All posts by Graham Snowdon

Carr Head Farm Vineyard visit — Wed 18th July 2018

Several mem­bers of Stumperlowe Probus Club have more than a passing interest in wine, includ­ing at least two who are share­hold­ers in a commercial-size French vine­yard, but they learnt much about the trials and tribu­la­tions of smal­ler scale pro­duc­tion on a Peak District hill­side 950 feet above sea level.

A party of 26 club mem­bers enjoyed lunch at a local hostelry before pro­gress­ing to the farm on the out­skirts of Hathersage for a tour of the vines fol­lowed by a tast­ing and buying oppor­tun­ity.

Michael Bailey, the pro­pri­etor of Carr Head Farm with his wife Mary, planted the first of his 1,700 vines on a one and a half acre, south west facing slope in 2014, so the ven­ture is still in its early stages. It was largely a retire­ment pro­ject; it is very labour intens­ive and he admits that a vine­yard of that size will never become a highly prof­it­able busi­ness.

Members listen intently as Michael talks us through some of the tech­niques of grape pro­duc­tion

Michael was an engin­eer by pro­fes­sion, and his career change began when he took a course at Plumpton College, the UK’s centre of excel­lence for wine which, as well as teach­ing the skills of viniculture, has its own vine­yards in East Sussex stretch­ing to 25 acres pro­du­cing 40,000 bottles of award-winning still and spark­ling wines each year.

 

After the recent heat­wave, it has the mak­ings of an excel­lent har­vest, although the grapes still have some way to go before being picked towards the end of September

When we star­ted the course, the tutor went round the class and asked us all where we wanted to start grow­ing grapes,” Michael recalled. “There were people from the places you might expect – South East England, Cornwall, and up into the Midlands, and when I said North Derbyshire at an alti­tude of almost 1,000 feet, his reply was to the effect of ‘well, good luck to you!’”

 

 

Michael explains the use of a refracto­meter which will meas­ure the spe­cific grav­ity of the grapes and thus the alco­hol con­tent of the fin­ished wine

The sev­eral vari­et­ies of grapes pro­duced each year go to make the white, spark­ling rosé and still rosé offered by Carr Head, although there is no winery on site at Hathersage and the grapes are sent away to be pro­duced by the Halfpenny Green vine­yard at Bobbington, Staffordshire.

 

There’s more to walls — Trevor Wragg — 2nd July 2018

I sup­pose it all depends who you believe – Pam Ayres or Trevor Wragg.

To quote my favour­ite female poet’s odd ode: “I am a dry stone waller, all day I dry stone wall. Of all appalling call­ings, dry stone walling’s worst of all.”

I can’t for a minute ima­gine Trevor Wragg voicing those sen­ti­ments. Trevor lives and breathes dry stone walling, and has been a pro­fes­sional at the job for many years. He was the British cham­pion in 1996, and holds the Dry Stone Walling Association’s Master Craftsman Certificate.

Trevor, who is just coming up his 70th birth­day and lives at Hartington, in the Peak District, is a qual­i­fied instructor and exam­iner with the DSWA, as well as serving on that body’s Skills Committee and being an assessor with the National Proficiency Testing Council and the Dales Agricultural and Rural Training Ltd (DART).

Trevor at work on a length of dry stone wall

He has led assess­ment days for officers from the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Peak District National Park Authority, advising them on both good and bad work­man­ship for grant aided work.

So he clearly knows his stuff, and was just the man to come and talk to us about a fea­ture of the coun­tryside that most of us see almost every day without really think­ing too much about.

His style of present­a­tion per­haps wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Rather than wait­ing for his audi­ence to ask per­tin­ent ques­tions at the end of the 80 minutes, he squandered some of that time by asking us ques­tions from his slides to which he knew few, if any, of us would know the answers, so there were many preg­nant pauses.

Even so, we learnt a lot during the present­a­tion. Personally, I thought that a dry stone wall was a dry stone wall. But you could take Trevor blind­fold to any part of the coun­try and, by look­ing at the walls, he could tell you in an instant whether he was in Caithness, Cumbria or the Cotswolds, or his native Derbyshire.

