Great Longstone - The Village Trail

Great Longstone, Derbyshire - The Village Trail

The text for this web page is from a village tour of Great Longstone published by the Longstone Local History Group.  The photographs were taken in February 2000 while on a business trip to the U.K.  My father, Geoffrey Nicholson, spent his youth in Great Longstone.  I always make a point of visiting Great Longstone since my father (Geoffrey Nicholson), grandfather (Dan Nicholson), grandmother (May Nicholson), great grandmothers (Lizzy Nicholson and Susannah Robinson) and great grandfather(George Robinson) are buried in the church graveyard.  In addition, my father's uncles (Harold and Robert Robinson) are memorialized in the World War Memorial.  Even though I only spent the first six years of my life in England and have grown up in the United States, I still have a strong love for this country and for this part of Derbyshire and try to visit as time allows.  I apologize to the History Group for not asking for permission to use their text and hope they have forgiven me.  Hopefully I can finish completing the pictures in the future.  Steve Nicholson ([email protected])

Great Longstone nestles under Longstone Edge on high ground in the Wye Valley, once a source of lead bur now worked for other minerals such as fluorspar and barytes. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book but only as an outlier of the Kings Manor of Ashford. The author of Highways and Byways of Derbyshire described it as a 'straggling place of no particular distinction" but we hope that this little guided tour, which should take about an hour, will convince you that the village is of more than a passing interest.

Start at the CROSS (l) at the upper end of the Green. This is a medieval cross round which the market was held, selling local produce such as cheese, butter, eggs etc. It used to be a custom, up to the late 19th Century, on the eve of Shrove Tuesday, for boys to collect the villagers carts, shelvings, barrows, barrels or anything that lay handy, even wrenching gates from off their hinges. They would then place them all in a circle around the village cross, from whence the owners could fetch them the next morning. This sounds like a mischief night before the coming of Lent.

The cottages(2) around the Cross and the School entrance are probably 17th Century (the 1880 refers to a later re-building). Note the house with the steps and cellar window which may have been a beer-house.

During Wakes Week in September a Fair was held on the Green in commemoration of Saint Giles, to whom the church is dedicated. In 1895 the tolls paid to the Parish Council were Swing Boats 5/- (25p), Sweetmeat Stall 2/6d (121/2p), Fish Stall 2/- (10p), Dobby Horses 10/(50p). The owner of the Dobby horses would not pay more than 5/- (25p), whereupon he was served with written notice either to pay or quit at once. He remained until Friday morning and left without paying!

The Green was also used by itinerant traders and in 1931 Mr Moody was remonstrated by the Parish Council for leaving fish refuse lying about from his hawkers cart.

Now walk up the main road towards the Crispin Inn(3). This is named after the patron Saint of Shoemakers. Notice the date stone 1887; the left hand half of the building is much older.

The house next to the Crispin to the right, which may be seen through the white gates, is now called Longstone Manor(4) and has some interesting 17th Century windows. On the opposite side of the road is Longstone Hall(5), which belonged to the Wright family until the 1920's. The Hall was re-built in 1747 in brick, which is very unusual for this area; notice on the left the wing of the earlier house, probably built around 1600.

As you continue up the road, you pass on the left hand side what was a 19th Century cheese factory with the Managers house adjoining(6), all now converted into private houses. On the opposite side of the road, over the wall, can be alimosed three barns(7) which belonged to the hall.

At the road junction is the only remaining pump(8) in the village but in the past there were many others. They were not always a source of pure water, and in 1895 the Medical Officer of Health reported that an analysis of two pumps showed the water was not fit for human consumption and should be closed forthwith. He regarded the provision of a piped water supply as most urgent. The Parish Council were not impressed with his report, as they had never heard of anyone suffering any ill effects from the water supply!  It was not until 1902 that a piped water scheme was proceeded with, but the pumps were still used for many years for the washing of carts etc.

The house on the corner at the junction of Moor Road(9) and Butts Road has a Peep-O-Day window in the gable end looking down the village street. It is difficult to imagine that it was once a slaughter house. The cottages set back to the left on what is known as Bullfinch Square are traditionally said to be lead miners cottages(10).

Now retrace your steps to the Cross.

