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

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Monyash (or `Many-ash`) was so named for the abundance of ash trees which grew there, - but that was almost 1000 years ago when this somewhat isolated moorland village which stands on a flat upland limestone plain was first named in the Domesday Book of 1086.

In recent centuries the `many-ashes` have largely disappeared, whilst conversely at One Ash Grange, which stands about half a mile away on the eastern fringes of the village, they appear to have multiplied!

However, the copse of stately limes which surround the picturesque church of St. Leonard`s are more than a recompense to the village for the loss of it`s `many ashes’ The limes were planted by Rev.Robert Lomas, a former vicar of Monyash who was killed in 1776 after falling from a rocky tor at the head of Lathkill Dale,- which has been known ever since as `Parson`s Tor`.

Monyash lies at the head of the beautiful Lathkill Dale, and at the crossroads of four ancient trackways. The limestone dwellings of this upland village lie somewhat straggled along each side of the four lanes which radiate from the village green at it`s centre, and the signpost which stands at the cross roads, or `Crosslanes` as it is officially designated, denotes that it is 4 miles to Bakewell, 4 miles to Newhaven, 6 miles to Youlgreave, and 8 miles to Buxton. The smaller hamlets of Flagg and Sheldon lie 2 and 3 miles away respectively.

The history of Monyash follows a similar pattern to that of the many White Peak villages whose prosperity was founded at the height of the lead-mining industry in the 18th & 19th centuries; this has left it`s mark in the surrounding fields which are dotted with the mounds and scars of old workings.

The Eagle Mine was the last in the area to be worked and closed in 1925.

At the height of it`s prosperity Monyash was the lead mining centre of the High Peak and this is evidenced by the fact that the village once had no less than five public houses, and in 1851 a population of around 500 inhabitants, - twice as many as today.

The Bull`s Head is the sole survivor left to cater for thirsty visitors and is one of the oldest buildings in the village dating from the late 17th/ early 18th century.

The Barmote Court of the King`s Field of the High Peak which dealt with lead mining disputes and was responsible for the lead mining administration in the area met regularly here until earlier this century.

It has an atmosphere to match it`s longevity which is redolent with age and snugly welcoming, and a fine example of an Ashford marble floor just inside the entrance.

The first glimpse of Monyash to catch the traveller`s eye is the spire of St. Leonard`s Parish Church, once part of the Bakewell Chapelry. The church has Norman foundations and dates originally from the late 12th century, but it was extensively restored between 1884-87 by William Butterfield who completely re-built the north transept, and raised the tower, before adding the spire. There is also a fine Methodist Chapel constructed in 1888, which is built quite appropriately, on Chapel Street.

The village stands on the central Derbyshire limestone plateau where water is scarce, seeping away through the porous rock,- and Monyash has no river to rely on for it`s water supply, but the village has water aplenty!

From the earliest times settlers were attracted by the unique geological feature of a clay bed some 100 yards square which retained the water seepage. This in turn formed five natural meres, thus making Monyash a veritable oasis.

Over the centuries four have disappeared, but Fere Mere remains, now encircled by a stone enclosure to stop cattle and sheep from straying too close; until earlier this century it provided the village`s main supply of water.

Standing stones, prehistoric burial mounds, primitive lime kilns, and ancient trackways provide evidence of early human activity around the village, and The Street, - the Roman road which ran from Little Chester to Buxton forms part of the western boundary of the parish.

In 1340 a grant was made to William de Lynford of Monyash -`for good services rendered in Scotland and abroad`- to hold a weekly market and an annual fair. Market Day was Tuesday and the Annual Fair took place on the `vigil feast and morrow of Trinity Sunday`. Both were held on the village green where the old market cross still stands, opposite the village school.

Monyash developed into a Quaker stronghold during the late 18th century, which in turn sprang from the beginnings of non-conformity a hundred years earlier and was developed here by John Gratton (1640-1711), who lived in the village for 40 years.

In the Middle Ages the monks of Roche Abbey had a grange and farmed extensively at One Ash, and in the 19th century it became the favourite summer home of the Radical Quaker statesman, John Bright.

Most of the dwellings are built in the traditional local style with limestone walls, gritstone details, and stone slate roofs, and although very few have date stones the majority are of 18th or early 19th century construction.

One noteable exception is Mount Pleasant which is clearly dated 1714.

As the 19th century advanced and local lead mining declined the population dwindled. Today it is around the 275 mark and the industry upon which Monyash thrived has disappeared into history, leaving only faint traces of it`s prosperous past.

Gone forever are the lead miners, and the rope and candle makers upon whom they relied; gone are the wheelwrights, blacksmiths, shoemakers, masons and marble quarry workers; gone are the Monks of Roche Abbey, - and the Quakers.

Gone along with them is half the population of this once thriving High Peak lead-mining centre.

Farming and local agriculture is once again the main occupation beneath the wide and open skies of this traditional limestone upland village – and though the days of the hustle and bustle of industry are gone, what remains is an atmosphere unique to Monyash; an atmosphere of peace and rural tranquility which welcomes the sojourning visitor from the semi-desolation of the surrounding moorland into the friendly heart of a quaint and rugged village of great character.

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The Village Green, Monyash

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