Parish Guide & History

[Home Page] [Occupation & Population] [Census Index] [Picture Gallery]  [Parish Registers]  [Links]  [Top]

Parish Guide and Brief History

(Some of these subjects will be covered in greater depth in separate articles later)

1: An Introductory tour
2: A Sketch Map of the Parish
3: Dethick and its families (by Norman A. Keen)
4: St. John The Baptist's Church, Dethick and the Manor House (by Norman A. Keen)
5: Christ Church Holloway (by Mrs. G. Else)
6: The Chapels (by Mrs. V. Marchant)
7: The Nightingale Family (by Hugh Sheldon)
8: Lea Hurst and Florence Nightingale (by M. Wigglesworth)
9: Florence Nightingale Memorial Hall (by Mrs. G Else)
10: Lea Hall & Lea Green (by Mr. T. Worthy)
11: Lea Mills (by K. Fern)
12: The Hat Factory & Lea Wood Hall (by George Wigglesworth)
13: Lead Smelting at Lea Bridge (by N. Gregory)
14: Lea Primary School (by Norman A. Keen)

Chapter 1 - A Parish Guide

This is a Guide to some of the interesting places in the Parish. Here is a suggested tour, a map, and short articles on the history of the more interesting features. The tour is through attractive stone built villages set in a beautiful landscape.

Four notable families have been central to the parish becoming what it is, the Dethick's, the Babington's, the Nightingale's and the Smedley's. The guide records their contribution. On the tour you will see how in their generations they have provided the leadership and influenced the housing, work, worship and social life of the villagers. The extent to which the wealth generated by the industries and farms has been reinvested within the villages has been important. The villages were much more focused in upon themselves for work and relaxation than they now are.

This guide was produced originally by the villages ' Historical Society (in which Norman Keen was a major influence) in 1966, and the Society has developed it into this 1990 edition in its Silver Jubilee year.


This can be by car, (stopping for short excursions on foot in each village) or entirely on foot (5 miles, approximately, much of it on roads).

From 'Christ Church' Holloway go along the road, down the hill, past 'Lea School' and 'Old Chapel House', site of the 'Weslyan Methodist Chapel', to Common End where the '1808 School House' stands. Go straight across and along Riber Road in about 400m on the right is Mill House. In 1608 there was a mill on each stream. Beyond Mill House turn right up the hill and in 800m reach 'Dethick'. The church is reached by the farm road. If on foot, leave 'Dethick' by the path leading from the churchyard. In the second field take the second stile into the wood, eventually crossing the stream to join the road. 'Lea Hall' is the last house going along the road to the left, 'Lea Green' is shortly along the road to the right. Or By car continue up the road taking the first right and first right again to enter Lea.

'Lea Hall' with its 18th century facade is on the left, approximately 300 yards down the road is the very early 'Chapel'. Shortly, on the right are the houses which include the 'Jug and Glass' (built 1782 by Peter Nightingale) and once incorporating a hospital for the Nightingale Estate. This is just before 'Lea Green' on the left. Just past 'Lea Green' a narrow road called 'Long Lane' leads off left, as a diversion towards 'Lea Rhododendron Gardens', established by John Marsden-Smedley, and good picnic spots beyond.

Ignoring this diversion (or perhaps having returned from it) continue down the main road and go directly over the cross-roads at 'Common End' down Lea Road towards Lea Bridge (and Cromford). As you go down the road, 'Lea Lead Works' could have been seen some years ago, a pile of limestone waste is all that remains visible from the road. About 400 yards or so from where the 'Lead Works' operated, is the John Smedley factory known as 'Lea Mills'. The factory buildings are on both sides of the road. Under the works bridge bear left past the cottages, now called 'Post Office Row', but in 1851 housing a free hospital established by Mr. Smedley. At the end of the Row, either turn left up the hill (Mill Lane), or first walk down the track opposite, which in a short distance to 'Lea Wharf', adjacent to the site of the 'Hat Factory'.

