An attractive limestone village set on a hillside with winding little streets in a remote corner of Derbyshire, Brassington is about six miles to the north west of Wirksworth. The rough ground to the east, west and north of the village has the hillocks and hollows of hundreds of abandoned mines. There are many strange rock formations round the village at Rainster Rocks and Hipley Hill.
The surrounding countryside is of considerable interest to the geologist, the botanist and the climber. Little more than two miles away is Minning Low, where Neolithic chambered barrows were found on the summit.
There were people living in the area in pre-historic times, remains of Bronze and Iron Age man having been found at Harborough Rocks. A Roman road known as The Street once ran through the village. A surprising number of the present day houses are over 300 years old, with the whole village seeming to be dominated by its Norman Church. In recent times, more houses have been built on the southern edge of the village.
Brassington prospered when lead mining was at its height and it stood on the main London to Manchester road. There were 14 public houses in the village at the time, serving both travellers and thirsty lead miners.
In 1738, the same route was turnpiked as far as Brassington, the remainder of the road northwards over the well drained limestone uplands being sufficient for wheeled traffic. Unfortunately, Brassingtonís days as an important staging post came to end as new, less arduous routes north opened up. Lead mining also gradually ended, although barytes and caulk were still mined in the 20th century. The Golconda was the last mine to close, in 1953.
In the big freeze of 1947, the village was cut off completely for six successive weeks without electricity and telephone. All the roads were impassable, and with food in short supply, two men with horses managed to get across the fields to the bakery at Hognaston. They returned several hours later with 200 loaves loaded on each horse.
Built in 1616, The Gate was on a turnpike road and provided stabling for horses and refreshment for coachmen. On the opposite side of the road, was the last tollhouse before the limestone uplands. The gate across the road probably gave its name to the public house. The Inn is supposed to have been the haunt of highwaymen when coaches to Manchester passed through the village, the hilly countryside affording good cover for the robbers.
The only other public house that still survives in the village is the Minerís Arms. During the lead mining era, a Barmote Court was set up there to settle mining disputes.
The oldest building in Brassington is St Jamesís Church, which dates back to the Norman era. But a carved figure on a stone inside the clock chamber indicates that worship may have been carried out here in Saxon times, or earlier. There are some interesting gravestones in the churchyard one of which bears the inscription:
ĎRemember this as you pass by
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
Therefore prepare to follow me.í
The Tudor House, built in 1615 is probably the oldest house in the village. The initials shown at the front are those of Thomas Westerne and his wife who had the house built. Later it became a public house and remained as such for over 150 years. From 1820 to 1848, the building fulfilled the role of housing paupers for the Ashbourne Poor Law Union; seventy-seven names were recorded at one stage. The men worked in the quarry at the rear of the house breaking stone into specific sizes. It only became known as the Tudor House in about 1900 and is now in private ownership.
The three chapels are now closed, the former Congregational Chapel on the northern side of Brassington is now in use as the village hall. The British Legion has recently provided a new meeting place in the centre of the village. Sadly, there are no shops, or post office in Brassington, but shoppers can use the bus services to Ashbourne and Wirksworth.
As part of a Millennium Project, an exhibition of memorabilia and old photographs took place in the village in July 2000. Another Millennium Project was the creation of a small rest area with a seat, behind the bus stop opposite the church. The village green has been restored as part of the Village Plan, where an old water pump adds character. A pinfold, where stray animals used to be rounded up, once stood on the quaintly named street, Maddock Lake. Brassington Hall is situated on the western side of the village.
Although many people with the surname Brassington visit the village, there has been no one of that name living in the village since 1725!
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
National Stone Centre, Wirksworth (Tel. 01629 824833) tells the story of stone, its geological and industrial history. The exhibition inside shows how advanced technology makes use of stone in an incredible number of ways. Outside the visitor centre, the quarry trail takes you back over three million years. Open every day 10-4pm during the winter and 10-5pm in the summer.
Steeple Grange Light Railway, (Tel. 01246 205542 or during running hours 07769802587) an 18 inch (450mm) gauge line built on the trackbed of a branch line of the old Cromford and High Peak Railway. Enjoy a ride of approximately 20 minutes to Dark Lane Quarry. Many of the surrounding fields are designated as sites of Special Scientific Interest. The railway operates between 12.00noon and 5.00pm, on Sundays and Bank Holiday from Easter until autumn and also Saturdays during the summer. Santa Special Weekend in December. Please check details before travelling.
Middleton Top Visitor Centre (Tel. 01629 823204) tells the story of the Cromford and High Peak Railway. Open weekends all year, open daily during the summer months. Shop facilities and cycle hire available. The Engine House opens on a limited basis. Ring for details.
Miners Arms (Tel. 01629 540222) is a 250 year-old pub once used to hold the Barmote Court, where lead mining disputes were settled. Meals served at lunchtimes during the week and both at lunchtime and in the evenings at weekends. Some outside seating.
Carsington Water Visitor Centre Restaurant (Tel. 01629 540363) occupies an enviable position with excellent views across Carsington Water from the Visitor Centre. Provides a wide range of hot and cold meals. Open every day.
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.
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Outstanding views and fascinating places to visit, this walk reveals much of the heritage of this upland area. There are many strange rock formations found in the area at Rainster Rocks and Hipley Hill, the countryside surrounding Brassington being of considerable interest to the geologist, the botanist and the climber.
After leaving Brassington behind, the unusual rock formations of Rainster Rocks, an example of dolomitic limestone, are soon reached. From Longcliffe, the walk takes you along the High Peak Trail, for one and a half miles. Then after exploring Harborough Rocks, where the remains of Bronze and Iron Age man have been found, passes through an area where lead miners used to work.
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