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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007

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“I have travelled in many lands, but never seen a more beautiful place”; so wrote author Nat Gould of Bradbourne, which is indeed a `beautiful place’ set in sylvan surroundings just beyond the south eastern boundary of the Peak National Park between Ashbourne and Wirksworth.

Nowhere in Derbyshire will you find a more peaceful and tranquil village than Bradbourne. Even at the height of the tourist season when the Peak is thronged by visitors, all you will hear in the centre of Bradbourne is birdsong, the occasional rustic bleating of sheep, and perhaps the whisper of a summer breeze in the treetops.

That Nat Gould chose this as his final resting place speaks volumes, for this author of over 130 novels was born in Manchester, worked as a racing journalist in Australia, and died near London in 1919. His father was born at Hartington and the family had farmed Pilsbury Grange for centuries; the well-travelled author chose Bradbourne because It is the one place in England that I look back to as my old home and village”

The pastoral beauty of Bradbourne is enhanced by it’s elevated position amongst the emerald green hills and grey limestone outcrops which epitomise the rolling landscape of the White Peak, and this hill-top village of just over 100 inhabitants enjoys some fine views over the surrounding countryside.

Mill Lane is a right turn which climbs steeply eastward just north of Bradbourne Mill and leads up to the small village standing 150 feet above the valley with magnificent views southward across Haven Dale to Haven Hill, but perhaps the best views are from the churchyard looking north west up the valley towards Parwich.

The battlemented square Norman tower of All Saints church rises above the tree-tops and has been a familiar sight down the centuries to travellers along the B5056 Bakewell to Ashbourne road which passes down the valley of the Bradbourne Brook half a mile to the west of the village. The road marks the Peak National Park boundary and doubles as the parish boundary as far as Bradbourne Mill, from which point the parish boundary follows the course of the Bradbourne Brook southward to it’s meeting with the boundaries of neighbouring parishes, Kniveton and Fenny Bentley, whilst the road continues to the market town of Ashbourne five miles away to the south west.

Bradbourne may be a small village but it has a large and straggling parish which is bounded in the east by Tissington and in the west by Carsington, whilst the parishes of Parwich and Brassington form the northern boundaries.

At the time of the Domesday Survey the Manor of Bradbourne belonged to Henry de Ferrers, as did more than a hundred others in Derbyshire in 1087, including Tissington and Brassington, but Bradbourne alone had a church and a priest. The church was given to Dunstable Priory in 1205, when four monks were sent to serve the mother church at Bradbourne and it’s three chapelries at Tissington, Brassington and Ballidon. This system continued for more than 300 years until the dissolution of the monasteries, and then under the protestant Church of England until around 1860 when Tissington and Brassington became separate parishes. Until then the parish of Bradbourne was twice the size of today and as well as Tissington and Brassington it included Ballidon and the townships of Aldwark and Atlow. These days the parish of Bradbourne and Ballidon shares a team vicar with Brassington.

The Main Street runs east to west through the village from the top of the Mill Lane hill to it’s junction with the lane to Carsington and Kniveton beside Hall Cottage.

The older dwellings are all on the north side of the Main Street, whilst on the south side the tastefully converted luxury complex of Haven Grange stands at the eastern end of a sweeping gravel drive in landscaped grounds, and the new Village Hall of 1992 stands resplendent at the opposite western end.

The church of All Saints is an absolute gem with perhaps the best preserved mixture of Saxon and Norman architecture in the county, and conscientious churchwarden Eddie Castledine is justifiably proud of his charge.

The monks who first came here 800 years ago would have no difficulty in recognising the building today. The thick-set Norman west tower has a turret stairway, very rare in Derbyshire, and little has changed since the 13th century, except for the renewed windows and the battlements added to the tower.

Three original Norman doorways remain and the south door of the tower is an especially fine example of Norman stonework with it’s fantastically carved triple archway. There is a fine example of Saxon masonry in the north wall of the nave, but the earliest piece of stonework on the site is a wonderfully well preserved 8th century stone cross-shaft which stands in the immaculately kept churchyard. The shaft has ornate Saxon carving, including a crucifixion scene, and the base shows evidence of earlier Celtic design work.

Beside the church stands the Old Parsonage in it’s walled garden, a mixture of different styles and materials built in three different ages, but any incongruity of building style is masked by the charm of climbing roses and clematis which festoon the front façade.

Standing sedately in it’s own landscaped park and surrounded by stately beech and elm is the Elizabethan Bradbourne Hall, built by Henry Buxton (or Buckston) on the earlier site of the ancient Manor House of the Bradburnes.

A quaint Victorian lamp atop a stone monumental pillar graces the gravel square at the entrance to the churchyard, “To Commemorate the 60 years reign of Queen Victoria 1837-97. Erected by the inhabitants of Bradbourne and Ballidon.”

Bradbourne Mill stands at the bottom of Mill Lane beside the Bradbourne Brook and opposite the ford on the lane to Tissington. The mill race has been dry and the large paddle-wheel has not turned for over a century; it still stands, delapidated now beside the crumbling old mill, forgotten and unnoticed beside a sharp bend on the B5056.

This is still a farming community as it always has been, although today there are fewer, but bigger farms, mainly concerned with cattle and sheep, whose numbers today are almost the same as the 1,200 that the monks of Dunstable Priory had on these hills in 1284.

Except for the development at Haven Grange, (where the young Nat Gould spent his teenage years farming for his uncle) this quiet village has remained unchanged down the centuries and wears it’s age with dignity and pride, and with a certain degree of reverence. The church and churchyard alone are worth a visit and both are a credit to this well manicured and pretty village of wide green verges and tall stately trees.

Standing beside Nat Gould’s grave beneath the laurels in the corner of Bradbourne churchyard near the Saxon cross and gazing up the valley towards Parwich and the limestone uplands beyond, it is not difficult to understand what he meant when he said, - “ I have travelled in many lands but never have I seen a more beautiful place”.

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