Going up 'Mill Lane' a distance of approximately 400 yards on then right-hand side is the lodge to the 19th century 'Lea Wood Hall'. To explore 'Holloway', park near the 'Florence Nightingale Village Hall at the top of Mill Lane and proceed on foot. The village includes the 'Yew Tree Inn', on an old turnpike route; 'The Hollow', which is an ancient trackway (leading upwards to Upper Holloway). On 'Chapel Lane' there is the now closed 'Zion Chapel' built by the Yeoman's family in 1852. Off to the right and down the hill is the road called 'Bracken Lane' leading to Whatstandwell. Off this road, looking over the fields to the right you will get the best views of the former 'Nightingale' family home 'Lea Hurst'.

Retracing your steps almost as far as the 'Village Hall', the route then turns to the right along 'Church Street'. The house at the top of the group of houses known as 'Little London' stands one property that once included a reading room instituted by Florence nightingale. You the pass ' Trinity Chapel' on your left, followed by the 'cemetery' on your right before returning to where you started at 'Christ Church'

2 - A Sketch Map of the Parish
map1.jpg (55195 bytes)

Chapter 3 - Dethick and Its Families (by Norman A. Keen)

The first Chapel was founded when Sir Geoffrey Dethick obtained a licence to worship away from the mother church at Ashover. He it was who built and endowed it. There is confusion over the date but the earliest suggestion is 1228. The Dethick's must already have been a wealthy and influential family. They produced many notable figures including Robert Dethick, the first Derbyshire M.P., who sat in Parliament in the 13th Century in the reign of Edward I.

The Dethicks prospered and married into many well-known Derbyshire families, until in 1403 at the battle of Shrewsbury both Robert Dethick and his son Thomas were killed. The sole heiress was Isobel who shortly afterwards married Thomas Babington of Normanton. Thus Dethick began its association with the famous Babington Family. Thomas fought in the French wars at Agincourt in 1415, later restoring the mother church at Ashover and building its present tower to commemorate his safe return. Over a period of time the Babingtons provided five high sheriffs of the county. In 1530 (the date over the west door) the Chapel at Dethick was restored by Sir Anthony Babington. There are no Babington memorials at Dethick but many at Ashover.

The most famous Babington was Anthony, who was born in 1561 and who was later to become involved in High Treason. His father died while he was a boy and he was brought up as a page to the Earl of Shrewsbury at Sheffield Castle. Here it was that Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner and from this meeting grew his desire to achieve her release. Thus he became part of the Catholic and Establishment feuds which involved betrayal, spies, and hidden, coded messages. Soon he was engaged in a Catholic plot to release her from nearby Wingfield Manor. The plot was discovered and an aged kinsman, Francis Rolleston of Lea Hall, was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1581. The highly improbable legend that a secret tunnel from Dethick to Wingfield was involved is given delightful credibility in the story 'Traveller in Time' by Alison Uttley.

A later plot to release Mary and remove Elizabeth from the throne was discovered and Babington was himself arrested, tried and executed at Lincoln's Inn Fields in September 1586. Perhaps anticipating this end, he had made over the Dethick estate to his brother George, who sold it and thus ended the family's long connection with the place.

Chapter 4 - St. John The Baptist's Church, Dethick (by Norman A. Keen)

The Church at Dethick has probably changed little since 1530 when it was enlarged to its present size by Sir Anthony Babington. The lavishly built tower with its open turret and battlements is very narrow for its height. Between the windows and the bell openings is a frieze of shields with the armorial bearings of the various families connected with the Babingtons. There are others lower down the tower walls.

Internally the construction is very simple. The narrow high arch inside the Church, carved on only one side perhaps to retain more effective support, is supplemented by diagonal buttresses. The only remaining piece of wood carving, similar to one in an adjacent farm, is let into the arch. 'Babington' is said to be represented by a baboon sitting on a tun. If so the barrel can be seen but not the monkey!

The two lancet windows, doorway and altar niche date from the 13th century. The clerestory above has different materials of a later date. Several stained glass windows are dedicated to the Wass family of Lea Green, lead smelters, and the West window is a memorial to the Walker's of the Hat Factory. A local craftsman, Mr. E. Allwood carved the cross from local oak.

