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 20th August 1990 and 8th November 1999 (p15), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.


Now fortunately listed by local planning authorities as 'treasures', some isolated old guidestones have stood undisturbed since medieval times, often on former trading routes which survive as moorland footpaths. Those in the form of crosses probably marked monastic land, such as Lady's Cross on Big Moor, or the fine examples around Leash Fen.

By an Act of Parliament of 1702, every parish was ordered to erect a stone or post where highways met, bearing the names of the next market town along each route. The Act was reinforced in 1709, a date commonly seen on guidestones. One weathered example occupies a prominent position at Curbar Gap, two stand beside the B5035 near Hopton and others can be seen at Alport Heights and Ball Cross, Bakewell. A huge guidestone in Longshaw Country Park simply begs to be read aloud: 'Shafild 1709, To Hathersich and Chapil en lee Frith, To Tidswel, To Chasterfild'. Some peakland guidestones have been put to new uses, at least one became a window lintel (Peak Advertiser 4 June 1990) and elsewhere they have been uprooted to be used as gateposts.

The original site of a moved stone is generally forgotten, but following our recent feature [Ed: see below - Precursor] one local lady, with the help of her daughter, Mrs. Rosemary Lockie, gave us the previous position of an uniquely-lettered gatepost near her home at Goatscliff near Grindleford. Formerly sited beside a public footpath leaving Goatscliff for Grindleford, it shows 'Bakewell Road' carved in mirror-image, presumably indicating that the town lay straight ahead; a place name carved in the normal manner generally faced that town. Mrs. Lockie also has knowledge of another local guidestone being cut up to repair surrounding walls. [Ed: The latter guidestone used to be at the end of a track coming down onto the Eyam Road (B6521) from Eyam Moor, but was broken up and the stone used for building up the wall alongside the road]

Opposite Slipper Low Farm near Aldwark is a guidestone/gatepost carved with an Ordnance Survey bench mark, an ugly contrast to the time-worn hand pointing towards 'Chasterfield Road' on one below Darley Moor - an impressive guidestone on neighbouring Beeley Moor is an example of one with a hand carved on each of its four sides. Another gatepost by the B5056, south of Winster, once stood at a nearby cross-roads indicating the way to Leeke, Wirksworth, Bonsall and Bakewell.

On Bonsall moor, serving neither highway nor footpath now, a particularly interesting guidestone stands on the parish boundary between Bonsall and Winster. It names Matlock, Ashborn, Bakewell, and - 'Chesterfield 1757 Near to this place Lieth the body of...' The remaining words are lost, but the farmer on whose land the stone stands can remember as a boy being able to read them as 'John Allsop of Slaley'. It seems that an inscription legible for 200 years has been lost within a generation to twentieth-century pollution. Bonsall parish registers make no reference to the burial of John Allsop, probably because he committed suicide - the reason for his burial at a remote crossroads - but we found another entry of possible interest; recorded in Latin on 10 December 1724 was the baptism of 'Joannes filius Henrici Allsoppe & Hanna uxoris' (John, son of Henry Allsoppe and his wife Hannah).

The Romans left us the earliest milestone found in the Peak District, now in Buxton Museum it gives a distance of 11 miles to Navio, the Roman fort at Brough. Distances were not shown on English guidestones, however, until the eighteenth century, when Turnpike trusts set up mile markers along their roads. One very early example stands at the southern end of the Tissington Trail, while along the comparatively late Snake Road turnpike of 1821 is a series giving distances to 'Sheff' and 'Manc'. A number erected along the Newhaven to Grindleford turnpike survive around Conksbury and Youlgreave.

Barely legible now is the milestone of 1801 left in place to be lapped by the thermal waters of the later fishpond in Matlock Bath. Cast-iron mileposts came into use in the turnpike era, their designs varied between trusts but all were generally required to show distances to London, as seen on a Nottingham/Newhaven Turnpike milepost in Snitterton, or that in Taddington whose main street lay on the Buxton/Ashford turnpike. The word London was usually embossed during casting, other towns and all distances painted on afterwards. A well maintained circular milepost of this type stands at the Junction of the A619 between Baslow and Edensor.

From the 1880s responsibility for roads and their mileposts was taken out of private ownership and handed to County Councils.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 20th August 1990
and 8th November 1999.


The following was a precursor to the initial publication of the above article, published in The Peak Advertiser on 4th June 1990.


Old guidestones are now counted amongst our protected relics, included in a Derbyshire County Council survey of county treasures. In years past, however, quite a number have been put to undignified uses, such as gateposts or bus stops and we have recently come across one which seems lucky to be recognisable at all.

Split vertically in two, both halves of the guidestone have been laid side by side lengthways and used in the top course of building stone at Darley Forest Hotel on Flash Lane, above Darley Dale. When complete the guidestone obviously read 'Winster Road', and it is safe to assume that other place names are carved in to the three hidden faces.

An Act of Parliament of 1702 ordered that a well marked stone or post should be erected wherever two or more highways met, indicating the next market town in each direction. A number of packhorse ways crossed Darley Moor, from Rowsley and Darley to Chesterfield. After climbing from Two Dales one route branched off down Back Lane and Flash Lane and the guidestone probably marked one of the crossroads at either end of Flash Lane. In the days of horse travel, a lonely inn called The Quiet Woman stood on Flash Lane; with a long and chequered history it was more recently known as Moor Farm but today welcomes travellers as the Darley Forest Hotel, where the guidestone has found its strange last resting place.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 4th June 1990.

Photograph of Guidestone, Stoke (Goatscliffe) (elsewhere online)
Photograph of Guidestone, Stoke (Knouchley) (elsewhere online)
Photograph of Guidestone, Beeley (elsewhere online)

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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