The village of Ambergate straddles the A6 and lies in a valley, now part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Corridor. It is a good starting point for a walk, either along the Cromford Canal, or through the ancient woodland of Shining Cliff Woods and beyond.
Ambergate is the product of the 19th century. It was the name given to a tollgate on a new turnpike road created in 1817, from where it probably got its name. It has gradually taken over from the earlier settlement of Toadmoor, and has grown from a tiny hamlet to a substantially sized village, the birth of the railway era and the industries it attracted as a result being the main reasons for its growth.
The first railway station built by the North Midland Railway, one of the three companies that four years later formed the Midland Railway, opened on 5 July 1840. Further developments took place as business expanded. A southern curve was added in 1863, followed 13 years later by a middle curve, creating an unusual triangular junction, with the platforms set round the triangle. In its heyday, Ambergate was one of the most important railway junctions in the Midlands, with nearly 50 staff employed, handling 240 trains a day. Now a single platform serves the Derby-Matlock line.
Attracted by the railway, lime works were set up at Ambergate in 1841. The famous railway engineer, George Stephenson who designed the ‘Rocket’, built the Crich Mineral Railway in 1837, to carry limestone from Cliff Quarry to a battery of limekilns at Ambergate. It was a distance of about two and a half miles. For the major part of the route from the quarry, the line ran along the ridge, before descending ‘The Steep’ to reach its destination. A weighbridge and braking scheme operated the system, when as trucks loaded with limestone descended, empty trucks at the other end of the cable ascended. The end came in 1965, when difficulties were encountered in obtaining a suitable type of low-cost coal following the closures of local pits, and in complying with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
The Hurt Arms was built in 1874 and named after the former Lords of the Manor, the Hurts, who lived at Alderwasley Hall. It took the place of the Thatched House Tavern, demolished by the railway company along with Francis Thompson’s original station to make way for expansion. For a time before the church was built in 1891, services were held there. The clubrooms upstairs at The White House, an attractive roadside public house, were also used for church services prior to the completion of the church.
St Anne’s Church separated from the Hurt Arms, by the village’s smart little cricket ground, whose pitch is sunken well below the level of the road. At the side of this, Holly Lane leads down to Halfpenny Bridge which crosses the River Derwent. As the name suggests, anyone crossing was required to pay one halfpenny at the Toll-house. This has been demolished, but the Turnpike Gateposts, near to the Ambergate Chippy, remain as a reminder of that era.
Close to the bridge, the River Amber flows into the Derwent and along the valley floor are Johnson and Nephew’s former wire works. Further into Shining Cliff Woods is Betty Kenny’s Tree, famed for its association with the nursery rhyme ‘Rock-a-bye-baby.’
In the church is an exquisitely carved figure in marble of an angel protecting a child from a serpent. The story is that during the First World War an elderly couple refugee couple from Belgium came to live in Ambergate. They had a son who was a sculptor to the King of the Belgians. He followed them over to this country with a half completed sculpture he was working on for his hometown church. Sadly, his church was burnt down during the latter part of the war, but fortunately, the people of Ambergate purchased the sculpture. It was set on a rounded plinth of Derbyshire marble, in memory of the men who lost their lives in the war.
Ambergate’s Wesleyan Chapel opened in 1837, after the Methodists had endured quite a struggle with the Lord of the Manor to obtain permission to build. They had been refused several times, before finally, after holding an all night prayer meeting, a parcel of land to build on was allocated. The chapel closed and re-located in 1926. A wedding and portrait photography studio now occupies the site.
The world’s first small-medium electronic telephone exchange was brought into service in a house on the Ripley Road, in 1966. This replaced a manual system and provided a speedier and quieter service.
On the same road, the long established Ambergate Caravan Centre provides for the needs of used and new caravans. Along Derby Road are to be found a Chinese Restaurant, Post Office/Shop and the Corner Café that opens mainly at the weekend, and is very popular with cyclists.
www.derbyshire-peakdistrict.co.uk is an independent, not for profit website.
No recommendation of any establishment is implied by inclusion on this website.
PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Heage Windmill, (Tel. 01773 853579 - when mill closed telephone 01773 853136) a Grade II listed building, is the only working, stone-towered, multi-sailed windmill in England. Spectacular views across the Derwent Valley. Visitor Centre and shop. Light refreshments. Normally open: Saturday and Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to the end of October. please confirm details.
Arkwright’s Cromford Mill, (Cromford Mill Tel. 01629 823256, Masson Mill Tel. 01629 760208) the world’s first successful water-powered cotton-spinning mill. It is now a world heritage site and guided tours are available. There is a whole-food restaurant, a number of shops and free car park. The mill is a not to be missed attraction, along with Masson Mill situated about a quarter of a mile away on the A6, which has been converted into a shopping village and working textile museum. Open daily.
Mining Museum and Temple Mine, (Tel. 01629 583834) where you get a very realistic impression of what the conditions used to be like for men who toiled underground. After completing your absorbing tour of the museum, you can visit Temple Mine that has been worked since 1922. The museum is open daily throughout the year. Temple Mine is open on a reduced basis in the winter.
Hurt Arms (Tel. 01773 852006) is a large, roadside pub at the junction of the A6 and A610, open all day. Food lunchtime and evenings every day - book for Sunday lunch. Extensive beer garden and children's play area.
The Coach House (Tel. 01629 534346) is a converted farm and buildings with an attractive courtyard with tea room, licensed restaurant, ice-cream parlour, craft and gift shop. Art and Craft Fairs take place on Bank Holiday Mondays and the last Sunday of the month for non-Bank Holiday months. Accommodation. Open all year Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays – tea rooms from 10.30am-5pm. Please confirm details.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features on towns and villages with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
The site is expanding to include many other features of interest to the local person and visitor alike. Why not bookmark this site for future reference.
1. To return to the main site click the link below.
2. To return to the contents page of the main website click the link below.
A special new sub-section has been added to this website, based on the Discover Derby Supplement, published by the Derby Evening Telegraph during March 2005. The most recent additions are:
Click below for details.
A special walk that takes you through Shining Cliff Woods, where in the spring the floor is covered with bluebells. Leaving the woods behind, you walk through beautiful open countryside with good views of the Derwent Valley, returning along the towpath of the Cromford Canal.
Shining Cliff Woods is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the large variety of plants and animals found in this ancient woodland.
All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.