History of the Peak District
A rainy day in the peak district is better than a sunny day stuck in the office

The history of the peak district in Derbyshire is as fascinating as the countryside it resides in. We have included, on this page, a list of the best and most interesting walks near chesterfield and in the peak district

Over 360 million years ago the Peak District lay under a shallow subterranean sea as a coral reef. The limestone that is synonymous with the White Peak area was formed by the millions of sea creatures, plants and shells of this early existence. Around 280 million years ago, gritstone was formed in the Dark Peak area by deposits of sand and mud residue when it became a vast river estuary.

On the surface the rain and ice had weathered away the softer areas of the reef into glacial meltwaters creating dramatic gorges and valleys filled with caves, whilst leaving harder reef areas of limestone forming the protruding crags and outcrops that are scattered across the landscape. The earliest human settlers came to the Peak District 10,000 years ago. Living in caves, co-existing with the woolly rhinoceros, arctic fox, lynx and cave lion, they began shaping the landscape. Without them the Peak District might still be covered entirely in woodland. We will soon be adding a fantastic white to dark peak walk to my-favourite-walks-near-chesterfield-derbyshire pages

Some of the most popular caves to visit are listed below:

·         Caves and caverns worth visiting include

·         Peak Cavern, or the Devil’s arse as preferred by my children

·         Pooles cavern

·         Treak Cliff cavern

·         Speedwell cavern

·         Great Rutland cavern

·         Great Masson cavern

History of the Peak District - Bronze Age

2300 - 700 BC

Defined by the minerals he extracted from his surroundings, Bronze Age man mastered copper and tin minerals to create bronze tools and weapons. Using these tools he forested the woodlands which gave rise to the bare grasslands of the dales that was used for primitive farming. Burial grounds, hill forts and hut circles that scar the landscape provide a glimpse into the life of one of the Peak District's earliest settlers.

Over 3000 years ago a “splinter group” of Celts left their tribe in Northumbria and came to live on Mam Tor the large hill dominating the western end of our lovely Hope Valley. Mam Tor is often called “The Shivering Mountain” because of the continuing erosion of the face, the part that looks like a quarry.

You will see some of the best features of “The Shivering Mountain” on our Lose Hill to Mam tour hike

History of the Peak District - Iron Age

700 - 43 BC

Continuing to shape and tame the wild landscape, Iron Age inhabitants used their advanced iron tools and weapons to complete what the Bronze Age had started. Cattle and sheep herds grazed the forests further, stripping them of the chance to re-grow and allowing the grasslands to develop. Influences from Belgium, France and the Netherlands brought distinctive pottery and coins that have helped archaeologists trace Iron Age mans' footsteps in the Peak District.

History of the Peak District - Roman Britain

43 BC - 410 AD

The Romans and their armies marched through the North swiftly paving the way with their signature straight roads. The vast resource of lead and thermal springs attracted the Romans to the area, who built defensive forts to colonise Britain. Between 30 and 40 Roman settlements consisting of hamlets and farmsteads were scattered throughout the Peak District, though few reminders of their life are visible on the landscape today.

You can find a standing stone from and early Roman settlement on our Hathersage Circular Walk near Stanage Edge


History of the Peak District - Vikings and Anglo Saxons

410 - 1066

A diminishing Roman Empire, laid the way for Viking warriors and pirates from Germany and Holland to invade the shores of Britain. The land was divided into four Kingdoms, the Peak District falling into the boundaries of Mercia, which was the most powerful of all the kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxons settled on the 'Peac' land as farmers, miners, hunters and skilled craftsmen.


History of the Peak District - Norman Britain

410 - 1154

William the Conqueror led the Normans to victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. They proceeded across Britain invading the Anglo-Saxon settlements that were littered across the land. Resistance was made in the north by the Saxon warriors, but they were defeated. In order to prevent any further invasions, the Normans built castles and fortresses across their newly-conquered land. They also documented the livelihoods of the hamlets in the Doomsday Books, documenting the lives of the Peak District inhabitants forever.

An excellent example of a Norman castle can be found in Castleton. Peveril castle looks over the small town of Castleton and on top of The Devil’s Arse cave system which is an excellent starting point for our Lose Hill to Mam Tor hike.


History of the Peak District - Middle Ages

1154 - 1485

Monasteries dominated the deeply religious lands of medieval Britain, establishing granges and sheep farms in the Peak District. As Kings feuded over the crown during the War of the Roses, Peak people of the barren north continued to farm the land as they had been for centuries, but they were not cosseted from other events from the south. Bubonic plague swept across the country, claiming its victims, leaving the land with a diminished population and scarcity of agricultural workers.


