PARWICH - INSIDER'S GUIDE
Parwich is a handsome limestone village of some antiquity, nestling in the southern slopes of the White Peak plateau. It spreads attractively around its village green and old sheep-wash. Its secluded character adds to its appeal, for it is on the road to nowhere.
A hidden glory...
· Derbyshire Peak District (White Peak area) - upland limestone village, population around 500
· Alsop-en-le-Dale - 2 miles west; Tissington - 4 miles SSW; Hartington - 6 miles NNW; Ashbourne - 7.2 miles south; Bakewell - 14.6 miles NNE; Buxton - 15.5 miles NNW
· Excellent choice of holiday accommodation in and around Parwich:
· Tissington Trail: Parking at Alsop Station - 3 miles west, and at Tissington
· Parking: at the The Sycamore pub (as patrons); around the village green and elsewhere
· Carsington Water: 5 miles SE - a mecca for sailing, camping, birdwatching and picnicking
· Facilities: The Sycamore pub (which is also the village shop): Primary School (C of E); children's play area; Royal British Legion Clubhouse; Village Hall; tennis courts; cricket pitch; bowling green
· Other pubs within 7 miles by car: Bluebell Inn on A515 at Tissington; The Waterloo at Biggin; Devonshire Arms and Charles Cotton Hotel at Hartington; Coach & Horses and Bentley Brook at Fenny Bentley; the George at Alstonefield; the Watts Russell Arms at Hopedale; the Royal Oak at Wetton; The Ketch, the Red Lion at Kniveton; Ye Olde Gate Inn and the Miners Arms at Brassington
· Shopping - village shop in Sycamore pub (essential groceries, off-licence). Traditional butcher and old fashioned sweet shop and stables cafe at Tissington. A good grocery shop with deli and off-licence at the Village Stores in Hartington. Extensive shopping at Ashbourne, Bakewell and Buxton, including supermarkets Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury in Ashbourne; Aldi in Buxton, and a Co-op in Bakewell
· St. Peter's church open daily - worship on Sundays
· Village Website: http://www.parwich.org (updated daily - everything you need to know about Parwich and surrounding area).
It is always an easy pleasure to write about one's favourite places, and Parwich (pronounced par-wich locally) is one of mine. It is one of those places you don't really want to draw too much attention to, for fear of spoiling its character. Why? Well it has everything:
· an unspoilt pastoral setting
· 38 nationally-listed buildings or features (including the 1937 K6 cast iron telephone box)
· a handsome church of some history
· a village green
· a pristine stream, two ponds and a sheep-wash
· historic vernacular architecture of local limestone, as well as a Georgian mansion of exceptional national importance
· attractive historic pub serving real ales, home-cooked food, with a grocery shop, beer garden and Thomas the resident (female) cat
· easy access for walkers to the many footpaths which criss-cross the village
· close to some of the outstanding places to visit in the White Peak, including the Tissington Trail, Dovedale, Wolfscote Dale, Beresford Dale, and the Manifold Valley
· Royal British Legion Clubhouse and bar
And as if this were not enough, to the immediate north, the lofty white outcrops of Derbyshire's limestone dome form an arresting backdrop. To the west, the gently rising valley of Flaxdale leading to the pretty hamlet of Alsop-en-le-Dale. To the east, the lovely village of Bradbourne with its exceptional Norman church (its Northern churchyard the final resting place of actor Sir Alan Bates and some of his family). A little further east, the recreational delights of Carsington Water offer at least a half-day's interest, education, water and land-based fun.
To the south, the comely village of Tissington, its Jacobean Hall, fine Norman church, cafe, and easy access to the Tissington Trail. The Georgian market town of Ashbourne lies a little further south, with its spired medieval church of St. Oswald.
Combined with its quiet seclusion, all of these qualities make Parwich special - the more so because it has always been well off the beaten track. It is on no main route to anywhere, and has never been among the tourist hot-spot villages of the Peak District. As a result, Parwich is nothing like as busy as nearby Hartington for example (lovely as it is) nor most of the other Peak District villages of similar size.
It came as no surprise to learn that in a recent (2015) article in the Sunday Times, Parwich was named as one of the best places to live in Britain.
Around 10,000-6,000 years ago: Early & Middle Stone Ages (Paleolithic and Mesolithic): there is evidence of human activity (excavated flint arrowheads, other weapons and tools) in the immediate vicinity of Parwich dating from around 10,000 years ago. At this time, reindeer herds moved south of the retreating ice sheet of the last Ice Age to graze in the slowly-warming hills and dales of the Peak District. They were followed by the then sparse population of nomadic hunter-gatherers.
