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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

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Hassop is a small and rather secluded village tucked away amongst the wooded hills and folded dales of the peak district countryside beside the B6001, which runs from the market town of Bakewell to the High Peak village of Hathersage.

This road constitutes the village’s Main Street as it winds and twists its way in a series of sharp bends past Hassop Hall and the remarkable Catholic edifice of All Saints Church in the centre, then it becomes Hassop Road, cresting the hill at the junction with the lane to Baslow, before dipping past the small tree embowered catholic graveyard and running straight up the valley towards Calver Crossroads.

In the summer months this mile-long stretch of tree-lined road is so densely covered by the canopy of foliage above that the sunlight is blocked out and it is almost like driving through a dimly lit tunnel – and on wet days in late autumn when the leaves have fallen it can be quite hazardous!

Of course, peak dwellers are used to hazardous weather conditions, especially during the winter months, but Hassop folk have the advantage of sheltering in the lee of Longstone Edge, and the contours of the undulating landscape surrounding the village form a protective barrier against the worst of the weather – and against unwelcome outsiders!

These natural defences were utilised during the Civil War when in 1643 Hassop Hall, then the seat of the Eyre family, became a Royalist Garrison. The Eyre’s were staunch Catholics who supported King Charles, and later the Catholic King James 2nd, and Hassop became widely known as a Roman Catholic village. According to local historian Roy Christian, `Hassop had an almost exclusively Roman Catholic population when the church was built’.

This was in 1816, and though these days the only Roman Catholics you are likely to find in Hassop are probably those in the little roadside graveyard, during the four hundred years that the Eyre family resided here, Hassop was exlusively a Roman Catholic village.

The village’s close affinity with the Royalist cause goes all the way back to it’s earliest recorded mention in the Domesday Book when Hetesope, then as now, a small hamlet, was recorded as the King’s Land.

During the 12th and 13th centuries the Foljambes held the Manor of Hassop, and it passed through marriage to Sir Robert Plumpton who in turn sold the estate to the Eyre family around 1500.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111th the vast sheep granges farmed by the monks fell into the hands of local landowners, one such being Rowland Eyre, who also discovered rich veins of lead ore on the Hassop estate and made a fortune from wool and lead sufficient to finance the construction of a new Hall built of local limestone which he completed around 1610.

The present gritstone building is largely the work of Thomas Eyre who between 1827 and 1833 moved the entrance from the south side to the west and built an impressive coach house and stable-block to the north.

He also built the magnificent long ballroom with it’s gilded clock-face above the old dairy. When the last of the Eyre ancestors, now impoverished, sold the house and estate to Col. H. Stephenson in 1919 it had stood empty for many years and was in a poor state of repair.

Col. (later Sir) Henry Stephenson introduced electricity and modern plumbing to the Hall, and in 1953 his son and Lady Stephenson made the final changes when they removed the top two floors of the north-west wing. Otherwise the Hassop Hall you see today is the one built by Thomas Eyre – except that now it is an excellent hotel and top class restaurant and banqueting suite owned and run by Thomas Chapman, formerly of the Waterloo Hotel, Taddington.

Mr Chapman bought the house, minus the estate, in 1975 and has since built a fine reputation at Hassop Hall for the excellence of both the fare and the imposingly luxurious venue. Beneath the arched entrance emblazoned with the Eyre coat-of-arms, a splendid avenue of trees interspersed with flaming Corinthian torches leads from the original village green at the junction of the road to Great Longstone, past the gatehouse and down the narrow drive to the Hall. On the opposite side of this road on higher ground stand the columns of the Etruscan Temple of All Saints Catholic Church, built in severe Classical Revivalist style in 1816-18, which whilst adding to the romantic atmosphere and imagery of the place seems completely incongruous in such a rural setting and would perhaps be more suitably sited in Tuscany or Rome. It is certainly a most sudden and unexpected sight when coming round the sharp bend in the centre of the village!

However, the Etruscan Temple is not the only unique building for Hassop has another - a railway station which is a Country Bookstore!

Hassop Station was the northern terminus of the Midland Railway line from Matlock via Rowsley and was built expressly to accommodate the Duke of Devonshire in 1862. The line eventually closed in 1964 and the station became an agricultural depot. The track was removed in 1967 and former line became the Monsal Trail. Nowadays the trail passes beside the Country Bookstore and walkers can browse at their leisure whilst enjoying the benefits of the recently opened café. The Country Bookstore stands close by the traffic island on the Bakewell Road about a mile outside Hassop village and opens seven days a week and boasts that it has a million titles in stock.

Beyond the church along the road to Calver stands the picturesque ivy-clad 17th century Eyre Arms. It was built during the Civil War and was a private house until 1753 when it had it’s first landlord. The Eyre Arms has a wonderful olde world atmosphere and serves excellent lunches and evening meals. The pub is also a free house and has a selection of fine ales.

There are other architectural gems in this unusual village, including the honey coloured twin gabled structure of the Dower House built around 1610, the Victorian Hassop Lodge, and the quaint early 17th century gatehouse at the original entrance to Hassop Hall along the road towards Bakewell. Hassop Home Farm stands almost opposite the Dower House and Flatts Farm along the Bakewell road caters for bed & breakfast guests.The grounds of the Hassop Hall estate are enclosed by a ten feet high limestone wall which runs for about five miles, with gateway entrances at various points giving access to roads from Great Longstone, Bakewell, Ashford and Baslow. Hassop Park stands in open countryside surrounded by wooded hills to the south of the village, where the sheep-filled meadows and dry stone walls are characteristic of this tranquil and pastoral landscape which nurtures the secluded village of Hassop deep within its heart.

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