Hathersage and Grindleford

Derbyshire UK

About 10 miles South West of the centre of Sheffield lies the pleasant little village of Hathersage on the Northern edge of Derbyshire and at the head of the Hope Valley. It derives its name from 'Heather's Edge' and, as I write this, the moors and hillsides of the whole area are a brilliant carpet of vivid mixed purples interspersed with the variegated greens and browns of bracken and grasses and the copses of deciduous trees - birch, beech, oak, ash heavy with 'keys', berry laden rowans, maple and chestnut. The air is heavy with the heady scent of honey and the churring of grouse in their ungainly hundred-yard flights.

Famous for its connections with the notorious philanthropic outlaw Robin Hood - his 'right-hand man' Little John is buried in Hathersage churchyard

- and with the novels of Charlotte Bronte - North Lees Hall close by featured in her book, "Jane Eyre", the title of which took the name from the most important local family - the Eyre family, several of whom have lavish tombs in Hathersage Parish Church.

the village has a long and colourful history.

 

Now focussed around the area in which the River Derwent leaves the Hope Valley to continue its journey Eastward and in which the Sheffield / Hope Valley road branches towards Grindleford, Hathersage originated a little further North at a place called Camp Green where early Danish or Roman settlers have left signs of their occupation.

Originally purely a small agricultural village, Hathersage embraced the growing spirit of industry in the 17th and 18th centuries when several small manufactories were set up to make buttons and later, brass and iron wire. This latter endeavour expanded considerably in the 19th century with the establishment of a water powered wire rolling mill, the Atlas Works by Henry Cocker in 1750 and, following the move into the area of several families from the Studley and Reddich areas around Birmingham, a flourishing needle and pin making industry arose. To be self sufficient, a paper mill was also established to the North of the village to provide the necessary packaging and wrapping paper.

Samuel Fox also started work in Hathersage and, eventually, moved to Sheffield where now, under the banner of English Steels, Stocksbridge works, the company he founded is one of the largest producers of stainless steels in the country. Samuel Fox also claimed to have invented the steel ribbed umbrella as a way of using up stocks of worthless farthingale stays when fashions changed but I think the kudos for this should really be attributed to one of my ancestors who worked with Fox at Cocker's at the time!

Conditions in the Hathersage needle and wire mills were so bad that a Royal Commission was set up to investigate them and, after their consideration of this and other areas, the Factory Acts were established in around 1870 to lay down limits on working conditions and to try to protect the workers from the worst hazards and diseases.

On its Northern side, Hathersage is surrounded by steep gritstone cliffs or 'edges' in the local parlance, which separate it from Sheffield and Yorkshire.

These edges, particularly Stanage Edge, are very popular with the climbing and hang gliding fraternity and have been the training ground for many famous British mountaineers. Every dry weekend throughout the greater part of the year, figures can be seen hauling themselves up the vertical rock faces scarring the surface with white chalk marks as their fingers scrabble for a hold, or hurling themselves from the top on flimsy framed hang gliders to land like dead moths in the bracken and bogs below.

If you follow the course of the young river Derwent after it passes through Hathersage, you will arrive in just a few miles at the village of :

Grindleford.

This small village resides at an ancient crossing point of the River Derwent and, adjacent to the present stone road bridge is the old Toll House where charges were made for crossing the river. The name Grindleford is a corruption in local dialect of the name 'Grinder's Ford' - the river crossing which belonged to the owner of the local water-powered flour grinding mill.

Other than the fact that it is the location of the rehearsal room which our band - The Hathersage Silver Band - uses, Grindleford has little of note. It is in the middle of a generally agricultural area and is, to some extent, a desirable residential area for those who work in Sheffield and Chesterfield and wish to escape from the city in the evenings.

 

Pictures on this page have been 'borrowed' from other sites listed on my Links page. They will be replaced by pictures of my own as soon as this is possible.

 

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