There is to this day evidence of a putative hunting platform at Roystone Rocks to the north - an intentionally levelled area among the shattered limestone pavement there - where the ancient Britons are thought to have observed their quarry as the herds of reindeer made their annual summer migration along the valley below. By extension, a hunting-spree at this pinch-point occurred every year for a further 1500 years, until the increasingly warming climate led to the extinction of reindeer in Britain, along with other mammals such as the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros.
The Ice Age ends: in terms of geography, at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago the waters formerly locked up in great ice sheets began to melt, leading to a rise in North Sea levels and the eventual separation of Britain from the European Continent 2000 years later. The remaining dry land bridge between Lincolnshire, East Anglia and Holland was completely inundated by the swollen melt waters of the North Sea by this point.
c. 6,000 - 1,000 years ago: New Stone Age (Neolithic), the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Roman Invasion, and Anglo-Saxon England: by around 6000 years ago the Neolithic nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers settled and began to farm the land, raising crops and animals.
We know that the area was becoming settled throughout this lengthy period from artefacts excavated at the Minning Low barrow to the north of Parwich; Wigber Low to the east at Kniveton, and the later Bronze Age Cross Low group of barrows to the west at Alsop-en-le-Dale. Further afield, we have the great late Neolithic and early Bronze Age henge monument at Arbor Low - "the Stonehenge of the North", along with scores of other less well-known ancient monuments - all of them evidence of settled agrarian populations with a sense of religious ceremonial ritual, and a belief in the after-life.
Climate Change: the British climate became colder and wetter by the time the Bronze Age closed and the Iron Age dawned - c. 3,000 years ago. The population was increasing, resources were becoming scarcer, leading to competition. Tensions grew between the tribes, who sought ways of protecting what they had: cattle, grazing, crops, and a tightly-knit family and social life.
They built fortified settlements known today as Iron Age hill-forts, exploiting natural hill topology, earthen ditches and ramparts, and timber palisades. The closest of these to Parwich was Castle Ring at Elton, 6 miles north. Other examples include Fin Cop near Great Longstone, which evidence from very recent (2009-10) excavations suggests was hurriedly-constructed, its occupants massacred in a short, overwhelming assault.
Roman Invasion: while an exploratory Roman invasion under Julius Caesar in 44BC was repulsed by the chariot-borne native Britons, Emperor Claudius invaded Britain conclusively in AD 43, and that changed everything. The Romans made haste for the rich lead veins of Britain, and within a few decades had established lead mines in Derbyshire.
Evidence from Roman coin finds at Parwich suggests a Roman settlement here by 80 AD. Further evidence of Roman activity lie to the north at Roystone Grange: a Roman field system and remains of a Roman manor house. By the time of the withdrawal of Roman Imperial rule in Britain in AD 410, a distinctive Romano-British culture had been established in most parts of Britain.
This led to improved agriculture, urban planning and infrastructure, industrial production, and refined, technically-competent architecture. However, this new culture is thought never to have been established in Derbyshire in the way it had to the south-east of England.
Anglo-Saxon England: following the collapse of Roman administration, gradual influxes of Danes and Anglo-Saxons occurred. They made war with each other, and established, between themselves, the first English "kingdoms". By the 10th Century, the Anglo-Saxons had established a unified English Kingdom under the reign of King Edgar (959 AD).
The "Anglo-Saxons", as a generic term, includes people from Germanic tribes who immigrated to the island from continental Europe and their descendants, as well as the indigenous Celtic-speaking Britons who mixed with the invaders over time and adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language.
There is no evidence that Parwich and its immediate area was directly affected by these shifts in power and of territory, the village being remote from the centres of political and military influence in the kingdoms of Mercia to the south and Northumbria to the north. The local folk, it seems, just got on with farming their quiet hills and dales, as they had done for millennia.
Parwich place name: it was in late Anglo-Saxon England that Parwich first became established as a named settlement. Despite the influence of Roman rule, many Celtic place names survived across England - still do to this day. The Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names describes it thus: "Parwich: Piowerwic AD 963, Pevrewic AD 1086 (Domesday Book). Possibly ‘dairy farm on the River Pever’ (lost Celtic river name...)". An un-named stream still flows through the village - but it surely can't be right that it remains anonymous. "Pever Brook" might be a contender. I'll suggest it to the Parish Council!
