First Settlers in the Hope Valley

On the top of Mam Tor, overlooking Castleton, are 2 bronze age burial mounds, believed to be over 3500 years old. Additionally, the remains of a Celtic hill top fort or settlement on Mam Tor (known to the Celts as Mother Mountain), stretches over 16 acres and is thought to date back to around 1000BC. In 1969 the Mam Tor hill fort was excavated and fragments of an axe were found. These were dated by their general style to between the 11th and 7th Centuries BC and by their detail estimated to be closer to 7th Century.

Carl WarkAt the other end of The Hope Valley, above the village of Hathersage, lies Carl Wark.  This is an escarpment hill fort dating to perhaps Iron Age, although Bronze Age artifacts have been discovered nearby so the area may have been inhabited for longer.  Archaeologists have speculated that its earliest use may have been during the Neolithic.  It was possibly abandoned and later fortified by the Romans when they came to the area. 


Mining in The Hope Valley

Odin MineThe area has been mined for almost as long as there have been people living here!  Odin Mine (right) in Castleton is possibly the oldest mine in Derbyshire. It is thought to have been mined by the Danes and its name - Odin (Oden?) is used as evidence of this.

Lead was one of the first metals discovered by humans.  Archaeologists have discovered evidence of its use from as far back as 3000BC.  It is reasonable to assume that any settlers in the Hope Valley would have been quick to make use of any lead buried in the area. However, the Romans are credited with most of the early lead mining in the Hope Valley.  They prized lead and used it widely. In later times, lead was not only used for water pipes, but for tanks, gutters, roofing, coffins and for all manner of ornamental items.  By the 18th Century, there were countless mines in the area, although by the end of the 19th Century, much of the mining had ceased, although the mines, shafts and much equipment can still be seen. 

The minerals that the miners gave barely a glance as they threw them aside to mine the lead are now more valued than the lead itself.  In this area the most famous of these is Blue John crystal, which continues to be mined and used today.  Fluorite is widely used; one of these uses is the fluoride in toothpaste.  Much of the fluorite mined in Britain comes from the Peak District.  Calcite is used, for example, as a neutraliser of acids while some of the uses of Barite are as a weighting agent in drilling muds and as paint pigments.  Its high density means that it is opaque to x-rays and is given to patients before x-ray to aid diagnosis.  

Romans In The Valley

Artist's impression of NavioThe Romans found The Hope Valley to be a place of great importance when they arrived in the area in around 70AD and displaced the Celts. The remains of their fort, Navio, lie at Brough, a mile away.  This fort was used as a base for the management of the lead mining in the area.  Local legend says that the people were used as slaves by the Romans in order to mine the lead, although this is likely to have simply been the then viscus (civil settlement) at Brough or Bradwell.  It is speculated that perhaps Navio was Lutudarum, if Lutudarum was a place and not referring to the orefield in general. This is unknown.  What is also unknown is where the lead was smelted. Was it in some as yet undiscovered site within the valley, or was it transported further afield?

The Romans valued lead and used it freely in water pipes and the lining of their baths, in dishes, coins, cosmetics and paints, for example.  They also used it in cooking pots and in making wine.  In fact, it is speculated that this love of lead caused the Romans to suffer great ill health, as they ingested it in the form of lead acetate, making food and wine sweeter.  It is suggested that the ill health caused by the lead contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Romans also valued the Blue John crystal, a purple-blue fluorite found exclusively in the area, and mined it for jewellery and ornaments.

Plague Comes To Hope Valley

Ring A Ring Of Roses
A pocket full of posies
Atishoo, Atishoo
We all fall down

It is speculated that this rhyme is a reference to the plague.  The 'ring of roses' meaning the marks that appeared on victims bodies, and the posies being the little bundles people carried in the hopes that they could ward off the disease. The disease was easily spread through sneezing. The last line is, of course, referring to the high mortality rate.

Plague arrived in Eyam in The Hope Valley in 1665, in a parcel of cloth from London.  London was already falling and countless people had died.  It was not understood at the time that the plague was carried by fleas that had fed on infected rats.

