Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811> This page
Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811
The parishes and chapelries as they were just over 200 years ago. Extracts from an early Derbyshire history

From : 'History of Derbyshire' by David Peter Davies

[pp. 431-442]

A little to the North of the village [of Thorpe], is Thorp Cloud, a conical hill, of very steep ascent, which rises to a great height. Near this is a tolerably good descent, into a deep hollow called Bunster-Dale: on one side of which is bounded by a steep acclivity, finely covered with wood; and the other by a range of crags, of wild, uncouth appearance. Passing through this narrow ravine (where the eye is prevented from excursion, and the mind thrown back upon itself) for half a mile, a sudden turn presents the eye, with the southern entrance, of the far famed, and romantic, DOVE-DALE, a name it has received from the river Dove, pouring its waters through the valley.

On entering Dove-Dale, it is impossible not to be struck with the almost instantaneous change of scenery, so different from the surrounding country. Here, instead of brown heath, or the rich cultivated meadow, rocks abrupt and vast, their grey sides harmonizing by mosses; lichens, and yew-trees, their tops sprinkled with mountain-ash, rise on each side. The mountains that enclose this narrow dell, rise very precipitous, and bear on the sides fragments of rock, that, at a distance, look like the remains of some ruined castle.— After proceeding a little way, a deep and narrow valley presents itself, into whose recesses the eye is prevented from penetrating, by the winding course it pursues, and the shutting-in of its precipices, which fold into each other, and preclude all distant view.

On proceeding, the scenery of Dove-Dale, gradually increases in majesty and rudeness.— Now, those objects which at a distance seemed to have been ruins, are found to be huge pyramids of rock, and grand isolated masses, ornamented with ivy net-work, rising in the middle of the vale; and were the scene on a sandy desert, divested of its woods, it might delude the mind with the fancied plains, in the neighbourhood of Cairo. The rocks which enclose the Dale, rise perpendicularly to a very great height, forcing themselves into the clouds; their scathed and uncovered heads overhanging the narrow path, that winds through the dark recesses of the Dale; and frowning with craggy grandeur, and shaggy with dark oaks that grow out of the chinks, and cling to the asperities of the rock, form a scene in romantic beauty, unrivalled. The mind regards it as a sequestered solitude, where contemplation "to the crowd unknown," might take her seat, and extend her musings through the wide range of existence, neither interrupted by jarring sound, nor distracted by discordant images. The loneliness and silence that reigns here, entitle it to the appellation of the Vale of Fancy or another Vaucluse; and as there is but one rugged, narrow footpath, it has more the air of being the haunt of imaginary beings, than human ones.

After proceeding about a mile in the Dale, the walk perpetually diversified by new fantastic forms, and uncouth combinations of rock on all sides, a vast mural mass of detached rock, extending along the edge of the precipice on the right, is seen; this is called Reynard's Hole. It consists of three parts;— a mass of mural rock, in front of the Hall perfectly detached from it, and perforated by nature into a grand arch, nearly approaching to the shape of the sharply-pointed Gothic, about forty-five feet high, and twenty wide. After climbing the rock, and passing through this arch, a steep ascending path leads to the first cavern called Reynard's Hall. This is a natural cave, of forty-five feet in length, fifteen in breadth, and thirty in height. From the mouth Of this cavern, the scene is singular, beautiful, and impressive. The face of the rock which contains the arch, rises immediately in front, and would effectually prevent the eye from ranging beyond its mighty barrier, did not its centre open into the above-mentioned arch, through which, is seen a small part of the opposite side of the Dale a mass of gloomy wood, from whose shade a huge detached rock, solitary, craggy, and pointed, starts out to a great height, and forms an object truly sublime.— This rock is known by the appellation of Dovedale Church, and is pleasingly contrasted by a little pastoral river, and its verdant turfy bank below. At the end of this cave, there is a narrow opening, which some of the country-people, in the neighbourhood, suppose, leads to other very extensive caverns; and terminates in a place called Parwich, about two miles and a half distant.

To the left of this cavern, and a little above it, is another, called Reynard's Kitchen. This is about forty feet in length, fourteen in breadth, and twenty-six in height. From the inside of this, a pleasing view is presented, of the upper part of the Dale, its river and rocks.

