The picturesque village of Hartington with its spacious market place, village green, its delightful duck pond and limestone houses, which sparkle in the bright sunlight, make it one of the major tourist centres in the Peak District. It has more the air of a prosperous market town than a village.
Hartington was the first to be granted a charter to hold weekly markets and an annual fair in the Peak District, but these have long since ceased with the moving away of commercial activity. Even today the village has a range of services equivalent to those of a small town, but the population is only about 400 - apart from the tourists of course! Many of these are attracted by the excellent walking facilities available.
The size and stature of St Giles Church provides further evidence of the former status of the village. Standing on rising ground with an impressive battlemented west tower the church presents an imposing site. It is somewhat unusual in construction as both Staffordshire redstone and Derbyshire limestone have been used with gritstone detailing to produce a pleasing result.
Hartington’s main industry apart from tourism was cheese making. The cheese factory, opened in the 1870s, and was the only survivor of seven that at one time operated in the area. It closed after about twenty years but was soon back in action and had the distinction of achieving a Royal Warrant to supply Stilton to George V in the 1920s and 1930s. Sadly it closed in 2009.
The factory produced no less than a quarter of the world’s supply of Stilton. Legally the cheese can only be made in the three shire counties of Derby, Nottingham and Leicester - had the factory been built a quarter mile to the west it would not have qualified, being outside the county boundary in Staffordshire! Cheese can still be purchased from the former factory shop opposite the duck pond.
Since 1934, Hartington Hall has been a Youth Hostel. It was the home of the Bateman family for over four hundred years and is a very fine example of a yeoman farmer’s house. The room Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have slept in on his ill-fated journey to London, however, seems small and dark!
Charles Cotton who lived at Beresford Hall, now demolished, wrote, with his great friend Izaak Walton, a remarkable book about 17th century rural England called ‘The Compleat Angler’. No other English language book, other than the Bible and Book of Common Prayer, has been reprinted more times. He shared his time between an extravagant life style in London society with the quieter pleasures of his home and the Peak District. That is when his creditors were not chasing him - then it is said he hid in a cave in Beresford Dale. The fishing lodge he built still remains on private land in Beresford Dale, but can be seen from a distance when approaching the dale.
Hartington has produced some notable craftsmen; William Smith made the W G Grace Memorial Gates at Lord’s, the Spa bandstand at Scarborough and, locally, the lamp hanging for St Giles Church. James Redfern, Smith’s uncle and a talented sculptor, whose work appears in churches and cathedrals all over the world including Westminster Abbey, was brought up in the village.
A craftsman of a different kind, John Oliver, the son of a lead miner, left England to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway before eventually becoming the Prime Minister of British Columbia in 1921.
Prince Obolenski, a Russian nobleman, who lived at Dove Cottage for a time, having fled the revolution in his country, achieved immortality in Rugby circles by scoring two tries for England in a match against the formidable New Zealand All Blacks.
Once an important stopping place for pack horses and drovers and then for stagecoaches, both The Charles Cotton and The Devonshire Arms are former coaching inns. Now the village provides for tourists as well as local people and there are several tempting cafes, quality gift and craft shops and a newsagent.
Most noticeable of all is the small supermarket housed in the rather grand old Market Hall, built in 1836 with three arches of rusticated stone. On the green is the village pump, which was in regular use before piped water arrived. The old Victorian letterbox that used to stand outside, the Dauphin, a quality art and crafts shop, was relocated at the same time as the Post Office (Point 7 on the trail). Regular craft fairs and an annual book fair are held in the Village Hall, which started life in 1926 as a silent picture house. Hartington Well Dressings are held during September.
At the bottom of Hall Bank there is a most unusual war memorial in the form of a collage of pure limestone rocks. Just off the market place, in what used to be the village garage, is Rooke’s pottery, which specialises in making terracotta garden pots.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
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. Precise opening dates are not currently available. Leek Tourist Information Office (Tel. 01538 483741) will be able to supply further details.
Thor’s Cave rises 350 feet above the river in the Manifold Valley, its 60 feet 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.
Longnor Craft Centre (Tel. 01298 83587) the home of Fox Country Furniture. Apart from furniture, exhibits of the work of local craftspeople and artists are also displayed. The café is open seven days a week from mid-February selling home baked produce. Weekends only from late December.
The Devonshire Arms (Tel. 01298 84232) you can still see the blocked up archway used for horse drawn carriages when it was a coaching inn. Today it is a popular family pub with meals available at lunchtime and in the evening. A very pleasant place to sit outside and watch the world go by.
Beresford Tea Rooms (Tel. 01298 84418) Open seven days a week from Easter, this busy little café provides a good selection of light meals and teas. It also houses the village Post Office.
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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After leaving the village the walk descends gently to Beresford Dale. The River Dove meanders slowly through a beautiful wooded dale, over a succession of tiny weirs. Along this stretch of the river is the Pike Pool, named after the pinnacle of limestone rock rising from the water, where Charles Cotton and Izaak Walton used to fish.
Once across the water meadow, Wolfscote Dale is entered, which becomes progressively more spectacular, as you walk, with the sides of the dale rising almost vertically. Biggin Dale, in stark contrast, is dry except in wet weather.
Wild flowers grow in profusion during the summer in the dale, attracting large numbers of butterflies and other insects. Part of the dale is designated as a National Nature Reserve, under the care of English Nature. The return journey is mainly along walled tracks with excellent views of the surrounding countryside as Hartington is approached.
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