The Middle-Ages to the Present
1066- onwards - the rise of literacy: There is an abundance of information available about the history of Britain from the Norman Conquest in AD 1066 and beyond because the Norman invasion also brought with it a highly literate influx of educated people - principally in monastic foundations, along with other learned Normans too, for example officials in the nascent civil service. The Domesday Book of 1086 is a major source of contemporary history, as are the accounts of the new intelligentsia. An absolutely massive proliferation of written records ensued during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Many more documents than ever before were written and preserved. During whole of the Anglo-Saxon period only about 2,000 writs and charters survive, whereas from the thirteenth century alone there are uncounted tens of thousands.
Here is a summary of the events of the last two millennia, from the perspective of Parwich:
· c. 1150: the first stone building in Parwich was erected: the Norman church of St. Peter
· until that time all of the buildings in Parwich were timber-framed, the walls made with wattle and daub, roofs thatched with straw
· crops were farmed in large open fields divided into strips, individual villagers owning holdings, according to their means. Ridge and furrow marks from this method of agriculture (and much earlier) can still be seen in the landscape around Parwich in the form of "lynchets" - best seen early or late in the day when the Sun is low. For example, one can see them easily along both sides of Dam Lane as it rises and heads west towards Alsop-en-le-Dale
· sheep and cattle were grazed on common land - shared by the whole community. These ancient rights subsist in many English villages to this day, albeit on a smaller scale
· as in previous historical eras, Parwich's remoteness from the turbulent centres of power meant that little changed on the ground during the ensuing 500 years or so. The number of farmhouses, field barns and cottages for farm workers grew, in line with the population
· 1530's: the English Reformation under Henry VIII saw the nearby monastic "granges" for example at Roystone, fall into private hands, increasing the numbers of the aspiring gentry "on the make" in the surrounding area
· c. 1550: many timber-framed buildings in Parwich were being "encased" in local limestone, or entirely rebuilt (in stone). This continued as Parwich prospered
· 1642-51: the English Civil War seems to have had little effect on Parwich, except that during the Commonwealth of England and the later Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell (1649-59 combined) the old Norman church of St. Peter would have been stripped of all traces of ornament under the rule of the Puritans, including mediaeval stained glass windows, wall frescoes, icons and artifacts, and other "idolatry" - all was made pure, fine art and craftsmanship expunged by crude whitewash daub, in hateful hands. Sir John Betjeman once commented: "men hate beauty, they think it's wicked"
· 1600-1750s: farmhouses continued to form the core of the village, whilst the large fields were being divided up into smaller parcels, creating smallholdings and buildings to support them.
· The dawning of the Industrial Revolution around 1750 brought about radical changes however, and in short order. It saw the creation of a number of wealthy Parwich families who made a ton of money from rocketing, insatiable demand, fuelled by the burgeoning urban centres nearby, notably The Potteries of Staffordshire, Manchester, Sheffield, Derby, Chesterfield. Parwich owes most of its fine Georgian buildings - mostly farmhouses - to this new wealth
· 1750-1800: this demand continued unabated, and there was even more money to be made. Industrial efficiency dictated the amalgamation of smallholdings into larger plots. Bigger farmhouses were erected, of a quality and quantity previously unseen in Parwich.
· The Enclosure Act of 1773(one of many): created legal property rights to land that was previously considered common. The common land of Parwich, previously available to all the people for grazing, was enclosed. In search of better financial returns, landowners looked for more efficient farming techniques to satisfy demand. Enclosures were also created so that landowners could charge higher rent to the people working the land. This was at least partially responsible for ordinary farm workers leaving the countryside to work in the cities in industrial factories. More outlying farmhouses were built to service the much larger areas of land, along with newly-efficient farming techniques.
· 1800's onwards: Gradually, given their economies of scale, the larger outlier farms became far more successful than the established farms in the core of the village. Dam Farm was one of the last remaining active farms in the village, and remained in business, heroically, until 1995.
CHURCH OF ST PETER
An impressive church, Grade II* listed, built in the neo-Norman style in 1873 by Stevens & Robinson of Derby. It is an imposing church for a small village setting - its tall stone broach-spire with pretty lucarnes dominate the village green attractively. The present church replaced its Norman predecessor, demolished in 1872. In the tower, the original N doorway and chancel arch survive. Its outstanding feature is the Norman tympanum (late Saxon according to some sources) in the W doorcase of the tower, depicting various beasts: the lamb carrying a cross, and a stag, each standing on a serpent. Above the lamb a bird, above the stag a pig and a lion.