In 1866 the battlements were renewed. The roof was restored in 1874 after a fire two years earlier. The beams are thought to be replicas of the original ones with the addition of the date of restoration. Continuing care has helped to sustain worship in this historic building for over 700 years. It has been the Parish Church since 1899. Parishioners have the right to Baptism, Marriage and Funerals there. Morning Prayer and Holy Communion are held at 11.00am on the first Sunday in the month, with Holy Communion at 10.00am at the major festivals.

The Manor House (by Norman A. Keen)

This is thought to have been partly demolished during the reign of William III at the end of the 17th century, since when Dethick has consisted of the three farms round the Chapel. This is now a conservation area including Grade II listed buildings. Although they are not accessible to the public, it is worthy of note that they do include a 16th century stone barn decorated with the Babington Family Arms, there is also a fine old kitchen and a Priest Hole.

Chapter 5 - Christ Church, Holloway (by Mrs. G. Else)

In the 17th century Dethick, Lea & Holloway lay partly in Ashover Parish and partly in the Parish of Crich. The rate paid to Ashover in 1650 was a penny a plough, a ha'penny a cottage. In 1719 the Rectoral records at Ashover show local people paying Easter dues at 3d a house, 3d for a man and wife, a child or servant receiving sacrament 1d and a penny towards Communion silver. Dethick, Lea & Holloway got the impression as years went by that they were unfairly treated over the Church rate; they were poor and Ashover rich, they maintained. Voicing this at a Vestry meeting in 1854, Mr. Smedley proposed an amendment to pay no more Church Rates to Ashover, this amendment was carried with three cheers.

The Parish was instituted by Queen Victoria at Osborne House in August 1899 by Order in Council and the first Vicar arrived in 1900. The next year work began to build the Church on a site known locally as 'Aaron's Lot', this was given by the Trustees of Mr. W.E. Nightingale of Lea Hurst. The Church was designed by P. H. Curry whose Churches are thought to be amongst the finest in the county built between 1860 and 1902. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style with Perpendicular details. It was built by J. W. Wildgoose of Matlock at a cost of 4,669, with stone from the quarry at the rear of the site. The foundation stone is in the West wall and displays a Latin cross and St. Chad's cross on it's exposed faces. The Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Southwell in 1903. The Tower was added in1910 at a cost of over 900. It was given by the people of the village as a memorial to Mrs. Walker of Lea Wood Hall, daughter-in-law of the hat manufacturer.

A leaflet is available in the Church explaining the interior features, which include work by Lawrence Turner.

In 1904 the first vicarage was built, also from local stone. This is now the home of the Suffragan Bishop of Repton, a new Vicarage having been built in 1977.

Chapter 6 - The Chapels (by Mrs. V. Marchant)

Of the four Chapels in the Parish, two are still open, one in Lea and the other in Holloway.

Lea Chapel
The oldest Nonconformist Chapel in the Parish and one of the oldest in the country. It was probably built originally around 1671 and endowed in 1735 by Thomas Nightingale for the use of Protestant Dissenters. For many years it was used by the Unitarians but was acquired by the Methodists in 1874. It is now an Independent Evangelical Church, it's members having seceded from the Methodist Conference some years ago. A Schoolroom was added at the beginning of the 20th century, the new porch was added in 1958. The interior is in fine condition with some well preserved old furniture. Florence Nightingale's father was a staunch Unitarian and she must certainly have worshipped here in her younger days.

Trinity Chapel (Methodist, Wirksworth Circuit)
A neat stone building with a turret containing one bell, this Chapel was built as a Free Methodist Chapel in 1852 by John Smedley. It was enlarged in 1879 and an organ loft was added later. It was the first Chapel to have a graded Sunday School

The two other Chapels are now no longer used for worship..

Weslyan Methodist Chapel
This was situated below the school and the foundations are in the Old Chapel House garden. It was built by Mr. J. Wass, the manager of the local lead smelting works at a cost of 1,000 and erected in 1838-9 to seat 250. In 1856 a further 500 was spent on the Chapel by Mr. Wass who maintained it for many years.

Zion, Primitive Methodist Chapel
This was founded by the Yeomans family in a cottage on Leashaw with an initial membership of 12. It was in 1852 that a band of volunteers built a small Chapel on land given by Mr. W. E. Nightingale, for whom Mr. Yeomans was estate manager. In 1883 a larger Chapel was needed and land was purchased from Mr. Nightingale. The old Chapel then became a Sunday School. The money (1,300) for the new Chapel was raised by subscription and donations from those who laid the foundation stones. In 1932, at the amalgamation, the name Zion was adopted.

