Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XXIV.


A situation more delightfully romantic it would be difficult to find. Surrounded on three sides by mountains of great altitude, open on the other side to the delightful vale of Hope, with Winhill and Losehill reminders of the terrible slaughter during the Heptarchy, the situation of Bradwell is ideal for health and pleasure alike, while its curiously winding lanes are lined by

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the cottages that have been there for centuries, and the summit of Bradwell Edge, to which access may be gained by a gradually ascending path from the Abney Road, affords one of the most extensive and delightful views to be found on any mountain in England. One or two of the most interesting spots may be mentioned.

Robin Hood's Cross.

“I think of ages long since gone,
Of those who wrought with tools of stone;
I think of hunters free and bold,
Who dwelt up here in days of old”.
--- J.E. Bradwell.
Robin Hood's Cross
Stile made from Robin Hood's Cross
ROBIN HOOD'S CROSS (from an Old Drawing);
also a Stile made from the Cross.

The numerous crosses and remains of crosses met with in the Peak provide interesting study. The base and a portion of the shaft of one of these is in a field between Bradwell and Hope, but much nearer to the latter place. It is the last field before descending the hill above Eccles to Hope, and is only separated from the road by a stone wall. It is a most interesting object of antiquity that ought to be carefully preserved.

There are but few, however, who have the least idea that Bradwell possesses the remains of one of these pre-Norman crosses, for such the learned Dr. Cox concludes them to be.

In the Public Record Office there are many plans of the ancient Forest of the Peak, one of which is of immense interest. It was prepared in the time of Queen Elizabeth, about 1590, and has small pictures or sketches outlining the churches and buildings of the principal places in the district of the forest - Glossop, Hayfield, Mellor, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Castleton, Hope, Tideswell, Wormhill, and Fairfield. There are also outlines of the various crosses, including a sketch of “Robin Hood's Cross”, which is shown to be in Bradwell, but just at a point where the township of Bradwell. Hazlebadge, and Abney converge.

The remains of this monument, which has weathered the storms of a thousand years, may be found by following the Abney footpath up Bradwell Edge as far as the stile leading into the roadway at Abney Moor Gate. As already stated, the cross stood on the boundary line of these townships, and when the commons were enclosed the boundary wall was built over the rough base stone of the cross, which with half the squared socket may be seen in the bottom of the wall. The drawing shows the cross to have had a double base, with a shaft of considerable height.

The base of the cross is visible from the Abney Road side of the wall close to the gate, and is rendered easy of inspection by a kind of arch having been formed over it. The stone is about twenty inches square, but has been broken completely in

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two across the centre, probably when the shaft was wrenched from the socket. There appears to be no doubt whatever that the massive stones forming the stile leading from the first to the second field in the direction of Bradwell are the remains of the cross itself. One of these pieces is 3 feet 6 inches long, and another three feet long above the ground, but they are doubtless a great depth below the surface, while a third piece 3 feet 6 inches long lies on the ground. These would make a shaft about ten feet high. One of the pieces in use as a stump of the stile is clearly a portion of the cross, as it is L shape, showing a portion of a Latin cross. As an interesting relic of antiquity the cross ought to be restored and erected on the old base in its original position.

The Batham Gate and Roman Camp.

These two highly interesting spots have been described in the earlier part of this work.

The Bagshawe or Crystallized Cavern.

This cavern, one of the most magnificent of England's famous caves, is the property of Mr. W.H.G. Bagshawe, J.P., D.L., of Ford Hall, Chapel-en-le-Frith. It was discovered in the year 1807 by miners who, when working in the Mulespinner Mine, broke in on this splendid suite of caves. It takes its name from Lady Bagshawe, who was one of the first to visit the place, and whose husband, Sir William Chambers Bagshawe, was one of the proprietors when it was discovered.

