and enlisted together played a role in the survival of their small group?
4. WW1 sparked the invention of plastic surgery
Did you know that plastic surgery was pioneered during the First World War?
A million British soldiers died in World War One, and double that amount came home injured. For many of those lucky enough to return, the wounds they suffered in Europe would leave them permanently disfigured.
The biggest killer on the battlefield and the cause of many facial injuries was shrapnel. Unlike the straight-line wounds inflicted by bullets, the twisted metal shards of a shrapnel blast could easily rip a face off. Not only that, but the shrapnel’s shape would often drag clothing and dirt into the wound.
Improved medical care meant that more injured soldiers could be kept alive, but urgently dealing with such devastating injuries was a new challenge.
At the start of the World War 1, little consideration was given to the trauma of facial injuries. It came as something of a surprise that so many victims survived the field stations to the point of treatment.
Surgeon Harold Gillies was horrified by the injuries he saw and took on the task of helping victims, setting up a specifically-designed hospital in Sidcup. It treated 2,000 patients after the Battle of the Somme alone. Here Gillies pioneered early techniques in facial reconstruction.
Previously viewed with suspicion, facial reconstruction became an integral part of the post-war healing process. However, in a world before antibiotics, going under the knife for an experimental form of surgery posed as many risks as the trenches themselves!
5. Accidents on the Home Front and Yellow peril
Injuries didn’t just happen on the front line, for those left behind The Home Front could be equally dangerous.
To fill the gap left by a generation of fighting men, more than a million women took the opportunity to join the workforce between 1914 and 1918. They worked across the entire economy – from tram drivers and train cleaners, to postal workers, police patrols, engineers and farmers.
Why did so many accidents occur?
Ammunition workers in particular worked long hours, often in poor conditions and with dangerous chemicals.
Productivity was all that mattered, there was no work/life balance on offer.
To keep pace with demand from the front line, 12 hour shifts were common and some women worked 13 days without a break.
As a result accidents were common, but the figures were often suppressed to keep morale high. For example an explosion at a TNT plant in Silvertown, East London, killed 73 people and destroyed hundreds of nearby homes in January 1917.
Dangerous chemicals health problems that would outlast the war itself. TNT, for instance, gave workers toxic jaundice turning their skin yellow – the so-called yellow ‘canaries’ of the arms factories.
6. Feeding the nation – producing enough oats for everyone!
Just as important as the troops at the front line were the British farmers who played a crucial role in producing food for the nation during the Great War. In 1915 German U-Boats cut off trade routes, and the government turned to British farmers to feed the nation during a time of crisis.
With over 170,000 farmers fighting in the trenches and up to half a million farm horses requisitioned by the War Office farmers had to adapt the way they worked to meet the food production challenge.
By 1917 over 98,000 extra women were recruited into the Women’s Land Army to fill the labour gap. A further 66,000 soldiers returned from the frontline to help with the harvest. Without the heavy horses tractors began to do the work of many hands.
By 1918, there were 6,000 tractors in operation in Britain. The ‘Ploughing Up’ campaign of 1917 saw an extra 2.5 million acres of land used for growing cereals.
By the end of World War 1, an extra 915,000 tonnes of oats, 1.7 million tonnes of potatoes and 830,000 tonnes of wheat were grown. With the sheer hard work of British farmers and growers, and the Woman’s Land Army, Britain avoided being starved into submission. Find out more about the few that fed the many.
7. A thousand horses per day were shipped from overseas
In 1914 the British Army owned just 80 motor vehicles so horses were desperately needed for transporting supplies.
Also conditions on the Western Front were so appalling that motor vehicles were totally unsuitable.
Over eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys died in the First World War. At the start of World War 1 in 1914 the British army owned just 25,000. The War Office had the urgent task of sourcing half a million more, so inevitably the British countryside was virtually emptied of horses, from the heavy draft horses such as the Shire through to the lighter riding ponies.
My shire cross Oliver would definitely have been needed – I can’t imagine how awful it must have been, especially for farmers who needed their horses for heavy work.
To meet the demand over 1,000 horses a week were shipped from North America, where there was a plentiful supply of half-wild horses on the open plains.
Many of the men, grooms, infantrymen, cavalrymen formed close bonds with the horses in their charge, but they could do little to prevent the appallingly high death rate due to shelling, front-line charges, lack of feed and exhaustion. This tragic story of the suffering of horses in World War 1 is immortalised by Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse.