Trevor took us on a pictorial tour of the White and Dark Peaks and Staffordshire Moorlands, point­ing out the dif­fer­ent size and shape of fields enclosed by dry stone walling, and explain­ing how these came about, from the per­fectly straight ‘strip’ system of farm­ing to large, gradu­ally curving fields which gave a team of eight oxen enough space to turn round.

One of the few cor­rect answers from the floor was that sphag­num moss, found in abund­ance on dry stone walls, was once used in the pro­duc­tion of babies’ nap­pies, because of its absorb­ent qual­ity. There is more wild­life in a dry stone wall than in a hedgerow, appar­ently. And walls har­bour more than 2,000 vari­et­ies of lichen, often a source of food for the said wild­life and also used in the pro­duc­tion of dyes.

Trevor being inter­viewed by Ade Edmondson on the ITV pro­gramme Ade in Britain

And I now know, though he didn’t ques­tion us on this dir­ectly, that a smoot hole is a gap of appro­pri­ate size built into a dry stone wall to allow the free pas­sage of cer­tain creatures (such as rab­bits) but not others (such as sheep). It cer­tainly isn’t in my OED, and I’ve now found out that it pos­sibly derives from the Old Norse word smátta, mean­ing a narrow lane.

You get shoot­ing smoot holes, usu­ally on a grouse moor, and others for rab­bits, ducks and geese, badgers or, simply, water. South facing walls sur­round­ing a court­yard would some­times con­tain bee holes, and others might incor­por­ate hen nest­ing boxes. A drawer stone is one which might look indis­tin­guish­able to all the others but, if you knew where you were look­ing, could be pulled out by the fin­gers and had a hol­lowed out top to con­tain money or the keys to a gate.

The Royal Cypher seen from the middle dis­tance

One of Trevor’s most pres­ti­gi­ous jobs was to design the con­tro­ver­sial EIIR royal cypher which was erec­ted on the hill­side near Edensor, on the Chatsworth estate, to cel­eb­rate the Queen’s golden jubilee. This con­sisted of 288.5 metres of dry stone walling, but built only to half normal height so that the shad­ows cast by the walls on sunny days did not detract from the over­all ‘look’ when viewed from the best vant­age point a mile or more away.

Trevor’s design for the three-way slop­ing site and, bottom right, how it would appear from the best view­ing point

There was more to design­ing it than met the eye (lit­er­ally), because the land where the cypher was erec­ted fell away in three dir­ec­tions and Trevor prac­tised with straw bales before coming up with the final plan which made the char­ac­ters look askew when viewed from close up but per­fectly reg­u­lar from afar.

I per­son­ally, and I sus­pect many other people felt the same, admired the EIIR royal cypher, but the Peak Park author­ity decreed that it had only tem­por­ary plan­ning per­mis­sion and the walls even­tu­ally had to come down.

But thanks to the skill of Trevor and his fellow dry stone wall­ers, most examples of their work will still be around for our grandchildren’s grand­chil­dren to admire. They have been part of our her­it­age for cen­tur­ies, and will con­tinue to be so.

My Early Years In The Merchant Navy — Brian Smith — 16th April 2018

Five months after he gave us a talk on part two of his career – as a sur­veyor for Lloyd’s Register – Brian Smith, a member of the Barrow upon Humber Probus Club, returned by pop­u­lar demand to give us part one, cov­er­ing his years as a ship’s engin­eer.

Brian’s career change was forced upon him when, after just over 18 years in the Merchant Navy, he was made redund­ant, largely as a result of con­tain­er­isa­tion. One con­tainer ship could replace half a dozen ordin­ary cargo ships in terms of load car­ry­ing capa­city, and today they are even bigger. One reason why Britain cannot com­pete in the build­ing of these huge ves­sels is that there is vir­tu­ally nowhere in UK waters where they can be launched.

Not that the ships Brian worked on were exactly tid­dlers. He sailed in 15 dif­fer­ent ves­sels, and at the peak of his first career he was chief engin­eer of a ship of 76,000 tonnes. He was away for up to nine months at a stretch, sail­ing the waters of the world with car­goes ran­ging from bana­nas to cars.

