An outline history of Peak Forest and Dove Holes




Roger Hadfield M.A. F.R.G.S.







  • CHAPTER 1: Geography and Geology.
  • CHAPTER 2: Ancient times.
  • CHAPTER 3: Forest of the Peak and development of farming.
  • CHAPTER 4: Limestone and lead.
  • CHAPTER 5: Conclusion.
  • Summary of Cavendish family rents at Peak Forest 1617 - 1622



As a child I lived at Dove Holes until 1940. Throughout the 1930’s changes such as electricity, motor transport and the radio were beginning to have marked effects on the social and economic life in that part of Derbyshire which in many respects, was still that of late Victorian England and I was very conscious of a village community spirit.

When my father died at Nottingham in 1980, I discovered papers which showed that my family had lived in the Peak District for at least three hundred years and this fostered an interest in the area’s history. I found that although there were histories of Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Castleton, it was necessary to turn to a whole variety of sources to discover anything about Dove Holes and Peak Forest. However, these showed that this bit of Derbyshire far from being a remote and barren area that first impressions give, has a fascinating story to tell.

I have therefore attempted to write a simple and short account of it all avoiding technical terms wherever possible though giving plenty of references to various learned authorities. In Derbyshire they still talk of yards and miles, not kilometres so I have kept to the old measurements.

Roger HADFIELD M.A. (Oxon)

Nuthall, Notts. 1985

Since this account was written it is likely that there have been corrections and additions.



Many people have helped with this account but special thanks are due to Mr. R. Flindall (some lead mining details), Mr. M.A. Pearman (Librarian, Chatsworth House) and Mrs. B. Summers (typist).




First of all a short account partly for those who do not know the area very well but also because the area’s history cannot be fully understood without some knowledge of the various rocks. It is mostly a limestone plateau or tableland just over 1,000 feet above sea level - its northern and western edges are gritstone or sandstone hills which rise rapidly to over 1,500 feet especially to the north on Kinder. The plateau is cut up by two large valleys, which run towards the south-east. These are first Dove Holes Dale with Peak Dale running into Great Rock’s Dale and secondly, Dam Dale, Hay Dale and Peter Dale running eventually into Monk’s Dale.

The district consists of the Civil Parish of Peak Forest and the Dove Holes area - today all controlled from Chapel-en-le-Frith. Dove Holes has really always been part of Chapel-en-le-Frith (nineteenth century part of the ‘township’ of Combs Edge). A small southern portion of the Dove Holes part also came under Wormhill and a detached portion of Hope for many years. Nevertheless, the main idea is to show how this limestone corner of Derbyshire has always been different.

It is the one aspect of this district, which has been studied in minute detail and in itself is a marvellous story. The geologists tell us about what they call sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock, anticlines, synclines, faults, sills, glaciation, drainage patterns and so on. To those interested in the formation of the limestone with its fossils, the great sandstone delta and the forces which built the hills there is the book ‘Geology of the Country around Chapel-en-le-Frith’. This has excellent maps and photographs of the quarries and so on but here is a brief outline of the geology without being too technical.

Most of the plateau consists of large beds or layers of often very pure limestone. They have been upfolded or squeezed to form domes - one of which straddles Peak Forest village from north to south. These domes have produced the hills such as Beelow and Eldon Hill - this latter name incidentally comes from the old English ‘Elves Hill’. However, especially along its northern edge the limestone is not the massive bedded variety but a fine-grained non-layered and much studied type formed in ancient seas as reefs. Part of this forms Gautries Hill - this name is believed to originate from ‘Gallows Tree’ - and also such hills as the northern Snelslow.

Limestone has many cracks, which let water through, and especially in the reef limestone many caves have been formed. Many of these caves are nationally famous and frequently visited by the caving societies. They include the many caves below Eldon - Miller’s Chamber and Damocles Rift, the numerous caves around Perryfoot under the old lead mines - Bull’s Pit, Christmas Pot etc. and the caves south of Middle Hill - Oxley Cavern and Nettle Pot. There are also caves near Oxlow proper and the Dove Holes caves.

Where the water goes underground there are holes such as the seventeen ‘swallow holes’ of Rushup Vale and those at Dove Holes. Two very deep holes are Giant’s Hole and Eldon Hole. The latter thought originally to be bottomless was a renowned tourist attraction last century as was the ‘Ebbing and flowing well’ at Barmoor where the water originally used to bubble up about every five minutes due to a syphon effect.

Between the limestone layers, a molten flow of material later to become solid, formed a rock called dolerite and this happened immediately around Peak Forest village. This rock does not

let water through so when there is plenty of rain streams can flow and this was vital for settlement. Such streams dug out shallow valleys in the dolerite, e.g. the one to the north of the church and also near Backlane Farm. Other molten rock came to the surface especially a rock called basalt and this volcanic material can be found near Dove Holes.

At a later stage in the geological history along cracks in the limestone came hot steam and liquid which when it became solid contained the lead and other minerals. These mineral veins run in large numbers from west to east across the northern part of the limestone.

The northern part of our area Rushup Edge consists of a sandstone scarp - the so-called millstone grit but between it and the limestone is the shale grit (layers of clay and sand) which has been hollowed out and forms another distinct boundary. The shale is also found in the west of Dove Holes where the railway follows its line. Mining and quarrying of all these various rocks and minerals play a vital part in this story.

The drainage of the area by rivers and streams is towards the south-east but from surrounding hills they flow north-west - here is in fact a major water shed or divide in England.

Various ideas about the drainage on the limestone have been put forward but today most of the valleys have no water in them. One theory is that there was a lot more water about just after the Ice Age. The edge of the ice apparently was in our surrounding hills. Barmoor Clough was formed either by a tongue of ice or a river flowing from it. There is also on Rushup Edge and to the south-east of Lady Low a lot of a kind of clay called ‘Head’ which was deposited there at the end of the Ice Age - and this brings us to the soils.

