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Litton



Litton can certainly be described as one of the prettiest villages in the Peak District with many late 17th and early 18th century houses, oozing charm and character, and set around a large village green where you can find the steps of an old market cross and the village stocks conveniently placed in front of the pub!

Much of the affluence which resulted in the expansion of Litton around the late 17th century can be attributed to the local lead mining industry, although hosiery manufacture was a cottage industry at that time with many families working on stocking frames in their homes.

Christ Church in Litton was opened in 1928. Prior to this church services were held in the school and library building which was built by public subscription in 1869. William Bagshawe (1628-1702) was born at Litton and was a non-conformist minister who gained the title of The Apostle of the Peak. William gave his first sermon at Wormhill and later became the Vicar of Glossop. Following The Restoration in 1662, he returned to the then family home at Ford Hall near Chapel-en-le-Frith and began to preach in secret, then to build small shelters and chapels. Warrants were served for his arrest but he was never captured. When William died, he was buried in the chancel of the church at Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Litton once boasted having two musical bands, each almost entirely composed of family members, being the Eatons and the Palfreymans. Inhabitants of the village have not always been so amiable to each other though, with records stating that in 1819 a Hannah Pocking of Litton poisoned another villager and was hung at Derby for her crime.

Running above the village is Litton Edge from where there are lovely aerial views down over the village. From up there you can clearly make out the interesting field formations which surround Litton. Reverse s-shaped fields are medieval in age, whereas the majority of the fields are long and narrow and were created after the Enclosure Acts of 1760 and 1830 when open fields were allocated to individuals by Commissioners. The more rectangular fields away from the village or on higher ground were formed later in the 18th and 19th centuries when the land was taken in from the moors and rough pasture.

Across the fields from Litton is Cressbrook Dale which is renowned for its wonderful wild flowers, and is one of Derbyshires finest dales for botanical interest. Some of the flowers are exceptionally rare including birdsfoot sedge. However, in spring the sides of the dale are literally covered with spotted orchids and cowslips.

At the top end of Cressbrook Dale is a strange rock formation known as Gibbet Rock or Peter Stone which probably derives from its similarity to the dome of St. Peters Basilica in Rome. However, Gibbet Rock has more grisly connotations.

In the coaching days of the 19th century there was a toll gate across the turnpike road at Wardlow Mires. In the Toll House lived Hannah Oliver, a widow of 70 years. On January 15 1815 she was strangled and her death made to somehow look like suicide. A 21-year old man named Anthony Linguard was found guilty of her murder and consequently hung at Derby for his crime. His body was brought back to Wardlow on a cart then set up on a gibbet on Peter Stone where crowds gathered from far and wide and stalls selling refreshments and curios did a roaring trade. The strange thing was that on January 15 1815 another foul murder took place that same night in Yorkshire. Another old lady was murdered at a toll gate  she was Hannahs sister!

Many people protested with disgust at the barbaric practice of gibbeting Anthony Linguard and hanging him in chains on the rock, which resulted in an end to this ghoulish ritual. It is stated that the cost of the hanging was £126 9s 5d which included a bill of £85 4s for the gibbet.

Another macabre historical reference is that of Litton Mill. The mill is located by the side of the River Wye about 2 miles from Litton village. Now converted into luxury apartments, the Litton Mill complex has a notorious history involving cruelty, torture and a high rate in apprentice and child labour mortality. In fact, it is reputed that burials were made at several locations in an attempt to cover up the number of deaths.

Ellis Needham was a millowner or factory master with the worst reputation. He established the mill back in 1782 and together with his partner Thomas Firth attempted to sell the premises in 1786. Their advertisement stated well supplied by hands from the neighbouring villages at low wages! When the mill failed to sell, Needham took to apprenticing parish orphans and paupers, some of whom were brought from London or other large cities. They worked long hours with poor food, in bad conditions, and were beaten and abused. In 1815 Needham was declared bankrupt so ironically his cost-cutting measures did not pay off. The mill was taken over by a succession of owners, one of whom was the much kinder Henry Newton, and by 1857 there were 400 employees. As with many of the mills, fire struck at Litton and new buildings were constructed. In 1934 it was bought by Anglo-French Silk Mills Limited and produced artificial silk and man-made fibres. In 1963 Litton Mill changed hands and manufactured textured yarns until its closure in the 1970s. For many years the mill lay empty and derelict before planning permission was approved for its conversion into living accommodation.
Litton Video
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Litton via Cressbrook Dale - Peak District Walks
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2 1/2 hours

Mable savours Cressbrook Dale and Litton


This to me is a special local walk as it takes in some scenery that I have been in awe of since moving to the Peak District. It takes in the beautiful Cressbrook Dale with its magnificent limestone walls and outcrops plus the majestic Peters Stone, so named due to its resemblance to St Peter’s Basilica, standing proudly at one end, near Wardlow Mires.