The subject may be the Agnus Dei according to Sir Nikolaus Pevsner. The original carved stone is deteriorating significantly in its exterior position, but both the Church of England Diocese and English Heritage felt the risk of damage from moving it inside was too great. In order to create a permanent record before the carving disappears completely, a replica was made and can be seen inside the church.
Derbyshire is famous, among other things, for its great houses of the English aristocracy - more so than any other English County: Chatsworth, Haddon, Bolsover, Hardwick, Kedleston, among others. The lesser aristocracy built very good architecture too, at Tissington and Riber for example.
Still lower down the social scale, the mercantile, social-climbing gentry of the time added to Derbyshire's inventory of smaller manor houses and farmhouses in no less impressive a way, but on a more modest scale. Parwich Hall belongs to this latter category. It is a Grade II* nationally-listed building, and for good reason.
Completed around 1747, it is a handsome building indeed, built in the neo-classical "Georgian" style: symmetry, classical proportion and detailing, its architectural vocabulary rooted in ancient Greece and Rome. It is an expression of refinement and power, and in the provincial context of Parwich, it was intended to make such a statement.
Occupying a commanding position on the western slope of Parwich Hill, overlooking (or looking down on) the village, Parwich Hall incorporates fragments of an earlier Tudor manor house of c. 1550, principally the stone basement with mullioned windows of gritstone. Its façade is fashionably brick-faced, of five bays, when fired brick was a mark of prestige (stone being regarded at that time as "vernacular" - in other words, "common", the ultimate condemnation). Contemporary Great Longstone Hall, and Sycamore Farm at Hopton share this unusual (for Derbyshire) brick-built treatment.
Parwich Hall is not open to the public, although its walled and terraced gardens are open on special occasions in the yearly calendar, kind courtesy of its present owners (Parwich.org has further details).
Considered all of a piece, Parwich is an idyll of an upland Peak District limestone village. Even if we ignore St. Peter's church and Parwich Hall on grounds of modesty, Parwich is the apotheosis of the pastoral Derbyshire village - made even more attractive by its architectural heritage, and enriched by the fruits of the Industrial Revolution. Its layout evolved over time, lending a haphazard character which is always a virtue, and its spaces and accents such as The Green, Nethergreen, the Sheepwash, and the Brook, enhance its visual appeal.
All is not upbeat however and I think it only fair to mention later developments in Parwich's built environment lest I be found guilty of misleading the visitor. Local authority social housing schemes in the first half of the 20th Century saw the erection of a good number of dwellings in the village: the austere, rendered Sycamore Cottages across from the Sycamore pub, and the alien red clay-tiles and pebble-dashed walls of those built in Church Row. Later, privately-built bungalow-type dwellings were erected at Croft Avenue (designed 180 miles away in Basildon).
All these new buildings were constructed with low cost in mind, using non-traditional building materials, methods and detailing. Public spending constraints of the period, together with a need to provide many more affordable homes for local folk, dictated their construction (but a bit more imagination would have cost nothing). As a consequence, they are not remotely sympathetic to the character of the older village - indeed, they might even be said to be hostile to it.
Better news came in the 1980s when more houses were constructed by the local authority at Smithy Close. Thanks to the creation of the Peak District National Park Authority in 1951 and its far stricter planning regulations, neither the local housing authority nor private developers (with the odd exception of the plain Hardrow concrete-roofed bungalows at Croft Avenue) could get away this time with the banal and the unlovely. Instead, and at the insistence of the Peak District planners, these new houses were constructed of coursed local limestone, with Derbyshire gritstone quoins and lintels, the whole ensemble sympathetic to the village's older buildings and imaginatively broken up into staggered plots.
More recently, thanks to local initiatives from the Parwich Village Action Group and Parish Council, three new houses were built at Parson's Croft, specifically offered at an affordable rental to local people. Constructed of coursed local limestone with gritstone dressings, their architectural integrity and detailing demonstrate an even greater empathy with Parwich's built heritage. Long may this enlightened approach continue.
Other Notable Buildings
· Flaxdale House - 1756 (Croft Avenue)
· Hallcliffe House - c.1750s (Croft Avenue)
· Townhead House - c.1750s (Smithy Lane)
· Fernlea - c.1700s (Kiln Lane)
· Flatts Stile Farmhouse - late 1700s (Smithy Close)
· Orchard View - late 1700s (Creamery Lane)
· The Fold - c.1750s (Smithy Close)
· Foufinside Farmhouse - c. 1850s (Smithy Lane)
· Slate House - c. 1619 (with timber crucks dated to 1450). Later additions (Smithy Lane)
© Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 16 Jun 2015