On the limestones the soils are surprisingly good as after the Ice Age several patches of rich loams were deposited. Thus man has managed to produce some reasonable grasslands in parts. Soils of course depend also on climate as does farming and it is the rainfall, which drastically affects both. Although partially sheltered by the hills the area has well over forty inches of rain (including snow) which falls on average on over 200 days each year - there can be up to 40 days in a year when snow is lying. The A6 road is blocked even today for a short time most years by snow.

However, the real difficulty for farming, especially for crops, is that summers are cool and short. In nearby sheltered Buxton frost has been recorded over the years in every month bar August. Pastoral farming is therefore the main occupation but cattle have to be kept inside for long periods. As a result over the centuries sturdy gritstone and limestone farms with shippons and barns have been constructed. These buildings themselves would make for a very interesting study. Most that we see today are of the great eighteenth century rebuilding with some nineteenth century extensions. However, as will be shown, many of the farm sites are of great age and there is a long low block of the seventeenth century and earlier.

The few copses and plantations which exist today have been put there either as wind breaks or to cover old lead workings. In the latter case the chief reason was to prevent cattle being poisoned. Two good examples where trees are found today are Jackson’s Plantation (wind break planted 1733 and Watt’s Plantation and Jewelknoll Plantation (lead) - again early eighteenth century. They consist chiefly of ash with wych-elm, hazel and hawthorn together with a few pines and some yew trees. The question as to whether there were many more trees here will be dealt with later.




Just over ten thousand years ago the Ice Age came to an end in this part of the world. First of all the area would be like the present day Arctic and then vegetation gradually developed. Bones of animals of that period were found in a cave at Dove Holes in 1903.

Some time after this, just when is not clear, men arrived in the area but about four thousand years ago they created at Dove Holes what was called in the nineteenth century the ‘Bull Ring’. This was an oval shaped area with a ditch some 4 to 7 feet deep with the earth piled up on the outside. Obviously this was not for defence and the authorities consider that it would have had standing stones and be a ‘henge’ type of place used for sun worship or some kind of religious or ceremonial function. A similar well-known ‘henge’ is found at Arbor Low 10 miles to the south-east and the two places were undoubtedly linked. It is thought that the men who built it were hunters and primitive herdsmen and that at that time the area was covered with forest or woodland.

During the next thousand years (from about two to three thousand years ago) the trees were mostly removed by people who were pastoralists and they left their mark by constructing tumuli or barrows which were burial mounds on practically every hill in our area. There is one two hundred and fifty feet to the south-west of the Bull Ring, there are three on Eldon Hill, two on Gautries, one to the west of Dogmanslack, one on Lady Low and many others - undoubtedly some have been removed by quarrying.

Next about two thousand years ago people practising a primitive arable farming constructed the great defensive encampments on Mam Tor and Castle Naze just outside the edge of our area. The conclusion must be that there were quite a lot of people about in those times.

In their excellent book ‘Peakland Roads and Trackways’ the Dodds suggest that the Bull Ring as a focal point there would be ridgeway tracks linking all these places. Perhaps a route ran from Arbor Low along the ridge to Castle Naze and then round to Mam Tor.

After this, slightly under two thousand years ago the Romans arrived in our area and it is generally agreed that in Derbyshire they followed the old pre-historic tracks as far as possible. Thanks to the work of Wroe and Mellor we can now trace the road on the west side of our area. It ran from Buxton to Glossop parallel to the present A6 road, changed course near the railway station and went up over Martinside and through Sittinglow Farm - here and there stones of this road’s foundations exist to this day.

Running across the south of the area is the well-known Roman road the Batham Gate - the way to the baths at Buxton from the Fort near Brough. It forms part of the present road as it runs north-east. It went through Smalldale, across Dam Dale and ran across the line of the short bit of modern road cutting through the straight between the double bends on the A623 road. For these roads the Romans certainly used lime and limestone and it is highly likely that they mined lead in the vicinity of Peak Forest since there is fairly conclusive evidence that they got lead in Bradwell Dale.

So, from this brief outline, it can be seen that the area had its own special significance in pre-historic times.



As a child I always found it strange that the straggling village called Peak Forest was neither a peak or in a forest. I also asked why the railway station was in another village with a different name and why the tops of all surrounding hills were called ‘lows’!

The Derbyshire ‘Peak’ I was told was Kinder or the high area of Derbyshire and that the whole district had once been a forest - even these explanations were not strictly accurate. Many learned authorities now say that ‘Peacesland’ means ‘land of the Saxons’ and this is the origin of the ‘Peak District’. Certainly the Saxon word for a mound or hill was ‘hlow’ from which we get ‘low’. From this we can assume that the Saxons came into this area in the seventh century A.D. or thereabouts. Very little is known about our area at that period and perhaps apart from the use of the old route ways there was for once very little going on here - future research tells us more.

In 1087 - Domesday Book - there are no settlements recorded in our area at all and much of Derbyshire hereabouts was ‘in waste’. The Norman kings reserved large areas of such uneconomic lands for hunting and called them Royal Forests and this area was one such district. Forest itself here was really a misnomer because the scientists can now tell us that even in Roman times this part of Derbyshire was largely scrub and heath with woodland only in valleys as at Edale or in hollows at the edges of the plateau.

This Forest of the Peak covered a huge area - most of north-west Derbyshire in fact. It spread across Kinderscout down to Tideswell and the river Wye. In 1305 it covered some 100 square miles. It was divided into three parts or wards, Longdendale, Ashop and Edale, and the Champagne (Champion or Campagna). Our area was in fact the last of those whose very name from Latin and French means open country - so obviously this was a grazing area or just barren land. As we shall see as late as 1580 our area consisted of different types of pastureland surrounded by '‘Great Wastes’.

