The area has a long tradition of farming and quarrying. It is:
- in the White Peak Area of Derbyshire
- within the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire Dales District Council
- some 7 miles north of Ashbourne.
We have an active community with a population of over 500,
- a primary school
- a pub (The Sycamore Inn), which also houses a village shop
- St Peter’s Church
- a memorial hall (rebuilt 2010)
- a Royal British Legion clubhouse and bar
- sporting facilities, including a cricket pitch, bowling green and tennis courts
- a children’s recreational area
MP for West Derbyshire – Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin
District Councillor for Dovedale & Parwich – Sir Richard FitzHerbert
County Councillor for Dovedale – Simon Spencer
by Peter Trewhitt.
Some 10,000 years ago, as the ice sheet retreated north, herds of reindeer crossed into the hills of the Peak District seeking summer grazing. The bands of nomadic hunters following left the first archaeological remains in the area. Mainly these are flint tools and arrowheads found in many locations including the fields to the north of Parwich Hill, but also there is the cleared level area on Roystone Rocks, thought to be a hunting platform, used to observe the migrating herds in the valley below. It is possible that at this stage the site of the present village was the floor of a large lake, stretching from Alsop to beyond Bradbourne.
Some five to six thousand years ago the first farmers settled here. We know they were active in our area from the Neolithic burial mounds such as Minning Low and Wigber Low, but we don’t know where their houses were. With its fertile land and numerous springs they are not likely to have bypassed our valley.
Further afield we find these people erecting standing stones and stone circles, so it is tempting to speculate that such as the enormous gatepost in Eaton Dale and other ancient undressed stone gateposts in the village are reused standing stones.
Life would not have changed very rapidly over the next three or four thousand years, though the larger number of Bronze Age burial mounds (perhaps some eight to ten survive in the parish) indicate that the population increased. Excavations at Roystone Grange indicate quite dense Bronze Age farming settlement, but it is likely that in Parwich the hut circles and fields are hidden under the modern village.
Three thousand years ago the climate began to deteriorate, which may explain why there seems to have been little or no activity in the area during the Iron Age. The Brigantes, the local British tribe, seem to have concentrated more on protecting their cattle in hill forts to the north: the nearest being Castle Ring north of Elton.
This was to change with the coming of the Romans, who made a beeline for local lead veins setting up mining operations within forty years of the Invasion.
Lead mining in the area was centred on Lutodarum, thought to be now drowned under Carsington Water, or even under the foundations of Wirksworth. Locally there were a number of small British settlements serving this administrative centre, including Eaton Dale, Lombard’s Green, Roystone Grange and Rainster Rocks. As well as these sites, possible Roman lead rakes can also be seen on Parwich Hill. There may have been a settlement under the present Parwich village, as Roman coins have been found here.
The Street, the Roman road from Derby to Buxton, runs near by, going through Brassington, Longcliffe, behind Minning Low and on through Pikehall. It continued as a main route in the area up to the late 1700s.
The Roman administration disappeared with the collapse of Roman Britain, but the local Celtic people must have remained and interacted with the ‘Saxon’ settlers as a number of Celtic place names survive, including part of the name ‘Parwich’.
‘Parwich’ is made up of two components: the first ‘Par-’ is thought to derive for the Celtic name for the now nameless brook flowing through the village and the second ‘-wich’ or ‘-wick’ from the Saxon word for a dairy farm.
It is in this Saxon agricultural community that we can see the origins of the village and parish as they are today. Too far from the political centres of Mercia to the south, and far enough from the border with Northumbria to the north (in what is now South Yorkshire) to be of great importance, Parwich seems to have just got on with the business of farming.
A few late Saxon charters survive mentioning Parwich and referring to trackways still in use to day, such as Highway Lane to Pikehall and the footpath to Tissington. There may have been a Saxon church here, if indeed the carved tympanum above the west door is pre-Norman.
In 966 Parwich was granted to Aelfhelm, whose daughter Aelgifu married King Canute. On Aelfhelm’s death some of his lands passed to his daughter, but it is likely that his Derbyshire estates passed to the King. Certainly by the reign of Edward the Confessor, Parwich and Ashbourne were part of a large royal estate administered from Wirksworth. This may have helped to cushion the effects of the Norman Conquest as little seems to have changed, with Colne, a Saxon, holding the manor, essentially as a local manager, both for King Harold and for William the Conqueror.
Colne is the likely ancestor for a number of local families, including the de Alsops, de Thorpes, de Hansons and de Parwichs, though de Parwich as a surname did not survive beyond the fifteenth century.