100 years on – I hope you found these facts about World War 1 interesting and will pause a while on Remembrance Sunday 11th November to reflect on the sacrifices that our forefathers made to ensure the safety and peace of our nation.
One of my favourite #LoveLocal Peak District events near Hoe Grange is Tissington Well Dressings. The dressing or decorating of water wells as a thanksgiving is an unusual Derbyshire tradition. The Well Dressings at Tissington are spectacular.
The gift of life through water is so often taken for granted, so it’s an amazing testament to the villagers that this ancient art is still thriving today.
When did Tissington Well Dressings begin?
No one really knows! The ancient art of well dressing goes so far back that it’s origins are a bit of a mystery. One plausible theory is that the tradition began in Tissington village just after the Black Death of 1348. The villagers were lucky to be spared the ravages of the plague, and their immunity was attributed to the purity of the water.Others believe the custom started later in 1615, after severe droughts throughout the area led to loss of cattle and crops, except at Tissington where water flowed freely from the 5 wells in the village.
What we do know is that this curious custom has been carried on for hundreds of years and the traditional techniques are passed on from one generation to the next.
How are the well dressings created?
Well dressing is a lengthy process, starting several weeks before Ascension Day when the backing boards are soaked in the village pond. The boards are then covered with a clay/salt mix and the design is traced onto them.
Designs are often have a biblical theme or pick up on national anniversaries. This year designs include 100 years of Votes for Women and the formation of the RAF. You can find last years well dressing designs on another blog.
Then comes the intricate process of creating the outlines with cones from the Alder trees and coffee beans, before pressing individual flower petals to complete the picture.
The delicate petals have to be carefully layered like roof tiles so that any rain flows off.
Other natural materials are used to add texture and contrast, such as twigs, wool, feathers, and small stones. Usually everything is natural, but this years design of Yew Tree Well makes reference to the world wide concern about plastic waste.
Dressing the wells can’t be done too far ahead as the flowers need to stay fresh for the full week. It’s wonderful how the whole village comes together to keep this special tradition very much alive. Everyone takes part in this annual celebration; young and old working together, digging clay, picking flowers, decorating the boards, or erecting the dressings at the various wells throughout the village.
Blessing the wells
The Tissington Well Dressings celebrations begin on Ascension Day (celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, which is always a Thursday) with a procession blessing each well and a Church service at St.Mary`s.
If you’re not from around Derbyshire you have probably never heard of well dressings, but quirky events such as well dressing is what makes the Peak District a #uniquedistrict. The well dressings are on from today Thursday 10th May to Wednesday 16th May, so why not pop along this weekend to see for yourself?
We hope you like our photos, however seeing the wells in real life is so much better, but don’t get stuck in the stocks like I did!
Buxton is built on the river Wye and has an ancient history as a spa town due to its geothermal spring which rises at a constant temperature of 27.5 °C, from 5,000ft below ground. The Romans, who were renowned for their hygiene and love of taking the waters, were quick to take advantage of the geology of the area. In around AD 78 they developed a settlement there known as Aquae Arnemetiae, or “the spa of the goddess of the grove”.
In Medieval and Tudor times people continued to travel to Buxton to take the waters, with famous visitors including Bess of Hardwick and Mary Queen of Scots. However, it wasn’t until the Georgian period that Buxton really flourished as a spa town.
Buxton as a Spa Town
William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, used the profits from his successful Copper mine at Ecton, to revive Buxton as a spa town. The Crescent was the centrepiece of the Fifth Duke of Devonshire’s plans; built between 1780 and 1784, it was modelled on Bath’s Royal Crescent and designed to showcase the importance of the town and attract the wealthy socialites of the day.
The Crescent originally incorporated a hotel, five expensive lodging houses (so the Dukes friends could stay in town), and a grand assembly room with an ornate painted ceiling.
The ground floor arcade included shops such as coffee house, a hair and wig-dresser, and there were kitchens in the basement. The Assembly Rooms were very grand and soon became the social heart of 18th-century Buxton, and “The In Place” to be seen.
Buxton’s star fell, and for decades The Crescent lay empty and unloved, as you can see from the video. However the Grade 1 listed building is set to spring back to life, due to the ambitious restoration project to reinstate Buxton’s status as the spa capital of Britain.
The Crescent’s iconic building facade forms an arc of a circle facing southeast, and it will once again be an amazing showstopper when finished – I think the 5th Duke of Devonshire would be positively beaming at the idea!
The renovated spa will bring together the very best of the traditional and the modern. At the heart of the complex will be the original thermal pool, fed by mineral water from the nearby ancient spring St Ann’s Well.
