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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Idridgehay

Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

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Idridgehay:

Idridgehay is yet another of Derbyshire’s three-syllabled village names which is shortened to two in the local dialect, but unlike others such as Enza (Edensor), Asher (Ashover), Tidser (Tideswell), Bircher (Birchover) or Brass’n (Brassington), which are obvious dialectic abbreviations, Idridgehay actually transmutes to become Ithersee.

However, the local pronunciation of its name is not the only peculiarity to note about this pretty village which nestles in the verdant and charming Eccelesbourne Valley, a handful of miles south of the market town of Wirksworth.

The landscape changes dramatically once free of the town as the higher stone belt gives way to the lush verdure of the valley. Suddenly the miles of limestone outcrops and interminable dry-stone walls are gone, replaced by neatly trimmed hedges that line the roadside, and divide and separate the fields.

The railway arrived along this valley, between Duffield and Wirksworth in 1867. Sixty years ago this was a thriving farming community with over thirty working farms and a busy railway station, which bustled daily with farmers sending milk to the towns. Now there is nothing; no industry, even the farms are gone, and Idridgehay has become a highly desirable residential village.

Other peculiarities are embedded in the village’s historical past, like the night during the second world war when a German bomber dropped a land-mine in 1942 which almost demolished St. James’ vicarage.

The blast also removed part of the plaster rendering on the thatched South Sitch, exposing a wonderfully intact and perfectly preserved lath and plaster, wooden-framed Tudor manor house beneath. (A `sitch’ is a small stream).

These days South Sitch remains privately owned and stands still thatched and fully restored to its former glory within splendid gardens, well protected by a screen of tall roadside trees, and out of sight to all but pedestrians.

Another peculiarity, although far from unique in our country villages, is the growing number of daffodils which flower each spring along the roadside verges here, and which have come to epitomise the charm and character of the place. For motorists on the B5023 Wirksworth to Duffield road which passes through the village from north to south, the daffodils of Idridgehay have become a pleasant, familiar and symbolic landmark since they first appeared at the bottom of Ecclesbourne Lane around twenty five years ago.

Idridgehay’s other peculiarities include a station platform with a railway line running alongside, but with no trains – in fact the last regular passenger train between Derby and Wirksworth stopped here 55 years ago - in June 1948!

Geographically, Idridgehay nestles in the Ecclesbourne Valley alongside the B5023 about five miles south of Wirksworth, and about a mile north of the A517 Belper to Ashbourne road. Duffield is a further six or seven miles away in a south-easterly direction towards Derby, and was the centre of administration for this area until the separate parish of Idridgehay was formed in 1856.

There is no mention of the village at Domesday, for at the Norman Conquest this area was populated only by trees - which later became part of the Royal Forest of Duffield Frith, and covered an area of some 35 square miles..

Following the Conquest, King William gave Duffield Frith to Henry de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, who built the major fortification at Duffield Castle on the site of a former Saxon stonghold. The Frith was administered from here, and the first early dwellings in the area began to emerge, built in clearings or at the outer edges of the forest.

Place names with the suffix `hay’ - as at Ashleyhay, Parsley Hay – and Idridgehay - were simply `enclosures’ on the fringe of the forest, and

Idridgehay, which means `Eadric’s enclosure’ was first mentioned in the Duffield rolls of 1230.

This was about the time that the administration of Duffield Frith changed following Robert de Ferrers failed attempts to usurp King Henry 3rd in Simon de Montfort’s infamous 13th century uprising. Robert was pardoned, but later convicted of another plot which resulted in the de Ferrers being dispossessed of all their lands, and to Duffield Castle being destroyed by a Royalist force. Duffield Frith then passed to the Earl of Lancaster, and became a royal possession in 1399. The forest dwindled in importance during the next two hundred years, although remaining a royal preserve until the reign of Charles 1st. By this time Idridgehay’s earliest building, the Elizabethan South Sitch, was already well established!

This is evidenced by the carved inscription `1621 GMM’ on a roof tie-beam. The initials represent George Mellor and his wife Millicent, although according to experts in medieval architecture, the date given is that of an alteration, and not of the original construction. A small stream or `sitch still runs delightfully beside the house and through the garden.

The largest building hereabouts is Alton Manor, former home of the late High Sheriff of Derbyshire, Col. Sir Peter Hilton MC, which lies a mile or so north of the village at Alton, but within Idridgehay parish.

The Elizabethan style Manor was built by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the mid nineteenth century for James Milnes of Darley Dale, who died in 1866. The Manor and its three thousand acre estate passed to the Walthall family, and eventually to Brigadier General Charles Delve Walthall, CMG, DSO, who sold it, along with twenty two farms in 1952. The Hilton’s bought it from Lady Desborough in 1959, and every year the Normandy Veterans Association, of which Sir Peter was a founder, meet here and plant an oak tree on the edge of the superb 25-acre park.

Lady Hilton, who has continued the custom since her husbands death, has on at least one occasion, been honoured by the attendence of the Queen.

However, Idridgehay’s most prominent building, St. James’ Church, stands beside the main road at the junction with Cliffash Lane at the centre of the village, fronted by a war memorial and pretty triangular peace garden.

The church is a product of the early Victorian age and was designed by Henry Stevens of Derby. The tree embowered churchyard marks the final resting place of Sir Peter Hilton, buried alongside one of his sons, and also of the famous Victorian landscape artist George Turner.

Both church and graveyard are wedged in a vee of land between the main road and the lane leading to Idridgehay Green, whilst opposite, with its central clock-tower facing both road and church, stands the Old School House, now a very substantial private dwelling.

A balanced blend of modern and older dwellings, some with extensive, colourful gardens cluster around Idridgehay Green to the west of the church. There are also splendid dwellings with landscaped gardens, which enjoy increasingly panoramic views as they climb the east side of Ecclesbourne Lane.

The village is served by an excellent store cum newsagent, which is well stocked to serve the needs of residents and visitors alike, and which also doubles as the village post-office. Two hundred yards away is the Black Swan which was built around 1840 and recently refurbished to a high standard. Apart from serving the best (and only) ale for miles, the pub also purveys excellent food.

Rood Lane runs off to the east of the main road, down towards the old railway station.

Its `all change’ at Idridgehay; the station buildings having been converted to an unusual luxury home, whilst the old Station Masters House at the crossing is now a beautifully restored private dwelling.

Surprisingly the steel rails are still in place, the track having been used for mineral traffic up to the 1980’s. But now the platform stands deserted, the last train left long ago, along with the farms, and only the memories remain.

Idridgehay, slumbering in the peaceful tranquility of the Ecclesbourne Valley also remains - a highly desirable residential village!

 
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