Bradwell is a delightful Derbyshire village containing clusters of cottages and character houses that spread up the sides of a deep gorge before opening out onto lush meadows in the Hope Valley.
Bradwell’s main street follows the Bradwell Brook, crossing it at one point in a narrow pinch controlled by traffic lights. Here you can find a small parade of local shops including a post office, newsagent, greengrocers and fish and chip shop. There is also a small petrol station, garage and Fire Station.
It is thought that the name Bradwell could originate from ‘Broadwell’ and probably refers to the ancient Grey Ditch nearby which was used as a defence from early Peakrels. Nowadays however the village is more affectionately known as ‘Bradda’ to its residents who form a strong-knit local Community.
The majority of Bradwell’s quaint little cottages date from the 18th/19th centuries. Initially there were separate areas of the village such as Bradwell Hills, Smalldale, Towngate and Hollowgate, containing a hotchpotch of charming and individual properties accessed by a maze of narrow lanes, ginnels and alleyways, some stretching up steep banks towards Bradwell Edge or Bradwell Moor. However, these once separate and outlying settlements have now become united with the infill of modern development to create a village of considerable size.
Among the narrow streets and lanes you will find Smithy Hill and Soft Water Lane along with the more macabre names of Hungry Lane, Gore Lane and Deadman’s Clough.
Brookside is an attractive area of Bradwell and at one time held the headquarters of Messrs. Evans Bros who in the 19th century produced telescopes, opera glasses and spectacles. Bradwell also contained no less than six hat makers and retailers producing the ‘Bradder Beaver’. These hats were worn by generations of lead miners. The last hatter was Job Middleton who died in 1899. An example of a ‘Bradder Beaver’ can be seen at the Peak District Mining Museum at Matlock Bath.
A steep walk up to Bradwell Edge takes you to Robin Hoods Cross. This medieval way-marker stood for centuries to direct travellers over the bleak moors to Abney. Although now named after the legendary hero from Sherwood Forest, it is more likely that the cross took its name from Robert Archer who was one-time Lord of Abney and was then known as Robins Cross. The cross has long since disappeared and all that remains is a section of the base incorporated into a wall.
The church of St Barnabas in Bradwell was erected in 1868. It is a small building of stone in the Perpendicular style, consisting of a chancel, nave and vestry-organ chamber. An embattled tower in a decorated style was added between 1888 and 1891 at a cost of £1,004 which contains one bell and a clock given by the executors of Mr E M Wass. The pulpit and altar rails have early 18th century carved panels, said to come from a college chapel.
A donation of £100 was given towards the cost of building the church by Samuel Fox, a local businessman who was born in June 1815 at 15 Water Lane and invented the paragon umbrella frame. When Samuel’s business flourished he relocated to Sheffield where he founded the huge Stockbridge Works. However, it is said that Samuel Fox never forgot his Bradwell upbringing and also gave land for the site of the churchyard and vicarage and provided for the poor of the parish by leaving a trust fund of £1,000, the interest from which was to be allocated annually to the needy. Nearby stands St Barnabas Church School which was built in 1872.
Other places of worship in Bradwell include the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, former Baptist Chapel, a Memorial Hall and a Presbyterian Chapel which is now used as a scout hut.
For centuries it has been stone and minerals that have been the mainstay of Bradwell’s economy, with the village originating as a result of settlements being established around rich deposits of lead ore. Lead mining progressed to quarrying and mineral processing and then the production of cement with the chimney and towers of Lafarge Cement (Blue Circle) at Hope being a familiar local landmark.
Another of Bradwell’s claim to fame is Bradwell’s Dairy Ice Cream which is still produced in the village but now distributed all round the country. Tubs of ice cream and delicious cones can still be purchased from the tiny cottage shop where the recipe was invented in the front parlour by Grandma Hannah Bradwell over 100 years ago.
Bradwell has good recreational facilities with a sports field and large established play area, and being surrounded by National Park countryside there are numerous tracks, trails and footpaths to offer cycling and walks in Bradwell.
Bradwell holds its annual Well Dressing and Gala Week in early August. The village has a selection of public houses including The White Hart which is the earliest and dates back to 1676.
Just down the road from Bradwell where the B6049 joins up with the A6187 is the little hamlet of Brough-on-Noe, famed for being the site of the Roman Fort Navio which was garrisoned by the First Cohort of Aquitanians. The Romans were undoubtedly the first commercial Derbyshire lead miners, confirmed by a Roman pig of lead which was unearthed on Bradwell Moor over a century ago.