As this story tells we have been fortunate in that many records have survived for our area. In this case the officials of the Forest like officials before and since, produced many reports and so we know quite a lot about the officials - the custos, verderers, foreters and woodwards or reeves. They tell us about the deer, wild pigs, wolves, horses, sheep and how offenders against the Forest laws were taken to the Peak Castle at Castleton where the High Steward lived. For those interested in all this the best of several accounts can be found in the Victoria County History of Derbyshire and the documents - the Rolls of Pleas of The Forset have been edited by Yeatman and others.

Although the castle was important, one of the chief officials had a residence where meetings took place and in 1250 it is reported as "Camera in Forester Regia Pecci’ and ‘Camera in Campana’. This is the Chamber in the Royal Forest of the Peak in Champagne and its site was probably at the present Chamber Farm or possibly at nearby Chamber Knowl or Knoll.

There are other records about the building and its contents and there was a similar Chamber in Macclesfield Forest. It is also believed that Dogmanslack was the residence of an official who looked after the dogs for hunting. (‘Slack’ often used in Derbyshire means a small valley or hollow between hills and thus is most appropriate here). This farm originally controlled a large area but this was split up in the seventeenth century. Other documents tell us of the advance of settlements into the ‘Forest’, for example enclosures were pushed up Great Rocks Dale from Tunstead. In other valleys trees were cleared (often illegally) and houses built. In 1220 the Chapel in the Forest (Chapel-en-le-Frith) was built and settlement took place near Combs and Ford Hall. This can be read in Mr. Bunting’s work on Chapel and Mrs. Bellhouses excellent study of Combs. It is also interesting to note that Fairfield towards Buxton was just that; that is, it had reputedly the best pastures in Camgana which were often the subject of disputes.

Much of the northern Dove Holes area was from early times herbeages (area of pasture leased out of Crown lands) one was Bolt Edge. The other was called Halsteds (present Hallsteades). This name may come from ‘Hall-site’ as in the fourteenth century it was the ‘pasture de Harrall de Hallesaundes’ and also in the Hope Valley there is another Halsteades reputedly from ‘Hall site’. Some authorities however have suggested that the herbeage may have belonged to one Austead, a forester, who was fined in 1280 for keeping horses illegally in Campana. This herbeage included Martinside, which is mentioned in the thirteenth century though this name and also its old Cross are much older. Martin is the name of a person and the Cross is thought to date from Saxon times when it marked a boundary either religious or perhaps an area in a Saxon hunting area preceding the Norman ‘Forest’. (Rev. Cox - Memorials of Old Derbyshire)

By looking at all the evidence it is possible to work out how in our area settlement and farming were developed in the period of say 1250 to 1550.

Near the Chamber there undoubtedly grew a small medieval settlement, the start of the ancient Peak Forest village. It had a relatively sheltered position in a shallow bowl in the plateau, which was there because of the geology. Through the limestone hills which surround it came the various tracks meeting near the future Chapel site. It is highly probable that here was a village green subsequently encroached upon by buildings - stretching from near the old Chapel to Old Dam (along Church Lane) - the present day one street village appearance along the A623 road is somewhat misleading.

Originally this settlement would have to be self-supporting and this means that despite the climate there were some large ploughed fields. The learned authorities are uncertain as to the nature of these ‘open fields’ in northern Derbyshire. However, extending south from Eldon Lane End Farm to the main road, there are today long narrow bent fields which may have been this ploughed land and these continued on the eighteenth century maps south to Backlane Farm and beyond. Backlane suggests a lane between a common field (or crofts) and the open waste.

This may have been what the experts call the ‘infield’ a large ploughed field where rye and oats were grown. The rest of our present Peak Forest is ‘The Several of the Campion’. A ‘Several’ was an area where after any crops were gathered was used a common grazing land. The poorer people had a form of crofting - some corn and a few cows for milk, a pig and so on - on which they applied a mix of vegetables and lime known as ‘Ess’ (this term is used today for waste tips of lime). These crofts took the form of small enclosures (often illegal) on the pastures and wastes.

Where other narrow fields existed to the nineteenth century and to this day similar crofting probably took place or there may have been other small ‘infields’ - for example, at Smalldale, Sparrowpit and also near Loosehill and in Perrydale. Both Smalldale and Sparrowpit have buildings of the eighteenth century when they were important ‘hamlets’ and as mentioned elsewhere are probably very much older settlement sites.

Near the settlement geological conditions allowed surface water to collect and this was used for ponds near Old Dam and Damside Farm - the names are self-explanatory. Old Dam is first recorded in 1405 and in 1440 the same document which records the re-roofing of ‘The Chamber’ also speaks of ‘the great pond’. The pond was later called ‘Forest Dam’ and there was a corn mill at - the buildings of which existed well into the nineteenth century. Sheep washes were found here and also in Perry Dale.

However, the bulk of our area was pastureland. Traditionally hill store cattle were found on the best limestone pastures with sheep on the others and especially on the gritstone of Rushup Edge. There was spring breeding and then depending on the grass and hay crop surplus stock was sold to the lowlands for fattening. Climatic conditions already mentioned prevented the surplus being carried over the winter - also every few year’s stock would be sold. Wool was important and led to the well-known fair at Chapel-en-le-Frith. The Duchy of Lancaster accounts for 1485 - 1540 give a clear picture of this type of farming in our very area in Tudor times. Under the controlling nobility there developed a number of important men who reared stock - in addition to the various poorer smallholders.

During this period there is evidence of the traditional ways along Rushup Edge and the one down Martinside to Dove Holes and along Longridge being used as drovers roads to move cattle and sheep from and through the area. The former may also have been a ‘salt way’ and the latter (over Martinside) got the name Ashbourne Lane.