The Eyam tailor, George Viccars, received the cloth and set about his work.  Two days later he fell ill and on 7th September, 1665, he died.  The symptoms were clear. It was the Plague.  Many of the villagers fled, but those who remained made one of the bravest decisions in history.  They would cut themselves off from the rest of the valley in order to save the lives of those in other villages.  This decision saved countless lives, but cost most of the villagers their own.

plague_windowIn the church at Eyam, a stained glass window tells the story of the plague.

At the top is the Saxon cross that stands in the churchyard. Below that to the left is Mompesson's Well, where goods were left by the people of the surrounding area, and money was immersed in vinegar and left in payment.  Many other goods were donated by the Earl of  Devonshire. 

To the right is the Riley graves.  Elizabeth Hancock lost her husband and 6 children within a week.  In order to avoid infecting the neighbours, the poor woman buried them herself and their graves remain to this day, half a mile outside the village. 

Bottom left is the tailor, George Viccars, opening the cloth. By him is one of the plague's earliest victims, Edward Cooper.  Above this scene is Viccars, in his final days, tended to by his neighbours.  Between the two is the 'Ring O Roses'

Top right is the meeting that took place between the Rev Mompesson and the Rev. Stanley, where they planned the action that saved the Hope Valley but condemned the village.  Catherine Mompesson stands there, representing the love and support she showed in staying. That support cost her her life, she died on 25th August, 1666 and she is buried in the churchyard.

Below this scene is a remembrance of a most tragic love story.  Emmott Siddall and Rowland Torre.  Emmott was from Eyam and Rowland from one of the nearby villages.  They would call to each other from the rocks across Cucklett Delf.  Sadly, Emmott became one of the plague's victims.

The window was donated by Mrs C M Creswick in 1985, in memory of her husband. The picture above is a copy of a postcard available in the church, photography inside the church is forbidden.

William Mompesson's letter to Sir George Savile

Honoured and Dear Sir
This is the saddest letter that ever my pen did write, the destroying angell having taken up his quarters within my habitation.  My Dearest Dear is gone to her eternall rest, and is invested with the crown of righteousness, having made a most happy end: and had she loved herselfe as well as mee, she had fled from the pit of destruction with her sweet infants, and might have p'longed her dayes. But she was resolved to dye a martyr for my interest. My drooping spirits are much refreshed with her joyes, which I assure myselfe are unutterable.  Sir this paper is to bid you a hearty farewell for ever and to bring you my humble thanks for all your noble favours, and I hope you will believe a dying man, that I have as much love as honor for you, and I will bend my feeble knees to the God of heaven, that you, my Dear Lady, and your children may be blest with externall, internall and eternall happinesse, and that the same blessings may fall upon my Lady Sunderland and her relations.  Dear sir, let your dying chaplain recommend this truth to you and your family. That noe happiness, or solid comfort can be found in the vale of tears, like living a pious life. And pray retain this rule: Never do that thing upon which you dare not first ask a blessing of God, uppon the successe therof.
Sir I have made bold to name you in
my will for an Executor, and I hope you will not take it ill, I have joyned others with you, that will take from you the trouble. Your favourite aspect, I know, will be a great comfort to my distressed Orphans. I am not desirous that may be great, but good, and my great request is that they may be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I thank God, I am content to shake hands with all the World, and I have many comfortable assurances that God will accept mee upon the Account of his son; and I find God more good than ever I thought or imagined, and from my soul I wish that his goodness were not soe much abused and contemned. Sire I desire you would be pleased to make choice of a humble pious man to succeed in this parsonage; and could I see your face before my departure hence, I could inform you which way I think he may live comfortably among these people, which would be some satisfaction to mee before I dye. Dear Sir, I beg your prayers and deisre you to procure the prayers of those about you, that I may not be daunted by all the powers of hell ; and that I may have dying graces, that when I come to dye, I may be found in a right dying posture. And with tears I beg that when you are praying for fatherlesse infants, that you would remember my two pretty babes. Sir pardon the rude style of this paper, and if my head be discomposed you cannot wonder at mee, however be pleased to believe that I am. Dear Sir, your most obliged most affectionate and gratefull servant, WILLIAM MOMPESSON.

