Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Derbyshire, October 2012

I was away for a week in the Peak District and had good fun staying at the Fairy Cottage in Edale. The things I will remember most are my visit to Speedwell Cavern, being propelled along the underground canal by a guide clearly being driven mad by saying the same thing over and over again to groups of visitors; crossing the hills between Castleton and Edale and somehow losing the footpath which meant I had simply to scramble straight up the hillside; meeting two pigs called Billy and Petal; discovering that Matlock Bath is, rather unexpectedly, a focal point of the biker universe; and eating fish and chips in the Nag's Head on a sheet of newspaper neatly laid over a nice plate. However here are some images more closely related to some of my usual concerns.
On the skyline above Matlock you can glimpse Riber Castle. Apparently the ridiculously wealthy developer of Matlock Hydro, Mr Smedley, built this originally as nothing more than an eyecatcher, then when he received public derision for this announced he always intended to live in it and had to build the rest of the castle on the back of the facade. Sadly there was no water supply on top of the hill and so it wasn't a practical dwelling until long after Mr S abandoned it. It became a school and finally a zoo; various urban exploration groups have had a poke around but the building is at last in the process of being converted into luxury apartments so you can't get very close any more. Very dramatic.

This is the grotto in the Derwent-side gardens in Matlock Bath which, I think, is the current outlet of the original spring that gave rise to the spa. It's a very pleasing little Gothick structure, anyway, and I've never seen it illustrated anywhere else.

Wingfield Manor was a real surprise. 'Neither the picturesque nor the strictly architectural traveller should miss it', says Pevsner, waxing lyrical about its fifteenth-century ruins. I drove through the village of South Wingfield and wondered why there was no sign to it. Having crossed a cattle grid and then driven carefully up a rough track I found out why: although administered in some way by English Heritage, it's still part of a farm and admission is only by guided tour. However you only discover that on the EH website (as I just have). I couldn't find anyone there, and the farm itself doesn't show any clear signs of current activity, the yard being full of rusting machinery and surrounded by derelict buildings.
Derby Museum, like most museums, clearly has more stuff than it can do much with. So they've put on a positively beautiful display called '1001 Objects', exploring not so much the history or significance of the Things but their aesthetic qualities. It's absolutely lovely and made me smile.

Meanwhile Buxton Museum contains many - many - objects from the collection of Sir William Boyd Dawkins, redoubtable Victorian and Edwardian naturalist and geologist, so they've decided to recreate his study in the museum. It's fantastic, just the sort of room any gentleman would be proud to have. There's even a top hat.

I had no idea there was such a thing as Derbyshire Black Marble until I had a look around Buxton Museum.

St Catherine appears in a Victorian window in Bakewell Parish Church. She also has a chapel dedicated to her in the crypt of Derby Cathedral, but no images there.

Edensor Church, on the other hand, contains the maddest and most outrageous of funeral monuments, that constructed in the 1620s to commemorate the two sons of Bess of Hardwick, William and Henry Cavendish. An empty suit of armour, a trumpeting angel and scary putti flapping about the pediment, a Gorgon's head and a malevolent owl, and, at the centre, the respectively skeletonised and shrouded figures of Henry and William themselves. Just think, before the church was rebuilt in the 1870s this would have stood behind the altar.
And finally, a very odd church interior. I went to Stoney Middleton to see St Martin's Well, aka the Roman Baths, and had no intention of visiting the church until I saw it. It has a small, perfectly ordinary 15th-century tower at the west end. In the 1700s the rest of the church burned down and, for some bizarre and now lost reason, it was decided to replace it with an octagonal nave. The pews all face wierdly in towards the centre, though there isn't anything in the centre: the font is off to one side and, as you can see, the altar sits in a little alcove which functions as the chancel. The church history has a photograph of what it used to look like until a reorganisation in 1953, when the pulpit, organ, and radiators were all moved out of the way and lots of clutter cleared out.

1 comment:

  1. It's been a long time since I looked at your blog and I missed this, that study really is wonderful, thanks for sharing it.