Pack horse ways also developed from Tideswell and possibly Wormhill into Peak Forest and then Sparrowpit to Chapel and particularly up Perry Dale and over Rushup to the north-west. Lime and lead were also transported. Thus it was that our area gradually settled and opened up.

It is convenient here to follow the history of farming through to modern times. The rearing of cattle and sheep has continued as the chief form of farming to this day through from the middle of the nineteenth century as transport improved dairying became more important and is quite significant today. A most interesting account of farming at Rushup Farm this century can be found in Mr. Virtue’s book. He mentions the division of the Rushup (Mr. Virtue called it Rushop which is as it is pronounced locally. His family took over from the last Needhams who he explained built the actual Rushop House in the eighteenth century - it lies in Chapel-en-le-Frith parish) area in late sixteenth century into eight ‘neighbourhships’ each of 35 acres. Rushup area was originally called Whitside and two of the divisions were also farmed from the Perryfoot Farm - these divisions can be traced in the walls to this day - see also Map No.6B.

Over most of our area the farms are not very large - usually from 50 to 75 acres (see Photograph A2) though some amalgamations have taken place in the last thirty years. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many holdings were even smaller - about 20 acres. Even with modern machines, fertilising, grass planting and new winter feeds for stock the natural grasses called fescues can easily degenerate if over grazed - all kinds of weeds spring up. So skill in buying and selling stock has always been absolutely vital.

Despite secure long leases granted by the landowners the various charges - rents, taxes and in earlier times church dues (tithes) always cut into any profit. For example, in 1830 the Devonshire’s rent roll in Peak Forest was worth almost £3,000 per year - a lot of money in those days.

Thus in times of agricultural depression there was emigration to either the cities or abroad. For example, in both the 1820’s and 1870’s there are records in Peak Forest and district of families ‘selling up’ and going to America and Canada. Over most of our area for the last two hundred years the farms have been small family affairs and farming very hard work. Fortunately in the nineteenth century poverty was largely prevented by work always being available for the sons in the lead and limestone industries - girls often went ‘into service’ as servants.

Returning now to the story of the Royal Forest. Its official disafforestation began in 1589 when the Earl of Shrewsbury purchased much of Longdendale (this included Kinder and the area to the west and north-west) A map was drawn which showed amongst other things a boundary line (which can today be traced along a wall) near Bradwell and also royal farms in Edale and Ashop that specialised in cattle rearing - a type of ranching. In our area the road along the Parish boundary with Wormhill is mentioned in old documents of 1675 as "The Champagne Forest Wall". Both the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Cavendish family had previously leased sections of the Forest. In 1561 the Earl was "High Steward of the honour of Tutbury of which the Champagne was a part" and in 1575 the Earl wrote to the Lord Treasurer about "a pasture called the Severalty a naked brown ground which has been enclosed and let out".

The Earl of Shrewsbury next married perhaps the most famous of the Cavendishes, ‘Bess of Hardwick’ but later for a variety of reasons quarrelled with her. In 1585 he was advised that in any settlement of land with the Countess to except for himself Ashford, Birchals and the Peak Forest (our area). But at this point he died and the effective control of most of our area passed to the Cavendish family. By 1729 the Duke of Devonshire was High Steward of the Manor of High Peak.

The bulk of the present Peak Forest was in the hands of one branch of the family who became Earls and later the Dukes of Devonshire but Barmoor and part of Rushup Edge went through another branch to become the lands of the Dukes of Newcastle and through them to the Dukes of Portland - it was not until the nineteenth century that the Devonshires got these other lands.

The northern part of the present day Peak Forest at the beginning of the seventeenth century was known as the ‘fosteri’ - this is mentioned on the 1637 map of the Earl of Newcastle’s estates and the Devonshire records as late as 1754. This strangely has nothing to do with ‘forest’ but means land allocated to the monks either for tithes or for grazing their sheep. These may have been the monks of Monk’s Dale to the south. They were from Lenton Abbey in Nottinghamshire and had been granted rights as early in 1272 in Bradwell, Chapel, Tideswell and Hope (and later Castleton and Buxton!) Alternatively they could have been the monks from Walbeck Abbey (also Nottinghamshire) who for centuries had extensive rights at Ashop. When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries the Welbeck estates were acquired by the Earls of Newcastle and later passed to the Dukes of Portland.

In sum the Cavendish family may have obtained this district by buying forest lands which they had previously leased or by acquiring exmonastic lands after 1530. Local legend has it that they simply appropriated it all! In any case, in the late fifteen hundreds there was increasing conflict between enclosures for sheep and the use of land for hunting. In 1586 the various occupiers of land and the foresters drew up an agreement which was a workable compromise. However, King Charles I then endeavoured to raise money using old forest laws and this brought matters to a head. So in 1640 there was an official inquiry (again with maps, which survive,) and this found that there were no longer any deer in the area.

The Civil War then delayed matters but in 1674 the crown finally ‘disafforested’ it all bringing its long history to an end - but the name remains to this day. The remaining wastes and pastures were soon rapidly enclosed and farms with their buildings established in such areas as Barmoor by the Cavendish family.

The church history of our area is also complicated and obscure. Originally, (1087 and before) much of it was in Hope parish though later in some periods it seems to have come under Tideswell. However, in 1659 the Countess of Devonshire who had lost a son in the Civil War started to build the Chapel to King Charles the Martyr at Peak Forest and by the 1670’s it was a Parish in its own right - about that time the Vicar was involved in a court case regarding an assault. For centuries many Derbyshire Churches came directly under the Crown (or the monastic orders) and were semi-independent as it were. Being in the Royal Forest, Peak Forest was extra-parochial being officially a ‘Peculiar’ which meant that it was not under any Bishop’s direct jurisdiction. The Vicar had the right to marry whatever people he wished, he could also prove wills and had his own seal for the purpose - the reputed actual seal of the 1650’s survives to this day. The Bishops at Lichfield never liked this arrangement!