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Peter’s Stone is infamous as it stands within The Gibbet Field where the last gibbeting was carried out in the early 1700’s. Walking through it today, it is hard to believe that this stupendously beautiful area could have such a dark past, but it makes passing the area just that little more thrilling.
Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself as we need to start at the beginning in Litton, near the Red Lion, although on occasions, when we have felt energetic, we have walked from Tideswell, where you can approach the village via the lane that leads passed Litton Church or alternatively walk up from Tideswell Dale. Both bring you into Litton Village square, with its pub, school, village green and stocks.

 


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From Litton it is primarily road walking for the first twenty minutes out of the village, but it is worth it, trust us. You need to follow the road passed the Bretton Cottage bed and breakfast on your left, and you will find, 100 yards further down the hill, a gate that allows entry to the Dale.
At this point you are offered fabulous views of the Dale and Peter’s Stone and if you choose, it does make for a good walk, if you enter at this point. It is not our preferred walk, however, as I do not think it is Mable friendly, being too high up.  I think it is well worth the extra effort to take a right at the main road ahead and “struggle” the 2-300 yards along until you gain entry to the Dale at Wardlow Mires. To access at this point is to enter at ground level allowing you to fully appreciate the majestic limestone heights in all their glory.


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It is also a flat open route, ideal for one well behaved mutt, namely Mable, to search for random sticks and stones to carry and chase at her leisure.
The limestone outcrops can be seen striping across the grass banks to the left and drawing your eye towards the massive basilisk that is Peter’s Stone. It also forms cliffs and cracks, crags and caves, housing wildlife, throughout - Mable and I saw a rabbit dash for cover, on the day we walked it, bounding over 50 metres up the cliff as if on a spring, into its craggy burrow above. It was mesmerising feat of athleticism.  The same outcrop, I decided, if you squinted when looking up, looked not dissimilar to a half finished Mount Rushmore, if you can imagine it. You can make out half carved faces near the top, which are picked out perfectly in the changing light. On the same day as seeing the rock climbing rabbit, we also managed to surprise three horses grazing above the cliff. They were obviously sure footed and well used to their elevated location, but looked out of place walking free so high above our heads.


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Walking through the valley, with the sun streaming across it in, late afternoon, shadows accentuated the hollows and shingle slopes and highlighted the green grass and buttercups. Walking around Peter’s Stone and through the valley beyond filled me with a feeling of deep pride; proud to live where I do; proud to actually be able to walk this route anytime I choose and proud to be able to provide Mable with the freedom to enjoy it too.


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After Peter’s Stone, you continue along the dale bottom, which eventually offers up the option of a right hand bend, or to carry on further taking you off to Little Longstone, should you choose. Mable and I take the right bend which brings you to a narrower dale ascending passed more crags and smaller caves, over aged worn sheep tracks, up to farms fields above. The place is an absolute treat. The geology throughout is so interesting, I would say, even to the most distracted and disengaged walkers – you cannot fail to feel something when ambling in this countryside. ( Mable feels it too, mainly in the nasal passages, I suspect, with all the smells this place has to offer, from abundant  wildlife to plant life.)


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Ascending up to the fields behind Litton, you eventually come to a stile that allows you back onto the Litton Road, at Litton View Farm, just at the front of their farm yard and almost into the centre of the village.


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If you made the decision to start this walk in Litton, you have the homely and friendly Red Lion pub to visit for food and libation. Alternatively, you could pop to the local village Co-operative shop for snacks and drinks to eat on the green.


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If you started in Tideswell, you still have a way to go and I would suggest the walk passed the Church again, to enjoy more of the Peaks beauty; the sheep fields; the fresh air; the cows; the Tideswell allotments and then the descent into Tideswell, with its overview of The Cathedral of The Peak, Tideswell Church – it’s worth the effort and justifies Fish and Chips or food at one of the local Tideswell pubs or cafes – after all, you have earned it! 
Mable and I will just toddle off home for a libation of our own.

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