History of Bakewell

Bakewell of yesteryear was very different to what it is now. About 200 years ago it was made up of narrow streets and timber framed properties with thatched roofs, but even earlier than that, evidence from Bakewell Church states that the town was founded in Anglo Saxon times, when Bakewell was in the Anglican kingdom of Mercia. The parish church is a grade one listed building and was known to have been found in 920. It has a ninth century cross in the churchyard and has been reconstructed several times over the years, with even a mention in the Domesday book. The history of Bakewell church itself is fascinating and we have a section dedicated entirely to its history, which you may be interested to read about.

Bakewell was called Baedeca’s wella, which meant Baedeca’s Springs. It is thought that this must have been a person, a Saxon who settled by the warm springs which rose at Bakewell where the limestone meets shale. It has been mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was a kind of national diary, in 924.

Edward the Elder ordered a fort to be built at Bakewell at this time and it became a town well known throughout England because of his presence. He is best known for his conquest of England south of the Humber after the Viking invasions, but according to the Chronicle, all those who lived in Northumbria who were English, Danish and Norse, chose Edward as their Lord due to his prowess from building the fort. This was the time when the major religion at the time converted from paganism to Christianity and Bakewell Church actually played a great part in religious history.

Bakewell is of course famous for its weekly markets, Mondays making the town particularly busy when the stalls and livestock market are open for business. The markets were originally started in the 13th century, when the people of Bakewell were ‘allowed’ to hold them. In those days there were very few shops and if the person wished to buy or sell anything they had to go to the market to trade. It soon became a flourishing little market town and people flocked from all over to visit. It was also allowed to host annual fairs, a bit like the markets, that were held once a year and attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area.

Due to the increased traffic over the River Wye, in the late 1200’s, a stone bridge was built. The five arched bridge is one of the best known landmarks in the Peak and is among one of the oldest in the country and now designated as an ancient monument. There are two walks from here which take you through a little bit of history, one going upstream through meadowland known as ‘Scot’s Garden’ and then passing Holme Hall, a small Jacobean Manor.

Downstream is Holme Bridge, which dates from 1664. It was a former packhorse crossing point and packhorse leaders came from the Monyash direction, to avoid paying tolls in the centre of the town. Loads of up to 200 weight were carried in pannier baskets slung on either side of the horse and the bridge was of sufficient width to enable a horse to cross with ease to the other side.

Old House Museum is hidden away behind the church and is the oldest house in Bakewell, believed to date from 1534. Originally a Parsonage, it was later converted into six cottages by Sir Richard Arkwright. Another four cottages were accommodated in the adjacent barn, to house his workers at Lumford Mill. It is now one of the best preserved 15th century houses in the country, but was nearly demolished 50 years ago, the local council having served a demolition order. There was a local outcry and the house was eventually saved and restored to its former glory by the Bakewell Historical Society. It is now a fascinating folk Museum Well worth visiting.

In 1697 the Duke of Rutland, built the bathhouse, which was led by warm springs. Bakewell old Town Hall was built in 1709 and at the same time, almshouses called St John’s Hospital were built in the town.

In 1779, Bakewell was the scene of a riot. At the time men would being chosen by lot to serve in the militia and names were written on ballot papers and then chosen at random. Rumours were rife that the Bakewell area was being asked to give more than its fair share of men, including many lead miners with picks and shovels gathered from the surrounding villages and they marched into a meeting of magistrates. The demonstrators then began looting and the magistrates called in soldiers. Six men were imprisoned and the material damage the Bakewell was immense.

Arkwright’s cotton spinning factory at Lumford Mill was built around 1782 and employed about 350 people at its peak, mainly women and children. It was sold to the Duke of Devonshire in 1860 but came to an untimely end when it burned down eight years later. After rebuilding, it continued to operate as a cotton factory to the end of the century and an attractive row of workers cottages remains.

The modern layout of the town only came about in the 19th century when Rutland Square was created and the Rutland Arms replaced the Old White Horse Inn in 1804. It is claimed that Jane Austen stayed there in 1811 and she based Lambton in Pride and prejudice on Bakewell, and Pemberley on Chatsworth house. It was at the Rutland Arms that the famous Bakewell pudding was born in approximately 1860. The cook accidentally misunderstood the instructions and instead of stirring in the egg mixture into the pastry, she spread it on top of the jam, which has to this day proved to be a stroke of genius in creating a brand for the town.

In 1863 a railway was opened between Bakewell and Buxton that it closed again in 1968.

Bakewell is home to approximately 4000 present day and cherishes its chequered past. History can be found in every nook and cranny if you look hard enough and we’re sure you’ll agree – this wonderful market town has a very interesting story to tell!