This had two interesting results: It led to Peak Forest becoming a kind of Gretna Green up to the 1750’s (and unofficially to the 1800’s) with all the interesting tales thereof (the most quoted one concerns the murder in the Winnats Pass of a couple who were eloping to Peak Forest) and it also left a variety of documents which have proved invaluable in tracing this story. The Seventh Duke erected a new church in 1878 but the gable end of the old church can still be seen as part of the Reading Room.

The southern and western parts of our area came under Wormhill, Chapel and an outlying part of Hope for Church purposes and this arrangement continued throughout most of the nineteenth century. In recent times Peak Forest Church came under the jurisdiction of the Vicar of Chapel-en-le-Frith but nowadays it is controlled from Dove Holes.

The independent chapels were always tolerated in this area from the late seventeenth century onwards and they became important at Dove Holes and Peak Forest in the nineteenth century.

We are most fortunate in the survival of records for our area which have made this history possible (a full list is given at the end for the specialist). Already mentioned have been those of the Forest of the Peak, of the Church and the Dukes of Devonshire who remained in control of much of the district until 1955.

In addition there are the Crown’s personal records in the Duchy of Lancaster files - from 1379 The Forest was under the Duchy. Several families notably the Bagshaws kept records and there are also the valuable records of the lead mining, which will be examined later.

Above all there is the fossilised landscape to study. Many buildings but especially the walls and holes in the ground are at least two hundred years old and some very much older.




Scattered over the area are limestone quarries large and small indeed they are almost every few hundred yards in places. The limestone has been dug from ‘beyond time’ for buildings, walls and to fertilise the fields. In early times practically every farm quarried and burnt limestone - Kiln Close is a very common field name. It is recorded four centuries ago that the lead miners burnt limestone and wood was used and as mentioned the Romans used it for their roads.

The first real records are in the 1600’s and there is this much-quoted reference from the time of Charles I,

"All those Quarries and pits of lymestone lying in ye crofts by ye Dovehole near Chappell Frith within the waste grounds of the Manor aforesaid for the burning whereof there are at present 14 kilns at work or thereabouts - the kilns being set up ordinarily and taken downe by the people thereabouts at their pleasure without any licence in that behalf, butt if the benefit of digging and burning of Lymestone there might be quietly enjoyed by one single person as tenant to the state whose right we conceave it is, wee vallue the same to be worth £7 per annum."

Dove Hole is undoubtedly the hollow in the centre of the present Dove Holes village originally formed in a wetter period by water. Dove as in Dovedale (where there is another Dove Holes) according to the place name authorities comes from a word meaning ‘dark’ - it is nothing to do with birds! The ‘s’ seems to have been added and perhaps this had to do with limestone pits or even other holes down which water disappeared. Some of the latter can be seen on Photograph A1 to the right of the lime tips. If it was to do with the pits this would be most appropriate as it was the limestone industry, which was to produce the Dove Holes settlement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

A map of the lands of Fairfield of the early 1600’s shows workings at the edge of the limestone near the area of the present Ashpiece Farm. The workings extended around a road junction near to where the present roads meet in the hollow. Strictly speaking they were therefore either in Hope or Wormhill parishes but essentially they are near the traditional routeway.

In his often quoted paper on the Buxton Lime Trade Mr. Leslie Jackson made a great point of how the demand for limestone developed as the different services required it - farming, chemicals, iron and steel, road building and so on. But he showed clearly how the quarries developed along with the different forms of transport - after all lime and limestone are very bulky materials. The next portion of this account explains this but first it is necessary to look briefly at the history of the Dove Holes herbeages mentioned in the previous Chapter.

One of the lessees of Bolt (Bog or Bought) Edge was one of the Bagshaw family. We now know that Bagshaws were at Ridge Farm from as early as 1135 so they held this property before the Fords arrived. This family from Hucklow had purchased Ford Hall just to the north of our area about that time - they remained at the Hall for almost 400 years - to 1958. Without going into a lot of detail they soon obtained most of Bolt Edge, bits of Rushup and at the same time leased an area for a new house at ‘Hall Stidds’ on the other herbeage. The later bought much of Wormhill parish and also the lands at Kemshill and Losehill in the south-east of our area - the only part of Peak Forest not owned by the Cavendish family.

In 1715 much of the Hallsteads herbeage had been acquired by Arnold Kirk of Martinside but later in the century Henry Kirk of the Eaves bought Bolt Edge from the Bagshaws (and bits of Wormhill) and finally in 1807 Hallsteads from Arnold’s grandson. However, the actual Hallsteads building had been sold in 1742 by the Bagshaws to Gisbourne. He owned coalmines to the west of Buxton and it was he who started a quarry at Ridge Close which was known (incorrectly geographically) as ‘Hallsteades’.

Ridge Close was not part of the herbeage - it lay across the small valley (Photograph 12) - it was probably in the Several. It is mentioned in the Duchy of Lancaster records for 1617 as ‘The Three Ridge Closes’ - ‘Near, Middle and Far’. The present day farm which is Near Ridge Close was probably built or enlarged by Samuel Hadfield when he took over as tenant from Edward Lomas and Thomas Ely about 1780. At that time immediately to the south-east were the fields Ridge Close where the quarry started and then Far Ridge Close and Great and Little Holderness..

In 1795, the Peak Forest Tramway came along Barmoor Clough and into this quarry with another branch into another quarry to the north-east on Loads Knowl. The tramway came from the Peak Forest at Bugsworth and of course only the feeder lines at its end entered the Parish. The whole object of this canal called after Peak Forest and which actually started eighteen miles away was to tap the Derbyshire minerals - especially limestone. Plans were drawn up at that time to extend the tramway to Sparrow Pit and Buxton but nothing came of them. For those interested in the technicalities of this early railway, which moved limestone and brought in, coal as late as 1925 there is Mr. D. Riley’s excellent account.

