Tales and Traditions of the High Peak

By William Wood (1862)

Transcription by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2009

Leech Fend

A Tradition of a British Town or
Village Destroyed by An Earthquake.

“The site of Babylon should twice a desert be”. - T. BURKE.

THIS may be greatly considered to be the oldest legend of the High Peak; none now in general currency carries such a hoary semblance of legendary romance as this. One of the greatest of our modern poets has said (quoted in part in a former sketch),

“From India's burning plane to Greenland's sunless clime
Thou can not find a spot wherein no city stood.” [Ed: Shelley: Queen Mab, 1813]

If there be any probability of fact in this couplet, then there may be as much at least in the Leech Fend legend, for thousands of people during the lapse of generations have told of the destruction of this place by earth-quake.

About half-way between Curbar and Brampton, to the right of the turnpike leading from Baslow to Sheffield, there is, far on the moor, a very level, flat piece of ground, near a mile square, most remarkable for its [Page 208] boggy nature, so much so that it is dangerous to cross, or at times to approach. Here, before the Roman invasion, says the legend, stood a town or village, the inhabitants of which lived, according to Diodoros Siculas, in small cots or huts built of wood, the walls of stakes or wattles, like hurdles, and covered with rushes or reeds. These dwellings, with their inhabitants, were swallowed up by one of those convulsions of nature, so destructive at times to the habitations of mankind.

Some years ago the Duke of Rutland ordered a trench to be cut through it, or rather a deep ditch, with a view of draining it, when, to the great surprise of the workmen, a great variety of fragments of rude earthenware were found, and a very many pieces of black oak, squared and cut by some instrument, and which appeared from their form and appearance to have been applied at evidently some remote age for some useful purpose. On the south-east side of the supposed site of Leech Fend, or what is called Brampton Moor, the strongest marks of former cultivation were met with on its enclosure, and numerous articles were turned up by the plough of an unknown nature or purpose.[1]

Dr. Johnson, in his tour of the Hebrides, observes [Page 209] that the inhabitants of mountainous districts are remarkably distinguished for the preserving of genealogies, local stories and traditions, contingent to some degree of their practice or custom of inter-marriages, and more particularly their dwelling in one place for successive generations. In the times of the great lexicographer, the inhabitants of the High Peak would be nearly similar in all the circumstances of location and life as the inhabitants of the Hebrides - “mortals attached to regions mountainous like their own steadfast clouds.”

“When Chesterfield was heath and broom,
Leech Fend was a market town;
Now Leech Fend is all heath and broom,
And Chesterfield is a market town.” - OLD SAYING.
[1] Near Leech Fend, a Mr. Grant, late gamekeeper to the Duke of Rutland, picked up a coin which the plough had laid bare, which he could make nothing of, but on showing it a gentleman experienced in such matters, five pounds were offered and immediately taken.

Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in January 2009.

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