A small building on the hillside close to the town is over the entrance to this beautiful place. The cavern is approached by 126 steps, hewn out of the rock. Here is Hutchinson's account of it when he toured the Peak in 1808, the year after the cavern had been discovered:

“There is no grandeur in its first appearance; it is rather terrific than otherwise, and is as much like going down into a deep dungeon as anything I can compare with. After descending about 300 steps, very perpendicular, you then walk, or more properly creep, on an inclined way for near a quarter of a mile, the opening being so low that it is impossible at times to get forward without going on all fours, though the road, if it be so called, is considerably improved of late; for it is not long since a gentleman of my acquaintance actually stuck fast between the rocks and was ten minutes before he could extricate himself, and then not without severely bruising his back. The different crystallizations which now attract the attention on every side, and above and below the passage, cause you to forget the irksomeness of the road and to drive away every idea of fatigue. New objects of curiosity begin to crowd one upon another. Here there is the appearance of the pipes of an organ called ‘The Music Chamber’; in other places the stalactites are formed into elegant small collonades, with as exact a symmetry as if they had been chiselled by the greatest artist. Candles judiciously disposed in the inside of them gave an idea of the palaces of fairies, or the sylphs and genii, who have chosen this magnificent abode. In a recess on the left there appears the resemblance of a set of crystallized surgical instruments”.

“But still you have seen nothing in comparison with what you are to expect; for in the course of 100 yards further, creeping at times, and passing down rugged places, you enter the Grotto of Paradise. This heavenly spot, for it cannot be compared with anything terrestrial, is of itself a beautiful crystallized cave about 12 feet high and 12 feet long, pointed at the top similar to a Gothic arch, with a countless number of large stalactites hanging pendant from its roof. Candles placed amongst them give some idea of its being lighted up with elegant glass chandeliers, while the sides are entirely incrusted and brilliant in the extreme. The floor is chequered with black and white spar, and altogether it has the most novel and elegant appearance of any cavern I ever beheld. This paradaisical apartment would be left with a kind of regret should you not expect to see it again on returning back”.

“Still continuing a similar road to what has been passed, and entertained at various times with the curiosities of the place, and the gentle patterings of the water, which scarcely break the solemn silence of the scene, at length you arrive at the Grotto of Calypso, and the extremity of the cavern, above 2,000 feet from the first entrance. In order to see this to advantage it is necessary to rise into a recess about a yard high. There, indeed, from the beautiful appearance of the different crystallizations, some of them of an azure cast, from the echoes reverberating from side to side, you fancy yourself to be arrived at the secluded retreat of some fabled Deity. The water also running near this cavern brings a cool refreshing air which, from the exertion used and the closeness of the place, is very acceptable. The size of this grotto is something similar to that of the last, and indeed it is difficult to determine which is the most interesting. I could not restrain my imagination from composing the following little sonnet to the titular goddess of the place:-


Ah! Tell me Goddess, whither wilt thou fly,
To shun the anguish of a love-sick mind;
The mocking echoes here will only sigh,
With baffling breath. ‘Telemachus unkind!’
Thy grotto's sweet cirul'an hue in vain,
To thee its dazzling lustre will impart;
Amidst thy sorrows here, thou must complain,
And pensive wreck thy deep desponding heart.
Alas! the sportive nymphs in vain allure!
The God-like youth distains the beauteous form;

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True to himself, and to his purpose sure,
Though shipwrecked-bold, again he braves the storm.
Ah! Fly to Lethe's stream, Calypso, fly!
In sweet oblivion let thy anguish die.

After returning by the same path for a considerable distance, there is another cavern to be investigated, which branches in a south-westerly direction from the one already explored. The roads here are still more difficult of access, but certainly the stalactites are more beautiful. A great many of them are pendant from the roof more than a yard long, and almost as small as the smallest reed. The top and sides of this second cavern in many places are remarkably smooth, particularly the part called the amphitheatre. In general this place is of a very dark stone, to which the transparent appearances before-mentioned, with each a drop of water hanging at the bottom, form a fine contrast, and indeed this cavern is in some degree a contrast to the one before examined.

Returning back we still admire the curiosities before noticed, and with regret leave this beautiful crystallized cavern, its representation in idea still continuing before the mind's eye, where it will remain as long as memory holds her seat”.

Many additional chambers have been explored during the century, and much money has been expended to make the exploration of this cavern easier.

