With North England well covered, I will be reporting on the East Midlands next, which takes in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire. The breadth of this area goes from the North Sea to Stoke-on-Trent and the border of Sheffield to Northampton and Althorp House (Princess Diana’s ancestral home.) Check out my cool East Midlands map in the Derbyshire album!
The gentle hills and dales of Derbyshire provide the inhabitants with Peak District National Park. It was the first officially established in England in 1951, covering 532 square miles bordered by the towns of Ashbourne, Sheffield, Macclesfield and Holmfirth. Dark Park covers the north in grid stone outcrops and the more pastoral White Peak is a division containing dry stone walls and sunken vales. On April 24, 1932 an organized party of trespassers issued a demonstration on Kinder Scout to establish the right of access to these once privately held lands. This led to England’s establishment of national parks.
A walking tour takes in Bakewell (where Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Hassop Hall reside), Hathersage (which was the model for Morton in the book Jane Eyre), Edale’s breathtaking views, Buxton ( a lovely spa town), Dovedale Valley and the White Peak. It’s a forty mile walk which will leave a wonderful impression of Derbyshire on you for years to come. (I can give you details on this upon request.)
Tissington Trail (also included in the Derbyshire photo album) is much shorter (12 miles) but takes in great views of the White Peak and includes Tissington Hall, which sits four miles north of Ashbourne. Tissington has been home to the FitzHerbert family for over five hundred years. The entire Village is well maintained and the house has features which delight such as fine wood paneling, art of the Old Masters and ten acres of garden with an arboretum and includes Old Coach House Tearoom, open for refreshments from 11 to 5 daily. T- 01335 352200 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A curious tradition of what is called a well dressing is something you’re likely to encounter in Derbyshire and parts of the East Midlands. There is such a well at Tissington and it is an ancient tradition harkening back to the days of the plague. They take place during the months between May and August, blessing and thanking God for clean, healthy water. http://sinfin.net/welldressing/wellback.html
If you head north from Tissington, Peveril Castle will be the northernmost while Barlborough Hall and Bolsover Castle hang east right along the Nottinghamshire border. In between them are Chatsworth (which I already covered on June 19th) and Eyam Hall , splendid Haddon Hall, Bakewell Old House in Bakewell and an authentic castle hotel- Hassop Hall (which I will cover in another entry along with other hotels to stay in during your tour of Derbyshire.)
Most of what you will see in Bakewell dates from the 13th century but its origins date back to Roman occupation ( Haddon Hall contains a Roman altar ) and was rebuilt back in the 1840s. Old House Museum , an authentic medieval building which was built by Ralf Gell in 1534, serves as the local history museum and the home of Bakewell Historical Society. The Peak National Park offices are located at Aldern House on Baslow Road.
High up above Castle Village (fifteen miles west of Sheffield) the square tower of Peveril Castle allows you to take in views of the Peak district, Hope Valley, Mam Tor and the pretty village below. Known as the Castle Peak in the middle ages, it was made famous by Sir Walter Scott in his Peveril of the Peak.
William Peverel, who was given title of bailiff of Royal Manors of the Peak, founded it during the Norman conquest. When it passed into the hands of Henry II, additions were made which included a square keep and round-headed windows, circa 1176. The Great Hall was added in the 13th century and by 1400 its strategic use was over and thereafter was used as a prison because of its sturdy walls. Because of modern renovation it’s now possible to have access to two rooms previously unavailable to visitors: A medieval garderobe (lavatory) and a small room in the square tower which offers great views.
Just southeast in Hope Valley Eyam Hall, a late stone Jacobean manor house, sits right in the center of Eyam Village. It has been in the Wright family since 1671 and is still a private residence with wonderful interior treasures from the architecture itself to the tapestries, portraits and costumes. Regular concert events are held here along with civil weddings and the craft center, gift shop and historic farmyard are brilliant touches.
South of Chatsworth House and less than two miles south of Bakewell, Haddon Hall is a monument to four centuries of castle development since Peverel ( yes, the same one- who may have been the son of William the Conqueror) took possession in medieval times. The Vernons developed it into a Tudor manor house over the centuries up until it passed into the hands of the Manners family who became the Dukes of Rutland. It is still in their possession.
Much of the medieval remains- the Great Hall, kitchens and the chapel. Very few other medieval structures have withstood the passage of time as well as Haddon Hall. Several period movies have been filmed there, including Jane Eyre (1996). The Rose Gardens shouldn’t be missed, in season of course, which contains roses, clematis and delphiniums. It is considered one the most romantic gardens in England. Arthur, Henry VIII’s elder brother was a frequent guest here of the Vernons.
