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Monyash History

Monyash Information

Monyash sits in a shallow hollow at the head of Lathkill Dale, one of the most beautiful and tranquil dales in the county.  Monyash first appeared in the Domesday Book in 1086 but has been inhabited since at least Neolithic times when the fertile ground at the head of Lathkill Dale was farmed and people used the nearby stone circle, Arbor Low for ceremonies and trading.

Monyash owes its name and existence to water.  Beneath the centre of the village lies a band of clay, laid down during the last Ice Age, which enabled pools of water to form rather than disappear underground.  Over time these pools were shaped into ponds, meres, which provided a source of water for the inhabitants and their livestock.  At one time there were five meres; now just one remains, Fere (pronounced fear) Mere.  The name Monyash, written as Maneis in the Domesday Book, derives from its important topographical feature - water.  The Celtic word manieas means many waters.

Around Monyash there were rich veins of lead.  These were first mined by the Romans around 80 AD soon after they laid the Roman Road to the West of the village.  (Part of the A515 between the Bull i’ th’ Thorn and the Duke of York pubs still follows the line of the Roman Road).  After the Romans left Britain, the inhabitants of Monyash continued to mine lead and some people, in particular the landowners, became quite rich and developed the village.  At this time St Leonard’s Church was extended from a small one roomed building to a surprisingly large church for the size of the village.  Some of the lime trees in the churchyard were planted by Rev Robert Lomas, a former vicar of Monyash, who was killed in 1776 after falling from a rocky tor at the head of Lathkill Dale, which has been known ever since as Parson`s Tor.  Lead mining reached its peak around 1850 when the village had a population of just under 500, twice as many as today.  It was almost a self sufficient community with a variety of trades including blacksmith (now the café on the green), cobblers, butchers, wheelwrights, wool merchants, joiners, dressmakers, shoe makers, and rope makers.  The village also had five pubs; the Bull’s Head is the only one that survives today.  Monyash was the centre of the lead mining industry in the north of the White Peak area and was the home of a Barmote Court that dealt with disputes between lead miners.  Magpie Mine was the last mine to be operated and it closed in 1958.  The remains of the mine can still be seen and visited. 

With the exception of the church, all of the medieval buildings have disappeared. However several old buildings dating from the 17th and 18th century remain.  The Bull’s Head by the village green has a 1619 date stone.  A good example of the local marble (polished limestone), polished at the Ashford Marble Works, can be seen as the entrance stone to the pub.

Monyash was the location of some religious fervour in the 19th century.  Not only did St Leonard’s Church boast large congregations but the Methodist movement also attracted many worshippers.  They initially erected a small chapel in 1835 and extended in into the present building in 1888.  A group of people dissatisfied with the existing Christian sects formed the Religious Society of Friends, known as the Quakers.  John Gratton was one of their early convert’s and he lived in Monyash for 34 years.  On his death in 1711 he left his cottage and some ground in Monyash to the Quakers who converted it into the Friends Meeting House.  This Quaker Chapel, with its small graveyard behind, still stands opposite the Methodist Chapel.

As lead mining declined with the introduction of cheaper imports followed by the use of copper for piping, the population also slowly declined to its current size of around 280 inhabitants.  The village now relies on sheep and dairy farming and also tourism, in particular walkers exploring the networks of footpaths in the area.  Walkers are well catered for by the café, the Bull’s Head and some B&B accommodation and holiday cottages. 

However, there remain many traces of Monyash’s prosperous past, for example, Arbor Low, Fere Mere, Norman features in St Leonard’s Church, mine working spoil heaps, the remains of Magpie Mine and the market cross on the village green (erected in 1340).  New ‘monuments’ have appeared more recently, such as the war memorial erected on the green just after the First World War, the King and Queen trees, also on the green, planted to celebrate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, the Europa Nostra Award (a small plaque on the village green) given to the village in recognition of its revitalisation initiatives in the 1980s, the millennium tree, also on the green, the village hall and low cost housing developments.  Individually and collectively these features, both ancient and modern, provide us with glimpses into the village’s rich heritage.

Written by Robert Johnston, for more information see www.monyash.info/