Mappleton (or Mapleton)

Mappleton, or Mapleton – as it appears on the Ordnance Survey map of Derbyshire – is a pleasant village hamlet which sits almost astride the River Dove about two miles north west of Ashbourne on the very fringe of the Peak District National Park.

The spectacular scenery surrounding the village includes the well-known local landmark of Thorpe Cloud, with the famous stepping stones across the River Dove just a mile or so upstream, all of which puts Mappleton well within reach of the two million visitors each year who come to experience the natural delights of Dovedale.

Unlike the more ancient limestone-built neighbouring villages to the north, Mappleton is built almost entirely of brick, with the unusual tiny 18th century village church of St. Mary’s, with its pillared porch surmounted by a dome being the sole stone-built edifice to be seen, except for the original section of the nearby restored early 18th century Okeover Hall.

A short detour from the main A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road will take you into Mappleton within a mile, and the first sight for the visitor on entering the village along Ashbourne Road is the magnificent neo-Elizabethan Callow Hall, built in 1852, and with a splendid tower designed by Stevens.

These days Callow Hall, which is set in 44 acres of gardens, meadow and woodland and overlooks the Bentley Brook, is a high quality hotel with 16 en-suite bedrooms and an excellent restaurant renowned for it’s home-cooked cuisine, owned and run by local family the Spencers, who have been master bakers in Ashbourne since 1724.

Mappleton makes an ideal base for visiting the numerous attractions which this area of the Peak District has to offer, with Dovedale on the doorstep, and within half an hour’s drive the delights of Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall, Kedleston Hall, Carsington Water, Matlock Bath – and many of the natural wonders of the Peak are all readily accessible and available.

But Mappleton too has it’s attractions, and although it may look to the visitor like a relatively modern village with it’s cluster of brick-built 20th century houses and its white painted pub, it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and has it’s origins back in ancient Saxon times.

St. Mary’s Church – a miniature St. Paul’s

The first mention of a church on this site was during the reign of Edward 1st in the late 13th century, but by 1650 Parliament had declared the church `fit for disuse’ – although it was a century later when the present tiny domed structure was designed & built by James Gibbs, a former pupil of Sir Christopher Wren who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and his influence can be plainly seen here in the Mappleton edifice!

The Okeover’s have owned the estate for many centuries and Okeover Hall, which is surrounded by an extensive deer park was built around 1720.

An extensive modern wing, designed by Marshall Sisson has been added to the original structure, and following many years of non-use, the late Sir Ian Walker-Okeover completely restored the hall during the 20th century.

There are some interesting almshouses dated 1727 in the village which are contemporary with the original construction of Okeover Hall, and a pretty one-arch stone-bridge spans the River Dove along the road to the Hall.

The one-arch Mappleton Bridge, and the nearby white-painted Okeover Arms both feature in the villages’ main annual attraction and perhaps its main claim to fame – the famous New Year’s Day Mappleton Bridge Jump!

Annually at noon on New Year’s Day, ten teams of three lunatics paddle rafts half a mile down the river to the bridge, scramble up the banking and leap from the parapet of the bridge thirty feet into the freezing water below, then swim to the bankside and run 500 yards to the pub! Waiting for the winner is ten pints of ale – anyone up for a New Year’s Day Peak Challenge? – if so, Mappleton’s the place to be! See you there………!

Tom Bates