Alstonefield is one of the Peak District’s prettiest villages, and is extremely neat and tidy. Little wonder that it has been credited with the ‘Best Kept Village’ award on several occasions. Alstonefield is situated just into Staffordshire on a rise some 900 feet above sea level, between the rivers Manifold and Dove, on the edge of the Derbyshire Dales but in the heart of the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park.
The present population of Alstonefield is around 300 persons.
Alstonefield is a predominantly farming community as here there are undulating fields of rich pasture enclosed by typical drystone walls constructed of local limestone.
Alstonefield was at the centre of a vast Parish some 150 years ago. Although now greatly reduced in size, the Parish of Alstonefield still extends to include the hamlets of Milldale, Hope and Stanshope.
The name Alstonefield is said to derive from Aelfstan’s Feld which translates roughly to ‘tract of open land’. The village lies at a junction of many ancient paths and packhorse routes including Millway Lane which comes up the hill from the picturesque hamlet of Milldale. Izaak Walton is said to have travelled this route before descending Narrowdale on his visit to Berresford Hall and his friend Charles Cotton. On reaching Alstonefield church he is said to have remarked: “As I’m an honest man, a very pretty church”.
The path down Narrowdale was originally the main route from Alstonefield to Hartington. Other lovely tracks from the village include Gypsy Bank where a path leads down to the River Dove downstream of Wolfscote Dale. A deed of 1687 actually refers to this track from Alstonefield as leading to Bakewell. Land here was given by a local man named Bowman for use as a Quaker burial ground, and a barn along the lane here is still known as Bowman’s Barn.
Alstonefield has a small village green where a local market was held from 1308 to around 1500. Annual cattle sales were also held in the yard of the George Inn until early in the 20th century.
Along the road from the village green, passing the former rectory and manor house which is dated 1587 above the porch, is St Peter’s Church which contains interesting features including early box pews that contain original brasswork. Here you can find the Cotton family pew which was sadly painted green by a former vicar in the 19th century. There is also a two-decker pulpit of 1637. In the churchyard are fragments of a 10th century cross shaft with interlace decoration along with one of the earliest recorded gravestones dated 3rd April 1518 and belonging to Anne Green.
There have been three churches on the same site at Alstonefield, the earliest being built about 892. The oldest surviving parts of the present church are probably the Norman south doorway and chancel arch which date from around 1100.
Alstonefield is surrounded by a network of wonderful paths and tracks making it an extremely popular area for walkers. With its close proximity to Dove Dale as well as the Manifold Way and Ilam Country Park, there are some fabulous walks and cycle paths to be explored.