In addition, there will be pampering treatments featuring mineral-packed mud, specially tailored healthy lifestyle programmes, and a host of relaxation and leisure facilities. There will also be an indoor/outdoor pool with water features, a sauna, steam and ice rooms, a fitness studio and a beauty salon. Can you picture yourself enjoying this amazing swimming pool?
Crucial to the success of The Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa Scheme is a £23.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with a £2 million grant from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, and £0.5 million from Historic England.
A sparkling five-star stay
Adjoining the spa complex will be an 80-bedroom five-star hotel, allowing guests to enjoy a truly luxurious spa break. The magnificent Assembly Rooms and Mineral Baths will be restored to their former glory, and there will be 6 retail units in the front ground floor.
The Natural Mineral Baths
The original Natural Mineral Baths designed by Henry Currey, were opened in 1854 on the site of the ancient Roman baths. The building incorporated an incredible barrel vaulted stained glass canopy designed by Brian Clarke, which is the largest in Britain. The arcade was redeveloped in 1987 as a shopping centre and is worth a visit just to look up at the electric blue decorative glass ceiling.
Taking the waters at The Pump Room
The Pump Room, also designed by Currey, was built in 1884 opposite The Crescent and next to St Ann’s Well.
Whilst you could drink spa water free of charge from the public well, the Pump Room enabled genteel visitors to sip the waters away from the hoi polloi, for the charge of one penny.
The Pump Room was presented by the Duke of Devonshire to the town in 1894 and continued as such until 1981 when it became home to the world’s first Micrarium. This housed 44 special microscopes to study close-up microscopic organisms, plant life and geological specimens. The dream of Dr Stephen Carter, a researcher with ICI Pharmaceuticals, the Micrarium attracted an enthusiastic following and became a popular place to visit until it closed in 1995. Many of you may also remember it as The Tourist Information Centre.
The exciting news is that The Pump Room is also currently being refurbished as part of the National Lottery-funded Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa re-development.
As you can see in this early photo, the building originally had twin domes or cupolas which disappeared at some point, probably due to the high cost of maintaining them. Sadly these will not be replaced, but it will still be an impressive building when completed.
The restored Pump Room will imaginatively bring to life the many fascinating stories about Buxton, it’s relationship with the water, the Crescent and Natural baths in a creative mix of performances, installations, interpretations, events and programmes.
When fully opened the pump room will once again enable visitors to taste the pure Buxton water and provide space to discover more about Buxton’s spa history.
So as you see Buxton is set once more to sparkle as a spa town – odd how history often repeats itself!
To market, to market to buy a fat pig, home again from Bakewell market, jiggety-jig!
Our holiday guests love to see the calves running around the farm fields with their mothers in the Spring, but let’s not forget the farm animals are here for a reason. Ours is a beef herd and the calves grow up to be 500kg of glorious Derbyshire prime beef.
As the “suckler” cows graze freely in open fields we sell our young animals at about 16 -20 months old before they are fully grown. They then go onto specialist finishing units who feed them up and put the meat on them ready for slaughter. This is the most cost effective way for us to farm in the Derbyshire hills as it is too rocky and high up to grow corn or other fodder crops.
Selling cows at Market
Our animals are sold at auction in Bakewell Market just 9 miles down the road. The livestock market was redeveloped in the late 1990’s and is now one of England’s largest. Incredibly the market dates back earlier than 1330, at which time the people of Bakewell claimed to have had a market from time immemorial!
Bakewell town’s name comes from Badecanwylla, mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, which can be translated as Badeca’s Well after the town’s springs and an Anglo-Saxon chieftain.
To slim down our herd so we have fewer cattle to keep over the winter we recently sold 10 youngsters in one sale and 10 more a couple of weeks later. The cows get sorted into small groups of matching sizes so they stay with their friends, which is less stressful. The price the purchaser bids is per head, and as an inducement to attract the best price it is traditional to offer a little luck money with the cattle – which is why you can see me waving money about!
Watching the auction is fascinating and Bakewell Market is open to the public so you can also go in and watch the action. But be careful to keep your hands still and don’t catch the auctioneers eye, or you may be going home with a pet cow or two!
A day out in Bakewell
Bakewell also has a thriving outdoor market with stalls selling everything from locally grown fruit and veg to socks, sweets and exotic Indian foods. A trip to Bakewell makes an excellent day out for the whole family, as there are also lots of independent shops and cafes. Don’t forget to try the famous Bakewell pudding, the recipe for which dates back to at least 1837.