All Roman roads in Derbyshire are said to have led to this important site. A Roman fort was originally constructed here about AD 78-79 in Flavian times. However, it was abandoned in AD 140 so that the troops stationed in Derbyshire could unite and fight with Lollius Urbicus in his campaign in Scotland. The Romans returned around AD 158 and the fort was rebuilt by the First Cohort of Aquitanians. Excavations carried out in 1903 revealed an outer wall six feet thick measuring some 285 feet by 340 feet. Rectangular in shape and covering some 2 ¼ acres, the fort had rounded corners and a tower in the western corner, together with a strong room in the centre that had a sunken cellar. A stone slab built into this inner wall was dated AD 158.
It is reputed that the Romans often imported French or Italian convicts to do ‘hard labour’ in the metal mines known as ‘damnati in metalia’. Many years ago a local theory evolved whereby Bradwell residents accused Castleton folk of being descended from slaves, whilst Castleton residents referred to Bradderites as being descended from convicts!
The Roman road of Batham Gate that led from Aqua Arnemetia (Buxton) and Anavio (Brough) ran just to the north of Bradwell over Bradwell Moor. A Roman milestone naming Anavio is held at Buxton Museum.
Edden Tree or Edwin’s Tree at Bradwell is supposedly named after a Saxon King who was hanged there after a battle which raged on the flanks of Win Hill and Lose Hill. Archaeological finds from the great battle include a considerable quantity of bones and old weapons being unearthed near Gore Lane.
Following the Norman Conquest, King William gave the manor of Bradwell to his bastard son William Peveril, the builder of the castle which still bears his name at nearby Castleton, and at the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of Bradwell was classified as purely agricultural and thus had no substantial dwellings.
Hazlebadge Hall is Bradwell’s oldest building, boasting an early datestone of 1549, although this ancient farmstead is located almost a mile south of the village at the top end of Bradwell Dale on the road to Tideswell. On its gable end above the five arched and mullioned windows is a very eroded and weatherworn crest of the Swynnerton and Vernon families. The surviving structure is only one wing of a much larger hall which belonged to the Vernon family who lived there for three hundred years. The original Hazlebadge Hall was part of the Peveril Estate until about 1154 when the ownership passed to the Strelley family and then to the Vernon’s in 1421.
Sir Richard Vernon who was then the High Steward of the Royal Forest is said to have held courts at Hazlebadge. He reputedly imposed severe penalties for the most trivial offences.
Margaret Vernon was the last of the Vernon family and it is said that she went insane after witnessing her lover’s marriage to a rival at Hope Church. Margaret’s ghost is said to haunt the hall and nearby valley with the occasional spectre of her galloping on a white horse at midnight between Hope and Hazlebadge.
By the 19th century there were no less than three cotton mills operating at Brough, making use of water from Bradwell Brook and the River Noe. However, more than 600 years ago there was a corn mill by the bridge there which was recorded in the reign of Edward III. It was run by a family named Shelley who held the mill on condition that should the King ever visit Derbyshire, a member of the Shelley family would attend him on horseback carrying a Heron Falcon. If a Strelley horse died during one of these visits it would be replaced by the King who would also give the family two robes as compensation.
At the side of the footpath leading across fields from Bradwell to Brough it is possible to see sections of an old and arched stone tunnel topped with turf which in places has collapsed. These are the remains of a flue running from the former Brough White Lead Works to a tower further up the hillside. Constructed around 1860, the smelting works were operated day and night and used a Dutch process to produce refined white, grey and red lead. In 1854 it is recorded that four men were killed in the Bradwell area by poisonous fumes from a smelter when a pump engine failed. The works closed in 1924 and a tower which was a local landmark was demolished during the Second World War as it posed as a conspicuous marker for the nearby cement works.
Bagshawe Cavern at Bradwell was discovered by accident in 1806 by four local lead miners whilst excavating Mulespinner Mine, and was named after Sir William and Lady Bagshawe of Wormhill Hall who owned the land and came to tour this natural wonderland shortly after its discovery. Also known by some as the Crystallized Cavern, Bagshawe Cavern was operated for many years as a Show Cave similar to the more popular and commercial caverns at Castleton. by lead miners. Privately owned, it is now used mainly for educational caving trips and visits by prior appointment.