Chapter 7 - The Nightingale Family (by Hugh Sheldon)

Another of the famous families who founded the prosperity of the villages was that of the Nightingales.

The first we hear of any member of this family was in the 1700's, this was one Thomas Nightingale, who was 'servant to John Marshall, farmer of Lindway Lane'. He obviously worked hard and made money in the only way available to humble folk in those days... by lead mining. He was also befriended by John Spateman of Roadnook Farm, Wessington. From Spateman he both bought and inherited land and property in Lea, including Lea Hall and the Lea Lead Smelting Works. By the end of the century the family owned nearly all the land from Lea to Cromford and round towards Wakebridge. Thomas's son Peter was also very hard working and when Peter Nightingale II (1736 - 1803) came into his inhertitance in 1763 the Nightingales were a very wealthy family, owning lead and mineral rights all round Derbyshire in addition to the Smelting works. Peter II established himself as one of the foremost figures of the Industrial Revolution in this county. In addition to his lead interests he founded Lea Mills, the Hat Factory and the Canal Spur to Lea Bridge. In 1789 he sold the Manor of Cromford to Richard Arkwright for 30,000. In 1794-6 he built Wood End, near Cromford, and moved there from Lea Hall. He died an immenseley rich man in 1803.

Chapter 8 - Lea Hurst and Florence Nightingale (by M. Wiggleworth)

Peter Nightingale never married and his estate was left in trust to his great-nephew William Edward Shore, aged seven, who when he came of age in 1815 changed his name to Nightingale. He was the father of Florence and a wealthy dilettante who nevertheless took an interest in his estate. As a benevolent landowner, in times of low farm prices he excused the farming tenants rent. Lea Hurst was built to his own design. Building started in 1820/21 although the date over the front door suggests that it was not completed until 1825. It was built primarily as a summer residence, the Nightingales spending the winters at Embley Park, Hampshire. They also travelled extensively abroad; it was while visiting Italy that Florence was born and named after her birthplace.

Very early in her life Florence felt dissatisfied with the empty social life that her mother and sister so enjoyed and it was in Holloway that her commitment to nursing grew. In 1843 while the family were at Lea Hurst for the summer she spent much of her time in visiting the poor and sick in the cottages of Holloway. When the family returned as usual to Embley, Florence begged to remain but her mother wouldn't hear of it. Later, she was allowed to nurse her dying Grandmother and her old nurse, Mrs. Gale. She continued to help local residents. In 1852 she nursed her Great-Aunt at Cromford Bridge House and it was suggested by her mother that that house would make a suitable nursing home for The Sisters of Charity. In this way she hoped to satisfy what she saw as Florence's unladylike obsession with nursing in a genteel and unobtrusive manner but Florence declined.

At the age of 30 she took up residence in London and the greater part of her life thereafter was spent away from Lea Hurst. Yet it was to Lea Hurst she came first, upon her return from the Crimea. Avoiding all publicity she slipped through London unnotoiced and, travelling unattended to Derbyshire, walked up from the railway station at Whatstandwell to the family home to receive a surprised and joyous welcome.

Although she spent comparatively little time at Lea Hurst, Florence never forgot Derbyshire. In Holloway she set up a reading room and another in nearby Whatstandwell. She provided books for Lea School as well as the services of a doctor for the village poor. Once a year star pupils of the school were invited to tea at Lea Hurst. In 1880 she organised the setting up of a Penny Bank for the pupils.

From her father's death in 1874 Florence nursed her mother at Lea Hurst until her death in 1880. During this period a typhoid epidemic broke out in Holloway and Florence remained until necessary improvements were made to the water supply and drainage. She the returned to London where she died in 1910.

The estate remained in the Nightingale family until the death of Mr. Louis Shore-Nightingale in 1940. In 1946 it was sold piecemeal by auction, but prior to the sale the house and adjacent land were acquired as a rest home for Nurses. Later it was presented to the Royal Surgical Aid Society as a home for the elderly.

