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Posted Friday, July 4, 2008
As its name suggests Over Haddon sits high on the limestone plateau above the Wye Valley about two miles due west as the crow flies from the medieval seat of the Dukes of Rutland at Haddon Hall, and a similar distance south of the ancient market town of Bakewell.
Set amidst some of the finest walking country in England this somewhat remote and isolated village standing at 800 ft. above sea-level is best approached on foot, but for the motorist the best access is from the B5055 Bakewell to Monyash road which winds over Burton Moor.
Another `scenic route’ follows Conksbury Lane out of Youlgrave; this single-track lane crosses the Wye at Conksbury Bridge and climbs up the hill before a left turn at Noton Barn Farm takes the road into the village.
The late Archdeacon Noakes of Derby once described Over Haddon as `the most beautiful village in Derbyshire’, and whilst this may be disputed by a host of other claimants there can be little doubt that the village closely associated with Lathkill Dale probably has the most beautiful setting of any.
Indeed, when viewed from the garden terrace at Haddon the village seems to hang suspended in the air and given the right atmospheric conditions, sometimes appears to float almost etherially above the surrounding limestone hills. But if this prospect seems somewhat dramatic or romanticised, it is as nothing compared to the scenic magnificence of the views southward across the lovely Lathkill Dale, with the battlemented tower of Youlgrave Church rising in the near distance and the familiar shape of the Neolithic landmark at Minninglow visible on the southern horizon.
The view from the windows of the Lathkil Hotel - a `free house’ which overlooks the dale and the River Lathkill, (referred to by Charles Cotton in 1676 as `one of the purest streams in the whole of England’) – is quite stupendous and must be one of the finest in the County. Little wonder that the hotel is so popular – and not just with those who are `only here for the beer` - though that too is hand-pulled and of a quality that matches the view. The Lathkil Hotel has consistently won awards from CAMRA, the A.A., the Good Beer Guide and even Egon Ronay and recently won the Good Pub Guide’s `Award for the Warmest welcome. This 18th century hostelry was known as the `Miner’s Arms’ until 1896.
At the time of the Domesday Survey Over Haddon was documented as `Haduna’, an outlier of the Royal Manor of Bakewell, though there is little doubt that the area was settled and farmed in earlier Anglo-Saxon times.
The Danes were hereabouts too and gave Lathkill Dale (hlatha-gyll) it’s original name.
Following the Norman Conquest the manor was given to William Avenell, who in turn gave gifts of land around the village to monasteries at Leicester and Roche Abbey in Yorkshire. Thus in the Middle Ages this tiny hamlet would have been the home of hill farmers and shepherds who tended the vast flocks of sheep at the monastic granges of Meadow Place, Calling Low and One Ash which lie just outside the village.
Early 14th century records show that the monks had corn mills and fisheries, and probably early trout-farms, on the river near Conksbury Bridge.
The bridge is first documented in 1296 and was reputedly built by the monks to get supplies to and from Bakewell.
Following the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry V111 in 1536 much of the land was purchased by the Cavendish family, and during the following four centuries Over Haddon went from being a farming community to being an industrial community as lead mining and ore-smelting - and even a 19th century `Gold Rush' - brought in the miners and drove out the sheep!
Lead mining has continued in the White Peak since Roman times, and up to the 18th century was mostly carried out in haphazard fashion by farmers trying to supplement a meagre living. The Lathkill Dale vein had two lead-mill engines powered by waterwheels as early as 1720, but it was not until the early 19th century following the founding of the Mandale Mine Company and the Lathkill Mine Company that lead-mining became a viable commercial enterprise at Over Haddon. Flooding was always a major problem however and despite the best efforts of local men like John Alsop and Thomas Bateman, the Lathkill Dale Mine followed the Mandale Mine into eventual closure during the 1850’s.
The well documented `Lathkill Gold Rush’ began in 1854 when it was reported that gold had been found just east of the village at Cow Close. Over Haddon became a mini – Klondyke and fortunes were won and lost - mostly lost - when the `strike’ proved to be nothing more than iron pyrites or `fool’s gold’.
Of the three corn mills that once graced the dale, only the ruins of Carter’s Mill are still visible, along with the mill pond and weirs. The medieval Over Haddon Mill stood on the site now occupied by Lathkill Lodge, and the 14th century Conksbury Mill, which was last recorded in 1617 has disappeared without trace.
Monks, mills and miners are all long since gone, but the relics of this former industrial age can still be seen amongst the foliage down in the dale.
These days the village and it’s lovely dale are probably quieter than at any time during the last 300 years, though industry remains an integral part of village life. English Nature manage the National Nature Reserve in Lathkill Dale, but the Lathkill Dale Craft Centre has now closed and the former premises built around a pleasant courtyard at the rear of Manor Farm which once included an Information Centre, Courtyard Tea-Rooms, Stables Restaurant and a number of craft and gift shops - all of which catered for about 100,000 visitors a year has gone. In its place, the buildings at the rear of Manor Farm have been converted into very tasteful holiday cottages, managed by the residents at Manor Farm in conjunction with Hoseasons Holidays.
This is a place of hidden gems and a walk around the village is a must that cannot fail to enchant and enthral the visitor. Of all the `secret' places, perhaps the hardest to locate in this wonderfully unique place of steep narrow alleys and half-hidden terraced gardens is Uncle Geoff’s Diner, a quaint home-run café where a sign on the gate reliably informs the reader that inside, he can “Eat like a King for £1” – or perhaps it is the remarkable peace and solitude to be found sitting beneath the sundial dedicated to `Janet’ in the picturesque hillside graveyard of St. Anne’s church.
Here the inquiring visitor will find the final resting place of Sir Maurice Oldfield, former head of MI5, who’se family have lived in the village for many generations and who currently occupy the late 17th century twin-gabled Manor Farm.
Perhaps it is simply a combination of these things that makes Over Haddon such a welcoming place to the visitor – and perhaps like it’s award-winning hotel the whole village deserves an award for the warmest welcome!
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