Overlooking Tideswell village. © Mike Cummins 2009
Dancing around the maypole during Wakes week. © Mike Cummins 2009
Well dressing in Tideswell. © Mike Cummins 2009
Parish Church of St John the Baptist. © Mike Cummins 2009
Nearby Cressbrook Dale and Peters Stone. © Mike Cummins 2009


...popular Peak gem

Tideswell. Or 'Tidsa' as it known locally - and 'Cathedral town of the Peak'...with some justification. Roly Smith takes us on a journey through this popular town...


Tideswell (local nickname “Tidsa”) is a large village of ancient foundation which, like Hartington further south, has the bustling, urban feel of a small town. It is perhaps best known for its magnificent 14th century Parish Church of St John the Baptist, known with some justification as “the Cathedral of the Peak.”



Tideswell stands at over 1,000 feet above the sea at the head of Tideswell Dale, about six miles (10 km) north west of Bakewell on the B6049, just off the A623 Chesterfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith road.



The Romans passed the site of Tideswell by when they constructed their major highway known as Batham Gate (now the A623), which linked their settlements at Chesterfield with Manchester on the other side of the Pennines.


Tideswell gets its name from one of its earliest settlers, when a Saxon called “Tidi” settled here in this long, dry, shallow valley above the deep gorge of the River Wye.


The right to hold a market at Tideswell was granted to Paulinus de Bampton as early as 1251, and Edward I, “the Hammer of the Scots”, stayed at Tideswell for three days in 1275 while hunting in the Royal Forest of the Peak. The hunting must have been pretty successful, because an order issued to Roger Lestrange, bailiff of the Peak, in August of that year directed that “all the venison in the King’s larder at Tydeswell be taken and carried to Westminster to be delivered to the keeper of the King’s larder there.”


At one time Tideswell held five markets a year for cattle and local produce, and those days are recalled in the name of the restored cobbled Pot Market, near the church. Interestingly, an old photograph taken at the turn of the 20th century shows a tethered bear in the market place, an echo of the days when bear-baiting was a popular attraction at such events.


The hamlet of Wheston, north west of Tideswell, contains many fine 16th and 17th century houses, but is most famous for its almost complete 15th century village cross, which depicts the crucifixion.


The fields around the village were enclosed by the characteristic drystone walls after a  Parliamentary Enclosure Award of 1820, converting what were once large open fields and common land into the network of smaller strip fields which are so much a part of the scene today.


Industry came to Tideswell when the power of the nearby River Wye was harnessed for the first factories of the Industrial Revolution. Cressbrook Mill, now converted to residential use, was originally built by Richard Arkwright in 1783, although the present building with his distinctive bell tower and cupola, dates from 1815.


Nearby was the notorious Litton Mill, also now converted to housing, where the millowner Ellis Needham inflicted some of the worst examples of the exploitation of child labour among his young apprentices, many of whom had been sent to Litton from the workhouses of London. The story of one of their number, Robert Blincoe, was told in John Brown’s A Memoir of Robert Blincoe published in 1832 – a document which did much to change the cruel and antiquated laws covering child labour.


Tideswell has a long musical tradition, dating back to William Newton (1750-1830), the owner of Cressbrook Mill and a poet known as “the Minstrel of the Peak,” and Samuel Slack (1737-1822) who once sung before King George III. This tradition is continued by the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, the village’s Silver Band, and several smaller choirs.


Mining and quarrying

As with most White Peak villages, there are remains of lead mining throughout the parish, especially to the north on Tideswell Moor and along Tideslow Rake. A “rake” is a vertical fissure in the limestone, originally filled with lead ore which was easy for the earliest miners, probably starting with the Romans, to extract.


The large former quarry in Tideswell Dale to the south of the village was worked for its outcrop of hard, volcanic basalt, before being purchased and restored by the National Park Authority. Tideswell Dale, the entrance of which is marked by a fine avenue of beech trees, is now a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve noted for its beautiful flowers and exposures of the columnar basalt, which also make it a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).



The Parish Church of St John the Baptist

Tideswell’s parish church is known as the 'Cathedral of the Peak' due to its size and grandeur. A Grade I listed building, it is probably the Peak's finest church.



Well dressing


Tideswell’s four well-dressings are also among the finest in the Peak, taking place in Wakes Week at the end of June. The themes are usually ecclesiastical, and a series depicting English cathedrals is particularly well-remembered for its intricate detail and artistic excellence. The Shimwell family of Tideswell were acknowledged experts at the ancient skill, and they were responsible for re-introducing well dressing to many other Peakland villages.


Other nearby villages which have well dressings include Litton (two well dressing held at the same time as Tideswell’s at the end of June) and Foolow (held from the last Saturday in August), which has a charming village green, complete with medieval cross and duck pond.




It is an easy walk downhill from the village of Tideswell to enter flower-filled Tideswell Dale, once the site of ugly basalt extraction works but now a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve, thanks to an early effort at restoration by the National Park authority. This walk links with the Monsal Trail, which utilises the former Midland Railway line in the valley of the River Wye.



There are many quiet country lanes, ideal for cycling, which criss-cross the limestone plateau between the high drystone walls which surround the village of Tideswell. And nearby, threading the deep gorge of the River Wye, is the traffic-free Monsal Trail, which follows the line of the former Midland Railway through some of the most spectacular dales scenery in the Peak.


The Anchor on the crossroads just outside of Tideswel offers good food and Robinsons beers all day every day. The 18th century George Hotel near the churchin Tideswell features Venetian-style Goergian windows. The George provides home-prepared food and quality beers and there is a beer garden where children and dogs are welcome. A favourite with ramblers is the Red Lion Inn on the village green at nearby Litton, where food and cask ales are served in a traditional setting.


Tindall’s Bakery and Delicatessen in Commercial Road, Tideswell specialises in locally-produced and homemade food, including the village’s famous Wakes Cakes, while dairy products are available from the Peak District Dairyat Heathy Grange Farm in Sherwood Road. The dairy also has a Farm Shop and Café in Queen Street in centre of the village.


The selection of holiday accommodation in Tideswell is abundant. Choose from the large selection of Tideswell bed & breakfasts, holiday cottages, pubs, hotels and campsites. See the full list of Tideswell accommodation.




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


Public toilets and car park

In Tideswell village.


Tideswell Surgery, Parke Road, Tideswell, SK17 8NS, 01298 871292


© Let's Stay Peak District 


Last Updated: 8 May 2017