The Saxon approach to farming, the ‘Midland Open Field System’, continued through to the early sixteenth century and influences many existing field boundaries and the layout of the village itself. Some 8 farming households were recorded in 1086, and the farmhouses, would have been clustered in the village.
The buildings would have been timber-framed, with wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs, surrounded by crofts, gardens and orchards. The crops would have been grown in large open fields, where villagers had their own strips.
The ridge and furrow indicative of these strips can still be seen on the Flatts to the south, the Wings to the east, and running from Alsop Lane up the west and north sides of Parwich Hill. The beasts (sheep and cattle) were grazed on common land on Parwich Hill and Hawks Low.
In the Doomsday Book, Parwich was recorded as an exporter of honey, with ‘Honeylands’ surviving as a field name below Hawks Low. The only stone building would have been the church, though all that remains of the Norman building are a few stones incorporated into the present Victorian building.
Over the next four or five hundred years, little changed on the ground. The number of farmhouses grew. The overall ownership of the manor passed from the King to the Earls of Lancaster, and then, with the accession of Edward I in 1272, back to the Crown under the Duchy of Lancaster.
There was a murder here in 1281, but the suspect Ralph Bonbel fled and was outlawed. The community was fined £1 6s 8d for failing to prevent his escape.Various people held land in the parish, including families such as the Beresfords, Dales and Allsops that we still find in the area today. Around the parish sprang up a ring of monastic sheep ranches, including Gotham Grange, Hanson Grange, Newton Grange, Mouldridge Grange and Roystone Grange.
Parwich may have sent men to fight in the Crusades, as the three ancient gravestones, now set in the south wall of the church tower, are known locally as the Crusaders’ graves.
In the fourteenth century, a Mr Lambard mined lead behind Parwich Hill in the area that is still called Lombard’s Green.
By the sixteenth century, under the Duchy of Lancaster, the lordship of the manor, though not all the land, was held by the Cokayne family of Ashbourne, though they never seemed to have lived here. They in turn may have sub-let the manor, and it is thought that the Levinge family came here first as their tenants.
In the 1550s, a stone manor house was built on the site of the present Hall, and around 1600 the Levinge family bought out the Cokayne interest in the estate. Later they also bought the supreme lordship of the manor from the Duchy of Lancaster, though the Duchy continued to arbitrate local disputes to at least the 1790s.
Although a number of other families such as the Allsops, Dakins, and Swindells also held land freehold in the village, the presence of a resident lord of the manor promoted change. Increasingly houses were being encased (eg Rookery House and Shaw Lane House) or rebuilt in stone (eg Slate House in 1619). The large open fields were being divided up into small separate fields, though the farmhouses remained in the village itself and individuals’ land-holdings continued to be scattered in small pockets around the parish. At this time Parwich had two pubs, and a population of around 300.
We have little record as to how the Reformation affected Parwich, though in the early 1500s the practice of leaving money for masses to be said for the souls of the dead disappeared from Parwich wills. The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s meant that the monastic granges surrounding the parish would have passed into private hands, only indirectly affecting Parwich but much enlarging the aspiring gentry class in the area.
In the 1630s, a number of local people emigrated to Connecticut in New England, but it is not known if this was linked to James I and Charles I’s restrictions on nonconformity or not. Despite this, the upheavals of the Civil War seem to have passed Parwich by, with our only recorded involvement being a letter to Parliament complaining that the movement of troops in the area interfered with getting goods to market.
During the Commonwealth, the old church would have been stripped of much of its decoration. After the Restoration in 1681 a Parwich man, Henry Gibbins, emigrated to America following the early persecution of Quakers in Ashbourne.
The Levinge family were on the make, and in the early 1700s Sir Richard Levinge, the first baronet, held various offices in Ireland, acquiring larger estates there than in England, and basing the family in Ireland rather than Derbyshire. Though they re-fronted the Hall in brick in 1747, they were essentially absentee landlords until they finally sold the estate in 1814.
This, along with improved farming methods and the increased demand from the new urban centres of the Industrial Revolution, created a number of wealthy local families, including the Allsops, Brownsons, Roes and Swindells. The main legacy of this is our fine Georgian buildings. Some such as Dam Farm, the Fold and Orchard Farm were re-adaptations of older houses, while others such as Flats Stile, Flaxdale, and Townhead were new builds, although some such as Hallcliffe were built on medieval house sites.