9 - Florence Nightingale Memorial Hall (by Mrs. G. Else)

portrait.gif (22780 bytes)

The Florence Nightingale Memorial Hall was erected at a cost of about 1,200 on a site given by the Nightingale family and was officially opened by Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1932. Fifty years later Princess Anne laid the foundation stone for an extension. It is administered by a Council whose members are drawn from all aspects of life in the village.

The portrait image is used by the kind permission of
Country Joe McDonald
See his tribute to Florence at

Chapter 10 - Lea Hall (by T. Worthy)

Situated on the eastern outskirts of the village it was once the residence of the Lord of the Manor. In the reign of King John this belonged to Roger de Alveley, who founded a chapel nearby that was dedicated to St. Mary. Roger de Wingerworth, who founded the Dethick Chantry also founded one in this chapel at Lea, endowing it with lands to the value of 20 shillings yearly, to ensure prayers were said on his behalf. It was suppressed in the reign of Edward VI and later converted into a barn which was still standing in the early years of the 19th century. It had by the side a Gothic window with the inscription: "Anno Domini 1478 Thys Chapel was made."

Roger de Alveley had two daughters, one married Ferrers of Locksley. Part of the estate was sold by her son to Sir Geoffrey Dethick and it eventually passed into the Babington family. The other part was sold by the younger daughter's husband to the Frechvilles who in turn sold it to the Rollestons, when the Hall was then known as Rolleston Manor.

Frances Rolleston of Lea was involved in the plot along with Anthony Babington to free Mary Queen of Scots from her imprisonment in nearby Wingfield Manor. Rolleston was captured and duly imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1581. By marriage the Manor passed to the Pearsalls. In about 1707 it was acquired by Thomas Nightingale and it was by his son Peter that this traditionally styled farmhouse was renovated with a Georgian facade in 1754. The house remained in the Nightingale family until 1922.

Lea Green (by T. Worthy)

The site formerly contained a group of four farm dwellings probably dating from the 15th century. It became know as 'The Green'. now it is a handsome building extended and renovated at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries by Mr. J. B. Marsden-Smedley in a 'reflection of the Elizabethan style.' The four major rooms at the North-East end are the oldest.

It was also formerly used as the seat of the Wass family of the lead smelting works at Lea. It was bought by the Smedley family from the executors of Edward Wass in 1886. After Mr. Marsden-Smedley's death in 1959 it was acquired by the Derbyshire County Council as a residential centre for sports and youth training.

Chapter 11 - Lea Mills (by K. Fern)

Peter Nightingale built a cotton mill at Lea in 1784, and it was operated by the Nightingales until about 1812. It was then leased by the Smedley family who eventually bought the freehold in 1893. The Smedley's who had interests in lead mining and hosiery, were also associated with Cromford and Wirksworth. In 1818 the second John Smedley, having transferred the family business to Lea, made the technically difficult change from cotton spinning to fine wool.

Not only did he lay the foundations of this business which now has a world wide reputation but he was also a researcher, innovator and philanthropist. Many of the houses in the village were built for occupation by employees. He established a hospital for his workers in the nearby buildings now known as Post Office Row.

His experience in developing Hydropathy here was extended, leading ultimately to the establishment of Smedley's Hydro at Matlock (now the Derbyshire County Council Headquarters). the involvement of this family most notably includes the 70 year chairmanship of Mr. John Marsden-Smedley, who died in 1959 and is well remembered by many of the older villagers.

From the Bridge, over which the main road towards Cromford travels,  the earliest buildings, three storeys high and in stone, can be clearly seen in the centre of the site over the stream. (The development of the buildings may be traced from the many initialled and dated stones that can be seen from the road.) In the early days the stream was important in the provision of power and local spring water is still used in the treatment of garments. The firm has a high reputation for innovationn and  modernisation. There was an early Coal Gas Plant which was a source of energy and light. The gas was also used at lea Green.

The bridge over the road displays  the 'Jay' trade mark associated with the Smedley name, and the very high quality fine woollen underwear and knitwear produced here.

Chapter 12 - The Hat Factory (by G. Wigglesworth)

The first building was erected by Peter Nightingale in 1792 and leased to J. Daniel of Stockport but by 1794 a local man, Thomas Saxton, was proprietor.