From this point many local farmers also became ‘lime getters’, ‘lime burners’ or simply ‘ lime workers’ and ‘wagoners on the rails’. There is a record of one of Samuel Hadfield’s descendants losing a leg as a boy on the rails and other such incidents have been recorded. Thus, the great industrial quarries started and the end result today is the largest limestone quarry in Europe at Tunstead three miles to the S.E.

The great Holderness quarry developed to the south east of Gisborne’s original quarry was to dominate Dove Holes Dale over 150 years. George Potts is reputed to have started a kiln opposite at Gnats Hole in 1808. Varying people leased its mineral rights from the Dukes of Devonshire but its hey-day followed its purchase in 1879 by Sam Taylor who was joined by J. Mason Frith in 1900. Towards the end of its operations this firm opened Beelow Quarry, which continues to this day.

In the 1840’s, the Bibbington family opened the Perserverance Quarry. In early times this was linked to the tramway by carts operated by Sam Marchington whose descendants lime by lorry. The family then developed the Victory (sometimes called Victoria) Quarry and this at first was linked with the tramway. However, in the 1860’s the main line railways came - one up the Dale and under the village and the other along the line of the western shales and these were linked into several quarries. In addition to their cuttings and tunnels they produced heaps of limestone and rubble which litter the landscape to this day. For those interested in the detail of the railways there are several good accounts - they deal for example with Dove Holes tunnel (1¾ miles approx.) and Dove Holes station - both are still (1985) used.

Although much limestone was still taken to the Canal site and burnt there, kilns were to develop at Dove Holes. There was one west of Holderness, one to the south of the station but the best known were the Perseverance Kilns in the Dale which I.C.I. continued up to 1939. There were also cement works - one was at Barmoor Clough and north of the station. All this produced a lot of waste heaps known as ‘Ess tips’ which still can be seen. The importance of this tramway link is reflected in the fact that after the formation in 1891 of the Buxton Lime Co. Ltd., although the Beswicks (Duchy Quarry, Smalldale) and the Heathcoates joined, the Babbingtons, Taylor-Frith and Gaskell-Deacon (Bolds Venture at Peak Dale) remained independent - they traditionally were linked with the tramway and canal outlets.

To bring the limestone story up-to-date, the Babbingtons had ceased operations by 1939 (though their well-known tip remained for many years afterwards) and Taylor Frith by 1955. However, their successors and those of the B.L.C. are the Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I. started here in 1931).

In Peak Forest there is Beelow Quarry as mentioned and also the Eldon Quarry, the latter using road transport (see Photograph 15) to remove lime from tarmacadam aggregate and fluxing limestone. In 1772 there were eight limekilns recorded in Peak Forest and even then there were some near Beelow and near Eldon. Lime was quarried near Chamber Farm and in the nineteenth century east of Harratt Grange for lime burning.

It has also been suggested that the Sparrow Pit was a limestone pit - though equally it could have been connected with land. The earliest reference in 1602 is to Sparrow Pit Hole.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century although the sons of farmers still worked in the quarries an independent and quite large labour force was required. Despite the dust and explosions (blastings were frequent and minor accidents very common) and the winter cold, which stopped work, there was always work available. Despite fluctuations in trade there was never the periods of depression and unemployment as on the coalfields.

The result of all this was a rapid increase of population at Dove Holes and by 1881 in the area of the village there were over 300 souls. It is convenient therefore at this point to outline the growth of the village from about 1800 to the present day.

Initially the growth was due to the development of the Turnpike roads in the previous century and these have been well documented. The first turnpike road in the area was that of 1749 from Chapel-en-le-Frith through Peaslow to Sparrow Pit and then on through Peak Forest - and eventually to Chesterfield. It is interesting to note that although the turnpike Acts made provision to allow the passage of lime and limestone free they were eventually to charge for cartloads of the same as industry developed. This first turnpike road merely followed the line of the former packhorse route past the old Peaslow Cross into Peak Forest though obviously the road was widened and straightened. In 1758 the Sheffield to Manchester turnpike reached Sparrow Pit via the Winnats Pass from Castleton. However, to avoid Peaslow the turnpike road of 1764 came along the valley through Barmoor Clough and in 1801 from the Clough to Fairfield a new turnpike to Buxton was constructed. This of course turned the traditional way from the Dove Hole up Martinside to Chapel. For a variety of reasons major turnpike routes through Weston and Smalldale and along Longridge were never developed.

Along this new 1801 road running to Barmoor Clough building started almost at once as is indicated in the will of Samuel Hadfield who died at Ridge Close in 1825 - he had acquired a financial interest in the road and land adjacent to it. Major development however really dates from the coming of the railways. At ‘Brick Row’, houses were built from a pit in the shales and these were demolished in 1965.

Houses were also built on either side of the station and on the Buxton turnpike road to the south of the village. A school started in 1881 (extended 19010 and in the 1890’s the Bibbibgtons endowed a church and two chapels opened. The band started in 1877 followed by the cricket team and various societies - also there were at one stage no less than five public houses and a Co-operative store.

Today the limestone workings are highly mechanised but the busy A6 road (the successor of the traditional routeway) has assumed that the village has not declined rapidly as happened in Derbyshire’s coal mining districts. Photograph A1 shows the village in 1980. There is some building of the last thirty years - the new ‘Brick Row’ area, infilling north of the station and the low buildings of the motor traders for example, but basically the layout is as it was a hundred years ago.

In sharp contrast at Peak Forest, the population which was 607 in 1801 in about 95 houses and farms declined by 1901 to 502 (and further to 420 in 1921). This was due to the decline of lead production as well as a period of farming depression after the 1880’s. This brings us to a short account of lead mining to show how important it was in the past and how the results of its activities can be seen like that of limestone quarrying over large areas of the landscape.