Brian, des­pite having no family sea­far­ing his­tory, was inspired to seek work in the marine world when, as a young boy being driven for days out at the sea­side with his par­ents to either Redcar or Saltburn, he would pass the large docks in Middlesbrough. He left school at the age of 15 in 1960 and obtained his first job as a mes­sen­ger boy at the local Furness shipyard.

An aerial view of Middlesbrough docks in the 1950s

As I walked around the docks area deliv­er­ing doc­u­ments I would see every aspect of the trade, from ship­wrights to port­ers, and being an inquis­it­ive type I would always ask them what they were doing.

I was soon inden­tured as an appren­tice, which involved two years in a fit­ting shop and three in a machine shop, oper­at­ing lathes and other equip­ment, and at 18 you were allowed to go out­side to work in the main­ten­ance depart­ment, work­ing on the ships.

One day I saw some­body who every­body was taking notice of – he was obvi­ously very import­ant – and I had it explained to me that he was the Lloyd’s sur­veyor inspect­ing the ship.”

Plucking up cour­age, Brian asked the man from Lloyd’s: “How do I get your job?” He replied: “Easy son, go to sea and get your qual­i­fic­a­tions,” and took a note of Brian’s name and address.

I didn’t really expect to hear any­thing, but one day I got a letter from the Board of Trade telling me that I would have to go to sea.” Brian told his man­ager that he wanted to leave his job ashore, and after ini­tially being refused because of his appren­tice­ship he was allowed to leave the fol­low­ing January to pursue his chosen career in what was then the world’s largest mer­chant navy.

He was told to report to his first ship at Avonmouth, and he star­ted work as a junior engin­eer in 1966.

Brian worked first for the Hain Steamship Company, which was estab­lished as a public com­pany in 1901 but could trace its roots back to 1816. The com­pany was acquired by the P&O Steam Navigation Company in 1917, con­tinu­ing to oper­ate as a sep­ar­ate entity, although Brian later worked for the P&O Tramp Company, based in London.

A ship engaged in the tramp trade is one which does not have a fixed sched­ule or pub­lished ports of call, as opposed to a freight liner.

After join­ing another ship sail­ing the North Atlantic, Brian came home on leave and went to col­lege to gain his Certificate of Competency as an engin­eer. He rejoined the ship as a fourth engin­eer, and cel­eb­rated his 21st birth­day off the coast of West Africa.

He returned to col­lege to gain his second engineer’s ticket and then joined the Tyne-built gen­eral cargo ship Trewidden, bound for the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean where, off the coast of South Africa, the cap­tain was mys­ter­i­ously lost over­board.

The Trewidden, which Brian joined as Second Engineer

Brian regaled us with col­our­ful stor­ies of his voy­ages around the world, ran­ging from the time a ship was left to pick up the tab when crew mem­bers vis­ited a house of ill repute in Mombasa, to his unwit­ting part in the so-called Great Grain Robbery of 1972 when the Soviet Union cov­ertly pur­chased 10 mil­lion tons of United States wheat and corn but were unable to use Russian ships to trans­port it.

Brian’s present­a­tion coin­cided with a very suc­cess­ful first meet­ing in our new tem­por­ary home at the Hallam Community and Youth Association hall while con­struc­tion work is due to get under way at the Fulwood Church Hall.

The Family of Oscar Wilde — Dr Michael Collins — 5th February 2018

We all knew that Oscar Wilde was a bit of a lad, and those of us who enjoyed Mike Collins’s enthralling talk about the Irish poet and play­wright now also know that he was some­thing of a chip off the old block. For while Oscar played a cent­ral part in the story, Mike’s present­a­tion – sub­titled Genius, Eccentricity and Tragedy — helped us under­stand how Wilde’s char­ac­ter was to a large extent shaped by his intel­lec­tual and upper middle class family.