For the first half of the 19th century a hundred or more people were employed making both military hats (for instance for the Crimean War) and hats for the gentry. It was an extensive complex including a three storey 70 x 40 foot building, a massive overshot water wheel 26 feet in diameter and 5 feet wide, ancillary buildings and a row of six cottages (inhabited into the 20th century).

The derelict building blew down during a gale in1955 so little can now be seen. The wharf remains and on it the iron ring and the end of the wooden post which formed the base of the crane. Some dye remains to be seen on the wall. This independent branch canal was cut by Peter Nightingale in 1802. It started at the Cromford Canal aqueduct and until 1819 extended to the original wharf where the Smedley factory car park now is. (It ran from the new wharf along the level ground below the track towards Lea Bridge).

The Walker's were the final and very successful proprietors of the Hat Factory, both Lea and Dethick Churches include memorials to them. Initially living in the three storey house by the side of the Cromford Road, (their 'pleasure ground' was across the road) they moved up to Lea Wood Hall, which was built by them in the 1870's.

Contrasting insights into the times are given by the provision of a hand corn mill for the hatters, so they could grind their own corn when prices were high in the time of the Crimean War. Also, by the use of the spacious factory floors for balls and dances at the turn of the 19th / 20th centuries (when horses would be tied to the rings in the walls by the factory gates).

In its later years the buildings were used by the successful wool merchant, Robert Lowe, as a warehouse (the canal and rail links were used to carry the wool). It may have been used for bobbin manufacture and finally, between 1888 and 1912 was used for the production of what were labelled as:  "Mineral Waters & Soda Water Fountain from the celebrated Leawood Springs by John Else."

Lea Wood Hall (by G. Wigglesworth)

This house was built in the years 187006 for William Walker Jnr. (of the hat factory). The family later moved to the plateau above Holloway for health reasons.

Chapter 13 - Lead Smelting at Lea Bridge (by N. Gregory)

Although there is no record of lead being mined in the three villages, at Cowhay there was at one stage the biggest and eventually one of the last lead ore smelters in the county. It had an important influence on the life and work of the villages but has left little visible trace.

The mines of the 'Kings Field' of Wirksworth and surrounding areas had to send their lead ore eastwards for smelting when the hillsides in the immediate vicinity had been cleared of all timber to fire the smelting hearths or 'boles'. Ore from the limestone uplands west of the Derwent had to cross the river and one such crossing was at Homesford, down river from Lea Bridge. Some years ago, during the rebuilding of the water works, old material residues were found, suggesting lead ore (Galena) had been washed and sorted there before being transported north and east by packhorse to the nearest active bole. There is a bole at Riber mentioned in 1590 in the Will of Thomas Babington.

About 1700 the London Lead Company introduced the Cupola Furnace to the sites in this county from North Wales, and in 1769 wind bellows driven by water wheels were used. One such site was near Cromford Bridge, owned and operated by the Alsop family, which was reputed to be the major lead smelter in the county. This was closed when Sir Richard Arkwright purchased the land and built his Castle at Willersley. Alsop's relocated near Lea Bridge but the site is uncertain.

Water powered lead smelting is recorded in the 17th and 18th centuries at the four differently named sites, but it is difficult to be sure if Bow and Lea Wood, Cowhay, Hollins and Lea are all different places. For many years there was a connection with the Nightingale family, who owned or operated one or more of the sites over four generations. Could the Alsop's new site have been where the Hat factory was later built or was it just north of Lea Mills at Cowhay? Here, later, would be the Lead Works, operated by the Wass family for 130 years. The Wass family was the prime benefactor of the Weslyan Chapel in the village.

The purchase of the Mill Close Mine at Darley Dale by the Wass family in 1859 provided the vital, plentiful main source of ore. In 1886 the works consisted of three reverbatory furnaces and four Scotch Hearths. There was also a slag furnace which was an attempt to minimise the poisoning of the surrounding countryside and its inhabitants by the lead-rich dust 'fume' which was generated by the smelting, at the same time reclaiming some of the valuable metal otherwise lost. The works included a brick building shaped like a huge haystack without a ridge, where smoke from the furnaces and hearths was passed to and fro through a series of obstructing partition walls, causing the lead fume to fall like a white dust which was returned to be re-smelted. The output had increased from 30 to 90 tons a week between 1846 and 1886.

