Anyone compiling a list of the most picturesque villages in Derbyshire would have to include Beeley. It is a pretty, unspoilt village sheltered by Beeley Moor with wonderful views in all directions.
But things could have been very different. The old road to Chatsworth used to go through the heart of the village. It left by Pig Lane, so named because of a group of pigsties by the side of the road and crossing James Paine’s, Single Arch Bridge. Before the completion of the bridge in 1761, traffic crossed Mill Bridge, near the old ruined mill buildings in Chatsworth Park. Fortunately for Beeley, it has had a bypass for over a hundred years, effectively shutting out all the hustle and bustle of the Chatsworth traffic hurrying along the winding road. Most motorists hardly give the village a passing glance, which even to this day remains quiet, peaceful and relatively undiscovered.
It was only after the third Duke of Devonshire had bought Beeley Hill Top in 1747 that his successor embarked upon a grand plan to develop and landscape Chatsworth. Beeley then started to become part of the estate. Land and buildings were purchased as they came on the market, but this task took some time and was completed by the sixth Duke. Many of the properties have been sold off into private ownership in recent years as they became surplus to requirements.
Beeley had acquired its present shape and size by 1800. With the exception of a small group of properties built in recent years on the Chesterfield Road, it has remained remarkably unchanged for over 200 years. The same does not apply to the use of the buildings: the school, schoolhouse, post office and reading room are all now private houses. Dukes Barn built in 1791, to house the estate carts used to carry coal from Rowsley Station, is now a residential study centre, and available for hire by any educational group.
What makes the village so beautiful is that almost all the farm and domestic buildings are built from the same honey coloured sandstone, quarried locally close to Fallinge Edge. The local stone quarries once gave employment to a large number of men. The two quarries at Bruntwood produced stone not only of good appearance, but also of such hardwearing quality that it was used in many of the principal buildings in Manchester.
The ancient church of St Anne, close to the gabled vicarage - now a private house, is one of the oldest in Derbyshire. Its considerably mutilated round headed doorway dates back to the middle of the 12th century. In the churchyard, is a finely shaped 200 - year -old yew tree. However, the star attraction, at least as far as age is concerned, is a gnarled old yew - once a massive tree - said to be older than the church.
Beeley Old Hall is easily recognisable by its stout chimney. It was thought to be the original Manor House of the village until 1559, when John Greaves of the ‘Greaves’ bought it. Manor House status was then transferred to the ‘Greaves’ later known as Beeley Hill Top. One of the oldest houses in this part of Derbyshire thought to date back to 1250. Both reverted to farmhouse classification in the 17th century.
Opposite Beeley Old Hall stands Norman House, once the home of the ‘Norman’ family who brought industry to the village in the form of a lead-smelting mill and a tanning yard. Coal pits on Beeley Moor fuelled the lead-smelting furnaces.
Many travel books featuring the Peak District do not mention the village, but do refer to Beeley Moor. On the heather clad moor, some 1,200 feet above sea level, are over 30 pre-historic barrows and cairns. Hob Hurst’s House is an unusual Bronze Age Barrow that attracts most attention. A small ring of five stones stands on a mound surrounded by a rectangular bank and ditch. When the barrow was excavated in 1853, scorched human bones were found and two pieces of lead ore. Various legends have sprung up including one that refers to ‘Hob’ as a kindly goblin who made his home in this barrow and gave assistance to the local community.
Park Gate is one of the lesser well-known circles in the Peak District situated in a rather remote area on Beeley Moor; the circle consists of ten stones in a ring.
The delightful Beeley Brook enhances the village scene as it babbles its way cheerfully alongside the road, past the Devonshire Arms to a meeting with the River Derwent. Tastefully extended, The Devonshire Arms, with its oak beams and real fires, fits in superbly with this gem of a village.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Chatsworth House and Gardens (Tel. 01246 582204) stands in a deer park designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century with hills and woods. Visitors are free to wander in the magnificent parklands. Shop and restaurant facilities available. For full details of Chatsworth House, click here.
Chatsworth Garden Centre (Tel. 01629 734004) well stocked with garden plants and furniture and is very popular with visitors. There is a large gift shop and café. Open daily throughout the year.
Edensor, a delightful estate village where the houses have been built in a variety of architectural styles that add to the appeal of what must be one of the most beautiful villages in England. Members of the Cavendish Family lie buried in the churchyard, as does Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the former President of the USA.
Devonshire Arms (Tel. 01629 733259) formerly three separate cottages before its conversion in 1747 to a coaching inn. It boasts some celebrated patrons, as the writer Charles Dickens and King Edward VII both stayed at the inn. Bar meals are available daily. Open for food seven days a week.
Chatsworth Tea Rooms (Tel. 01246 582204) situated in the former stables to Chatsworth House that have been converted into a very impressive restaurant, tea rooms and shop complex. There is a wide range of food and drink available and walkers are very welcome. Open daily from 10.15am when the house is open to the public.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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A lovely scenic walk that after leaving Beeley explores the woods high above Chatsworth House, where there are stunning views across the park from the Hunting Tower.
After passing close to the House you return along the banks of the River Derwent through Chatsworth Park.
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