The History of our Area

Whatstandwell.

         “…………you know, the village in Derbyshire………………with the funny name…………………….where the yachtswoman comes from.” ( To see the twist in the tale to this quote see the end of this article! )

          Travelling up the A6 from Derby through Belper and Ambergate you come across a sign that says: Whatstandwell. All you will see from the road is the railway station, the Derwent Hotel, the bridge over the River Derwent and then you have left the village of Whatstandwell! Most of the dwellings are, however, up on the eastern side of the Derwent Valley. Turning off the A6 up towards Crich, the climb takes you up the Main Street past Crich Carr Primary School. Straight on for Crich or turn left up Hinderstitch Lane past most of Whatstandwells residences and off to the Tramway museum.

Whatstandwell river bridge from the north.

Whatstandwell river bridge from the north.

           In one of the narrowest points of the Valley runs river, road, rail and canal. Shown on a map of 1791 as “Hottstandell Bridge” and later as “Whatstandwell Bridge” the name derives from Walter Stonewell who “held of the covenant”  of  the house next to the bridge. He reputedly stood collecting a Toll for crossing the bridge in all weathers and is said to have been known as “Walter Stonewell who Stands Well”, I think there is  perhaps a bit of old wives poetic licence there!

Whatstandwell is mentioned in the D H Lawrence novel Sons and Lovers, published 1913, in a scene in which Paul Morel and Miriam go on a day’s outing: “They went on, miles and miles, to Whatstandwell. All the food was eaten, everybody was hungry, and there was very little money to get home with. But they managed to procure a loaf and a currant-loaf, which they hacked to pieces with shut-knives, and ate sitting on the wall near the bridge, watching the bright Derwent rushing by, and the brakes from Matlock pulling up at the inn.”  (I don’t think Jacky was doing the baking back then or they could have called in.)

More recently Whatstandwell was put on to the media map as being the “home-town” of  the outstandingly courageous yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur.

 

Robin Hood Hamlet.

“….the trees thin out and you have arrived at the Hamlet of Robin Hood.”

The bridge over the stream next to Oakford Cottage Robin Hood.

The bridge over the stream next to Oakford Cottage Robin Hood.

Turning left just over the bridge over The Cromford Canal takes you up through the woods of Robin Hood Lane (aka Leashaw Road). Just on the right hand side is the entrance to Dukes Quarry, still owned by His Grace The Duke of Devonshire and The Chatsworth Estate and still worked, only occasionally, by Blockstone Ltd. The Derbyshire Sandstone from this quarry has a unique pinkish tinge to it and is supposed to have been used in many famous buildings. After about a 1/4 of a mile the trees thin out and you have arrived at the Hamlet of Robin Hood. We are desperately trying to persuade the Council that we do exist (and have for many years ) and as such would like a name place sign. There are 7 ( coming up 8 with the conversion of a studio ) dwellings in the hamlet. The horizon towers above Robin Hood to the South East, the strange hillocks being constituted out of the, now overgrown, spoil heaps from the old disused quarry workings all giving the area a mystical and magical feel that lead the BBC to film parts of Stig of the Dump here in 2002.  Local schoolchildren (and our grandchildren) all love to walk up the stream ( Ridgeway Sough ) and in to the woods that remind me of the old Rupert the Bear drawings. Tree stumps and roots that protrude from the banks make you think of fairies, trolls and hobbits!

Industrial Robin Hood Sawmill and Dawbarns Steam Joinery Works.

Industrial Robin Hood Sawmill and Dawbarns Steam Joinery Works.

 

Robin Hood was originally a little industrial estate,  as you can see in the photo above. Dawbarns Steam Joinery Works in the foreground (burnt down c.1960) and The Old Sawmill of Robin Hood with the, now demolished, adjoining factory buildings just the other side of the canal. (This rare old photograph also shows the spoil heaps from the quarries.)  Robin Hood was probably part of Chatsworth as well, with the Old Sawmill cutting the stone from Dukes Quarry prior to it being loaded on to canal barges on The Cromford Canal. The railway soon superceded this and the stone was taken straight down to the sidings near Whatstandwell Station. After stone cutting the buildings of Robin Hood were used again used as workers dwellings and also basket weaving.

Oakford and other Cottages Robin Hood.

Robin Hood c.1910 Oakford Cottage top left & next to End Cottage.

The above shows Robin Hood becoming purely residential as workers must have started “commuting” to nearby towns in search of better wages. There are now many more trees along the banks of the canal, some of which are being selectively felled to prevent leaf silting of the waterway.

The canal owners (Derbyshire County Council), The Friends of the Cromford Canal, conservationists and local residents are committed to the preservation of the canal and hopefully its restoration to a fully working waterway again. This has to be done carefully as the habitat that has grown up around the canal has helped to make this an area of Special Scientific Interest. It is a large area of standing water in ancient woodland that apparently has many rare species ie:  hoverflies and of course water voles as seen on Bill Oddies tv programme and on East Midlands Todays report by Sally Pepper.

The Old Sawmill and canal wharf at Robin Hood

The Old Sawmill and canal wharf at Robin Hood