Tideswell straggles along either side of a twisting, narrow valley on the moors of the limestone plateau between Litton and Wheston, and about a mile to the west of the main A623 Baslow – Chapel-en-le-Frith road. It forms the point of a triangle on the map along with Bakewell and Buxton, which are seven miles south east and the same distance south west respectively.
When the Romans arrived here almost two thousand years ago in 60 AD they would have found a small settlement of Ancient Britons living in mud and wood huts along the banks of a swift flowing stream. Today the stream is culverted and runs beneath the streets of a thriving, award winning rural community which has won the coveted East Midlands In Bloom competition three times in the last five years.
From all accounts Tideswell seems to be a place with an identity crisis,- too small for a town and too big for a village, and whilst the War Memorial at the end of Church Street honours ‘the men of this town’ who perished in both World Wars, the majority of its 2000 residents prefer to describe themselves as villagers. Regardless of its designation Tideswell remains a place of great charm and character with interesting architecture and a fascinating history.
The Saxons ruled here after the Romans had departed and in the 7th century Tideswell was named ‘Tidi’s Wall’ after the Saxon Chieftain Tidi. The name remained with a variety of spellings until the 17th century when it became fashionable to suppose that the ebbing and flowing well described as one of Croston’s ‘Seven Wonders of The Peak’ had created the present name of Tideswell.
The ‘tiding well’ which was an intermittent spring produced by a natural syphon in the rock ceased to ebb and flow about 1790, but may still be seen in the garden of Craven House in Manchester Road.
Tiddiswell is recorded in the Domesday Book as a Royal Demesne and Berewick in the Royal Manor of Hope given by William the Conqueror to his illegitimate son, William Peverell who occupied Peverell Castle at nearby Castleton.
The village was granted a market charter in 1250 and most of modern Tideswell was constructed around the Market Place, which still exists but sadly no longer operates. Within the following century work had commenced on the building, just east of the Market Place, of Tideswell`s most prominent feature, the magnificent Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, known as ‘The Cathedral of The Peak’. In ‘Churches & Chapels in The County of Derby’, Rawlins said it was “without exception the most perfect and beautiful specimen of pointed architecture to be found in the County, – or perhaps in any other parish church of it’s size in the entire Kingdom”. The church was built between 1346 and 1386, with a break in between caused by the Black Death, and its superb pinnacled tower has dominated the village for over 600 years.
Immediately behind the church stand yet more architectural gems; the Tideswell Grammar School building founded in 1559 by Bishop Pursglove, and the handsome early Georgian structures of Eccles Hall and Blake House, both acquired in the 19th century to accommodate staff and students at ‘Bishop Pursglove’s Grammar School’. The school eventually closed in 1927 and it’s former ‘halls of residence’ now accommodate only the books of Tideswell Library.
The Hon.John Byng (later Viscount Torrington) on a visit here in 1790 wrote;
“At Tiddswell I stopt at a comfortable public-house, The New George, where being instantly served with cold roast beef and pigeon-pye, I felt very contented”. Now, over two hundred years later this coaching inn built in 1730, has dropped both the suffix `New` from it’s signboard, and the ‘pigeon pye’ from its menu, but landlord Dale Norris still provides an excellent roast beef lunch!
The George has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and the excellent dining area is well served with delicious food and good ale. Superb watercolours by local artist H.G.Buttle adorn the walls of this pleasant hostelry, and perhaps the best are those depicting the ‘Cathedral of The Peak’ which stands just outside.
Tideswell is a village noted for its craftsmen, and although the traditions of stone-masonry, velvet cutting, silk weaving, (in 1800 Tideswell had 7 silk mills) and cotton weaving have now passed into history, the legacy left behind by local craftsmen has become part of the fabric of the village.
The interior woodwork in the church bears testimony to the woodcarving skill of Advent Hunstone, whose talent was spotted by Canon Andrew, Vicar and Headmaster of the Grammar School in 1864. The Canon quickly installed Advent in the vicarage coach-house and set him to work at fourpence an hour. The results can be admired in the church today, the lectern, north transept screen, reredos, communion table, vicar’s chair, organ case and south door are all his work. His son, Advent junior is responsible for the churchyard gates, and the tradition was carried on for three further generations.
The late Bill Hunstone, whose workshop in the Market Square was once the Marquis of Granby Inn, and whose cottage opposite has been in the family since 1692, was sadly the last in a long line of renowned Tideswell woodcarvers.
Joe Chapman was the sixth and last generation of another famous Tideswell woodcarving family, and though the tradition has died along with its craftsmen, both Chapel House Furniture, and Darkbrook Pianos are thriving modern equivalents trading in the village.
Dry-stone walling is another tradition still carried on in Tideswell, as evidenced by the work of art currently under construction at the rear of the churchyard by local craftsman Norton Astley.
Tideswell Wakes Week is a village tradition almost 750 years old and coincides annually with Tideswell Well Dressing which takes place during the church`s Patronal Festival around St.John The Baptists Day.
In the centre of the village, Bank Square Gardens are dedicated to Norman Gratton CBE, JP, MA. Chairman of the Peak National Park 1956-77, and the bank opposite occupies the site of the former ancient Guild Hall, demolished in 1905.
There are many other noteable buildings in Tideswell, and perhaps the most architecturally spectacular is the 1872 Oddfellows Hall standing in an elevated position at the rear of the market square.
The village has a maze of quaint alleyways and narrow lanes with names like Cherry Tree Square and Sunny Bank Lane; it is a colourful place which during the summer months comes alive, shops and cottages alike festooned with baskets of wonderful cascading flowers. Yet despite its alluring character and picturesque location amongst the surrounding limestone hills it has not fallen prey to tourism, and though it retains all the charms of a traditional Derbyshire limestone village, it has the facilities and the civic pride and industry of a small rural town.