The Reverand William Mompesson in fact survived the plague and died at Eakring in 1709, aged 70.  A stone cross was erected in 1893 by the then Lord Savile of Rufford Abbey, a memorial to a most remarkable man.

the_plague_bookOut of 350 villagers, the Plague took the lives of 260.  Their names are recorded in the book of plague victims (right) held in Eyam Parish Church.

Eyam has never forgotten its history and its lost families are still loved and admired.  The sacrifice of the villagers is honoured every year at Cucklett Delf on 'Plague Sunday', the last Sunday in August.  There is a procession to Cucklett Delf, where the services were carried out while the church was closed during the plague, and a rememberance service is held.

The Padley Martyrs

The village
of Grindleford was created in 1987 out of Eyam Woodlands, Nether Padley, Stoke and Upper Padley.   Over the bridge from the train station is where Padley Hall once stood.  The Hall is long gone but the Chapel has been lovingly restored.  The Hall was the home of the Fitzherbert family, loyal catholics at a time in English history when a catholic was a risky thing to be.  In 1588 the Hall was raided and John Fitzherbert - the brother of the then owner of the Hall, Sir Thomas - and two priests named Robert Ludlam and Nicholas Garlick, were arrested and taken to jail.   All three were found guilty of high treason.  Sir John paid a large amount of money and was allowed to live out his days in Fleet prison.  The priests were hung, drawn and quartered.  Every year on the Sunday closest to July 12th, Roman Catholics make a pilgramage to Padley Chapel in memory of Ludlam and Garlick, who have become known as the Padley Martyrs.

Myths & Legends

AlLittle John's Gravethough Robin Hood is widely reported to have been a Nottinghamshire man, resident in Sherwood Forest, we of the Hope Valley claim him as our own!  It is said that Little John was born in Hathersage. In the churchyard at Hathersage is a grave called 'Little John's Grave'.  In 1784 a 30" thigh bone was apparently excavated from the grave. This would have made the person over 7 feet tall.  A real giant in times when people were many inches shorter on average than even today.

Robin Hood himself is said to have been born at Loxley (Robin of Loxley?) which is 8 miles away.

At Stanage Edge is a cave - "Robin Hood's Cave", said to be a hideout of the famous band of outlaws.

Our Claims To Fame!

Jane EyreNorth Lees Hall

Perhaps most well known is Charlotte Bronte, who stayed at Hathersage vicarage with her friend Ellen Nussey.   It is widely thought that the village of Morton in the book Jane Eyre, is based on Hathersage.   The surname of the heroine is shared with the Eyre family of Hathersage, who were Lords of the Manor here for many generations.   The name 'Morton', was the surname of the then owner of The George in Hathersage, which is today a hotel.  North Lees Hall, just outside Hathersage, is thought to be the inspiration for the home of Mr Rochester.


The Bradda Beaver Hat.  Bradda being the local word for
Bradwell. Widely worn by miners in the Peak and beyond, the Bradda Beaver hat was also the template for helmets worn by soldiers during the first and second world wars.

The Umbrella

Samual Fox was a resident of Bradwell.  He invented the modern umbrella.  His house is on the main street through the village, marked with a plaque.

The Derbyshire Houdini

Is the name Randolph Douglas a familiar one? If not, you are far from alone. 

Douglas was an expert locksmith and escapologist and close personal friend of the great Houdini.  He would actually be consulted by his famous friend, on matters relating to his act.  From what is known of the friendship, and from letters that now reside in the Buxton Museum, it is likely that Douglas introduced Houdini to the challenge of being suspended upside down, in straitjacket and chains.  In another letter, Houdini asks Douglas to send him some knives, and goes into some detail about a planned act.  This is a relationship of equals and it is a pity that his tips, assistance and general influence on the act of the great Houdini has never recieved the recognition it deserves

"Randini The Self Liberator" performed a handful of times in Sheffield Working Men's Clubs, but a heart condition ended this chapter of his life.  Originally from Endcliffe in Sheffield, Douglas married and moved to Castleton, where he opened his House Of Wonders Museum, the contents of which are now held in the Buxton Museum.


jessica ennis weddingMost recently, Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis was married at our very own St Michael's church in Hathersage. Congratulations to the happy couple.


Attention Historians and Writers - If you hold a piece of Hope Valley History, please contact us as we would love you to share it with us.



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