Opposite the Cross on the left hand side is Church Lady House(11). This is a fate medieval building which contains at least one cruck frame. The date stone refers to a repair or renovation carried out by Francis White in 1768. His niece married Dr. Edward Buxton, who also lived here and whose memorial tablet is in the nave of the church. Francis White had a brother, William, who was a Page to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. There is reputed to be a ghost in the house, the figure of a woman dressed all in black, hence the Church Lady.

The adjacent building was once a barn belonging to the house when it was a farm. It has also been a library, garage, tea shop, doctor's surgery and theatre.   Turning left by the side of this building, go up the hill, past the kissing gate to the right. On the left is a private house, which is reputed to be the oldest building in the village, apart from the church. It has always been known as the Shakerley Building (13) and was associated with the Cheshire family of that name who were Lords of the Manor of Little Longstone until it was purchased by the Cavendish family in the late 16th century. It is (or was before it was reconstructed) a most unusual building, having highly decorated window and door surrounds which have, unfortunately, been removed, apart from two fragments, one of which bears the date 1667.

Now retrace your steps and go through the kissing gate (14) where the sign says "Footpath to the Church".

THE CHURCH (15), dedicated to Saint Giles, was one of the old chapelries of Bakewell. The foundations are said to be Norman but the earliest recorded date is 1262 when Griffin, son of Wenunwyn, a Welsh prince, founded and endowed a Chantry. The church was restored in 1872 and the architect was R. Norman Shaw. The church is noteworthy for its remarkable roof, the hatchments, charity boards and the Eyre Chapel with its fine oak screen.

Notice the medieval cross base and shaft(16) in the churchyard (the top is modern) as you leave by the lych gate opposite the one you came in by. Across the road is the graveyard.  What a resting place?  Turn right down Church Lane and immediately on your right is the gateway to the vicarage(17).

The vicarage was completely re-built in 1831 by the Morton family of Great Longstone, as the building was in such a poor state as to be uninhabitable. It had previously been a public house called the White Lion Inn, owned by the Church and leased to various local people

Now continue down the hill, past the gritstone troughs(18) fed by a spring. Note on the left the Longstone Social Institute(19), now the Village Hall, built on the site of the village pound or pinfold, where straying animals were impounded by the Paarish Constable until a fine had been paid for their release. Round the corner to the right is LABURNUM HOUSE(20), a listed building said to be early 19th Century in date. Joseph Scott, the village Schoolmaster, lived here for over 20 years, between 1847 and 1887. He also had it as a private boarding school. Pupils came from as far away as Wiltshire, Lincolnshire and Cheshire, as well as Derbyshire. On the opposite side of the road immediately to the left of the present White Lion (22) is Harrow House(21), once a public house called the Old Harrow Inn, until about 1920.

Continuing up Main Street we reach a large three storey building opposite the White Lion, now sub-divided into three houses. It was originally built in 1785 as a warehouse for the cotton mill of James Longsdon and also incorporated the house of the Manager of the mill, Ralph Finch(23).

The next building, Baytree House(24), was once a smithy, also associated with the cotton mill, and was occupied by the Hill family of blacksmiths. It later became the Post Office, which has now moved across the road.

Between the last two buildings there is a narrow way called Smithy Gennel(25). At the back there is a row of cottages now called Victoria Terrace(26), built in the late 18th Century on the site of the hall orchard. They were originally used as weaving sheds and later, workshops for the aforementioned cotton mill; by 1820 they had been turned into houses and were later sold to the Orr family. They have been much altered over the years, being first extended in length and then sub-divided.

Cross Main Street and immediately opposite is a detached house(27) which was once a drapers shop and was one of the seven shops in the village (there are now three). The house to the right(28) has a small 17th Century window on the end wall. Continue past the Post Office(29).

The building to the rear of the Post Office is the Infant School(30) built in 1876; it now houses a pre-school play-group. Behind it stands the Upper School of 1862(31). This was extended in 1970 when the old school-masters house of 1788 was demolished. The earliest recorded date of a school is 1656 when William Wright left  5 pounds yearly for the education of "10 of the poorest men children living in Great Longstone to pay for learning where they should like best". The school now has around 70 children, junior and infant. Pupils attend not only from the village but also from Ashford, since the closure of the school there in 1988, and other surrounding communities.