History of the Peak District - Tudors and Stuarts

1485 - 1714

Victory for Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth led to the reign of the Tudors. Henry VIII, stripped the country of its religious roots with the dissolution of the monasteries. Monks were thrown out, their land divided amongst Henry's courtiers establishing new landlords and farming techniques in the Peak District. Superseded by the Stuarts, under the reign of Charles I, the country still endured a turbulent period. Civil war broke out, turning farming families against one another in a bloody battle that affected the whole of England.

Chatsworth House was built during this period when Bess of Hardwick started the building in 1553. We have two excellent walks in and around Chatsworth on our favourite walks near Chesterfield page. The walks featured include the Robin Hood Circular Walk and the Chatsworth and Beeley moor circular walk.

You can also see where the “Padley Martyrs” were found at padley Manor on our Padley Gorge and Grindleford Café walk.

Another amazing but difficult hike with historical references can been seen along our Jacob’s Ladder – Edale walk. This walk basically starts and finishes (or passes) the Nag’s Head pub which was built in 1577 (formally the Blacksmiths) in Edale village. The walk takes you up Jacob’s ladder and old pack horse route to Manchester.


History of the Peak District - Empire and Sea Power

1714 - 1835

Inventions and industrialisation made their mark on the ever changing landscape of the Peak District. Mills and mines had to become more efficient in order to keep up with increased demand, leading to longer working hours in tough conditions. As dirt and grime overwhelmed the large industrial towns and cities surrounding the Peak District, people increasingly sought the open countryside as their sanctuary. Farming, too, had become more advanced, with The Enclosure Acts resulting in common land and farm boundaries being marked with the now iconic dry stone walls.

The Longshaw estate was built in this era around 1827. We have a couple of great walks that start here including Boggarts in longshaw walk the BoleHill quarry walk and the Padley Gorge walk


History of the Peak District - Victorian Britain

1835 - 1901

Railways traversing the landscape brought a new lease of life to industrial Britain. The improved transport routes made mining and exporting precious natural resources of the Peak District more proficient and brought prosperity to the area. With improved transport connections, Victorian tourists came in their droves to the tranquillity of the Peak District. The tourists also became attracted to the area with tales of intrepid archaeologists who were unearthing artefacts that proved the existence of cave-dwelling men.


Cresswell crags

Peak Cavern, or the Devil’s arse as preferred by my children

Pooles cavern

Treak Cliff cavern

Speedwell cavern

Great Rutland cavern

Great Masson cavern

The Linacre Reservoir as featured in our Linacre reservoir walk was built during this era between 1855 and 1904.

Charlotte Bronte visited Hathersage in 1845 to stay with a friend. She was inspired by the area and wrote Jane Eyre soon afterwards. You can walk in her footsteps on our Hathersage Circular walk

Another great walk we have featured is down the Monsal Trail This railway was opened in 1866. Closed in 1959 and then re-opened to hikers, cyclists, runners and horseback riders in 2011.


History of the Peak District - World Wars

1901 - 1945

The prosperity of the Victorian Age was diminishing as Depression hit in the 1920s. With no jobs and little money, access to and enjoyment of open countryside, such as the Peak District, became all the more important for the nation and poorer communities. During World War II, Sheffield and Manchester used the countryside to safely guard their children from the new threat of air attacks on major cities. As well as the war on foreign soils, women were left to fight the war at home as they took to factories and the land to aid their men on the trenches bringing a new chapter to the history of industry and farming.

I always remember a story told to me by an elderly resident in Cutthorpe, just outside Chesterfield. They told me that, when they were younger during the war years, they would lie on the cricket green and watch “Fireworks” over Sheffield. This of course was fires created when the city was bombed.

One business that ceased was the exportation of the Millstones, grindstones and Crushing stones in around 1920. You can find a good example of these stones (which were just left) on our Bolehill Quarry walk

The Ladybower dam was started in 1902 and we have a great circular walk on our Ladybower walk page.


History of the Peak District - Post War to the present day

1945 onwards

Recovering from the devastating effects of World War II, a fragile Britain began to rebuild its economy and population. The 1950s baby boom, the swinging 60s and the Thatcher years of the 80s sculpted our 21st-Century life. The mines that had made the Peak District so prosperous were being shut down and the farming communities were still recovering throughout the 20th-Century. Today, the Peak District has a new chapter in its varied history, the fight to preserve and protect the iconic landscape for future generations to enjoy and embrace.

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