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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Dethick, Lea & Holloway

Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

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Dethick, Lea and Holloway:

They may sound like a firm of solicitors, but in fact they are the names of three separate mid-Derbyshire villages which make up a combined rural parish, situated high in the hills above the east bank of the Derwent Valley, and a handful of miles south-east of Matlock.

Each of the three settlements has its own claim to fame through association with former residents who became figures of national celebrity, and whose exploits and achievements are duly recorded in the annals of England’s social and political history.

The parish can also boast of having royal visitors, for King George V1, the Duke of York, the Prince of Wales, and our present Queen Elizabeth 2nd have all given it their patronage and enjoyed it’s hospitality over the years.

The romantically named `Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale, who but for a trick of fate would otherwise have been plain Flo Shore, lived at Lea Hurst, Holloway, both before and after her famous exploits in the Crimean War.

The infamous Anthony Babington was a staunch Catholic supporter of Mary Queen of Scots, and was executed at the Tower of London in 1586 for Treason against the Crown after plotting the failed assassination of Queen Elizabeth 1st . He was born at Dethick Manor in 1561.

The final luminary to stamp an indelible imprint on the parish was Victorian Industrialist John Smedley, who along with Florence Nightingale’s grandfather, Peter Nightingale, built Lea Mills in the late eighteenth century.

There were four successive John Smedley’s and they were responsible for laying the foundations for much of the prosperity and infrastructure that the parish enjoys today - whilst the second John Smedley was responsible for the building of Riber Castle, a familiar landmark in the area since the 1860’s.

A glance at a county road map shows that Dethick, Lea and Holloway lie in a stretch of land between the A615 Matlock to Alfreton road and the A6 from Cromford to Ambergate, and consequently several minor roads converge on the triune nest of picturesque villages from all directions.

Perhaps the easiest and most popular approach is eastward from the A6 at Cromford, along Mill Lane which runs alongside the Derwent and over Cromford Bridge to High Peak Junction and Lea Bridge. Here the road begins to climb steeply towards Holloway, whilst a left fork takes a lesser gradient up to Lea and Dethick after passing beneath the factory bridge of John Smedley’s Lea Mills and northward up the lane past the old mill dam.

Above this conglomeration of interlinked settlements, the magnificent beech woods of Upper Holloway form a stately natural backcloth on the west - facing hillside, against which the cranellated stone tower of the parish church of Christ Church rises solidly to face the setting sun.

Chronologically Lea is the earliest recorded settlement; held by Ralph FitzHubert prior to the Norman Conquest, and is the only one mentioned in the Domesday Book. But the earliest known building here is at Dethick, now a tiny hamlet of just three farms, where in 1279 the first lord of the manor, called de Dethick, built beside his Manor House a small private chapel dedicated to St.John the Baptist.

The last two Dethicks, Robert and his son Thomas were both killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, and Robert’s daughter Isabel inherited the estate, and later married Thomas Babington. It was the infamous Anthony Babington’s father, Sir Anthony Babington who in 1530-32 enlarged the chapel to it’s present size, adding the clerestory windows and the unique Perpendicular lantern tower, which stands in testimony to the long-dead Dethicks and Babingtons whose heraldic shields are represented on a frieze beneath the belfry.

*The original Manor House fell into disrepair during the mid-seventeenth century, and a new Manor House (the present Manor Farm) was erected around the remains of the old Dethick Manor by the Hallowes Family in 1670. Today the huge kitchen at Manor Farm still has the three original fireplaces from the original Manor House.

Church Farm and Babington Farm were also constructed around 1670 from the salvaged remains of the old Manor, and the Babington coat of arms can still be seen today over the carved window at Babington Farm.*

The Nightingales purchased the 640 acre estate and manor of Lea in 1707, and Thomas Nightingale rebuilt Lea Hall, a late Tudor manor house, in the modern early Georgian style of the day. He was a rich lead merchant and owned a large smelting works at Lea Bridge, and also endowed Lea Chapel in 1732 for the use of Protestant Dissenters. Originally built in 1690, the chapel, now an Evangelical Free Church, is the earliest non-conformist chapel in Derbyshire.

Peter Nightingale founded Lea Mills as a cotton-spinning factory at Lea Bridge in 1784, based on Richard Arkwright’s successful Cromford Mill just a mile away, and using water from the Lea Brook to power the large wheel. He took Wirksworth merchant John Smedley as his overseer, but after Arkwright successfully sued Nightingale for infringement of his carding-machine patent in 1785, Lea Mills changed to wool spinning and hosiery manufacture.

In 1789 Peter Nightingale, sold the manor of Cromford to Richard Arkwright, and later relinquished control of Lea Mills to John Smedley.

Nightingale died around 1813, Smedley followed ten years later, and the

second John Smedley was 24 when he took over at Lea Mills in 1827.

A staunch Methodist, he built a stone chapel at Holloway in 1853, and his philanthropic ways endeared him to villagers and workforce alike.

When he died in 1874, he was buried in Holloway churchyard where over his grave, his workforce erected a tall marble obelisk to his memory.

John Marsden-Smedley took control in 1888 and retained it as Managing Director for over seventy years until his death aged 92 in 1959.

Smedley’s factories at Lea Mills have been producing garments for well over two hundred years, and their success was rewarded by visits from the Duke of York in 1933, and our present Queen in 1968.

The Smedley’s were also responsible for numerous local projects, including the complete renovation of Lea Green, now a major sports and conference centre, and Lea Rhododendron Gardens on Long Lane, which are still open to the public during the summer months and well worth a visit.

Peter Nightingale died without issue, and his nephew William Edward Shore inherited the Lea Estate and Peter’s fortune at the age of twenty one in 1820, and promptly changed his name from Shore to Nightingale. He married three years later and went abroad, where his wife gave birth to two daughters, Parthenope and Florence, each named after her birthplace.

William Nightingale built Lea Hurst at Holloway for his new bride and family but found it `too cold, too small and too isolated from society’. So in 1825 he purchased Embley Park in Hampshire where the family lived most of the year, returning to Lea Hurst only during the short summer months.

Before her `Lady with the Lamp’ exploits in the Crimean War, it was at Lea Hurst that the young Florence tended to the sick and poor of Holloway, and it was to Lea Hurst that she returned incognito afterwards, shunning the limelight and walking home from Whatstandwell Station carrying her own cases. She even famously declined an official reception at Chatsworth House from the Duke of Devonshire!

Florence Nightingale left Lea Hurst for good following her mother’s death, aged 92 in 1880, and the estate remained in the family until the death of Louis Nightingale in 1940. For many years Lea Hurst was a Residential Home for the Elderly run by the Royal Surgical Aid Society until it was sold recently. Nearby is the Nightingale Memorial Hall, opened in 1932 by the Prince of Wales, and now the Village Hall.

The main street runs northward from the village hall, along which are the village shop and post office, the thriving Methodist Church, parish church, vicarage and local primary school.

Surprisingly Holloway also has it’s own art gallery! The Little London Gallery stands next door to the post office and has some excellent works by local artists on display.

There are three good hostelries, the Yew Tree, atop the hill at Holloway, the Coach House Licensed Restaurant, and the Jug & Glass, (built originally as a local hospital by William Nightingale) in Lea village.There are some wonderful walks around the three settlements and something of interest for all tastes, from the historic and hauntingly picturesque Dethick, to the industrial splendour of Lea Mills and Lea Bridge; from the rhododendron gardens at Lea, to the magnificent beech woods – and Nightingales of Holloway!

*with thanks for this information to Gilly Groom of Manor Farm, Dethick.

TB 2011

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