TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 19th March 2001 (p.7), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

TAKE A LOOK AT: TOWERS AND HIGH MONUMENTS

Nelson, Wellington, Earl Grey and Queen Victoria, all enjoying high positions in the Peak in the shape of monuments built specifically to command an outstanding view. Erected at personal expense by patriotic Britons, these landmarks reward a climb with what their earliest, nineteenth century visitors would have described as a prospect.

At Matlock Bath the view from the Victoria Prospect Tower takes in the scenic background of the Matlocks, whilst at its foot whirrs the cable car which brings today's visitors to the Heights of Abraham the easy way. The natural beauties of this wooded hillside were extolled as a feature of the spa resort of Matlock Bath even before the Victoria Prospect Tower was added in 1844, a venture carried out to provide employment at a time when many local men were out of work. The circular tower with its stone spiral staircase and viewing platform has been popular with visitors ever since.

A similar venture created building work towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign, when a large circular tower, then reduced to a ‘tumbledown heap of stones’, was rebuilt on Grin Low at Buxton, 1450' above sea level. The original Grinlow Tower had been erected earlier in the century by the Duke of Devonshire but at the time of its reconstruction the surrounding land was occupied by one Solomon Mycock, hence its grand name. Solomon's Temple was restored in 1987 and can be reached from Buxton Country Park.

THE RIOT ACT

Unfortunately, Earl Grey Tower on Stanton Moor has been closed for many years, its stonework slowly falling into decay and the commemorative stone, carved with a coronet and 'Earl Grey 1832', lost from above the now blocked-up doorway. [Ed: but see Postscript below.] The nation has good cause to remember Charles, Second Earl Grey, who as Whig Prime Minister came to power in 1830 when voting rights were the prerogative of the rich and semi-starvation the lot of the poor. Demonstrations demanding parliamentary reform were fiercely put down; for example the Riot Act was read in Derby after a mob had over-run the town, and two rioters were shot and killed after freeing two of their number from Derby gaol.

Grey's Reform Bill was twice thrown out by the House of Lords, jealous guardians of the exclusive rights of the upper class, but due to Grey's perseverance was passed in June 1832 at the third attempt. The square, gritstone Earl Grey Tower shares its interesting site with a Bronze Age cemetery, stone circles and a number of natural rocks carved with patriotic references, like the tower commissioned by the Thornhills of Stanton Hall. The Andle Stone is carved with an inscription to the Duke of Wellington, whose more public monument is a large cross on Baslow Edge, a familiar landmark visible from the A621 below.

The broad-based Wellington Cross was erected from dark gritstone blocks at the expense of former army surgeon Dr. Wrench of Baslow, and inscribed 'Wellington, Born 1679 Died 1852. Erected by E.M. Wrench, late 34th Reg'mt'.

‘RULE BRITANNIA’

In 1905 Dr Wrench was to be found across on Birchen Edge, singing ‘Rule Britannia’ with a party of villagers at Nelson's Pole. The occasion was the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar where Admiral Lord Nelson and over fifteen hundred British sailors lost their lives. Almost two centuries of weather have erased Nelson's name and date of death from the gritstone obelisk. The date 1905 was added at the centenary. Deep and clear-cut still, however, are the names of three of Nelson's ships - Defiance, Victory and Royal Soverin (sic), painstakingly carved onto the sides of three huge rocks behind the obelisk.

A short distance to the south lies Chatsworth House, successor to an Elizabethan mansion which, unlike the present house, faced east, being approached from that direction by a steep road descending past the hunting tower. The square tower with its domed and rounded angles was erected - with her customary love of glass windows - by Bess of Hardwick, builder of the first great house. It afforded to her lady guests a sweeping view of the woodland where their gentlemen were enjoying the chase.

As one of the Seven Wonders of the Peak, Chatsworth was in 1681 the subject of a poem by Charles Cotton of Beresford Hall, near Hartington. The hall was demolished in the last century but a rebuilt tower remains on the site, presenting a gaunt and mysterious outline seen from the banks of the River Dove, far below in Beresford Dale. This tower stands on private land and is not open to the public.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 19th March 2001.

POSTSCRIPT

There was a followup to the above article, published in The Peak Advertiser, 28th May 2001.

A MEMORIAL TO THE AGE OF THE VANDAL

Our recent feature on Towers and High Monuments (issue dated 19th March), was illustrated by a photograph of the Earl Grey Tower on Stanton Moor. A reader who has a long acquaintance with the tower tells us that at one time it was regularly opened up, giving people the opportunity to climb its stone staircase and enjoy the view. Furthermore, the reason for its closure was not neglect by the owners Stanton Estates, but vandalism. The commemorative stone had to be taken down after being damaged but was taken into safekeeping by a local resident.

The thought occurs to one reader that if those responsible should feel a pang of conscience in their older, wiser years, perhaps they would consider having the stone restored to its rightful place. I would be pleased to put both parties in touch.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 28th May 2001.

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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