Oscar was born in 1854 to William (later Sir William) Wilde, a prom­in­ent Dublin ear and eye sur­geon, and his wife Jane Elgee, a noted poet, fem­in­ist and social­ite. He was home edu­cated to the age of nine, with French and German gov­ernesses, and became fluent in both lan­guages. After uni­ver­sity in Dublin and Oxford, where Wilde proved him­self an out­stand­ing clas­si­cist, he moved to London and into fash­ion­able cul­tural and social circles.

He embraced the rising philo­sophy of aes­thet­i­cism, a lit­er­ary and artistic move­ment which was devoted to ‘art for art’s sake’ and which rejec­ted the notion that art should have a social or moral pur­pose. He pub­lished a book of poems, and lec­tured in the United States and Canada on the new English renais­sance in art, before return­ing to London where he worked pro­lific­ally as a journ­al­ist.

Known for his biting wit, flam­boy­ant dress and glit­ter­ing con­ver­sa­tional skill, Wilde became one of the best known per­son­al­it­ies of his day.

Oscar’s wife Constance, with their son Cyril

He had been intro­duced in 1881 to Constance Lloyd, daugh­ter of a wealthy QC. She happened to be vis­it­ing Dublin in 1884 when Wilde was lec­tur­ing at the Gaiety Theatre. He pro­posed to her, and they were mar­ried at the Anglican St James’s Church in Paddington, London.

But Wilde was lead­ing a double life. At the height of his suc­cess, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry pro­sec­uted for crim­inal libel after the latter had left a call­ing card at Wilde’s club, the Albemarle, on which he scribbled: “For Oscar Wilde, posing as Somdomite (sic).” The Marquess was the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearthed evid­ence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross inde­cency with men. After two more trials he was con­victed and sen­tenced to two years’ hard labour from 1895 to 1897.

Upon his release from Reading Gaol, Wilde left imme­di­ately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, the Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), and he died des­ti­tute in Paris from cereb­ral men­ingitis at the age of just 46.

Mike Collins gradu­ated from University College, Galway, in 1973, and his interest in Wilde and his family stems largely from the fact that he grew up in the same town, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, as William Wilde, him­self the son of a prom­in­ent local med­ical prac­ti­tioner.

Mike drew com­par­is­ons between Oscar and his father. For although Sir William became pre-eminent in his field, becom­ing wealthy enough to open his own private hos­pital in Dublin, St Mark’s Opthalmic Hospital, in 1844, and being appoin­ted as Oculist-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria, his later life was also mired in con­tro­versy.

Sir William Wilde, Oscar’s father

His repu­ta­tion suffered irre­par­able damage when Mary Travers, a long-term patient of Wilde’s and the daugh­ter of a col­league, claimed that he had seduced her two years earlier. She wrote a pamph­let crudely par­ody­ing Sir William and Lady Wilde and por­tray­ing him as the rapist of a female patient anaes­thet­ised under chlo­ro­form.

 

Jane, Lady Wilde (sketch attrib­uted to George Morosini)

Lady Wilde com­plained to Mary’s father, Robert Travers, which res­ul­ted in Mary bring­ing a libel case against Lady Wilde. Mary Travers won the case but was awar­ded a mere farth­ing in dam­ages, while legal costs of £2,000 were awar­ded against Lady Wilde.

Then, three years later, the Wilde’s daugh­ter Isola died of fever at the age of nine. In 1871, the two ille­git­im­ate daugh­ters of Sir William burned to death in an acci­dent, and in 1876 Sir William him­self died. The family dis­covered that he was vir­tu­ally bank­rupt.

Lady Wilde, who wrote under the pseud­onym Speranza, was an early advoc­ate for women’s rights and gained a repu­ta­tion for pro-Irish inde­pend­ence and anti-British writ­ing. She wrote an art­icle for The Nation call­ing for armed revolu­tion in Ireland, as a result of which the magazine was per­man­ently closed down by the author­it­ies.

Oscar and Constance Wilde had two sons, Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886). After Oscar’s impris­on­ment, Constance changed her sur­name to Holland and, although not seek­ing a divorce, denied par­ental rights to Oscar.

According to Vyvyan Holland’s accounts in his auto­bi­o­graphy, Son of Oscar Wilde, Oscar was a devoted and loving father to his two sons and their child­hood was a rel­at­ively happy one.

