Bradwell - the ice-cream capital of the Peak District
Bradwell – usually abbreviated in the way of Peak District villages to “Bradder” – is a charming little limestone village sheltering under the escarpment of Bradwell Edge.
Bradwell divides itself into three distinct districts– Small Dale, Towngate and The Hills – each originally founded on the east-west running lead veins.
The village owes its fortune to the lead mining industry of the 18th and 19th century, when it lay at the centre of a rich lead mining area. Most Peak District lead miners also wore a Bradwell product – the hard, black, brimmed hat in which they stuck their candles to light their way underground and which were universally known as “Bradder beavers.”
Another of Bradwell’s claims to fame is a cottage in Water Lane was the brithplace in 1815 of Samuel Fox, the inventor of the folding-frame umbrella, a useful accessory in the changeable Peak District weather. Bradwell also made cotton goods at the former Bump Mill (‘bump’ was a coarse cotton) in the 18th century, and telescopes, spectacles and opera glasses in a minor local industry during the 19th century.
A mile south of the village at the head of the rock-rimmed Bradwell Dale is Hazelbadge Hall, a lovely old stone-built and mullioned manor house (private) which dates from 1549 and which was part of the dowry which Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall gave to her new husband, John Manners.
WHERE IS IT?
Three miles (2 km) south east of Castleton on the B4049 Tideswell road.
Bradwell’s long and fascinating history goes back at least as far as the Romans, who built the small fort known as Navio on the banks of the River Noe in the hamlet of Brough just to the north of the village during the 1st century AD. It was probably constructed to defend their lead mining interests in the area. There is a persistent local legend orginating from Castleton that the people of Bradwell were Roman slaves, but this just may be a long-held folk memory of the civilian vicus which once existed outside the walls of Navio.
The route of the Roman Batham Gate road linking Buxton and Navio crosses Bradwell Moor and descends into the Hope Valley via Small Dale.
During the troubled period after the Romans left the mysterious Grey Ditch, a broad fortification north of the village was built perhaps to defend Bradford Dale and the village against the Hope Valley. But no one really knows why it was built or by whom. Another local legend is that Bradwell was the scene of a Dark Age battle after which the Saxon King Edwin was murdered by being hung from a tree. The local name of “Eden Tree”, near the New Bath Hotel, is said to get its name from the spot.
Mining and quarrying
There are considerable remains of lead mining activity on Bradwell Moor, including Moss Rake and Shuttle Rake. At High Rake lead mine, in the nearby hamlet of Windmill, the Peak District Mines Historical Society recently undertook an eight-year excavation project. They uncovered two steam engine houses, a platform for a capstan and wooden gin engine, an ore crusher, and an ore-dressing floor. The remains mostly date to 1834-1852, when the mine was worked on a lavish and ‘state-of-the-art’ scale by William Wyatt, a local mining entrepreneur.
The highlight of the excavations was the finding of the bottom third of a Cornish pumping engine house, which had been set underground. This building once contained a relatively rare and complex type of engine designed by the engineer James Sims. It is thought to be the best surviving example in the world of an unmodified Sims engine house.
After the excavations, consolidation work took place and safety railings were erected around the deep excavated features to enable visitors to view the remains. The site lies next to a well-used footpath, and there are three interpretation panels.
PLACES TO GO
The Parish Church of St Barnabas was erected in 1868, without its planned spire.
Just down the road are the well-known tourist attractions of Castleton, including Peveril Castle and the show caverns of Peak Cavern, Treak Cliff, Speedwell and Blue John.
Four wells are dressed in Bradwell to coincide with the village Carnival Day on the Saturday before the first Monday in August. The villagers parade behind a silver band on the Sunday evening after Carnival Day for the blessing of each well by the vicar. The wells remain dressed for the whole of Gala Week following the carnival, when there are exhibitions in both the Parish and Methodist churches.
Bradwell’s method of well dressing is different from most others in that the dressers lay the picture on the clay and cut out each section line by line. They then petal each section before exposing more clay, thus keeping it moist. All money collected from the well dressings is given to Bradwell pensioners in the form of vouchers at Christmas.
THINGS TO DO
You can make a six-mile exploration of Bradwell Moor, to the west of the village, from Towngate and Charlotte Lane to Smalldale Head, where you follow the ancient Roman Road of Batham Gate west across Old Moor until in meets the Limestone Way. Turn south here across the lead mining pitted surface of Old Moor, then back to Bradwell via the Moss Rake fluorspar quarry and Hartlemoor Farm.
At the converted Camphill Farm, high on Bradwell Edge above the village, the Derbyshire and Lancashire Gliding Club (01298 871270) has its lofty headquarters, and the sight of the graceful gliders riding the thermals like modern pterodactyls often fills the skies above the village. The club was one of the earliest in the country, founded in 1935, and occupies one of the most spectacular launching sites at over 1360ft (415m) above the sea.
Introductory flights and trial lessons are available for beginners, and the clubhouse provides excellent facilities such as a bar, dining room lounge and clubroom.
FOOD AND DRINK
For more than a century, Bradwell Ice Cream has been made at Wortley Court, Bradwell (01433 620536) and has kept sweet-toothed customers satisfied with a wide selection of flavours. Now on sale at local outlets, shops and supermarkets far and wide, the range now includes a Platinum Collection featuring such delights as chocaccino, cherry bakewell, pannacotta with caramel and velvety vanilla.
The Old Bowling Green Inn at Smalldale, Bradwell (01433 620450) is a former coaching inn dating from the 16th century, with exposed stone walls, low-beamed ceilings and pen fireplaces. Real ales include ever-changing guest beers and hearty, home-cooked food made from local produce where possible is on the menu.
SELECTED ACCOMMODATION IN BRADWELL
Bradwell has a good selection of holiday accommodation choices for the visitor - see the full list of Bradwell places to stay.
Castleton Visitor Centre, Buxton Road, Castleton, Hope Valley S33 8WN, 01629 816558;
www.peakdistrict.gov.uk; open daily. Also includes the museum of the Castleton Historical Society.
Bakewell TIC, The Old Market Hall, Bridge Street, Bakewell, DE45 1DS; Tel: 01629 816558; www.peakdistrict.gov.uk, open daily.
Buxton Tourist Information Centre, The Crescent, Buxton SK17 6BQ; 01298 25106; www.highpeak.gov.uk; open daily
Evelyn Medical Centre, Marsh Avenue, Hope, S33 6RJ, 01433 621557.
© Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 5 Oct 2015