The approach to these natural excavations, is very difficult of access even on foot, but impracticable on horseback: the latter however, was unfortunately tried about forty years ago. The Rev. Mr. Langton, Dean of Cloger, in Ireland, being on a visit to a family in the neighbourhood of Ashbourn, a party was formed, to make an excursion into Dove-Dale. As they proceeding along the bottom of the valley Mr. Langton proposed to ascend on horse-back, a very steep precipice, near Reynard's Hole, apparently between three and four hundred feet high; and Miss La Roche, a young lady of the party, agreed to accompany him on the same horse. When they had climbed the rock to a considerable height, the poor animal, unable to sustain the fatigue of the task imposed upon him, fell under his burden, and rolled down the steep. The Dean was precipitated to the bottom, where he was taken up so bruised and mangled by the fall, that he expired in a few days, and was buried in Ashbourn church: but the young lady, whose descent had been retarded by her hair entangling in a bramble bush, slowly recovered; though when disengaged, she was insensible, and continued so for two days. The horse, more fortunate than its riders, was but very slightly injured.

After passing Reynard's hole, the Dale becomes narrower, admitting only a foot-path between the river and the rock, which now rises more abruptly on either side, and appears in shapes more wild and singular ; but softened and diversified with shrubs and brush-wood. This scenery continues to the northern extremity, when two vast rocks, rising sublimely to the right and left of the brook, form the jaws or portals of this wonderful valley, which now drops at once the grand picturesque, its bottom gradually widening into an indulated flat, and its rocks sinking into round stony hills. The rock on the right hand of the termination of the Dale, has two large natural excavations called the Dove-Holes. The first is a regular arch of about sixty feet in span, and thirty-four in height; and a few yards higher up, is the other hole of the same shape, but of much less dimensions. Neither of these penetrate far into the rock. Opposite the Dove-Holes on the Staffordshire side of the river, is the other mass of rock, which is called Dove-Hole-Church, bearing a very strong and striking resemblance to such an edifice.

The length of Dove-Dale, is, nearly three miles, but the views are more limited from the sinuosity of its course and its projecting precipices. Through the whole of this majestic feature of country, the river Dove leads his stream, murmuring innocently and transparently over its pebbly bed, in the halcyon days of summer, but swelling into rage during the winter months: little tufts of shrubs and underwood, form islands in miniature in the river, that enlarge and swell the rest of the objects.

On the right, or Derbyshire side of the Dale, the rocks are more bare of vegetation, than on the left, or Staffordshire side, where they are thickly covered, with a fine hanging wood wild pear, apple, and cherry trees, the nut, the yew, the buck-thorn, the birch, and a variety of other trees and odoriferous shrubs and plants, which from its various combinations with the surrounding objects, presents a succession of beautifully picturesque and romantic views, But the character of the scenery is greatly diversified by the varying forms of the rocks, and the changing current of the Dove, the motion and appearance of which is perpetually changing. "It is never less than eight, nor so much as twenty, yards wide, and generally from three to four feet deep; and transparent to the bottom, except when it is covered with foam of the purest white, under falls which are perfectly lucid. These are numerous, but very different: in some places they stretch straight across, or aslant, the stream; in others, they are only partial, and the water either dashes against the stones, and leaps over them, or, pouring along a steep, rebounds upon those below: sometimes it rushes through the several openings between them, and at other times it is driven back by the obstruction, and turns into an eddy. In one particular spot, the valley almost closing, leaves hardly a passage for the river, which, pent up, and struggling for vent, rages, and roars, and foams, till it has extricated itself from confinement. In other parts, the stream, though never languid, is often gentle, flows round a little desert island, glides between aits of bulrushes, disperses itself among tufts of grass and of moss, bubbles about a water-dock, or plays with the slender threads of aquatic plants which float upon the surface.[1]

The rugged, dissimilar, and frequently grotesque and fanciful appearance of the rocks, distinguish the scenery of this Dale from, almost every other in the kingdom. "On the whole" to use the words of Mr. Gilpin,[2] " it is perhaps, one of the most pleasing pieces of scenery of the kind, we any where meet with. It has something peculiarly characteristic. Its detatched, perpendicular rocks, stamp it with an image entirely its own, and for that reason, it affords the greater pleasure. For it is in scenery as in life:— We are most struck with the peculiarity of an original character, provided there is nothing offensive in it."

