Tales and Traditions of the High Peak

By William Wood (1862)

Transcription by Andrew McCann, © Copyright 2002

The Lover's Leap

STONY MIDDLETON DALE

“What frenzy in thy bosom raged.”- SAPPHO

THE very singular appearance of the continued line of enormous castellated limestone rocks in Middleton Dale, must inevitably strike the tasteful mind with a deep and impressive idea of the grandeur and sublimity of unadorned nature.

The character of this romantic dell is not altogether that of loveliness, but it contains several of the most striking characteristics of excessive singularity; a many objects pleasing to those who worship devoutly at the shrine of nature.

In many parts of the Peak there are numerous dells by far more adorned with foliage-crowned rocks - higher and more massive; yet here may be seen most visibly the records of past ages, written in characters which may be universally understood, and wearing the indelible seal of thousands of years.

Here the loitering geological student may read the open book of his favourite science; here he may ponder amid rocks of the transition series, filled with wonder and enthusiasm. It is the almost unvaried, naked, and savage grandeur by which these rocks are characterized, that render Middleton Dale a place of such increasing interest.

On entering this marvel of dales in a westward direction, the pedestrian will behold on his right hand a large, perpendicular, sable-looking rock, known most familiarly by the designation -“Lover's Leap”: a name obtained by the fact of a young damsel of Stony Middleton having, in the frenzy of disappointed love, thrown herself therefrom into the fearful chasm below.

Of this very singular deed, tradition has preserved the following particulars,

“In record of the sweet sad story.”

In or about the year 1762, Hannah Baddaley, a very beautiful young maid, was greatly distinguished for the ardour of love which her incomparable charms created in the bosoms of the village swains of Stony Middleton, the place of her birth and residence. Among the many who sought to obtain the affections of the innocent and beautiful Hannah, was a young and handsome man, named William Barnsley, who, after numberless visits, had the happiness to perceive that his labour would be crowned with success.

Enraptured with joy, Barnsley became even more assiduous until he beheld in ecstasy the unequivocal signs of reciprocal affection. Humble in worldly circumstances, yet the loving pair felt all the blissful glow - the undefinable and delicious sensation of first, pure love.

Often they walked forth and enjoyed, in their lonely wanderings, a happiness that to them momentarily increased.

The tangled walks along the rugged steeps, which overhang the village of their homes, were as a paradise; their hearts were entwined round each other in all the glowing fervency of concentrated bliss. Ah!

“Never smiled the inconstant moon on such another pair.”

Months passed away, yet the blissful sunshine of love, in which Barnsley and Hannah walked, seemed to increase in glowing, fervent, and deeply intoxicating splendour: they were happy, and dreamed not of its transitory nature.

Alas! alas! experience tells us of countless instances, in which suns have risen in hope and glory, and have set in darkness and despair - instances, in which bright prospects of future happiness have been suddenly overshadowed and darkened by the sable shades of maddening disappointment, bitterly agonizing! Well did the poet sing-

“Look not for bliss on this disordered sphere,
All hopes are vain the subtle good to find;
who dream of pleasure only wake to fear,
Or grasp at shadows of the fleeting wind.”  -FURNESS.

Inscrutable as are the operations of the human mind, still, from certain effects, it may be presumed that there is in reality a kind of similarity existing between the immaterial portion of man, and the material things of the world.

When any physical agent or instrument is exercised immoderately, it is soon destroyed; so with the mind, if any of its affections be excited to an unnatural height or pitch, it will, if not regulated in time, lose its zest - become in a manner paralyzed, and decay.

The conduct of Barnsley might be instanced in corroboration of the opinion here advanced; for, strange and novel as it may appear, in about twelve months from the commencement of his love for the lovely Hannah, he relapsed gradually into a state of lukewarmness as respects his passion, and at length into total apathy.

His visits became less frequent, and soon ceased for ever. But how was this borne by the lovely confiding Hannah? She sank beneath the stroke with all the terrible anguish of a broken spirit. For hours she would sit gazing at the wall in silent stupefaction; then would burst forth a flood of tears, bringing short solace.

Like her prototype, sweet Sappho, she often sought her cruel Phaon, but he fled at her approach: thus probing the painful wound his tongue had made.

Hapless Hannah! despair at length began to urge her to escape the bitter pangs she endured by self-destruction: fearful-awful remedy!

After a few months passed in this deplorable condition, Hannah resolved to put a period to her miserable existence by throwing herself from one of the highest rocks in Middleton Dale, a resolution dreadful to contemplate. She repaired to the top of the towering rock early in the morning of the day following her determination.

Her bonnet and handkerchief she laid on an adjoining thorn, and, with clasped hands and loose hair waving in the morning breeze, she passionately thus exclaimed: “Oh! my William! my William - false William - no, I will not call thee false! my love! my life! Never, never again will mine eyes behold thee ! - thee whom I loved --- ah ! I love thee still ! O ! my love, wilt thou not come to my grave, and shed one tear to the memory of her who died for thee? I'll bless thee again, my love, and then from this dizzy height I'll cast myself and prove to thee and the world - my love is stronger than death! I sink! I go, my love, my love !”

Hannah sprang from the rock, which is upwards of eighty feet high; but, incredible as it may be deemed, she fell upon a rocky projection, then among some thorns, which then grew from the side of the rock, and her petticoat forming a kind of parachute, reached the ground very little injured.[1] The villagers were soon on the spot, and the rash maid was conveyed home; but the sense of her miraculous escape totally erased from her mind the maddening fit of love under which she had laboured. She lived a few years after unmarried, and died after having spent that period in a pious and highly examplary manner.

Such is a brief outline of the story which has given the designation - “Lover's Leap” - to the high and romantic rock in Middleton Dale.[2]

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Notes
[1] Petticoats, in the days of Miss Baddaley, were of a strong texture; they had, to use the phraseology of Hodge, “some wool about 'em”.
[2] Closely nestled under the east end of the rock - Lover's Leap - there is a neat and commodious inn, called the “Lover's Leap”, now kept by Mr. Samuel Mason, a man whose heart is in the right place, and who has, in conversation, fought all the battles of the Great Napoleon a thousand times over. - Hannah Baddaley, daughter of William and Joan Baddaley, baptised February 22, 1738; buried December 12, 1764.-Register, Stony Middleton.

Transcribed by Andrew McCann in February 2002

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