Ore was brought by 6 to 8 teams of horse drawn carts carrying one ton of ore each and making two journeys a day from the mine. Such transport was used into the 1930's. Originally the lead produced was carried away by strings of packhorses, each animal carrying a couple of hundredweight pigs of lead in wooden panniers on its back, starting the journey to Hull. The traffic benefited from improved roads to Chesterfield and the Chesterfield canal, which were supported by the London Lead Company. The arrival of the canal and railway close by the Lea lead works allowed easier movement of lead from the wharf by the Hat Factory to the railway at High Peak Junction. This was loaded on a barge, which was drawn by either two men, or a horse.

The final closure in the 1930's after an unsuccessful attempt to establish a foundry was followed by the demolition of the buildings and the levelling of the site save for the hillock of spent slag at the northern end. This was covered with lime ash to prevent its erosion. The once proud hive of industry no longer affects the villages. The closure of the smelting works in Lea parallels the demise of the lead industry in the county, where the once discarded minerals such as Fluorite, Calcite and Barytes, associated with lead ore are now the valuable materials being sought, as old mineral veins and spoil tips in the mining areas of the White Peak are reworked.

Chapter 14 - Lea Primary School (by Norman A. Keen)

Lea Public School was built by public subscription in 1808 and was supported by W. E. Nightingale of Lea Hurst apart from a small charge of 2d a week from the pupils. This building, since extended, is situated at Common End. By the middle of the century it was decided that the existing school premises were inadequate and that the community would be better served if a new school was built, large enough to accommodate children from the whole district.

By an order of exchange dated 25th February 1858 the old site was exchanged for a new one. The Committee of the Council of Education approved the plans for the new school and a building grant of 512-5s-0d was awarded. The new school opened on 7th September 1859 with 156 pupils. Among the contributors to the public subscription was Florence Nightingale whose father was correspondent and treasurer to the School Management Committee for many years.

Very little is known of the school's early days, however the logbooks are complete from 1862. They make very interesting reading concerning the day to day difficulties of the children, staff, buildings and equipment of the school and the life and customs of the village around.

School attendance has always been an interesting subject. The first entry in the school logbook states "Dec. 8th 1862, Scarlet Fever thins the school." Frequently entries record the school's closure for epidemics of Scarlet Fever, Small Pox or Measles but the children were often kept at home for other reasons such as helping at home, potato picking, hay making, cleaning the house at Whitsuntide and even caddying on the golf course at Lea Hurst.

People often complain that the behaviour of children today compares very unfavourably with that of yesteryear but the pages of the logbooks show how little children have really changed. However, then, swift retribution was the order of the day. It was meted out for carelessness and inability to cope with the lessons. I wonder who the poor offenders were in 1885 entry - "Gross carelessness betrayed by eight children in the fourth standard concerning the following sum:-

58,001,090-17s-61 divided by 58

Two boys received one stroke on the hand each and the six girls, one stroke each across the back. I suppose that all may have then been forgotten in the holidays. Although not as long as at present, many more days were given for local and national events such as the local Wakes, the annual School Treat at Lea Hurst, polling-days, the Queen's Birthdays, the Relief of Mafeking and so on. The headmaster recorded an interesting custom, which has long since disappeared. On Tuesday 9th February 1864 he wrote…… "On going to School this morning I found a good many boys inside and all the doors locked, and according to the time-honoured custom I could not gain admittance till I there pledged myself to give the school a half holiday."

Alison Uttley, author of such popular children's stories as Little Grey Rabbit, was born at Castle Top, towards Cromford, and was a pupil at the school from 1891-6. In her autobiographical reminiscences 'The Country Child' she records her two-mile walk to the school "through the dark woods."

H.M. Inspectors often commended the work of the school, notably the Nature Studies. In 1888 it became a Board School when improvements to the fabric and enlargements required by the Inspectors proved beyond the resources of the villages.

[Home Page] [Occupation & Population] [Census Index] [Picture Gallery]  [Parish Registers]  [Links]  [Top]