At Wooton-Hall near Dove-Dale, Hume procured a place of retreat, for that singular character and ingenious writer, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Flying from a persecution which his exuberant imaginatio pictured, as thickening around him on the continent, he arrived in London in January, 1766: he first intended taking up his residence in Wales, but about the latter end of March, he settled in Derbyshire. "Here," says he, " I have arrived at last, at an agreeable and sequestered asylum, where I hope to breathe freely, and at peace."[3] The spot was, indeed, every way adapted to his melancholy and romantic mind, and suited to his genius, affording him scope for his favorite study,Botany.:— From this abode, however, he issued in April, 1767, with his usual eccentricity, inflamed of an imaginary affront, and heaping reproaches on persons, to whom he stood most indebted, for their attention to his welfare and felicity, and returned to the continent. While Rousseau lived at Wooton-Hall, he planted a number of curious seeds in Dove-Dale, the scenery of which he much admired, and often visited.[4]

Footnotes and references from the book.

[1] Wheatley's Obser. on Modern Gardening, p.114.

[2] In his Northern Tour.

[3] Correspondance avec, M. Peyron Tom. II. Lettre, 45.

[4] To those who visit Dove-Dale (and who that has an opportunity will not do so?) it may be acceptable to know,that there are in its immediate vicinity several objects worthy their attention: but being on the western side of the Dove, they are situated in the county of Stafford, and therefore cannot be introduced into the body of this work.
After inspecting the Dale, and returning to its southern extremity, a small winding of the Dove to the right, will lead to the road leading to Islam [Ilam], a small ancient village, one mile from the Dale; situated upon the united rivers, Manifold and Hamps, which join their streams in the pleasure grounds of Mr. Port. This gentleman's mansion is an old Hall, surrounded with pleasing walks, and commanding a very fine prospect.
Proceeding one hundred yards from the house, a little wooden bridge, is arrived at, thrown over an abyss in the rock, out of which boils up, with surprising force, the river Manifold, after haying pursued a subterraneous course for five miles, from the point where it ingulphs itself in the earth, called Weston-Mill. At the distance of twenty yards further, a similar phænomenon occurs; for here there is another fissure in the rock, from whence the river Hamp throws its waters into day. This river disappears at Leek Water Houses, a place half-way between Leek and Ashbourn ; thus pursuing a subterraneous course of seven miles, before it again emerges into light. On their emersion, the temperature of the two rivers differs two degrees and a half; the Hamps being thus much colder than the Manifold.
Ascending from this place, a flight of stone-steps conducts to a higher walk, which pursues a zig-zag course, through the wood that covers the face of the rock, and overhangs the river just quitted, In this solemn abstracted scene, safe from the obtrusion of the busy crowd, and secure from every discordant sound, lulled to peace by the river that flowed beneath him, and the sacred whisper of the wood which waved above his head, Congreve, when scarcely nineteen, in a little grotto, (his favorite and accustomed retreat) wrote his comedy, called the " Old Bachelor." This recess is built with gray stones, having a stone-table in the middle, and an elegant drapery of ivy, privet, young beech, and laurel branches, crown the roof, and hang from above ;-the whole is so romantic, that we might expect to perceive, "inspiration breathe around."
In the church at Islam, are some ancient monuments Of the Cromwell family; but two of still greater antiquity are found in the church-yard, which, from the Runic knots, and other Scandinavian ornaments carved on their faces, are supposed to be Danish, and attributed to the tenth century.
At Oakover also, which is not far from Dove-Dale, there are several of the best paintings of Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Luca Giordano, Varelst, Vandervelt, &c. The visitor is permitted to see one room only in this house; but in this house; but in this one the exquisite pictures by the above masters are to be found.

Davies' book
An Ann Andrews book transcript

Some places in or near Dovedale.
Thorpe and Thorpe Cloud

Ilam Church

Ilam Hall

The Dove is also mentioned on Derbyshire: Rivers (and Canals)