Before you leave wander down to the river to see the famous five-arched bridge across the River Wye, which is one of the best-known landmarks in the Peak District. It dates from around 1200, is among the oldest in the country, and now designated as an Ancient Monument. Contrast this with the new bridge which links the town centre and the livestock market, and here you can see a strange phenomena going on!
A few years ago couples started to fasten engraved padlocks to the bridge, now there are hundreds of all shapes and sizes – I wonder how may of theses couples are still locked together??
If you want to add your own lock there is an enterprising stall holder in the market who will sell you a lock and even engrave it for you.
Here is a sneeky peek at the enchanting winter wonderland created for Christmas at Chatsworth House this year, inspired by the time-honoured classic, ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ by ETA Hoffmann.
The stunning, sparkling Christmas decorations are enhanced by the historic backdrop of Chatsworth House. I particularly loved the sparkling suspended snowflakes in the Chapel.
Why not get into the festive spirit and join in Clara’s adventures as she is swept away by her Nutcracker Prince?
The Nutcracker story
It all begins on Christmas eve with a special present. Clara and Fritz have a very special, skillful godfather who makes inventions out of clockwork parts (or perhaps they are magical) and his Christmas presents are always amazing and wonderful.
However this year he gives them something different, something rather small and simple – a nutcracker-doll in the form of a soldier.
It’s somewhat ugly, and soon broken by her brother, but Clara loves the little soldier all the same. Clara falls asleep under the Christmas tree and dreams of adventures in candy-filled kingdoms.
Her wish comes true when the soldier-shaped nutcracker springs to life and becomes a true hero, taking her into a magical world to defeat the scary seven-headed Mouse King.
However I think the Chatsworth Christmas mice are more cute than scary!
The Nutcracker Ballet
The story also inspired Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker. For those of you who can’t get enough of themagic at Chatsworth, Buxton Opera House is showing The Nutcracker on January 7th 2017.
A treat for you our guests
we thought you would like to know that when you buy tickets here for the ballet, you can also purchase discounted tickets to the Christmas at Chatsworth experience. Hope you all have fun!
It’s the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, known as ‘England’s Greatest Gardener,’ so why not celebrate by visiting his gardens in Derbyshire?
He’s best known for his beautiful gardens on a grand scale; an artful recreation of idyllic countryside. Brown got his name by telling his landowning clients that their gardens had great “capability”. He believed that design and practicality went hand in hand. His parklands not only promised privacy, and grounds for hunting, but also space for architectural follies to demonstrate the owners immense wealth and status.
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was born in 1716 and began his career as a gardener at Kirkharle. Once he learnt his trade he became an independent designer and contractor, and over time his workforce grew and the demand for his gardening expertise increased. As a result of his unique ability to see the “capabilities” of an entire landscape Brown became a household name.
His abundant skills as an artist, an engineer and a formidable business man brought fame and fortune and in 1764 Capability became a Royal Garden at Hampton Court and Kew Gardens in London. In his lifetime it’s thought that he designed and transformed over 250 gardens across the UK, changing the face of the English countryside. His legacy is still admired across the world today.
The Capability Brown Festival
The festival is a celebration of Capability Brown’s work, with a number of events and exhibitions. The festival will open up a number of Brown’s sites for all audiences to learn about his work and enjoy the sites he envisioned. Brown’s style derived from the two practical principles of comfort and elegance. On the one hand, there was a determination that everything should work, and that a landscape should provide for every need of the great house. On the other, his landscapes had to look elegant.
Visit Capabilities’ Legendary Gardens in Derbyshire
In the 1760s Capability Brown worked at Chatsworth House to modernise the grounds by re-developing the landscape, moving earth, planting trees and drainage. Capability and his foreman Michael Millican allowed the landscape to look natural by creating rolling green slopes up to the House, whilst at the same time increasing the level of capability the land.
From the famous mirroring of Chatsworth House in the lake’s reflection, to the rolling hills and carefully placed trees Brown’s garden design is still to be admired at Chatsworth House today. Without his pioneering work, Chatsworth Gardens and estate would not be the same today.
Elvaston Castle Country Park in Derby
If you fancy the drive or are heading towards Derby, why not stop off at Elvaston Castle to see Brown’s historic work here. With 361 acres of open land to discover, and a wildlife area, it’s the perfect spot for a summer picnic and a great day out with the family.
Capability Brown has inspired landscapers and gardeners since his pioneering work in the 18th Century. If you want to find a garden by Capability Brown near you, here’s an interactive map of the UK. If you’re planning a trip to the Peak District or planning a stay at Hoe Grange, don’t miss out on the Capability Brown festival.