At the start of his present­a­tion Mike had run a few of Oscar Wilde’s wit­ti­cisms past us, includ­ing one of the best known: “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of noth­ing.” Personally, the one I like the best was reputedly uttered as he lay dying in a dingy hotel room in Paris. “My wall­pa­per and I are fight­ing a duel to the death. One of us has to go.”

 

 

Footpads, Kings and Highwaymen — Ian Morgan — 29th January 2018

This was local his­tor­ian Ian Morgan’s third visit to us in con­sec­ut­ive years and, as some­body who was born and raised vir­tu­ally on the Great North Road, I had a cer­tain affin­ity with his latest offer­ing.

Ian spe­cial­ises in crimes and pun­ish­ments from times past – most of us will remem­ber his talk entitled Inspector Hopkinson’s Discovery – and Footpads, Kings and Highwaymen gave us an insight into darker times on the Great North Road over its 34-mile jour­ney through Nottinghamshire.

The first ques­tion Ian had anti­cip­ated was, what was a foot­pad? It was, simply, a high­way­man oper­at­ing on foot rather than on horse­back.

The basic prob­lem facing trav­el­lers on what has become the A1 – Britain’s longest trunk road from London to Edinburgh – was one of nav­ig­a­tion. Ian showed us a fine John Speed map of the county of Nottinghamshire dated 1610, which would look attract­ive enough in a frame but was of lim­ited use for some­body trying to make their way from one town to another. The idea of join­ing up these places with lines of vary­ing thick­ness to por­tray roads or even dirt tracks as they would have been at the time had not struck Britain’s lead­ing car­to­grapher of the day as import­ant, apart from a few street plan inserts of major towns.

John Speed’s 1610 map of Nottinghamshire

Next came the so-called strip map – we were shown one from London to Dover — in which con­sec­ut­ive stretches of the road one was trav­el­ling would be laid out ver­tic­ally, across a page, with vari­ous vil­lages and local fea­tures illus­trated – not unlike an RAC route plan­ner of more recent times.

A later strip map, show­ing con­sec­ut­ive sec­tions of the same road

 

In stage coach days, just ven­tur­ing out even on what was to become Britain’s best known trunk road, then often axle deep in mud, was a haz­ard­ous occu­pa­tion, and an altern­at­ive route appar­ently took trav­el­lers by way of Nottingham during the winter months. But Grantham, though in Lincolnshire, estab­lished itself as the main East Midlands town on the road and, from the south, Nottinghamshire is entered just after Long Bennington, and a couple of miles before the start of the Newark-on-Trent bypass.

Although the Great North Road con­tin­ues through the centre of Newark, it is nowadays des­ig­nated the A6065. Newark remained Royalist through­out the Civil War, and the town was often dubbed ‘the key of the North’ because of its stra­tegic pos­i­tion. To this day, Newark is per­haps best known for its castle, the Civil War and its market.

Newark Castle

King John breathed his last in the castle in 1216. It was sus­pec­ted at the time that his food or drink had been poisoned, but dys­en­tery seems the most likely cause and, after suf­fer­ing for two or three days, he died. A tower still stand­ing at one end of the castle ruins is where his death was affirmed, and this is still known as King John’s Tower.

Just north of Newark, Smeaton’s Viaduct car­ries the A616, part of the ori­ginal Great North Road, over the River Trent in 125 arches near South Muskham. John Smeaton, often regarded as the father of civil engin­eer­ing, is better known as the designer of the third Eddystone Lighthouse.

John Smeaton’s 125-arch via­duct

Toilet waste from Newark castle would drain straight into the River Trent, which is why most people in those days would drink beer rather than water, and our next stop-off of Tuxford seems to have had a sim­ilar repu­ta­tion, having once been described as a ‘stink­ing, rancid hole.’

