Darley Dale lies in an attractive part of the Derwent Valley, on the edge of the Peak District between Matlock and Bakewell. The problem for most drivers along the A6 is that they see little of the beauty of the valley on their six mile long journey. Extensive ribbon building hides the view. The route is lined by rather sombre gritstone buildings and can become very congested at weekends and in the summer.
The town has had a Town Council since the late 1900s. It covers a wide area including the old settlements of Hackney, Farley, Two Dales, Darley Hillside and Churchtown, as well as the piece along the A6. The council offices and meeting room are housed in the Whitworth Community Centre.
In 1849 the railway arrived, resulting in the expansion of Darley Dale, which became very much a railway village. Unfortunately, the line closed 119 years later. At its height, it had been part of Midland Railway's line between Manchester Central and London St.Pancras. The first railway station at Darley Dale was on the other side of the road to what it is today, but was soon replaced and became the Station Master’s House. Businesses grew up near to the station, with coal yards, animal feed mills, wood yards and others taking advantage of the easy access to rail transportation.
Following the actions of a band of determined enthusiasts, who formed the Peak Railway Society, trains recommenced running from Matlock to Darley Dale Station in 1991. Six years later the line was extended to Rowsley South Station. A journey on the train is an ideal way to see the best of the valley and beat the traffic jams.
Stancliffe and Hall Dale quarries, on the northern side of the A6, provided flagstones for Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park Corner and the Thames Embankment in London. Stone from the quarries was also used for many other notable buildings including the Walker Art Gallery and St George’s Hall in Liverpool. A standard gauge railway used to run from the quarries to the masonry yard and then onto the main railway line. Laid in 1903, it was taken up during the First World War and transferred to France. It was re-laid after the war and finally removed just before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Sir Joseph Whitworth, who served his apprenticeship at his uncle’s Ambergate Mill, was a manufacturer of machine tools, promoting absolute accuracy in measurement and the standardization of machine parts. He famously invented the Whitworth screw thread.
Whitworth was responsible for much of the development in the village. He bought Stancliffe Hall in 1854 and had it virtually rebuilt but did not move in until 1871. A shy man, prone to disputes with other land owners, he built a high wall around Stancliffe Hall to protect his privacy. After his death his wife founded the Whitworth Institute, a community centre for the people of Darley Dale, Whitworth Park with its many sports facilities and Whitworth Hospital. Although not particularly popular during his lifetime, the people of Darley Dale erected an obelisk in Whitworth Park after his death, in recognition of all he had done for the community.
Churchtown was described accurately by an 18th century writer as “Churchtown, no town” as it was only a small hamlet, and still is not much bigger today. It is dominated by the ancient Parish Church of St Helen’s and its even older yew tree, said to be in the region of 2,000 years old. The medieval church which includes two Burne-Jones windows, is large and impressive. A short distance along the road, past the level crossing, is a church of a different kind, the popular Church Inn.
One of the Peak District’s unique and most popular attractions is Red House Stables and Working Carriage Museum. It holds one of the finest historic collections of horse drawn vehicles and equipment in Britain. The present collection of carriages is almost priceless. It includes one of the very few surviving original Hansom Cabs, a Stage Coach, a Royal Mail Coach in full livery, and two genuine Landaus plus numerous other private and commercial vehicles. In addition, it is also a horse riding and carriage driving centre.
In close proximity is the Red House Country Hotel, DFS the furniture retailing giant and the long established Victoria Sawmills. The former St Elphin’s School, once a hydro that brought health tourists to the area, is no longer an educational establishment.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Peak Rail: (Tel. 01629 580381) preserved railway, operating steam trips from Matlock Riverside Station to Rowsley South throughout the year. Please ring for details. Holds a number of special event days.
Red House Stables and Working Carriage Museum (Tel. 01629 733583) holds one of the finest collections of original horse drawn vehicles and equipment in Britain. The collection includes one of the very few remaining Hansom Cabs, a stage Coach, Royal Mail Coach and many others. Open daily, 10am-5pm March to October. Reduced winter opening.
Caudwell’s Mill, (Tel. 01629 734374) powered by the River Wye is the only complete Victorian working roller flour mill in the United Kingdom. There are a number of craft shops as well as a well stocked gift shop, artist’s gallery and café. Open daily.
Square and Compass (Tel. 01629 733255) is an attractive 18th century pub, overlooking Darley Bridge, midway between Darley Dale and Wensley. Food served at lunchtime and in the evenings at the weekend, evenings only from 5.30pm during the week. Two separate beer gardens. Accommodation is available and campsite facilities are located opposite the pub. Walkers welcome.
Regent House Tea Rooms (Tel.01629 583660) on Dale Road, Matlock stock a selection of speciality teas and coffees and provide a good range of hot and cold meals in pleasant surroundings. Open seven days a week.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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DARLEY DALE WALK
A delightful walk, which soon leaves the River Derwent behind to gently ascend the slopes of Oker Hill, where there are excellent views over the Derwent Valley. Much of the return journey is along a permissive path by the railway line, close to the river.
Dr Beeching closed the railway line from Matlock to Buxton, but thanks to the Peak Railway Society the section from Matlock to Rowsley South has been re-opened. It is now used for leisure purposes and is very popular with visitors and railway enthusiasts. A number of special event days are held every year.
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