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 :-      e-mail for contact