Tuxford was at one time known as Tuxford in the Clays, One trav­el­ler speaks of the ‘clayey grounds’ in this vicin­ity, over which his steed could not travel more than two miles an hour. ‘

At West Markham we passed The Milton Mausoleum, a Grade I listed redund­ant Anglican church built by the fourth Duke of Newcastle in memory of his wife and two daugh­ters. It was con­sec­rated by the Archbishop of York in 1833 and closed as a parish church in the 1950s.

The Milton Mausoleum at West Markham

The A1 now takes a route to the west of Retford, but we fol­lowed the Great North Road straight through the town which takes its name from the sand­stone on which it is built – Red Ford.

The Scrooby con­greg­a­tion were Protestant sep­ar­at­ists who lived in the vil­lage of Scrooby, close to where we end our jour­ney. In 1607-08 the con­greg­a­tion emig­rated to Leiden, in the Netherlands, to seek the free­dom to wor­ship as they chose. William Brewster Jnr, one of the lead­ers of the move­ment, even­tu­ally sailed to New England on the Mayflower as one of the so-called Pilgrim Fathers.

Ian didn’t have a par­tic­u­larly old shot of Scrooby, so here’s one of today’s blog­ger and club sec­ret­ary Graham Snowdon, taken in around 1953! Drop handle­bars to boot!

Just north of Scrooby is Gibbet Hill Lane, named after a brutal murder that took place in July 1779 when John Spencer killed the Scrooby toll-bar keeper William Yeadon and his mother. He was executed after a trial at Nottingham Assizes and his body hung in a gibbet cage on a slope south of the River Ryton.

Continuing north into Bawtry it is clear to see we have left Nottinghamshire behind us because the first house on the right hand side as one enters the town, which is offi­cially 1 South Parade, Bawtry, has long been known simply as “No 1 Yorkshire.”

The house in Bawtry known as No 1 Yorkshire

So our jour­ney was over, and so was another enter­tain­ing present­a­tion by Ian Morgan.

 

CURIOSITIES OF DERBYSHIRE & SOUTH YORKSHIREJOHN TAYLOR20TH NOVEMBER 2017

This was John Taylor’s fourth visit to Stumperlowe Probus Club, but this time it felt more as though we were the vis­it­ors and he was lead­ing us on a fas­cin­at­ing day out, vir­tu­ally in our own back­yard.

It’s amaz­ing what undis­covered treas­ures there are on one’s own door­step, and John’s talk took us on a  guided tour either side of the bound­ary between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

That wavy line has of course been changed many times over the years. The Sheffield suburb of Dore, which once stood on the border of the Anglo-Saxon king­doms of Northumbria and Mercia, was in the county of Derbyshire until 1934, and neigh­bour­ing Norton was trans­ferred to Sheffield in two tranches, in 1901 and 1934.

John’s present­a­tion could have been sub-titled Connected Jottings, but in fact there wasn’t a jot­ting in sight as he took us through an eclectic mix of local his­tory without a single note in front of him. John is a pro­fes­sional his­tor­ian with a broad know­ledge of his sub­ject. He is a writer, his­tor­ical con­sult­ant and researcher, and often acts as a guide for English Heritage and other public bodies.

More import­antly to us, per­haps, he also believes that his­tory should be a fun sub­ject appeal­ing to all tastes and back­grounds.

I like to look beneath the sur­face and link things together, so that the talk has con­tinu­ity,” he told us in his intro­duc­tion. “Horace Walpole coined the term ‘serendip­ity’ [mean­ing a for­tu­nate hap­pen­stance or a pleas­ant sur­prise], but the dif­fer­ence with me is that I actu­ally look for serendip­ity.”

Our meander star­ted in Norton, birth­place (in 1781) of Sir Francis Chantrey, the lead­ing por­trait sculptor of Regency era Britain. Chantrey, who died at the age of 60 and is buried in the church­yard at Norton, was a friend of the Bagshawe family, which gave us a link to Oakes Park, home of the Bagshawes for almost 300 years until 1987.

Sir Francis Chantrey, sculptor

Francis Chantrey designed the ter­race in front of the house, but Sir John Nash laid out the grounds of Oakes Park and the lake there was dug by Napoleonic pris­on­ers between 1803 and 1804. So on now to Dronfield, where the Lucas Arch marks the site of Lucas’s steel foundry which pro­duced can­non­balls which were used in the Napoleonic Wars and, in all prob­ab­il­ity, at the decis­ive Battle of Waterloo.