Bolsover Castle, Barlborough Hall (now a school) and Renishaw Hall, sixteen miles east of Bakewell, are wonderful for architectural tests, especially for distinguishing which parts are renovated and what’s original or authentic. Six miles from Mansfield, Bolsover sits splendidly on a plateau of forested grounds on the former site of a Norman Castle. Huntington Smythson (son of Robert Smythson) built this castle for Sir Charles Cavendish (Bess of Hardwick’s son.) This 17th century exercise in medievalism is fourteen storeys high, with the first two being vaulted, square built with several angled turrets and hooded Jacobean fireplaces. This castle was obviously meant to fulfill fantasies but it has a few surprises- one of which is an indoor riding house which makes it the oldest one of its kind in Europe.
Head north, right up to the border between Derbyshire and South Yorkshire for Barlborough Hall. It was built by Sir Francis Rhodes in the 1580s, with a plan built on a square high basement and small internal courtyard. It is, essentially, Elizabethan and the design imitates Robert Smythson’s style. You’ll need to contact the Governors for a tour because it’s a private school but arrangements can be made if you call ahead.
T- 01246 435138
Equidistant from Sheffield and Chesterfield, and a short expanse northwest from Barlborough, Renishaw Hall stands in 300 acres of antique parkland. The Italianate formal gardens contain encompassing statues, yew hedges, water gardens and lakes. This is the home of Sir Reresby and Lady Sitwell which is available for inside tours by written request. The Sitwell Museum and Art gallery are situated in the Georgian stables along with a craft workshop and café. Those who visit the Museum are treated to a beautiful display of Fiori de Henrique sculptures.
Next, you might want to head west all the way to the Derbyshire/Chesire border to Buxton, which is a spa town developed by the fifth Duke of Devonshire in the late part of the 18th century. Buxton was known to the Romans as Aquae Arnemetiae (Spa of the Goddess of the Grove). While it doesn’t have a castle it has many fine neo-classical buildings such as the magnificent opera house, a crescent which rivals Bath’s Royal Crescent, a wonderful spring where water emerges at a rate of 1, 849 gallons and the Museum and Art Gallery on Terrace Road will help you gain a perspective on the Peak district geologically and archaeologically. Check out Sir William Boyd Dawkins study on local spelunking, as we like to call it (!) He is the author of Cave Hunting. Derbyshire has plenty of natural caves for enthusiasts to explore, so if this interests you, let me know and I’ll do some extra research so I can report on the wonderful possibilities for caving in Derbyshire and other areas of England! The paintings, photograph and sculpture collections of this museum will delight, too.
If you head back south through Matlock, just south east, off the A615 is a great folly castle on an opposite hill to the old spa (which was built in the 1780s), Riber Castle Wildlife Park. It’s future is uncertain because of financial difficulties of the past and present but it might be worth a brief look. There are a lot of mining concerns and a museum in Matlock also.
Heading back north up towards the border just outside Chesterfield you’ll find Bess of Hardwick’s castles- Hardwick Old Hall (in ruins, of course) and the new Hardwick Hall. Both are housed in the same 300 acre country park. The ruins of the old serve as a type of wonderful viewpoint for photographing the new mansion and it is well worth the visit to do so.
The sixth Duke of Devonshire also saved Hardwick Hall from destruction- to the tune of a million pounds! It is a magnificent Elizabethan example with tall mullioned windows, allowing large amounts of light into the sixteenth century prodigy house built by Robert Smythson. Needlework and tapestries are on permanent display along with beautiful interiors. The gardens include orchards and an herb garden within walled courtyards. You’ll also see sheep and cattle grazing on grounds of the estate. Stainsby Mill, also a feature of the estate, has been a working corn mill on the site since the 13th century.
Further southwest and a half mile south of South Wingfield, Wingfield Manor is a wonderful castle ruin which was built in the 15th century. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here on several different occasions, the first in 1596 then 1584 and 1585. It is deserted and has been so since 1770s but was originally built for Lord Cromwell around 1450 on the site of a 12th century castle. It was purchased by the Second Earl of Shrewsbury and it is surmised that it was here that Mary met Babington who organized the aborted Babington Plot to gain her the crown. The last renovation was made by an astronomer by the name of Halton. It does have a current owner but is managed by English Heritage who must be contacted to arrange visits. This is often the case with ruinous castles and is meant for your own personal safety.
