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Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007
Taddington -One of England's Highest Villages:
Taddington sits high on the central limestone plateau of the White Peak alongside the A6 between Ashford-in-the-Water and Buxton and within the boundaries of the Peak National Park.
It is one of England’s highest villages at over 1100 feet and almost on a par with it’s near neighbour Chelmorton, Derbyshire’s highest village which lies 3 miles away to the south west across Taddington Moor.
One of a cluster of similar villages within a five mile radius which includes Sheldon, Flagg, Blackwell and Chelmorton, Taddington’s landscape is dominated by rocky limestone outcrops and surrounded by wild and windswept moorland.
This hill village shows evidence of early Celtic farming, especially in the lynchetts, - (narrow terraces of land favoured by early hill farmers), - which are evident above Horse Stead, but Taddington actually takes it’s name from an Saxon Chieftain called Tata who first settled here with his people after the Roman’s left.
The Parish contains another village settlement, Priestcliffe, standing on the opposite side of the A6 alongside the tiny hamlet of Brushfield, which itself consists of just four or five farms. Most of the ancient terraced landscape around Priestcliffe is suitable only for rough grazing, the rest being mainly pasture and used for stock –rearing, the main occupation of Derbyshire hill-farmers whose soil is generally too thin for arable crops. However, oats are known to grow up here on the limestone plateau and archeological evidence suggests that the Celts grew them in the Priestcliffe area.
Within living memory there were dairy herds at Priestcliffe and Brushfield and hundreds of gallons of milk every day were carted down to Miller’s Dale Station and sent by train to bottling plants in Manchester and Liverpool.
Along with hill farming, quarrying has been the main occupation of Taddington men for hundreds of years, whether for the limestone rock beneath the surface or for the minerals that it contained.
Evidence of early lead-mining lies all around, especially in the numerous hillocks of overgrown spoil-heaps which scar the landscape up around Humphrey Gate Quarry and over Taddington Moor toward the lead-rich veins of Monyash.
Humphreygate climbs from it’s junction at the top of Main Street and winds steeply up across Taddington Moor.
Opposite the quarry and high on the hillside above the village is a recreation area with impressive views across the valley. Nearby, encircled by a protecting dry-stone wall is High Well which has supplied the village with a constant supply of natural spring water for centuries.
The whole village stretches out below running from west to east down the long and narrow sloping dale, whilst to the north the view extends beyond Hucklow Edge and eastward over the thickly wooded Taddington Dale to Fin Cop.
This land was given to the village by The Right Honourable Thomas Baron Denman, KCVO. “On the termination of the Great War, 1914-18, for the inhabitants enjoyment in public walks and recreation, or otherwise”. There is a children’s play area with swings and slide, a pleasant stone-built shelter and a series of footpaths leading down the hillside to the village.
The splendid broach spire of the Parish Church of St. Michael & All Angels is the dominant feature in Taddington and the church, set in it’s handsome surroundings has invited praise from Pevsner who wrote that it was “ambitiously rebuilt early in the 14th century, inspired perhaps by Tideswell”, - and in 1892 The Antiquary described it as “One of the prettiest and best proportioned churches of the Peak”.
The churchyard entrance is through a magnificent lych-gate, a gift to the church from Samuel Bramwell in 1910, and the churchyard is one of the best kept in the county.
The Main Street bends upward past the church and at the junction with Humphreygate stands the white-painted Marlborough House, a long low building formerly a farm and shop, but these days catering for bed & breakfast guests.
Opposite next to the pretty Daybreak Cottage is Harrison’s Motor Repair Garage and further up the hill, School Lane leads off past the Old Parsonage and eventually to Taddington & Priestcliffe School.
The Hillside Café stands at the top of the hill and marks the junction of the old Main Street and the A6 by-pass. For over half a century the café has provided refreshment for travellers on the busy trunk road.
At this end of the village there are a number of detached modern dwellings and much of the building construction is post-war, whilst down at the lower end of Taddington below the church, the majority of the dwellings are much older and consist largely of undateable limestone-rubble cottages.
Perhaps the most impressive is the white limestone structure standing next to Sycamore Farm. This was once White’s School, bequeathed by Michael White to serve the village in 1798, and opened by his two daughters the following year. It was rebuilt for 50 children in 1845 and is now a private house.
Directly opposite stands Butcher’s Cottage beside the old butcher’s shop which closed more than a decade ago, whilst on the corner of Smithy Lane stands Cooper Cottage, named not because a barrel-maker once resided there, but because it was once the home of well-known and much loved village resident Dorothy Cooper. For many years Dorothy was, amongst other things, the village post lady and delivered on foot in all weathers, not only to the village, but to outlying farms and is remembered with fondness by older residents.
The Queens Arms is the social centre of the village and the sole survivor of several pubs and stands next to the rather sobering Primitive Methodist Chapel of 1903 at the top of Chapel Lane.
The oldest dwelling is probably Taddington Hall, standing with it’s gable end to the street and it’s Georgian front hidden behind trees at the bottom end of Main Street near Town End.
The village has changed little over the years but the relative peace and quiet of it’s singular isolation owes much to the re-siting of the main A6 trunk road which, before it was by-passed over half a century ago, ran directly through Taddington forming part of it’s long sloping main street.
Some of today’s residents recall the noise, dust and fumes from the convoys of heavy lorries which used to grind tortuously up the hill through Taddington Dale and the centre of their village.Lorries still climb the hill, though today along a dual carriageway half a mile north west of the original turnpiked road from Ashford to Buxton, and once again, as for most of it’s history, Taddington is at peace.