The Napoleonic link then took us on to Chesterfield, where French officers who were pris­on­ers of war were bil­leted at the Falcon Inn, now a branch of the Yorkshire Building Society.

Chesterfield’s crooked spire.

The town is prob­ably most famous for its crooked spire, and in the church­yard of St Mary and All Saints is a memorial stone to a French pris­oner who was cap­tured in Sardinia, imprisoned on a float­ing hulk ship and then offered parole in Chesterfield.

 

 

Tapton House

We went, appro­pri­ately, via the only remain­ing build­ing which made up the ori­ginal Chesterfield rail­way sta­tion to Tapton House, which was the home of rail­way pion­eer George Stephenson for the last ten years of his life. The house was then bought by the Markham family of engin­eers and col­li­ery owners and it was the birth­place in 1872 of the prom­in­ent suf­fra­gette Violet Markham.

 

George Stephenson, engin­eer and inventor

George Stephenson, whose statue stands out­side the present Chesterfield sta­tion, is best known as the father of the rail­ways, but he also designed a miner’s safety lamp and even a glass cucum­ber straight­ener, an example of which is on dis­play at the town’s museum. Not a lot of people know that.

 

 

At Ashover we saw the Crispin Inn, dating back to the time of Agincourt, and — next door to it — All Saints’ Church which houses a lead font dating back to 1150 which the rector, Emanuel Vaughan, buried in his garden for five years during the Civil War.

 

The wind­ing house for the former Matlock tram­way

Hold tight! Our next stop was Matlock, and what was pre­vi­ously the wind­ing house for the steep­est road­way tram system in the world, beat­ing even San Francisco. Smedley’s Hydro in the town became a School of Military Intelligence during World War Two, when Dirk Bogarde (who would end his ser­vice as a major) was among its stu­dents.

 

The former Rowsley sta­tion

Rowsley Retail Park was built as the sixth    Duke of Devonshire’s rail­way sta­tion. No doubt Chatsworth’s garden designer Joseph Paxton used the sta­tion in later years, but his first jour­ney to Chatsworth had been via the Chesterfield coach and a long walk over the moors. Paxton, who coin­cid­ent­ally was the mater­nal grand­father of Violet Markham, of Tapton House, is buried in the family tomb in the church­yard at Edensor.

 

The Rutland Inn, Bakewell

Who knew that Jane Austen wrote, or at least revised the manu­script of, her novel Pride and Prejudice while stay­ing at the Rutland Arms in Bakewell, where the first eponym­ous pud­ding was made by an Ann Wheeldon?

 

Frederic Barker, Archbishop of Sydney from 1854 to 1882, was born in Baslow and is buried in the church­yard there.

 

The Round House, Ringinglow

Almost back in Sheffield now, and the Round House at Ringinglow, built in 1893 at the con­ver­gence of two turn­pikes, isn’t round at all but octa­gonal. Totley Tunnel, which cuts beneath the Derbyshire-Yorkshire bound­ary, was opened in the same year but the memorial to the nav­vies killed during its con­struc­tion is in the cemetery at Crookes, tra­di­tional centre of the Irish com­munity in Sheffield.

 

Our run-in to the centre of Sheffield was via the city’s first tram shed at Heeley, built in 1878, and the Botanical Gardens, to the Wicker Arches, designed by Sir John Fowler, of Wadsley Hall, whose later work included the Forth rail­way bridge.

After a diver­sion to Ecclesfield, where Nelson’s per­sonal chap­lain Alexander John Scott is buried (he was the father-in-law of the vicar), we ended up in para­dise. Well, Paradise Square to be pre­cise.

The afore­men­tioned Francis Chantrey had his first studio at No 24, and other occu­pants of the square included the phys­i­cian David Daniel Davis, who was present at the birth of Queen Victoria in 1819 and was later appoin­ted first Professor of Midwifery at the University of London.

Never again need we be short of ideas for a local day out!