There are probably as many documents and books about lead mining in Derbyshire as there are holes in the ground due to lead mining in Peak Forest - both seem limitless! The great mineral veins cross the northern half of the Parish and everywhere lead shafts appear as holes on a pin cushion. There are also many minor veins in the south and the west as at Near Ridge Close. On the surface there are tips or hillocks large and small of waste material whilst underground are numerous small tunnels and also man-made drainage channels (soughs) especially those around Perry Foot, Eldon, Coalpithole and Peakshill.

We shall probably never know if the Romans started it all in Peak Forest near their road. It would however be surprising if the Saxons had not worked lead here since they are reputed to have worked Odin mine and the Bradwell Moor rakes - both immediately adjacent. ‘Odin’ was of course a Danish God and there was a mine in northern Peak Forest on the Odin lead vein.

By the thirteenth century the King was getting duties from lead from the Forest of the Peak and once again there were special laws and various officials who fortunately for us recorded what was happening in our area. For those interested in the ancient laws and customs of the Derbyshire lead miners, one of the best books still is that of Nellie Kirkham, the late Mrs. J.H.D. Myatt.

In our area the mineral rights belonged first to the Crown and then to the Dukes of Devonshire in the Peak Forest Liberty after 1690. ‘Liberty’ was often used as another name for Peak Forest Parish but here is used as an area of lead mining law - the church and lead boundaries here being practically identical.

Even the Dukes of Devonshire were subject to the laws of the special lead Barmoot Court (which on some occasions met at ‘The Dam at Forest’) and the overriding Courts of the Duchy of Lancaster.

From at least the fourteenth century when a man found lead an official called the Barmaster, came to sample it. The Barmaster then marked out a piece of ground for the mines, and when the lead was produced from the mine or shafts the Barmaster would measure the quantity. This official was duty bound to record the details of all this and of course the appropriate dues and taxes. Although the very earliest records don’t survive, those for our area are available from the sixteen hundreds and by the seventeen hundreds are plentiful and detailed. They are too technical to reproduce in this short history but here is a brief summary of what they tell:

Every shaft or mine was given a name (as were the veins) - see the extensive list and details attached to Map 8. In earlier times these names reflected fields or areas Little Close, Lime Kiln Hole, Sheep Pasture, Portway, Loads, Marsh but by the late eighteenth century they became topical and amusing: New York, Waterloo, Hit or Miss, Lucky and so on. Initially, there was a shaft a few feet wide and then if the find warranted it there were others for climbing or bringing up the ore. In earlier times the miners were the men of Peak Forest whose names also appear in the Parish registers and the landowner’s rent rolls - Fletchers, Claytons, Jowles, Halls, Shirts, Marchingtons, Needhams, Winterbothams. We know which holes they worked. For example, Frith and Hadfield were on Loads Marsh, Hartle and Bennett were on Barmoor, Hill and Garlick amongst others were on Oxlow. Others were ‘In Perry Fields’, on Watts Grove and especially ‘Great Eldon Hill’.

There are accounts of extending of claims, change of ownership and disputes amongst other details. The Barmaster was also a kind of Coroner for accidents and the records show that fortunately there were only five deaths between those of Sam Oldfield in 1752 and John Aston of Sparrow Pit in 1849.

Generally small groups of these men worked as partners and if they were lucky supplemented their farming income considerably. However, by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries some men from outside the parish acquired mines and, as other records show, men from Peak Forest went as labourers to the mines of Castleton and Bradwell - which they had been doing anyway for centuries. It was to those areas that the Peak Forest ores were usually sold and there is evidence of large scale smelting in our area.

Nevertheless there are on Oxlow, near Coalpit Hole, Watts Grove and elsewhere (Photograph 17) mounds of material where the ore was ‘dressed’, crushed, sieved and washed prior to weighing and sale. For washing water was readily available in Peak Forest owing to the dolerite affecting the water level. However, over much of the limestone there are man-made meres or ponds which were probably used for this purpose. Most of them are about 20 yards in diameter and are circular and their main use was to provide water for stock. Only when they are oblong are they considered to have been specifically designed for lead washing. It is difficult to be specific here, as the farmers were miners.

The amounts individually recorded were often small but collectively they produced a large quantity of lead from the very many holes. Although not producing the tremendous volume recorded in other parts of Derbyshire nevertheless in the boom period of the 1780’s over 500 tons per year were dug in the Liberty and this was exceeded in the 1870’s though as will be shown by that time the mining was a large scale commercial variety. Again in 1871 in the Peak Forest census, there were almost as many men engaged in lead mining as farming but even then such figures must be regarded as suspect as men still engaged in both.

Without going into the detailed history of the village, suffice it to say that lead mining played an important part in its life and economy for centuries and the fields above the lead veins tell a most interesting story of men’s endeavours. As W.G. Hoskins in his ‘One Man’s England’ wrote about the Derbyshire lead veins:

"There is a kind of thirty yard pattern of pits and heaps of stone produced by mediæval law. . . . . . to use an awful cliché, the old miners literally left no stone unturned."

- this is all very true in Peak Forest.

Finally, an account of Peak Forest’s last and probably greatest and best known lead mine - Coalpithole. The area along the Coalpit Hole Grove or Vein has been mined ‘beyond time’. The name may be due to the fact that some very thin bands of coal were found (this is geologically possible) though there is no actual evidence. Alternatively coal fires may have been burnt to crack the rocks.

