The Peak District in the Mid-1900s By Tim Knebel 15th October 2018

Tim is a volun­teer local arch­iv­ist for ‘’Peak in the Past’’ which is a com­munity her­it­age group com­pris­ing a small col­lect­ive of indi­vidu­als with a shared pas­sion for the Derbyshire Peak District and its past. Teaming up with his High Peak Journalist sister Holly, Tim has, from humble begin­nings in 2014, obtained fin­an­cial sup­port to enable the group to work with school­chil­dren, inspir­ing and enga­ging them in their local his­tory, through to eld­erly res­id­ents in res­id­en­tial care homes, gath­er­ing remin­is­cences. With gen­eral his­tory from ori­ginal archive sources, the group gives talks & has made films to reflect & con­trib­ute towards the import­ant sense of regional belong­ing, pride & iden­tity, to help strengthen & enrich com­munity cohe­sion.

The excel­lent illus­trated talk focused on local his­tory and com­munity events, rooted in the real lives of hard work­ing, some­times impov­er­ished rural folk, where the chances to travel away, were not as they are today.

Some past vil­lage cel­eb­ra­tions that occurred in the mid 1900s, high­lighted in the talk, were :-

  • Empire Day on 24th May, which was Queen Victorias’ birth­day and sub­sequently became Commonwealth Day on Queen Elizabeth IIs’ birth­day.
  • May Day, which is dying out
  • The Wakes e.g. on the dates of the Patron Saints of the local Churches
  • Well Dressings, still pop­u­lar
  • Festivals, Fetes, Carnivals, Garland Days, some now gone
  • Bakewell Show, star­ted in 1819, and Bakewell Carnival.
  • The choos­ing of Miss Village from the local beau­ties.

Schools held a more prom­in­ent role in the smal­ler com­munit­ies. Corporal pun­ish­ment was meted out at school & the chil­dren were sub­jec­ted to some­times tough regimes.

The churches were more at the centres of com­munity life with Sunday schools, choirs, girl guides, scouts, womens’ groups, fest­ivals, and sports teams of cricket, foot­ball, tennis, and tug-o-war.

In the smal­ler com­munit­ies enter­tain­ment was avail­able in the form of cinemas, Whist Drives, and theatre, in par­tic­u­lar the legendary Great Hucklow Village Players (1927–71) foun­ded by Dr. Du Guard Peach, which had a world­wide repu­ta­tion.

Pubs, Clubs and Institutes played a major part in vil­lage life, with Ex-Servicemens clubs, and the Mechanical Institute of Eyam prom­in­ent. There was a vil­lage police­man sup­por­ted by Special Constables from volun­teers in the vil­lage, and local emer­gency fire and ambu­lance ser­vices with cot­tage hos­pit­als in nearby larger towns.

WW2 brought evacu­ees to the area, and the Nightingale Institute for Guernsey evacu­ees at Great Hucklow was foun­ded. POW camps were set up in Stoney Middleton and the quarry was bombed to try to stop pro­duc­tion, even though some of the work­ers were POWs. Bombs were also stored at Stoney Middleton.

There was the inev­it­able loss of life amongst those who joined up for both world wars, remembered with prom­in­ent monu­ments and reg­u­lar memorial ser­vices.

Transport devel­op­ments changed hori­zons, with the Railway, cars, & sub­sequent road improve­ments. Winnats Pass was sur­faced in the 1930s & the AA man with his motor­bike and side­car appeared. The horse and cart deliv­ery meth­ods were dying out.

Attitudes were chan­ging and the Kinder Trespass took place in 1932. More leis­ure time was being taken which lead to Caving, Rambling, Climbing, and the first National Park in 1951.

Employment was centred around mining, espe­cially for lead and fluor­spar. Farming and agri­cul­ture and the mills at Bamford (closed 1965), Litton (1960), and Cressbrook (1971) were big employ­ers. The Hope Cement Works since 1945 is still a big pro­du­cer and employer.

There is a time­less splend­our to the Peak District, even with the pres­sures on it, like the flood­ing of Ashopton in the Derwent valley, to con­struct the dams, but the talk show­cased how an import­ant cul­tural her­it­age role is help­ing to pre­serve the past in the Peak District, which is integ­ral to its endur­ing appeal, its con­tin­ued envir­on­mental pro­tec­tion and its long-term sur­vival.

We’re very lucky to have volun­teers like Tim doing this work. More power to your elbow!

A most enjoy­able morn­ing.

For more inform­a­tion (and a few phrases cribbed from it) go to :-

www.peakinthepast.co.uk      e-mail for con­tact  info@peakinthepast.co.uk