Wetton is a compact little village of limestone cottages that seem to huddle together in an exposed position against the cold at an altitude of about 1,000 feet. Winters are now much milder, but some of the older residents still recall the times the village has been cut off from the outside world.
At Grindon, on the other side of the Manifold Valley that divides the two villages, is a memorial to six RAF men. They died when their aircraft crashed while Ďbringing relief to the stricken villages during the great blizzard of 1947í. Two press photographers died with them shortly after parachuting food supplies to the people of Wetton, Onecote, Butterton and Grindon.
In the summer, Wetton is a picture with its pretty cottages and lovely gardens and it is not surprising that so many people decide to take their holidays in the village. For the more adventurous there is the campsite behind the pub, but for those who prefer four walls there is plenty of choice. The very tidy village notice board even provides a map, showing precisely where holiday accommodation is located.
In 1993, when the first World Toe Wrestling Championship was introduced in the village, a great deal of interest was generated both locally and nationally. Although it no longer takes place in Wetton, during the years it operated, it raised a lot of money for charity and kept the pumps at the Royal Oak busy.
A much gentler pursuit than toe wrestling has been recently introduced and while it might not attract the attention of the national media, it is certainly enjoyed by the local people. It takes the form of growing sunflowers; villagers are provided with the seed and pot and have to use their skills to try to win a prize for growing the best sunflower in Wetton. For those wanting something a little more strenuous there is the annual Wetton and Manifold Valley 10 Kilometre Road Race.
Wetton is a very active village and currently a project is underway to restore two wells, erect an information board and provide a seat for rest and reflection. Another project completed recently at St Margaretís Church, resulted in the bells ringing again, having not been heard within living memory. The five existing bells were recast at the beginning of this century and a sixth added in 2001. Surprisingly, all are from different centuries.
During restoration work early this century, on the leaded roof of the ancient tower at St Margaretís Church, 219 footprints and hand impressions were discovered in the existing lead work. They covered a period from 1781-1913 and have been surveyed and preserved. It shows that graffiti is not a new phenomenon; some of the earliest examples can be seen at Stonehenge and Pompeii.
In the graveyard is the last resting place of Samuel Carrington. He was the village schoolmaster for 50 years, but is better known as a nationally recognized archaeologist. His tomb is carved with shells and fossils. Together with Thomas Bateman of Middleton-by-Youlgreave, he excavated sizeable Romano-British settlements at Borough Fields and Long Low. Half a mile south west at Thorís Cave, overlooking the Manifold Valley, they found evidence of occupation in Iron Age and Romano-British times.
Until 1947, Wetton was an estate village belonging to the Duke of Devonshire. Faced by crippling death duties the land was sold and offered initially to the sitting tenants. The Chatsworth Holiday Cottages are just one reminder of the Devonshireís involvement with the village.
The main industries at present are agriculture and tourism, the latter attracted by the beautiful countryside and the delights of the Manifold Valley. Wetton Mill was established in the valley by William Cavendish, second son of Bess of Hardwick. It was finally abandoned in 1857; one of the buildings has been converted into a very popular tea room.
In the past, mining used to be an important employment provider for the villagers. The building of the Crescent at Buxton is said to have been funded by the Duke of Devonshire out of the profits of his copper mine at nearby Ecton. Stone from a quarry north west of Wetton was used for making paving setts which paved the streets of Stoke-on-Trent.
Many of the properties in the village date back two or three hundred years; the Manor Farm House is 16th century and Hallows Grange is dated 1675. Falling numbers led to the closure of the school, which has been converted into the village hall. The Methodist chapel is no more, now a smart B&B establishment.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Thorís Cave, rises 350 feet above the Manifold Valley, its 60-foot entrance is imposing but the cave inside is comparatively small. The railway track that once ran through the valley has been converted for the use of walkers and cyclists.
Manifold Valley Visitor Centre (Tel. 01298 84679) housed in the old Hulme End Station, where information displays outline the history of the railway, the industries and local community. Open most weekends and during school holidays. For further information, when the above number is not available, contact Leek Tourist Information Office (Tel. 01538 483741) who will be able to supply details.
Milldale is a delightfully positioned hamlet at the northern end of Dovedale. It attracts walkers like few other places of its size in Britain. Most come to explore the beautiful Dove Valley, with its famous Stepping Stones and strange rock formations, but there are many other excellent walks in the area that either start, or pass through Milldale.
The Royal Oak (Tel. 01335 310287) situated in the heart of Wetton village is a 400 year old pub, with two cosy bars, open fires and beamed ceilings. Accommodation is available. There is a campsite at rear of pub. Food served lunchtime and evenings Wednesday to Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Wetton Mill Tearooms are situated mid way along the Manifold Valley next to the river. Open April to October every day from 9.30am. During the winter months open at weekends only. Hot and cold drinks and light snacks are served.
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The Manifold Valley has some of the most spectacular scenery in the Peak District and is rich with wildflowers, butterflies and birds. Surprisingly, the river beds of the Manifold and Hamps that flow through the valley are frequently dry, as the waters soak away into the porous limestone rocks below and only reappear in wet weather.
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