David and I spent another brilliant day out at Eroica Britannia – a cycling race with a difference, where fashion and style count for more than stamina and speed.
Eroica is non competitive and the “race” is as much about the fashion, the stunning Peak District views and the coffee and ice cream stops along the way, as it is about the cycling.
Eroica is much more than a cycle ride, it’s more a way of life, where vintage is the order of the day. L’Eroica which translates as ‘heroic’, was started in Italy in 1997 when 92 riders banded together to campaign to prevent the asphalting over of the famous Tuscan white gravel roads – the strade bianchi. The event honoured the strength and stamina of the cycling heroes of years gone by.
Since then, the annual event in the village of Gaiole in the Chianti region has grown with over 5,000 riders. The “race” is governed by strict rules: the bikes must be from 1987 or earlier – so no indexed gears, and gear changers must be on the downtube, not the handlebars. In addition style is the order of the day and clothing must be of an appropriate era to the bike.Eroica is now hosted in many other countries and Bakewell, which is just 8 miles from Hoe Grange, hosts the UK event with over 4,000 riders. We loved the style and panache and the carnival atmosphere and hope you enjoy our photos.
One of my favourite events of the year is Tissington Well Dressings. The amazingly detailed designs are created by pressing brightly coloured petals, leaves, twigs, and natural materials into wet clay mounted on wooden boards. There are six water wells around the village each with their own spectacular display, often with biblical themes.
The origins of this ancient custom are lost in the mists of time, but what is certain is that it is a thanksgiving for a supply of clean water and that it is most prevalent here in the Peak District.
One theory says that the customs began just after the Black Death of 1348-9. The local population was ravaged by The Plague, but all in Tissington escaped and the immunity was put down to the purity of the water supply. The Well Dressings have become an annual thanksgiving and at Tissington they are put up on the eve of Accession Day ready for the blessing ceremony.
Today it’s not just a thanksgiving but a marvelous way of bringing the whole village community together as everyone contributes in some way to this annual event, digging clay, picking flowers, decorating the boards or erecting the dressings at the wells throughout the village.
If you missed Tissington there are many more dates for Derbyshire Well Dressings throughout the summer.
The Derbyshire Peak District has many significant heritage sites and structures. One that stands out, literally on top of the skyline, is Heage Windmill, which was completed in 1797 and is the only remaining stone tower windmill with 6 sails in the world!
However sadly there is now extreme “trouble at mill” and we need your help!
Late this summer severe wet rot was discovered in the fan and the main supports for the cap and sails of the windmill – a real threat to the survival of this unique structure, which is going to cost £100 k to repair.
However this is not the first “trouble at mill” – in February 1894 the mill was tail winded (i.e. the wind blew from behind the sails) and the cap and four sails were blown off in a violent storm. The photograph below shows the miller, standing on the wreckage of the sails in front of the mill and the brake wheel protruding from the debris of the cap on top of the tower!
When the rebuilding commenced, it was decided to replace the four sails with six patent sails, presumably to give the mill more power. The mill continued to be in regular use until 1919, when yet again the fantail was severely damaged in a gale and, presumably due to the declining economic situation of mills at that time, the windmill closed down. The mill was abandoned and over the next 50 years became derelict, and was further damaged in 1961 when it was struck by lightning.
In 1966, a Building Preservation order (the first ever in the county) was placed on the mill – with a Grade 2* listing – with Derbyshire County Council purchasing the mill for £350 in 1968.
During the early 1970s, restoration work was carried out with the fitting of new floors, sails, cap covering and skeletal fantail, and new sails hoisted in 1972, though the mill remained a static feature on the landscape.
In 1997 the windmill was again struck by lightning, fortunately without serious damage (this should never happen again as lightning conductors are now in place!) and Derbyshire County Council was obliged to deny access to the mill on safety grounds.
Having recognised the deteriorating condition of the mill, Heage Windmill Society, a charitable trust, was formed in 1996, whose aim was to restore the mill back to working order.
No easy task! After securing many grants and much hard work, including re-cogging the gears, rebuilding the cap and cap track, building a new fan tail and hand sewing 126 canvas shutters on the nine-metre long sails, the fully working mill finally opened to the public on 1st June 2002.
It’s certainly an amazing sight and a great tourist attraction and has been successfully milling flour ever since until September this year when the severe rot was discovered. Find out how you can help keep the sails of Heage Windmill turning for many more years to come!