A Brief History of Bradwell

On the moors of Bradwell’s northern edge, lay a substantial length of grassy mound accompanied by a furrow or ditch. This is the remains of ‘Grey Ditch’, which dates back to the Dark Ages when, it is believed, it was constructed as part of a similar system to Offa’s Dyke between England and Wales, providing a defensive position between the tribes of Mercia and Northumbria. Excavations have shown that the bank was about 8m wide at its base, and 1.2m in height, and it has been proposed that Bradwell or ‘Broad Wall’ may have taken its name from this ditch, although it may equally also have originated from the ‘Broad Stream’ that runs through the village.

The ‘Ditch’ lay at right angles to the earlier Roman road of ‘Batham Gate’, which led from Aqua Arnemetia, or Buxton, to Anavio (Brough on Noe), over Bradwell Moor, and a Roman milestone naming Anavio can be seen in Buxton Museum. It is said that all Roman roads in Derbyshire led to Bradwell, and a Roman fort (Navio on the O.S. map) was originally constructed here around AD78-79. It was abandoned in AD140 when troops stationed in Derbyshire left to fight in a campaign in Scotland but rebuilt in around AD158 when the troops returned. Excavations in 1903 revealed an outer wall some 2 metres thick, measuring some 90 metres by 100 metres. The fort, covering more than a hectare, was rectangular in shape with rounded corners and had a tower in the western end. In the centre was a fortified building with a sunken cellar and a stone slab forming part of the inner wall bears the date AD158.

The area has always been associated with lead mining, and the rich veins of lead just beneath the surface in the surrounding limestone hills were worked from the Middle Ages to the end of the nineteenth century. The majority of the quaint little cottages seen in the village today date from the lead mining era of the 18th and 19th centuries, when there were over 400 miners living in the village.

As some of the earliest lead miners in the area, it’s reputed that the Romans used French or Italian convicts to do the ‘hard labour’ in the mines, and many years ago a local theory arose whereby Bradwell residents accused Castleton residents of being descended from slaves, whilst Castleton residents referred to Bradwell residents as being descended from convicts!

‘Edden Tree’, or Edwin’s Tree at Bradwell, is supposedly named after a Saxon King who was hanged there, after a battle that raged on the nearby flanks of Win and Lose Hills.

Following the Norman Conquest, King William gave the manor to his bastard son, William Peveril, the builder of the castle overlooking nearby Castleton, and at the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of Bradwell was classified as wholly agricultural with no substantial dwellings.

The earliest of Bradwell's ‘substantial’ dwellings is Hazlebadge Hall, which dates from the Tudor period and has a date stone of 1549 above the coat of arms of the Vernon and Swynnerton families. The original Hall was part of the Peveril Estate until about 1154 when the ownership passed to the Strelley family and then, in 1421 to the Vernons who lived there for 300 years. The single wing that remains of the Hall is now part of a large farm complex about 1 mile outside the village on the road to Tideswell. Above the coat of arms is a crest, and although crumbling and almost indiscernible, it appears to be the head of a wolf. This probably signifies the building as the home of a high-ranking forester, as in Tudor times the Bradwell Brook marked a boundary of the Royal Forest of the High Peak. Sir Richard Vernon, who was then the High Steward of the Royal Forest, is said to have held courts at the Hall, and reputedly imposed severe penalties for the most trivial offences. Margaret Vernon was the last of the Vernon family and it’s said that she went insane after witnessing her lover’s marriage to a rival at Hope Church. Her ghost is said to haunt the Hall and the nearby valley, with the occasional spectre of her galloping on a white horse at midnight between Hope and Hazlebadge Hall, in which case she would be in good company, as the Hall, or rather Bradwell Vale, is also reputedly haunted by the Ghost of Elizabeth I, who once a year is seen walking towards the Hall with her entourage!

In the 19th century, an area of Bradwell called Brookside became the location for the headquarters of Messrs. Evans Bros., who produced telescopes, opera glasses, spectacles, and possibly camera lenses. Joshua Evans, the son of a lead miner, and a miner himself, opened the optical instrument factory with his brothers, in an old hat factory belonging to an uncle, the wealthy and locally well known hat-manufacturer, William Evans. He also briefly operated a photographic studio in Bradwell in the late 1860s, and died in Bradwell in 1907. The village contained no less than six hat makers at one time, the last ‘hatter’ being, Job Middleton, who died in 1899. They all produced the ‘Bradder Beaver’, a safety hat worn by many generations of lead miners; an example of which can be seen at the Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock Bath.

The village’s more recent claims to fame, apart from as the birthplace of Samuel Fox, include Bradwell’s Dairy Ice Cream, which can still be purchased from the tiny cottage shop where Hannah Bradwell invented the recipe over 100 years ago, and as the family holiday destination for the poet WH Auden during the years 1913-16. When Hannah Bradwell set up in business ice was brought in by train from Sheffield as ‘Grandma Bradwell’ had no electricity. And WH Auden’s holidays in Bradwell seemingly gave rise to Auden’s fascination with underground spaces and mining machinery; imagery which is reflected in many of his poems.

The village is home to Bagshawe Cavern, also known as the Crystallized Cavern, which was discovered in 1806 by local lead miners whilst excavating the Mulespinner Mine. It was named after landowners, Sir William and Lady Bagshawe, of Wormhill Hall (built in 1697 and still in the hands of the original family). The Cavern once operated as a Show Cave, similar to the caverns at Castleton; however it’s now used for educational trips and for potholing. Approached through a building, and a flight of more than a hundred steps, the natural cave system and series of grottos are now designated as having special scientific status, and are open to the public by appointment only.

Bradwell has good recreational facilities, with a sports field and large established play area, and being surrounded by the Peak District National Park’s beautiful countryside, there are numerous tracks, trails and footpaths to offer cycling and walks in and around the area.

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The Samuel Fox Country Inn is an AA four gold star country inn with an emphasis on good food and fine dining. The Inn has four tastefully appointed en-suite rooms, with great views, and its location in Bradwell in the picturesque Hope Valley makes it an ideal base for exploring Derbyshire's Peak District National Park.

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The Samuel Fox Country Inn, Stretfield Road, Bradwell, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 9JT

Phone: 01433 621 562
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