Hartington lies to the west of the A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road and nestles sedately in the heart of magnificent limestone scenery on the Derbyshire side of the River Dove, which marks the border with neighbouring Staffordshire. Known as `The Gateway to Dovedale` this most picturesque of White Peak villages boasts a wealth of attractions to the visitor and is famous for it`s Stilton cheese; indeed it held a Royal Warrant during the reign of George V for supplying the King`s Stilton! Cheese making, farming, and the tourist industry drive the village`s economy, and this is evidenced by an array of retail establishments which surround the former market square, village green, and duck - pond in the centre of the village.
With the exception of Derby & Chesterfield, Hartington was the first in the County to be granted a Market Charter when in 1203 William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby & Lord of the Manor of Hartington was granted a Royal Charter to hold a weekly market and an annual fair. The annual fair was held between 29th August and 2nd September, and continued, along with the market for almost 700 years until sadly both declined around the turn of the twentieth century. The architecture which surrounds the village centre is an indigenous mixture of large, late 18th and early 19th century buildings blended with the smaller cottages of an earlier and more rustic period, achieving a pleasant balance & harmony. The one noteable exception to the limestone and gritstone buildings is the 13th century Parish church of St.Giles which commands the village from atop a small hill to the north east, where it`s imposing battlemented square tower of red ashlar sandstone stands proudly looking down over the rooftops.
In June 1651 during the Civil War, a group of Royalists were surprised and defeated on Hartington Moor by Roundheads, but a few escaped and fled into the village where the fighting continued in the churchyard and some of the Royalists barricaded themselves inside the church. A legacy of this battle is `Bloody Bones Barn` which stands in a lane nearby. Hartington Hall was originally built around 1350 for the nuns of St.Clair, but the present hall was built by Thomas Bateman in 1611 and renovated by his descendants in 1860. It is a typical three-gabled Derbyshire manor house and the Bateman family occupied it for over 500 years until it became a Youth Hostel in 1934. The Bateman`s at one time held and farmed land on both sides of the Dove; a Bateman fought at Agincourt and his chain mail glove was on display in a glass case inside the church until it was stolen in recent times. Nearby are the ruins of Beresford Hall, Charles Cotton`s birthplace and former home which was demolished in 1858, and his famous Fishing House which featured in Izaak Walton`s `Compleat Angler` still stands beside the Dove in Beresford Dale. The village square was once known as St. Anthony`s Square and formed part of the Red Lion Inn farmyard. The Red Lion was the social centre of the village in it`s heyday, with a large clubroom and a bowling green at the rear, and in 1727 two lodgers at the Inn were taken to the Derby Assizes for playing bowls on a Sunday! The Red Lion finally closed it`s doors in 1951.
The Devonshire Arms and the Charles Cotton Hotel opposite have both seen changes over the years. The former was once a coaching inn known as the Waggon & Horses, whilst the latter was originally a farmhouse owned by the Sleigh family who built the dining room wing and acquired the license from the old Bull`s Head (now Dale House) and named it the Sleigh Arms Hotel. The first cottage on the left opposite the duck pond was once the village constabulary, and the Milton House Hotel next door was a former 18th century silk mill built by Thomas Cantrell before it became the village workhouse. In 1777 Cantrell also built the little row of quaint cottages which stand opposite for his workers. The Corner House Cafe© was built by a village saddlemaker named Stone who once plied his trade there, and the Dales CafÃ© was the original site of the village`s first post office. The Old School House in Church Street was built by Richard Edensor of Watergap Farm in 1758 and features one of the finest examples of a traditional Peakland stone slate roof to be found in the County. The school closed in 1866 and was replaced by a National School which still forms the nucleus of the present enlarged school for the younger children of Hartington. Another noteable building is the Old Vicarage built by the 5th Duke of Devonshire for the manager of his copper mines at Ecton. In the 1870`s the 7th Duke built a cheese factory on Mill Lane which produced Derby cheese in a co-operative venture.
The Cavendish family`s connection with the village began in the 17th century when they bought the Manor, and the courtesy title of Marquis of Hartington was given to the Duke`s eldest son. Standing opposite the Old Vicarage is the Drill Hall, also built by the Duke of Devonshire for the Hartington & Dove Valley section of his Rifle Volunteers. The Drill Hall later became a reading room and then between the wars it served as the village hall and ex-serviceman`s club, and now boasts the grand title of the Royal Cavendish British Legion Hall. Hartington has been home to some noteable people too; William Smith, a village craftsman made the W.G.Grace Memorial Gates at Lord`s cricket ground, and the Spa bandstand at Scarborough. He also designed the War Memorial at the foot of Hall Bank which was unveiled by the Duchess of Devonshire in 1924. Frank Redfern (1838-76) was a talented sculptor who was brought up in the village and later moved to London where he worked on the Albert Memorial. Examples of his work can also be seen in the cathedrals of Salisbury, Bristol, Ely and Gloucester. John Oliver was born in Church View Cottage in 1856, the son of a local lead miner. When the mine closed in 1870 the family emigrated to Canada where John worked as a navvy on the Canadian Pacific Railway before becoming a farmer and then a politician. He entered politics as a Liberal and became Prime Minister of British Columbia in 1921, a post he held until his death in 1927. Another famous resident was Prince Obelenski, the Russian nobleman who played rugby for England and scored two tries in a match against the New Zealand All Blacks! Prince & Princess Obelenski had fled Russia during the 1917 revolution and lived for a time at Dove Cottage. The Perry family built and opened the Silent Picture House in 1926, later it became the Amusement Hall before eventually being purchased by the village in the early 1940`s and becoming the Village Hall. Hartington is much changed over the years and today caters mainly for the visitor to it`s picturesque environs, - and it is well worth a visit with it`s collection of cafes, tea-rooms, gift & craft shops; it`s famous cheeses and it`s pottery. Set in the heart of beautiful limestone walking country, this quaint and ever popular village provides a veritable oasis of rest and refreshment for the thousands who come each year to walk the Tissington Trail and to explore the wonderful dales of the Dove.
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