Holloway History

The Village of Holloway (with Lea & Dethick)

Dethick, Lea and Holloway may sound like a firm of solicitors, but in fact they are the names of three separate mid-Derbyshire settlements which make up a combined rural parish, situated high in the hills above the east bank of the Derwent Valley, a handful of miles south-east of Matlock in the Peak District.

Each of the three settlements has it’s own claim to fame through association with former residents who became figures of national celebrity, whose exploits and achievements are duly recorded in the annals of England’s social and political history.

The romantically named `Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale, who but for a trick of fate would otherwise have been plain Flo Shore, lived at Lea Hurst, Holloway, both before and after her famous exploits in the Crimean War.

The infamous Anthony Babington was a staunch Catholic supporter of Mary Queen of Scots, and was executed at the Tower of London in 1586 for Treason against the Crown after plotting against Queen Elizabeth 1st . He was born at Dethick Manor in 1561.

The final luminary to stamp an indelible imprint on the parish was Victorian Industrialist John Smedley, who along with Florence Nightingale’s grandfather, Peter Nightingale, built Lea Mills in the late eighteenth century. There were four successive John Smedley’s and they were responsible for laying the foundations for much of the prosperity and infrastructure that the parish enjoys today – whilst the second John Smedley was responsible for the building of Riber Castle, a familiar landmark in the area.

Dethick, Lea and Holloway lie in a stretch of land between the A615 Matlock to Alfreton road and the A6 from Cromford to Ambergate, and consequently several minor roads converge on the triune nest of picturesque villages from all directions.

Above this conglomeration of interlinked settlements, the magnificent beech woods of Upper Holloway form a stately natural backcloth on the west – facing hillside, against which the cranellated stone tower of the parish church of Christ Church rises solidly to face the setting sun. Chronologically Lea is the earliest recorded settlement and is the only one mentioned in the Domesday Book. The earliest known building here is at Dethick, now a tiny hamlet of just three farms, where in 1279 the first lord of the manor built beside his Manor House a small private chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist.The last two Dethicks were both killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, and Robert’s daughter Isabel inherited the estate, and later married Thomas Babington.

It was the infamous Anthony Babington’s father, Sir Anthony Babington who in 1530-32 enlarged the chapel to it’s present size, adding the clerestory windows and the unique Perpendicular lantern tower. The Babington coat of arms can still be seen on the wall of a sixteenth century barn at Church Farm.

The Nightingales purchased the 640 acre estate and manor of Lea in 1707, and Thomas Nightingale rebuilt Lea Hall. He was a rich lead merchant and owned a large smelting works at Lea Bridge, and endowed Lea Chapel in 1732 for the use of Protestant Dissenters. Originally built in 1690, the chapel is now an Evangelical Free Church, and the earliest non-conformist chapel in Derbyshire.

Peter Nightingale founded Lea Mills as a cotton-spinning factory at Lea Bridge in 1784, based on Richard Arkwright’s successful Cromford Mill just a mile away and used water from the Lea Brook to power the large wheel and took Wirksworth merchant John Smedley as his overseer. In 1785 Lea Mills changed to wool spinning and hosiery manufacture, and in 1789 Peter Nightingale sold the manor of Cromford to Richard Arkwright, and later relinquished control of Lea Mills to John Smedley.

Nightingale died around 1813, Smedley followed ten years later, and the second John Smedley was 24 when he took over at Lea Mills in 1827. A staunch Methodist, he built a stone chapel at Holloway in 1853, and his philanthropic ways endeared him to villagers and workforce alike. When he died in 1874, he was buried in Holloway churchyard where over his grave, his workforce erected a tall marble obelisk to his memory. John Marsden-Smedley took control in 1888 and retained it as Managing Director for over seventy years until his death aged 92 in 1959.

Smedley’s factories at Lea Mills have been producing garments for well over two hundred years, and their success was rewarded by visits from the Duke of York in 1933, and our present Queen in 1968.

The Smedley’s were also responsible for numerous local projects, including the complete renovation of Lea Green, now a major sports and conference centre, and Lea Rhododendron Gardens on Long Lane, which are open to the public during the summer months and well worth a visit. Peter Nightingale died without issue, and his nephew William Edward Shore inherited the Lea Estate and Peter’s fortune at the age of twenty one in 1820, and promptly changed his name from Shore to Nightingale. He married three years later and went abroad, where his wife gave birth to two daughters, Parthenope and Florence, each named after her birthplace.

William Nightingale built Lea Hurst at Holloway for his new bride and family but found it `too cold, too small and too isolated from society’. So in 1825 he purchased Embley Park in Hampshire where the family lived most of the year, returning to Lea Hurst only during the short summer months. Before her `Lady with the Lamp’ exploits in the Crimean War, it was at Lea Hurst that the young Florence tended to the sick and poor of Holloway, and it was to Lea Hurst that she returned incognito afterwards, shunning the limelight and walking home from Whatstandwell Station carrying her own cases. She even famously declined an official reception at Chatsworth House from the Duke of Devonshire!

Florence Nightingale left Lea Hurst for good following her mother’s death in 1880, and the estate remained in the family until the death of Louis Nightingale in 1940.

For many years Lea Hurst was a Residential Home for the Elderly run by the Royal Surgical Aid Society until it was sold recently.

Surprisingly Holloway also has it’s own art gallery! The Little London Gallery stands next door to the post office and has some excellent works by local artists on display.

There are some wonderful walks around the three settlements and something of interest for all tastes, from the historic and hauntingly picturesque Dethick, to the industrial splendour of Lea Mills and Lea Bridge; from the rhododendron gardens at Lea, to the magnificent beech woods – and Nightingales of Holloway!