Carnfield Hall is a very short distance away and a mere five minute walk away from Alfreton Station. From 1502 up to the present it has been the seat of the Revell, Wilmot and Cartland families. This sumptuous Elizabethan mansion is fitted with paneled rooms, 17th century staircases, a great chamber along with three centuries of all mediums of art including royal relics. Tours can be arranged directly with the owner, J.B. Cartland. T- 01773 520084
Now you’ll take a good jaunt down toward Derby to Kedleston Hall, which along with Sudbury Hall, Hardwick Hall and Calke Abbey is considered one of the four Great Houses of Derbyshire. This neoclassical Palladian Palace is situated five miles northwest of Derby on 800 acres of parkland. It was built between 1759 and 1765 from plans drawn by Robert Adam (1728-1792) who paid attention to decorative details always in Classical motifs. He was a pioneer of the neo-Classical style derived from ancient Greece and Rome. One room still contains the original drawings and plans for the house and gardens. This palace was built for Lord Scarsdale in the 1760s and the Scarsdale family still reside here. (From the photographs I have included in the Derbyshire album you’ll be able to see the size and extensive outpost wings from the main hall adjoined by quarter-arch corridors.)
The receiving state room houses the central hall with Corinthian columns made of pink alabaster. Additional state rooms include a drawing room containing a wonderful collection of paintings (and sensational plasterwork), the Music room which also houses many paintings and the domed rotunda saloon in the anterior portion of the main hall where the Scarsdale family display their sculpture collection. The wings are private living quarters for the family on one side and the other wing houses the kitchens with a dining area large enough to cater to hundreds of party guests. Behind the Kitchen and servants quarters wing, the relatively small but magnificent 13th century church is all that remains of old Kedleston Village.
The gardens are nearly as delightful as the palace complete with woodland walks and elaborate pleasure gardens. Kedleston is an experience you won’t soon forget. However, don’t dawdle we must move along.
Further south, Elvaston Castle, which was built early in the 19th century, has a neo-classical front and elegant interior. It is currently undergoing extensive renovations so tours are only given on certain days. Call way ahead to make sure you can make an interior tour.
Built by the 3rd Earl of Harrington around 1817 using James Wyatt’s design, it encompasses a large estate with a country park and nature reserve. As a matter of fact, it was the first country park designated in 1968 in Britain. Pay close attention to the south end gates- they were brought there by Charles Stanhope from the Palace of Versailles in 1819!! This castle was in the possession of the Stanhope family for over 200 years. Nearby is the estate church, a riding centre and a tearoom is open on the premises for refreshments, as well.
From Elvaston, if you swing west as far as the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border to Sudbury Hall, near Ashbourne, is a rather eclectic mixture of Georgian and Elizabethan architecture with surprises- like a lovely row of dormer windows along the top floor. It is also the National Trust’s Museum of Childhood. It’s individualistic style begun by George Vernon in 1660 includes rich decoration with wood carvings by Gibbons and Pierce, prodigious plasterwork (staircases and friezes!) and mythological paintings by Laguerre. The most recent restoration- in the kitchen- was featured in the current BBC2 drama series ‘In a Land of Plenty’.
For children the displays are an historical survey of English childhood from the 18th century on, including chimney climbs for the more adventurous and Cadbury’s collection of dolls and toys are on exhibit This establishment caters to special and individual needs and arrangements can be made by contacting the Property Secretary. http://www.plus44.com/local/derbys/derbysr.html#Sudbury T-01283 585337
Melbourne Hall and Calke Abbey are in the southernmost portions of Derbyshire. Both are in very close proximity to Ashby-de-la-Zouche Castle just over the border in Leicestershire.
Melbourne Hall is nestled into the most famous French formal gardens in Britain, which features- among many other beauties- Robert Bakewell’s wrought iron ‘Birdcage’. It became home to Sir John Coke in 1628 but is now in the possession of Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr and their young family. If the name Melbourne makes you think of Australia, there’s a good reason for that- the Victorian prime Minister, William Lamb, the 2nd Viscount Melbourne gave his name to the famous city and this mansion. Located seven miles south of Derby off the A458. www.melbournehall.com
Just a hop, skip and jump south from Melbourne Hall, Calke Abbey sits in a veritable state of dilapidation. Not much recent restoration has taken place because it’s a type of study in the reality of natural decline of English country estates. Nevertheless, this baroque mansion (which sports mullioned windows) was built from 1701-1703 for Sir John Harpur, is definitely a delight for enthusiasts of historic homes because it has gone unchanged since the 1880s! The family collection of natural history and an 18th century state bed are among the artifacts worth viewing. The landscaped park around it is recently restored with a walled garden, pleasure grounds, an orangery and even grazing sheep and deer.
I will be posting a separate entry for castle and country hotels soon so look for it!
The Castle Lady will send you spelunking into
caves filled with pools of hugs and kisses!
Quote from a poem:
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
our meddling intellect mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things;
we murder to dissect. – William Wordsworth
Check out my photo album for all the new pics for Derbyshire!
–The Castle Lady
Join me! Find new castles and put them up on this special group just for us!
Seahorse Fountain @ Canal Pond , Chatsworth House