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

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Tissington - Seat of the FitzHerberts

`the exquisite charm & character of the traditional English medieval country manor'

The picture-postcard village of Tissington has all the exquisite charm and character of the traditional English medieval country manor, being an estate village built around Tissington Hall, the great Jacobean house of the FitzHerbert family.

Tissington sits sedately beside the A515 Buxton to Ashbourne road just three miles north of Ashbourne and close by the scenic limestone paradise of Dove Dale at the southern end of Derbyshire’s White Peak.

The approach to Tissington begins beside a gate-lodge on the A515 – the gates guarding not, as one might suppose, a private drive leading to a solitary country Manor, - but an avenue of lime trees, which leads in turn to a small community that was first settled in Saxon times.

On either side of the avenue can be seen evidence of early ridge and furrow farming methods, and indeed the village’s recorded history begins during Edward The Confessor’s reign in 1042 when Tizinctun was divided into seven Anglo-Saxon farmsteads.

By the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 it was held by Henry de Ferrers and had a population of about 100, only slightly less than the present day.

The Savage family held the estate until around 1100 and then for almost 400 years it remained divided until Nicholas FitzHerbert of Somersal married Cecily Franceys whose family owned one half of it.

Later, in Elizabethan times, his grandson Francis FitzHerbert united the estate once again when he purchased the other half from the Cockaynes. Thus for half of the 1000 years of it’s recorded history Tissington has been owned, maintained, and nurtured by the FitzHerbert family.

The present hall which Francis FitzHerbert began in 1609 during the reign of James 1st replaced an earlier Elizabethan house which had stood opposite on the high ground beside the square Norman tower of St.Mary’s church.

The original house and church being built on a mound which archeological evidence suggests is an earthwork belonging to an Iron Age fortification.

The hall has been much altered down the years. In the early 18th century the west front was given a face-lift in the fashionable Palladian style of the early Georgian period and most of the mullions on the east front were replaced by sash windows. This process was reversed during the early years of the 20th century when the house was enlarged by the addition of a mock Jacobean wing housing a library and billiard room which overlook the garden.

At this time the original oak panelling was uncovered and the mullion windows replaced by Arnold Mitchell, who also rebuilt and enlarged the estate administration block on the north side.

The Hall is open to the public at certain times during the summer months.

The title of Baronet was conferred in 1783 and it was Sir Henry, the 3rd Baronet, along with his sister, Frances who was responsible for the early Victorian building boom at Tissington when between 1830 and 1860 many of the village houses were built.

It was during this period that the church was much restored by Frances, who added the north aisle in the neo-Norman style favoured by the Victorians.

The unique Derbyshire custom of Well Dressing is said to have begun at Tissington in 1340. There are six wells dressed around the village each year during the Annual Well Dressing Festival which runs for seven days from Ascension Day.

A small tinkling stream runs the length of the village street, culverted for most of its length and surfacing near the Hall Well to run bubbling past St. Mary’s church and on down to the village pond beside the old schoolhouse; above the doorway the carved initials of Frances Fitzherbert can be seen, and today the building bears the legend, `Tissington Kindergarten’.

Behind the village pond the Old Kitchen Gardens are now the home of Tissington Nursery which provides a rare assortment of unusual plants to the public.

The village relies almost entirely on tourism, for which it caters admirably; and the award winning Old Coach House Tea Rooms opposite the church, along with the Trekking Centre at Tissington Wood Farm and the Candle Workshop at Yew Tree Cottage all bear ample testimony to this.

Local enterprise is also evident on the south east fringe of the village at Basset Wood Farm, - a working dairy farm which provides excellent accommodation, has a delightful tea room, and a pet’s paddock for children to enjoy.

Overfields Farm provides en suite bed & breakfast at the opposite end of the village, and close by the Old Joiner’s Shop is now a Craft Centre which produces excellent curtains and covers.

The Old Slaughterhouse on Chapel Lane was purpose built in the Victorian age and served as such for over a century, supplying local butchers in surrounding villages and towns. It has been a butchery since 1984 and now under the banner `White Peak Farm Butchery’ it is in the very capable hands of master butcher Richard Hobday, who supplies meat not only to high class local establishments throughout the county, but also to a chain of top London restaurants.

To the east of the village standing alone on a bend along Chapel Lane is the pristine Methodist Chapel of 1955, served by a Minister from Ashbourne on the second Sunday of each month.

Darfield Lane leads off south from beside the pretty Station Cottages and crosses the old L.N.W.R.’s Ashbourne - Buxton railway line. The old station is now a pay & display car park and has toilet facilities and a visitor’s information point which cater for the many walkers and cyclists who travel the course of the old railway line, now the popular Tissington Trail.

The three golden lions rampant on the Fitzherbert coat of arms epitomise the pride and enterprise that Tissington exudes in both character and appearance.

From its magnificent hall to its landscaped lawns; from its wide green verges and charming cottages to its picturesque beauty and friendly folk, it is justifiably regarded as a jewel in the crown of Derbyshire’s White Peak.

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