There is a curious hole in the rock called “The Elephant's Throat”, and in the roof a band of chert appears like the sole of a foot, with stalactites hanging on to the toes. From its enormous size, about five feet long, it is called “The Giant's Foot”. In the roof of the “Bell House” are a number of holes looking like bells hanging in a church tower. In a compartment which has been named “The Bursting of the Tomb”, the crystallizations are so magnificent that a visitor was once so incredulous as to apply the lighted candle to see if he could not detect what he thought was a fraud and not the work of nature.

“The Chamber of Worms” exactly describes the appearance of the small curling stalactites on the roof and sides, looking like worms wriggling out of the rock, and in “Tom of Lincoln's Bell Hall”, a drop of water falls from the roof, which frequently changes colour from white to red, giving a beautiful variegated appearance to the stalagmite forming underneath. From “The Dungeon” other spacious openings have been found, and could a road from the valley be made into this magnificent suite of caves there is no doubt the cavern would be much more extensively visited.

The guide resides in the village.

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Bradwell Dale.

Bradwell Dale, where Margaret Vernon's Ghost appears
It is here that the Ghost of Margaret Vernon is said to appear.

This romantic ravine is considered one of the most beautiful of Derbyshire Dales. With high rocks and precipitous cliffs on each side extending about three-quarters of a mile to Hazlebadge Hall, it is a delightful walk. The rocks are of immense height, and the extensive blasting of stone of late years whilst accomplishing the widening of the road through the dale, has not spoiled the scenery. A lead vein crosses the ravine and here the old workings may be plainly seen. There are also public footpaths on the very summit of the rocks on one side, from which persons on the road in the bottom of the dale look like midgets, such are the dizzy heights above. From top to bottom the dale is a delightful spot.

Medicinal Waters of the Bath.

“But those hot waters were known in old time,
The portway or High paved street named Bathgate
Beaching for seven miles together from hence unto
Burgh a little village doth manifestly shew”.
--- Camden, 1610.

An object of considerable interest and one that might be made a great asset to the district is the Bath at Edentree, from which “The New Bath Hotel” takes its name, but all that can be seen of a once famous medicinal spring is now a building in ruins in the Bath field at the rear of the hotel. The author of the “English Traveller” (1794), speaking of Burgh (or Brough) as “a village where there are some remains of an ancient Roman Causeway”, adds, “And it is the opinion of most of the learned that those adventurers frequented the place on account of its baths”.

Pilkington, in 1789, says: “I have heard of only one salt spring in Derbyshire. It is situate in the High Peak, betwixt the villages of Hope and Bradwell, and near a rock called Edintree. I have not seen it myself, though I took some pains to discover it, but am credibly informed that the impregnation is considerably strong. It is said to be useful in ulcerous and scorbutic complaints”. The “Gentleman's Magazine” for 1819 mentions the “sulphurous spring” at Bradwell, and later Glover, the historian, mentions “the salt spring at Bradwell, which is worthy the attention of the faculty”. About 1830 the waters were collected by Mr. Robert Middleton, of Smalldale, the proprietor, the building erected, and the bath constructed. For many years the waters were sought by many on account of their healing nature, and conveyed in barrels and vessels long distances, and thousands have derived benefit from the baths, the waters being very few degrees lower in temperature than the Buxton waters. But for the last forty years the place has been neglected. The bath itself is about five feet deep, and is approached by a descent of six stone steps, the water being conducted from the springs into the bath itself. This is doubtless a very valuable spring.

The Echo.

Although there are some notable echoes among the Peakland hills, the most strikingly curious echo ever heard, even by those who have travelled extensively, is found in Bradwell, and visitors have travelled miles to hear it. Fortunately, it is on a public path, and any child knows “The Echo Field”. Taking the field path to Castleton, it is about half a mile out of Bradwell, just before reaching Messrs. Hadfield's asphalt works. Such is the echo from the “Folly” that to describe it is difficult. The sounds produced are most uncanny in the night time, many voices responding to your own, almost close to your ear. A good story is told about a clergyman being taken along this path in the dark by a farmer. The cleric was unaware of the echo. When they were approaching the place, the farmer said, as if in fear, “There is only one spot on this lonely road where I grasp my stick a bit tighter, and we are just coming to it”. The parson laughed at his dread. Presently a rough hand was placed on the preacher's collar, and a score of voices yelled, “We've got you now”. It was only the farmer's joke, but the parson confessed that the sensation was not an agreeable one.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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