Wheston is a small hamlet on the outskirts of Tideswell. It lies on what was at one time a very important road, which accounts for the remains of a roadside cross, being one of the earliest to be found in the county.
Wheston was until the 18th century known as Whetstone. In the Domesday Book it was recorded as an outlier of Hope under the King’s manor of Tideswell. Old records, dating back to 1362, mention a Thomas Browne who was seated here. Later records refer to a family known as Alleyne, who by the reign of Elizabeth I had served as Bailiffs and Collectors of the High Peak and had also become rich on the profits of local lead mining around Wheston.
Wheston Hall was originally built in the late 16th century. At that time the property consisted of a tower three storeys in height but ungabled. For many years Wheston Hall was held in the Alleyne family who were staunch Catholics. In 1592 Edward Alleyne and his brother Henry were arrested for being Roman
Catholics and holding secret mass and were heavily fined.
The family seat was eventually lost due to debt and passed to Thomas Freeman who in 1727 added a new 3-storey, 9-bay range to the north, giving Wheston Hall a Georgian façade. Two further gables were created to the east, and the land around was transformed into a country estate with an avenue of trees, ending in a fine pair of gate piers with pineapple finials. In the next century Wheston Hall passed through several families but fell into disrepair, and the west wing became disused. In 1952 the west wing and north front collapsed in a gale and parts of n Hall were then demolished to reduce it to a more manageable size. Over the years the beautifully set out estate with lawns and trees has returned to farmland where sheep and cattle once again graze.
Wheston Hall is more often referred to for its ghosts. One is known as the ‘Old Woman of Wheston’ who is said to appear dressed in poke bonnet and crinoline dress. She passes around the house barefoot, shrieking and tearing out her golden hair. Apparently The Old Woman of Wheston had once been married to a man she hated, but in typical ghostly tradition, was parted from the real man that she loved. Murder was said to have been committed by her husband, and her lover’s grave reputedly lies in the former orchard. The lady died at Wheston Hall of a broken heart and was buried at Tideswell.
The other ghost at Wheston Hall is of ‘Soldier Dick’, apparently being a life-size military figure that once stood in the entrance hall. It was reputed that if he was moved from this place, bad luck fell on the residents of the Hall. It is said that he was finally laid to rest in the cellar of Wheston Hall.
Long years have passed, yet Wheston Hall
O’erlooks the Tor and Dale
Where huge, fantastic rocks upreared
Defy the winter’s gale
And rustics, clustering round the fire
Oft tell the ghostly tale.
Wheston Cross dates back to medieval times and stands in a little sheltered copse of trees. It was moved here earlier this century from a position close to the manor house. The cross which stands on four steps is 12 feet tall and is carved to the east with the Crucifixion of Christ. On the west are the Virgin and Child. Wheston Cross probably dates from the 14th century when it marked the way leading from Tideswell to Buxton on the Forest road. This route lead down Wheston Bank and was known as Kirkgate or Crossgate. This era of the middle ages is referred to as the ‘Age of Faith’ because no traveller would have passed a cross without offering a prayer for their safe journey. There was another cross nearer to Tideswell from Wheston, of which only the base remains and is now known locally as the ‘Wishing Stone’.
The Forest road lead from the important settlement of Tideswell through Wheston to the Royal Forest of the Peak which once covered an area of 180 square miles and had three wards – Longdendale in the north, Hopedale in the south-east and Campagna (French for open ground) in the south-west. In 1225 Chapel-en-le-Frith was founded by the King’s Foresters and in 1275 there is a record of Thomas de Wolfhunt who was empowered to take wolves. Although thickly wooded on the whole, the Royal Forest also consisted of wild tracts of land.
Peter Dale lies not far from Wheston and is now a conservation area. It is thought that an ancient secret passage once lead from here all the way to Tideswell Church.
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