Smallholdings were being amalgamated and farming was on a larger scale, as illustrated by the enormous Georgian barn beside the brook at Flats Stile. In the fifty years following the rebuilding of the Hall, the village was created much as we see it today.
Following the Enclosure Act of 1798, the remaining common land was enclosed and the creation of farms with the houses on the land they served began. One of the first of these was Fouffinside, but others followed quickly.These larger farms required farmers that could bring a larger investment in stock and equipment than many village families could provide. This drew new families to the village, including some such as the Buntings and Fentems whose descendants still farm in the area. These farms were much more successful than the village farms, though the last Dam Farm was not to cease working until 1995.
Parwich’s only recorded poisoner was one William Webster, who in 1807 was found guilty of murdering Miss Mary Roe and Mrs Elizabeth Dakeyne and sentenced to death. He had poisoned some eight people but the six others survived. Initially asserting his innocence, it was only on the morning of his execution he confessed to the chaplain and several others that he had put the poison in the ale with the intent of killing Mr Dakeyne.
In 1814 Parwich was to have a new set of absentee landlords, this time the Evans family of Darley Abbey, wealthy Derby industrialists and bankers. For the next hundred years the Hall was to serve as the Vicarage, often inhabited by relatives of the Evans family. The Evans family created allotments in the Square, built the School in 1861, and rebuilt the church in 1873/4. This disinterested benevolence gave much of practical value to the village, but at the same time swept away local history, such as the Levinge memorials housed in the old church.
Through the nineteenth century people diversified from farming, with an increase in trades and shops in the village, further encouraged by the coming of the railways linking us to the markets of Manchester and even London. This in turn brought new families to the fore, including the Brownlees, Twiggs and Websters, whilst other families left seeking the opportunities offered by the cities. Meanwhile, the population of Parwich remained steady around 500, much as it is today.
In the 1890s the Lewis family inherited a major interest in the estate. At this time various people including the Lewis family attempted to revive without much success local lead mining, exploring old workings and digging new shafts on and around Parwich Hill.
Claude Lewis became vicar, manager of his mother and aunt’s land-holdings and owner to two of the village’s three pubs. He had the Hall gardens extended and laid out in their present form. The village had not had a resident landlord for over two hundred years and he was not a popular man. Various arguments resulted in his effigy being burnt on the Green by a group of disgruntled villagers, not long after which he moved to Wales, selling up in 1915.
His younger brother, Gerald, also lived in the village, setting up a cheese factory in Knob Hall and a market garden in Monsdale Lane. Neither business long survived his move to Guernsey in the 1920s, when the increase in motorcars, a bus service to Ashbourne and travelling-shops meant the end of many local businesses. The building of the Hospital in 1912, financed by Florence Rathbone, a Liverpool philanthropist, perhaps marked the end of Victorian benevolence.
In the twentieth century, fewer and fewer people were employed in farming, and the number of farms dramatically declined with the disappearance of all the village farms, but state intervention perhaps produced the largest changes to the appearance of the village. In 1918 the School passed from the Lewis family to the local authority; in 1948 the Hospital came under the NHS; and more significantly the local authority built the houses in West View (1913), Church Walk (1928), Sycamore Cottages (1946-8), Chestnut Cottages (1954/5), Rathbone Croft (1981) and Smithy Close (later in the 1980s).
The creation of the Peak District National Park in 1952 introduced increasingly strict planning regulations. More recently the sale of council houses and dramatic increases in property values placed rural communities in danger of becoming dormitories and holiday destinations only.
The strength of Parwich and our main hope for the future is our community, with recent changes being local initiatives.
In 1951 the Parwich Royal British Legion Club was created. In 1962 the village built the Memorial Hall, and is now looking at ways to create village hall facilities to meet our changing needs. In 1979 the village raised money to buy the Hospital and set it up as a Care Centre, though in 2002 the low demand for places meant the resources were transferred to Ashbourne. The building is now a private house called Rathbone Hall.
Local investment kept the only remaining village shop going in the late 1990s, when closure seemed almost inevitable. Local initiatives created the cricket and football pitches, the tennis courts, bowling greens and children’s play area. More recently, the village action group obtained grants for restoration of the wells in Creamery Lane and at Staines Trough and the churchyard walls, other environmental projects, extension of the children’s play area, and the establishment of three new houses at Parsons Croft for rent to local families. Also we have many active groups and societies, some such as the Parwich branch of the Odd Fellows being very old and others such as the Art Group newly established.
To find out more about the Local History Society go to www.parwichhistory.org