A Short History of Grindleford
By Alan Jacques
Grindleford has a wonderful setting, lying in a natural amphitheatre amid wooded hills, almost surrounded by National Trust land. On the eastern skyline are the crags of Froggatt Edge, to the west the flanks of Sir William Hill shelter the village, while the Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge bound the northern end of the parish. With the River Derwent flowing north to south through the village, it is wonderful walking country.
The origins of Grindleford lie in the former small agricultural hamlets of Stoke, Eyam Woodlands, Upper and Nether Padley. The earliest documented evidence is in the 1248 Derbyshire Charter, where it is mentioned as Grundelford. In the Assize Rolls of 1359 it is recorded as Gryndilford and Gryndelford Bridge. It is this latter name which gives the clue as to how it further developed as a settlement.
North Derbyshire is criss-crossed with medieval routes from the Cheshire Plain to South Yorkshire and beyond. These were used by the packhorse drivers, known as salters from the loads of salt that they carried, hence the tracks became known as saltways. Grindleford was on one of these, as evidenced by footpath names Scott’s Close, Stoneybank and Haslin Slack. The influence of transport has shaped the development of the village over the centuries.
Grindleford may be named after “the ford where grindstones crossed the river, or because the original ford had become too deep for use and had been “ground away”. The importance of crossing the River Derwent led to the building of a bridge, first documented in 1577, but evidence suggests that an earlier wooded structure existed. The present bridge was built around 1758 and underneath the arches the joints where the ashlar blocks were joined when the bridge was widened at a later date can be seen.
By the 18th Century, the Turnpike roads were established, and Grindleford was at the meting point of three. The Buxton to Sheffield Turnpike came down through Padley Woods from Fox House, crossing the river; it then ran straight and steeply up over Sir William Hill. The 1758 Newhaven to Grindleford route followed the course of the modern B6001 from the bridge to Calver and Hassop. The Mortimer Turnpike of 1771, which linked Derbyshire with the West Riding via Penistone, ran north towards Hathersage.
Toll Bar Cottage, on the north side of the bridge, is a reminder of the Turnpikes. Dating from the 17th Century, it was later converted for use as a Toll House with the addition of a two storey semi-circular bay window, which enabled the toll keeper to look up and down the road to check for approaching customers. The Toll House fell into disrepair when the turnpike closed in 1884, but it was renovated in the 1930’s.
The village grew slowly, at the time of the 1813 Enclosures it was a scattered hamlet of just 30 or so buildings strung along the hillsides. By time that the 1839 Tithe Map was compiled there had been a period of development, brought about by the growing trade from the turnpikes.
In the early 19th Century, agriculture was still important, but was joined by the tannery and quarries as major sources of employment. Other trades included those of farriers, wheelwrights, innkeepers, blacksmiths, wiredrawers, gardeners, joiners and shoemakers; there were 5 shopkeepers, including a tailor, and 2 carriers to Sheffield. The first Methodist Chapel was built in 1830 and in 1876 the Primary School was opened, it is still thriving today.
This quiet rural backwater changed significantly with the coming of the Midland Railway between Dore and Chinley, opening up the Hope Valley to a boom in both population and tourism. Grindleford Station, at the western end of Totley Tunnel was the nearest, and therefore the cheapest, destination to and from Sheffield. The line opened in 1893, but it was not until the following year that passenger services began operation.
Most of the present day buildings originate from the time of the coming of the railway. The new population of commuters brought with them a newfound prosperity and needed better housing and improved facilities. A larger Methodist Chapel was built and opened in 1905; the Maynard Arms Hotel was built in 1908; St. Helen’s Church was consecrated in 1910; the Grindleford Model Laundry was opened on the site of the former Tannery in 1913; housing and shops along the Main Road were developed. The Commercial Hotel was enlarged and given the new name of The Sir William Hotel.
The original village centre had been focused around The Green, on Hathersage Road, where the War Memorial stands now. This small community lost many of its’ finest young men in the two world wars. Sixteen perished in the carnage of the Geat War and 12 in the Second, including three sets of brothers in the latter. The granite memorial is unusual in that it shows not only the names and age of the fallen, but also gives the actual date on which they lost their lives.
Near to the War Memorial, at the bottom of Sir William Hill Road and the footpath known as Stoney Bank, is the village Pinfold. The Pinder had the powers to round up any stray sheep and cattle and impound them in the Pinfold and their owner had to pay a fine to reclaim them. Our Pinfold is quite unusual as it is rectangular; most are round or elliptical in shape.
Before a piped water supply was provided, the main village well was situated where the Memorial now stands. Old photographs clearly show that this was an important meeting place for the villagers.
The most significant historical event in Grindleford took place in 1588, at Padley Hall, and it had tragic consequences. Two Roman Catholic priests, Robert Ludlum and Nicholas Garlick held an illegal mass in the chapel at Padley, where the Fitzherbert family were under suspicion of harbouring priests. At their trial the priests were found guilty of treason, sentenced to death and then hanged, drawn and quartered on St. Mary’s Bridge at Derby. Now the Chapel and ruins of the hall are the scene of an annual pilgrimage held to remember the tragic Padley Martyrs.
Stoke Hall is an impressive stately hall in miniature, built in 1757 in local stone from nearby Stoke Hall Quarry. The estate was sold to Bess of Hardwick in 1581, then passed through several owners until, by the late 18th Century it was the seat of the Earls of Bradford. In the 1979’s it had a short spell as a country house hotel, before reverting again to a private residence.
Grindleford has almost doubled in size over the last 100 years. Today it is a thriving village, with the impressive facilities of the Bishop Pavilion serving as a community and sports centre. Many clubs and societies provide villagers with a host of activities. The Grindleford Gallop challenge event in March, the village Carnival, held in June, and the Horticultural Show in August are just some of the highlights of village life.
The village is still on an important crossing of routes. Although now classified as B roads, the through routes to the Hope Valley and up Padley to Sheffield carry ever-increasing amounts of traffic. There are frequent bus services, running to Sheffield, Bakewell, Castleton, Buxton, Matlock and places in between. The railway still runs through Totley Tunnel, the second longest rail tunnel in the U.K., services to Sheffield and Manchester. The former station buildings are put to good use as a popular café.
Grindleford is still strongly influenced by transportation, but now it is the car that is both a curse and the King. Many visitors however come on foot, walking the network of footpaths along the riverside and through the woods – in places following faithfully in the tracks of the salters and their old packhorse routes.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Grindleford resident Alan Jacques.
Here are some more articles on the village by Alan.
Father’s Tales is a website with more stories from Alan.
Other Grindleford History Links: