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Hathersage, Hillside Houses, 1930s

In the early years of the nineteenth century there were about a hundred houses in the village and, although steel wire and needles were made, "farming interests prevail[ed]"[1]. Brass buttons, needles, hackles, gills, pins, cast steel wire and millstones for were all manufactured in Hathersage[2]. By the 1850s there were five mills producing needles and in 1854 there were riots and confusion caused by misunderstandings between the needle manufacturers and their men[3]. Fifteen years later the needle trade wasn't brisk, the hackle pin business was depressed but there was still a reasonable demand for the umbrellas that were also made in the village. The millstone quarries were in full work, though, with a very good demand generally for millstones[4]. By the mid 1880s trade had declined and the population decreased by 25%[5]; needle manufacturing and wire drawing disappeared about 1900[6].

Perhaps the village's most famous visitor was Charlotte Bronte who stayed at Hathersage with her friend Ellen Nussey in 1845 whilst Ellen's brother Henry, the then vicar, was on his honeymoon[7]. "Jane Eyre", written by Charlotte a few years later, contains descriptions of Hathersage - Morton in the novel - and the spectacular moorland scenery. After Jane had fled from Thornfield Hall the coach set her down at Whitcross "no town, not even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillar set up where four roads meet. ... There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waved of mountains beyond the deep valley at my feet". In the village shop Jane asked what the chief trade of the place was: "Some were farm labourers; a good deal worked at Oliver's needle-factory and the foundry". She eventually stumbled upon the home of St. John E[yre] Rivers and his two sisters Diana and Mary, Moor House in the novel but believed to be Moorseats in Hathersage[8]. Even the surname of the heroine, Eyre, would have been suggested to Charlotte by this visit as members of the Eyre family are commemorated in the church (see previous page).

"Hathersage. The hillside Houses". Sepia image from Mee[9], who acknowledges the work of his Art Editor, Sidney Tranter, but is not specific about who provided which picture, although contributors included the National Trust and Valentine and Sons.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews. Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Rhodes, Ebenezer (1824) "Peak Scenery" pub. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster Row.
[2] The industries are listed in various trade directories, with all of those items being made in the village.
[3] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 29 July 1854.
[4] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 27 March 1869.
[5] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 30 July 1884. An article about the Dore and Chinley Railway said that "Hathersage was once a flourishing place, with population of about 1,200". It blamed the lack of a railway for the downturn in trade.
[6] From 1895, for a period of around 3 years, Mr. Stead's wire drawing factory at Victoria Mills, which had run on water and steam power was advertised for sale. It finally closed in 1910, following an explosion. Needle Manufacturing was mentioned last in Kelly's Directory of 1899. Robert Cook was still manufacturing needles in 1897, but a quick look at the 1891 census showed that few were employed in the industry.
[7] Ellen Nussey was a school friend of Charlotte Bronte, and was visiting Charlotte and her father Patrick at Haworth Parsonage at the tome of the 1851 census.
[8] Bronte, Charlotte (1847), "Jane Eyre", Penguin English Library Edition, 1966. Chapter 28.
[9] Mee, Arthur (ed.) (1937) "Derbyshire: The Peak Country",The King's England Series, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London.

Also see:
The Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire
Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811
Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1891, Hathersage

The excellent Peakland Heritage website has more information about nineteenth century Hathersage industries (this is an external link, so will open in a new window).

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