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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
 
Ashbourne: Church Avenue or Church Walk


"Just beyond [the Old School] is the parish church of St. Oswald .... It stands clear of houses with a long avenue of trimly kept trees dividing it from the road and the steep bank of the valley. On the other three sides is the spreading cemetery where lie many generations of the people of Ashbourne"[1]. Firth's 1908 description is roughly contemporary with the publication of this postcard.

The lime avenue, planted in or shortly before 1839, can be seen on nineteenth century engravings/prints. The young trees were, unfortunately, vandalised not long afterwards. "On Friday night night week some person or persons, at present unknown, broke and destroyed four of the newly planted lime trees in Ashbourn Church-yard. A reward of five guineas it offered for the discovery of the offender or offenders"[2]. This indicates that the land they were planted on was part of the churchyard, rather that outside its perimeter.

Other early references to the avenue can be found in Kelly's 1855 Directory - "The chief ornament of the town is the church, which stands in a very spacious piece of ground ornamented with a fine avenue of lime-trees"[3] - and White's 1857 Directory - "The Churchyard is spacious, and has a fine broad walk running from end to end, between an avenue of Limes; it was enlarged in 1845, by G. H. Errington, Esq."[4].

The trees shown on the postcard above have been pollarded. Metal railings form the boundary on the right, still there today although possibly not the same height, and thicker posts and rails protected the walk from the road. These are no longer in situ. You can just see that there is a woman in a white Edwardian dress and a child closer to the church.

In 1871 a Committee who were supervising the enlargement of Ashbourne Church-yard entered into a contract with Mr. Smith of Tissington to enclose three quarters of an acre of land, although their agreement did not include either building a wall on the north side of the extra ground, or to the continuation of the avenue of lime trees. "The committee hadn't enough funds to either take up the hedge on this side, nor to continue the wall in front of the Infant School. Had it remained so, no doubt it would have had an unsightly and half finished appearance, but that eye-sore has been avoided through the munificence of Mr. Edward Bradley, of this town, who with his usual liberality has undertaken, at his own expense, to continue the present northern boundary wall of the church-yard, to the extent of the ground proposed to be added, and to continue the noble avenue of limes to the same extent". Mr. Bradley's contract for the wall was with Mr. Richard Brown, at a cost of £64. His gift was well-timed as the committee were able to complete the work[5].

In 1907 another proposal to extend the churchyard was put forward[6], which probably explains Firth's reference to the cemetery spreading.

The alignment of the church gates at the end of Church Walk seemed to have created what appeared to be almost a dead end to Church Street (see St. Oswald's Church). After the First World War, with the increased use of motor vehicles, there was a problem for drivers travelling from Mayfield into Ashbourne along the road beside the avenue as it was then narrower by the gates. Visibility was not good as drivers were almost unaware, firstly, that the road widened close to the Old School and the Mansion and, secondly, that the Old Station Road/School Lane junction coming in from the right existed.

The matter was discussed by the Council in 1928: " the dangerous "bottle-neck" on Mayfield Road, has perhaps more interest for the public, and it is satisfactory to know that steps are being taken to remove a menace to all road users. The church walk is one of the beauties of Ashbourne, but the Vicar and the Parochial Council have recognised that it is necessary for the public safety that they should keep pace with modern traffic requirements. Many serious accidents have been narrowly averted at this spot, as strangers motoring from Leek are unaware of the sudden widening of the road as they emerge into Church-street, and it is hoped that widening may be effected at the church gates without destroying the beauty of the walk"[7].

There is an undated photograph, published in "The Spirit of Ashbourne",[8], that shows the original position of the church gates which had caused the bottle-neck mentioned above. The pillars were surrounded by scaffolding in readiness for their re-alignment.


Looking down Church Walk towards Mayfield in 1935. Lighting had been installed.
Another set of gates was further along, set in the wall next to the road. It was, presumably,
to allow access to the footpath at the west end of the church.


The year after the second card was published the Derby paper mentioned "... the delightful churchyard, with its beautiful old yew tree and noble avenue of limes" in an article about Ashbourne[9],.

The historic lime avenue survives today. The trees are no longer pollarded; some have died but have not been replaced. Where they stood can still be seen as there are a number of empty tree holes. We can see the full holes in the images here. Many limes remain, though but do not seem to have been pollarded for many years.


1. "Chinck Avenue, Ashbourne [sic - Church Avenue]. Derbyshire "Artistic" Series, published by G. Marsden & Son, Wirksworth and London, No.2242. Printed in Saxony. Not posted. Another number, 137590, is printed at the bottom right corner of the address box.
2. "Church Walk, Ashbourne". Valentine's Post Card. Printed in Great Britain. Famous Throughout the World. This is a Real Photograph, No.G2543. Registered in 1935. Unused.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] Firth, J. B. (1908) "Highways and Byways in Derbyshire" MacMillan & Co., London.

[2] "Staffordshire Advertiser", 7 December 1839.

[3] Kelly and Co., London (1855) "The Post Office Directory of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Rutlandshire".

[4] "White, Francis & Co (1857) "History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Derby ..." See Neil Wilson's excellent transcript.

[5] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 8 September 1871.

[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 24 October 1907. Proposal to extend the churchyard.

[7] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 17 February 1928. Ashbourne Affairs.

[8] Porter, Lindsey (1999) "The Spirit of Ashbourne", Landmark Publishing Ltd., Ashbourne, Derbyshire, ISBN 1-901522-63-6

[9] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 30 September 1936.



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St. Oswald's Church
shows the gates and Church Walk




Map of Dovedale, from Hartington to Ashbourne, 1908