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What's in your parish? Taddington & Priestcliffe

Nestling in the Derbyshire Peak District between Bakewell and Buxton sits the unassuming parish of Taddington & Priestcliffe. Most people might only be aware of it as a blur when speeding up a short stretch of dual carriageway of the A6, but there's more to see other than a flash of green. I took a walk around some of the parish with one of our sons recently, and if you know what to look for, there are many signs of activity from the past. Some are obvious, others less so. We're going to take an anti-clockwise route through the village and associated hamlets, beginning at the church, where we'll encounter much of the historical remains.

Stopping in the village, the largest building is unsurprisingly the church. St Michael & All Angels dates to at least the 14th century with the spire and parts of the body of the church dating to the 14th to early 15th century. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described it “ambitiously rebuilt early in the 14th century, inspired perhaps by Tideswell?" Within the church there is more to see.

In the gallery below you can see some of the content of the church. The sequence begins with a decorated alabaster slab thought to date from the 15th century and depicting Roger of Blackwell. The design is patchy, but some elements remain fairly clear. On passing through the fabulous door there is the first of two fonts, this one being 16th century. On the west wall, in addition to sign of much alteration and rebuilding, is a wall painting. The date is uncertain, but conservation and analysis in the 1990s recorded 'Prussian Blue' pigment which was first used in 1708. The figure is clearly human, but its identity remains unknown.

Moving round again there are two benefactors boards and the details are interesting. On the first there are three bequests which include to name of the 'fields' on which the bequest rests. In the second are details of the bequests which saw the establishment of a school at the end of the 18th century. The presence of a school is interesting as in the later 19th century John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Taddington like this:

" a township-chapelry in Bakewell parish... real property. £3,014. Pop., 507...The church is old. There are two endowed schools with £80 and £15 a year, and charities £10." At the last census the population was 457, and down to just one school!

Below the first benefactors board is a second font, and there is a hand-written note on some of its more recent history. It was discovered in a pub which was next to the church, being used for "ordinary culinary purposes". That might have been decidedly questionable as it is describe elsewhere as being lead lined.

Outside in the graveyard there's an interesting mix of headstones, with some dating to the early 18th century. More recent grave or head stones give us information on the name, age, family relationship etc but on many earlier examples such as the small one dated 1704 we have just the briefest of details. As a rule of thumb small grave stones are older and in the gallery there are a range of styles and shapes reflecting changes in taste and convention over time. Those small simple stones gave way to slightly grander, more ornate designs often with characteristic 'wavy' tops with two or three sinuous waves. Sometimes the conditions are such that all we can see what has yet to be covered by nature, as is the case of the grave marked by the small iron markers. Also in the churchyard is part of a stone cross. There appears to be some mystery over exactly how old it is. The Derbyshire Historic Environment Record (HER) describes it as "probably early medieval", but it is not included in an academic record of Anglo-Saxon crosses.

Of course there's always more to a parish than the church and in Taddington & Priestcliffe there is no exception. Walking, a must if you are to see what counts, down Main Road the are clues to the past lives and livings around. Firstly, there's the name itself, Main Road. This was formerly part of the Ashford to Buxton turnpike road, which itself was replaced by the A6 bypass built in the 1930s. Passing down through the village there are reminders of shops and trades. The names on some of the houses offer clues such as The Smithy, Cooper's Cottage and here at Butcher's Cottage there is still a shop frontage in place.

Further down on the left we pass the Primitive Methodist Chapel, an example of many such chapels that were established in the 19th in the Peak District and elsewhere. Primitive Methodists were, by implication of their name, seeking a return to original doctrine as spread by the movement's founder John Wesley in the 18th century. One feature of Primitive Methodism was its focus on the rural poor, hence the appearance of many of their chapels in the Peak District.

Moving toward the edge of the village we reach Town End, which as you might imagine, marks the limit of the township of Taddington.

Following the turnpike road down you reach the A6 and a couple of hundred metres further down there is a small turning to the hamlet of Brushfield. The hamlet is just a few small farms, and the road melts into a track called Bulltor Lane. Just before you reach the first of the farms there is a small area adjacent to the track which has been built up to support it. Emerging from the dirt are pieces of pottery, mostly dating to the 18th and 19th century and they are a mixture of utilitarian and fine tablewares which attest to the tastes and economic standing of the locals. You'll recognize the Blue & White ware, better known as 'Willow Pattern', but what is more interesting is the centre piece. It is a transfer of the colonnade at Buxton baths, but the dome at the end is no longer there.

Continuing along Bulltor Lane there are signs of the industrial past of the parish. The Limestone plateau of the Derbyshire Peak District (aka The White Peak) was, in the 18th/19th centuries, the scene of extensive quarrying and Limestone processing. Limestone became important for two other industries - agriculture and construction. As agricultural techniques and methods improved it was found that small amounts of burnt Limestone was an effective fertilizer and conversely large amounts spread of vegetation acted as a herbicide. This period also saw a boom in both road and house building, and of course the are quite a few houses built from Limestone locally...

The area is dotted with small 'field quarries', which are as they sound pretty small scale when compared to today's. Most farmers and/or landowners had their own quarries, often several on their land. Once the Limestone was quarried it was often burnt in kilns right next to the quarry and an example from Bulltor Lane is shown here.

The circular mound to the right of the picture is the lime kiln. It would have been packed with alternate layers of coal and Limestone and at the base was a fire to start the process. In the background to the left is the quarry, so you can see there was a minimum of effort involved!

Further along the track is yet more evidence of the industrial past of the parish. This time it is a Lead rake. The name is used to identify seams of Lead-ore bearing Limestone. Again there is the extraction site close to the processing site and the area is littered with spoil heaps. All of this took place before the stone walls of the later 19th century field boundaries were built. How do we know this? Simple, the walls are on top of the workings, therefore post-dating them.

As you pass out of Priestcliffe there is a view toward Taddington Dale and the modern road. But, you can also see a feature on the small hill to the east. They can also be seen quite clearly as you drive down the A6 to Bakewell. There are a series of ridges within the fields - to the right of the line of bushes. These are known as lynchets and they are a type of terracing used in the past to enable farmers to use tools such as ploughs more easily. Lynchets are not obviously dateable, but may are thought to be medieval in origin. As yet, these have not been investigated archaeologically, but one day...

From here it is a short walk back to the starting point of the church. Hopefully this short guide has got you thinking about what can be found in your parish. Why not have a look?


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