In Peak Forest a few veins had been about twenty feet deep and the rakes were opened up as on Eldon and at Gautries, but this was exceptional. Generally, early shafts were anything from 40 to 150 feet but in Coalpit Grove and elsewhere the miners encountered water and often caves. Primitive pumping engines were tried and also drainage channels (soughs) such as the culvert south of Whitelee. However, the coming of the steam engine brought about commercialisation of lead mining on a large scale and made possible mining of rich veins at depths up to four hundred feet and beyond - in Peak Forest 240 to 300 feet plus are recorded.

In 1726 Robert Winterbotham succeeded in a claim at the Barmoot Court for "wadges due at Grove called Colepit Hole". About fifty years later the first steam engine was installed but did not really succeed and for various reasons on the 12th June 1783 the Derby Mercury advertised for sale "a Fire Engine at Colepit Hole Mine. . . . . Thomas Garlick of Peak Forest will show the premises. . . . ." and also in 1787 "two Water Wheels from Coal Pit Hole mine" were advertised for sale.

However, in 1858, a company called the Peak Forest Mining Company was founded to re-work Coal Pit Hole. In 1859 The Derbyshire and Chesterfield Reporter gave details of "a dinner of roast beef and plum pudding" for workmen "at the house of Mr. George Hill, at the Forest to celebrate the reaching of the vein of ore ground in the No.1 shaft called the Coalpit hole vein."

After early difficulties with water, a new steam engine was installed and an adjacent working called Hark Forward bought out. This engine was used both to pump out water and operate the winding and crushing gear. Various shafts were tried but finally veins such as one some eight feet thick with lead ore some ¾" thick on each edge of it were found! In 1867 lead ore to the value of £5,713 was sold and for about ten years a handsome dividend was paid.

This was the hey-day of lead mining at Peak Forest. By 1914 the Company had finished, as had the ‘Peak Great Consols’ Company formed 1881-1883 to work ‘Stand to Thyself’ and the Oxlow mines. The buildings of Coalpit Hole Mine were there in the 1920’s and some excellent photos of them can be found in Mr. Rieuwert’s booklet on old lead mines. Old folk in Peak Forest remember the ruins but today there are merely the heaps and hollows as typical in Derbyshire - now with so peaceful an air where formerly there was a hive of industry.

Since then only the waste minerals have been worked. On many tips there are still piles of quite valuable minerals discarded by the lead miners long ago. For example, Slitherstones was mined in the 1930’s by Fred Lomas and James Vernon for ‘Cawk’ (Barytes). In the 1970’s men came to Oxlow to search the tip for both barytes and calcite and today (1985) the tips of the Portway mine just adjacent to the Parish boundary are being worked.

However, in modern times Derbyshire lead mining could not compete with the ores from overseas whereas limestone quarrings today flourishes as on Eldon.

That there are still rich veins underneath Peak Forest cannot be doubted - who knows that they may be worked in the future using atomic bulldozers! This brings us to a brief consideration of the future in the conclusion to the story of this corner of the High Peak.




A major aim of the Park was to create a recreation area for the many city dwellers not far away and partly as a result of this the summer months see thousands of tourists passing through our area en route to Edale, Castleton and other popular places. Around Dove Holes the traffic problem is made very difficult especially as there is already heavy traffic on the major A6 trunk route to say nothing of the lorries full of limestone and other minerals. This rush of visitors is not dissimilar to the position in 1884 when my Grandfather’s guide book said: "Peak Forest was at one time a Gretna Green . . . . .and it is a waste of time to visit it for any other purpose" (other than to pass through) and went on to describe Eldon Hole in detail and particularly the delights of Castleton.

To conclude on a more serious note however there is today in this area a great conflict between the ever increasing demand for limestone and the conservationist’s wish to preserve the landscape. Despite the quarries much of our area has fine scenery and there is a lot to interest lovers of wildlife especially birds and many wild flowers. A balance must be struck between economic pressures and this heritage. Most important of all should be the interests of the people who live and work here.

‘Park’ is almost as much a misnomer as was the term ‘Forest’ and the modern planners like the forest officials of old must realise that the area has more uses than that of a recreation area - even if that itself gives economic advantages.


Summary of Cavendish family rents at Peak Forest 1617 - 1622




Thornell, Mellor, Allen, Carrington, Cresswell, Tunsteede.

Middle Ridge Close

Bagshawe, Drane.

Castleton Close

Cresswell, Moult, Lingcarte, Olerenshaw, Ott, Yearnley (possibly on a lane to the north of the village).


Boden and Cresswell.


Bagshaw and Boden.

Loades Close


Sparrow Pit House

Boden - including ‘Harrott Low and Lane’.


Dakyn, Boden, Hall and Carter.

Burnd Knowe

Redferne. (this lay to the east of Smalldale).


Pearson, Frost, Palfreman, Keene, Rowland, Winterbottom (6 houses listed, so this is probably the present village of Snelslowe).


Wright, Pendleton, Joul, Heyware, Frith, Hill (7 houses listed).


Wood and Cresswell (with their farm houses) Allen, Middleton.


Allen (only a small rent - lead records indicate part of Beelow).

Brockdale Knowe

Baggeshawe (house at the Coppe) Peirson, Peake, Bridge.


Bagshaw and Longdon.

Tunsteeds Close

Mr. Tunsteed - a small rent - whereabouts unknown.

Upper Ridge Close

Needham and Longdon - from 1618 Bagshaw. (A Longdon in occupation in 1772).

Rushop Meadows

Bagshaw, Needham, Horton, Low, Ellis, Wright, Mellor, Watts (who also held Perry Head).

Mid Hill

Staley (compare R.M. & M.H. and Snelslowe below with their tenants in 1637).

Oxe Low

Low and Allen.

Bothome Close

Hallam and Clarke (with house) - this lay to the east of Smalldale. Hallams still in occupation in 1772.

Pedley Close


Open Forest

Bagshaw (Mr. B. was charged over one-eighth of total rents for this).


Bagshaw, Frith, Wright, Andrew (see above).