Middleton – by – Youlgreave

This quiet unspoilt village lies a mile and a half south west of Youlgreave and is set amidst the beautiful rolling hills and limestone dales at the very heart of the White Peak.

The olde worlde charm and peaceful ambience that pervades and characterises the atmosphere in this rural backwater is due in no small measure to the absence of any through traffic. The main street around which the village is built is a minor loop off the Newhaven to Youlgreave road and serves only Middleton, save for a narrow lane which leads past the tiny early 19th century parish church and out of the village southward to the hamlet of Gratton and on to Elton, two and a half miles away.

The River Bradford skirts the fringes of the village to the east, and runs the length of Bradford Dale below Middleton to Alport where it joins the River Lathkill just beyond Youlgreave.

These sylvan surroundings are ever popular with hikers and provide some of the best and most picturesque walking country in England, so it is hardly surprising that most of the traffic passing through Middleton is of the foot, rather than the mechanised variety; `passing through` being the operative phrase for apart from the pleasant sleepy rural charm of the place, there is nothing to cause the visitor to linger, no café, no pub, no post-office or shop.

Residents rely on nearby Youlgreave for these essential services. The village shop finally closed its doors 50 years ago and it is almost a century since the last pint of ale was served to a thirsty visitor at the Bateman Arms, which is now a private dwelling known as Square House, and set appropriately on one side of the village square.

The village square is set on a sharp bend at the centre of the main street and surrounded by both farmhouses and cottages built in the typical local style of Derbyshire limestone with gritstone details. The buildings are mainly early 19th century although many look much older owing to the 17th and 18th century mullioned windows incorporated by the local squire, Thomas Bateman when he rebuilt the entire village in the 1820`s.

One of Thomas Bateman`s ancestors fought at Agincourt and the main family seat was Hartington Hall, but Thomas, a staunch nonconformist, purchased Middleton Hall and estate at the end of the 18th century and had the Hall completely rebuilt in local gritstone in 1824-27. He also built the Congregational Chapel, now a private house, in 1826, beside which is the much visited `Bateman`s tomb` surrounded by iron railings and surmounted by a stone replica of a Bronze Age cinerary urn. This marks the final resting place of his more famous grandson, Thomas Bateman the pioneer archeologist, who had laid the chapel`s foundation stone when he was just 4 years old!

Thomas Bateman Jnr. inherited the estate on his grandfather`s death in May 1847. Three years earlier he had built Lomberdale Hall, which stands back alongside the road to Youlgreave and which he enlarged in 1856 to house his growing collection of archeological artefacts. On August 2nd 1847 following his grandfather`s death in May, he added a new prize to his collection when he married Sarah Parker at Bakewell Register Office.

Fourteen years later Mrs.Sarah Bateman was a widow with five children when Thomas died at the early age of 39. During his short life he is said to have examined around 500 barrows or burial mounds, and to have excavated a significant number of valuable Bronze Age artefacts which are now housed at Sheffield City Museum. His book `Ten Years Digging` was published just two weeks before he died.

Two hundred years before the Batemans came to Middleton most of the estate was owned by Sir George Fulwood, who in the early 1600`s built a fortified manor house which became known as Middleton or Fulwood `Castle`. This was the scene of a minor skirmish during the Civil War which featured upon his Cavalier son, Sir Christopher Fulwood, a staunch Royalist.

He had recruited about a thousand lead miners to march to Derby in support of King Charles when the castle was raided by a strong force of Cromwell`s soldiers on November 16th 1643. Sir Christopher fled and hid in a cave behind a large rock in Bradford Dale, known locally as `Fulwood`s Rock` – but was shot and captured by the Parliament troops and taken to Lichfield where he later died of his wounds. The castle fell into ruins and it`s stones were used for other buildings in the village including Castle Farm which now stands close by the foundational mound of the old castle whose stones still peep from their grassy grave in the next field.

There are several large farms in and around Middleton, mostly sheep and dairy farming in an area where the limestone rock outcrops in almost every field and there is no depth of soil for any arable farming. Lowfield Farm now provides holiday accommodation, whilst Castle Farm is one of a small number of local places which provide bed & breakfast.

Otherwise there is no industry in Middleton, and thus no local economy save for the growing number of holiday homes.There is no school either and resident school children attend either the Primary School in Youlgreave or the Secondary School in Bakewell.

Middleton Hall and park has been the home for almost a century now of the Waterhouse Family, direct relations of the Duke of Marlborough, and friends of the Royal Family. Prince Charles has been a frequent visitor and a number of years ago he and the late Lady Diana were guests at the wedding of Major Hugo and Lady Caroline Waterhouse`s daughter.

Middleton also has a village hall and a small recreation area on the south side of the square, – and surprisingly unlike most peakland villages, the Parish Council have provided the amenity of a Public Convenience in recent years for the many walkers who `pass through` the centre of their attractive village.

Another noteable and recent addition to the Square is an unusual war memorial; It consists of a bronze plaque erected in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and depicts a Wellington Bomber, RAF No. BJ 652 which crashed at Smerrill on January 21st 1944, along with the names of the six Royal Australian Air Force crew members who perished. Appropriate enough reason perhaps for the visitor passing through the village to linger awhile here, and to reflect for a moment upon the peace and tranquility of Middleton-by-Youlgreave.

This article has been brought to you by our resident peak district writerTom Bates