Wardlow is an extremely good example of a linear village, where the settlement has grown in a straight line following the sides of a road. The name Wardlow means ‘look-out hill’ and probably refers to Wardlow Hay Cop which is a conical shaped hill nearby and probably the remains of a extremely extinct volcano.
The area around Wardlow is typical White Peak countryside with vast stretches of dry stone walls, criss-crossing this upland plain with distant views towards Eyam Edge
Across the fields to the north-east of Wardlow stands Castlegate Farm. In medieval times this farm stood at the side of an ancient main road which ran up through the county from Derby to Bradwell and possibly beyond. It was known as The Portway and was then the ancient equivalent of the M1, linking many of the hill forts and strongholds that existed at that time including Fin Cop near Ashford and Burrs Mount near Great Hucklow. One of the main strongholds on the route was Ashford Castle, as this stood at an important crossing of the River Wye where many other paths and tracks met. All remains of Ashford Castle have long since gone, but the route of the Portway beyond Ashford and on to Wardlow is still known as Castlegate. This name also appears in the title of farms, houses and fields including Castlegate Farm, Castle Cliff Dale and Castle Cliff Top.
Many of the fields around Wardlow contain hillocks, mounds, hollows and the capped shafts of mines as this area was rich in lead ore and has been exploited over the centuries for its minerals. White Rake in particular can be seen as a line of workings across the landscape near Wardlow. White Rake was often the name given where the ore excavated was of lead and zinc sulphides that had been oxidised to carbonates such as Cerussite (lead carbonate) and Smithsonite (zinc carbonate, commonly known as calamine). Cerussite was at one time used in paint.
Wardlow has a small church which was built in 1873 and has the remains of stocks at the side of it. At the beginning of September a well dressing is erected at the side of the church in traditional Peak District custom.
There was a 17th century coaching inn known as The Bulls Head in Wardlow up until a few years ago, but this has now closed and become just a family home.
A wonderful path and track leads from Wardlow by the side of Wardlow Hay Cop which is known as The Pingle. It takes you to the edge of Cressbrook Dale where there are sweeping views across the valley towards Litton and beyond. In the spring the sides of this wonderful dale are covered with orchids and cowslips.
At the top of the dale is Peter Stone or Gibbet Rock. The name Peter Stone probably derived from its similarity with the dome of St Peters Basilica in Rome, whilst Gibbet Rock has more grisly connotations.
In the coaching days of the 19th century there was a toll gate across the turnpike road at nearby Wardlow Mires. In the toll house lived Hannah Oliver, a widow of 70 years. On January 15th 1815 Hannah was strangled and her death made to somehow look like suicide. The murderer had reportedly stolen Hannah’s shoes and given them to his girlfriend. This was to be his downfall and led to his capture. 21 year old Anthony Linguard was found guilty of Hannah’s murder and consequently hanged at Derby for his crime. His body was brought back to Wardlow on a cart then set up on a gibbet on Peter Stone where crowds gathered from far and wide. Stalls selling refreshments and curios were erected and reported had a roaring trade.
The strange thing was that on January 15th 1815 another foul murder reputedly took place that very same night in Yorkshire. Another old lady was murdered at a toll gate and she was Hannah’s sister!
Many people protested with disgust at the barbaric practice of gibbeting Anthony Linguard, and hanging him in chains on the rock near Wardlow, which resulted in an end to this ghoulish ritual. It is said that the cost of the hanging was £16 9s 5d which included a bill of £85 4s for the erection of the gibbet. Another local criminal gibbeted here was the highwayman known as Black Harry who robbed and terrified travellers on the old tracks and highways of Derbyshire.
At Wardlow Mires there is the tiny hostelry known as the Three Stag’s Head which was formerly the Devonshire Arms.
The A623 which runs through Wardlow Mires was originally constructed as the Chapel-en-le-Frith to Chesterfield turnpike of 1759. There was a small tollhouse and bar on the northern side of the road. When the road from Wirksworth was laid and linked with this, a prehistoric burial mound was found close to the village which contained 17 internments in stone cists. Unfortunately all evidence of the tumuli was destroyed.
By the side of the A623 about half a mile east of Wardlow Mires are the remains of Water Grove Lead Mine. This was worked in the 18th and 19th centuries, closing down in 1853. As with many mines, Water Grove was plagued with flooding and by 1740 three soughs had been driven in an attempt to alleviate the problem. The Water Grove Sough did not reach the mine until 1770. By 1800 two pumping engines had been erected, the first having been in use since 1748. Some local residents can still remember the 80ft high square chimney which was built as part of the engine house which held a Fairbairn beam engine installed back in 1837. It was a prominent landmark until its demolition in 1960. Any underground water is now pumped to Cavendish Mill near Stoney Middleton .