Sheltered by Longstone Edge from the cold north winds, the attractive limestone village of Great Longstone winds its way along a minor road linking Monsal Head and Hassop. Its comparative isolation from major tourist routes is probably the reason that it has remained relatively undiscovered by the visitor. But the situation is changing, no longer is it a one street village – much discreet development has taken place and newcomers have moved in. And with the opening of the Monsal Trail and the increase in leisure time, more walkers now visit the village to enjoy its quiet charm and hospitality.
Like so many villages in the White Peak, Great Longstone owes its existence primarily to lead mining. The presence of water where limestone and shale meet was probably the deciding factor in where the village was located. Good farmland was another attraction, as miners supplemented their incomes from their underground activities by keeping livestock.
The carvings in St Giles church of a milkmaid and a miner accurately reflect the two main sources of wealth in the village during past centuries. It is not just lead that has been mined; chert was extracted in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. More recently, fluorspar has been worked mainly on the Stoney Middleton side of Longstone Edge.
Miners are a tough breed of men, but they objected in Napoleonic times when the serving of call-up notices to join the army was thought unfair. It was every parish’s duty to provide a fixed number of conscripts. When lots were drawn at Hope, miners from Great Longstone, Castleton, Bradwell, Tideswell, Eyam and other villages marched on Bakewell, where the justices were sitting. They took with them picks, forks, shovels and anything else that came to hand. On arrival, they made a great bonfire and burnt all the call-up papers.
In the 1860s, Great Longstone found itself on the London-Midland railway line between St Pancras and Manchester. Its pretty little woodland station, the last stop before crossing Monsal Dale Viaduct, still stands, but now only passed by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. At the rear is Thornbridge Hall a minor stately home.
Monsal Trail runs for eight and a half miles from Coombs Road Viaduct, one mile southeast of Bakewell to the head of Chee Dale, about three miles east of Buxton. But not without diversions, to avoid tunnels, one of which occurs on the route from Great Longstone to Monsal Head, where there is a magnificent view.
Despite the controversy over the building of the Monsal Dale Viaduct, it is now considered an important feature of historic and architectural interest. When the railway line closed after 100 years, and plans mooted to demolish the viaduct, there was a widespread protest. The answer came in 1970, with the award of a preservation order.
Less than half a mile from Monsal Head is the village of Little Longstone, with its charming cottages with their well-kept gardens. Built wholly of stone it has a popular pub, the Packhorse Inn and a 17th century Manor House. The Longson family have lived in the village for over 800 years; a record few can equal anywhere.
Another half mile along the road and you are in Great Longstone. A line of trees guides you towards the village green, where there is a medieval market cross. Markets were held here to sell local produce and an annual fair took place during Wakes Week. The Crispin Inn, named after the patron saint of shoemakers, provides a reminder of the village trade.
Across the road from the Manor House is Longstone Hall, the most impressive building in the village. Surprisingly, re-built in brick in 1747 by Thomas Wright, when every other building in the village was built of stone. Part of the old house built in 1600, still remains. The Wright’s, one of the oldest families in Derbyshire, owned the hall for over 400 years, and although it is no longer in their ownership, they are still represented in the village.
The foundations of St Giles Church date back to the Normans. It is an interesting old church with a splendid 15th century roof with fine moulded beams. A tablet in the church commemorates Dr Edward Buxton. Although retired from practice he returned, at the age of 73, to provide a service to the villagers when a typhoid epidemic affected every house but one in the village. He did this without asking for a fee and everyone in Great Longstone survived. He prescribed ‘wort’ – beer before the processes of fermentation are complete – brewed every day at a farm in Church Lane.
The good doctor lived at Church Lady House, a late medieval building. It is said to be haunted by a lady dressed all in black, which is how the house gets its name. The adjacent building was once a theatre and is now a private residence.
At the bottom of Moor Lane is the last surviving village pump. The cottages that occupy Bullfinch Square are said to be lead miners’ cottages. The vicarage re-built in 1831, was previously a public house called the White Lion Inn. The new White Lion is on the eastern side of the village, near the village hall. Closer to the centre of the village are the shops and post office (now closed).
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Hassop Railway Station Bookstore (Tel. 01629 813444) on the Monsal Trail was built much nearer to Bakewell than Hassop to serve The Duke of Devonshire. It is particularly ornate. Now the railway is no more, it has been converted into a very large bookshop. There is a small café serving snacks. Just off A6020 and B6001 between the village of Hassop and Bakewell. Open daily.
Ashford in the Water, this lovely village nestles on the banks of the River Wye as it meanders its way south towards Bakewell. The beautiful medieval Sheepwash Bridge, overhung by willow trees is a particular attraction.
Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop (Tel. 01246 583392) is situated at Pilsley, one and a half miles from Chatsworth House. Sells a fine selection of meat and dairy products. Gift shop and restaurant. Open daily.
The Crispin (Tel. 01629 640237) a large comfortable old pub situated in the centre of the village. St Crispin was the patron saint of shoemakers, which once was a traditional local trade. Food is served lunchtime and evenings seven days a week. There is outside seating and a large function room available.
Monsal Head Tea Rooms (now known as Hobb's Cafe)(Tel. 01629 640346) is a genuine friendly walker’s café with stone floors, large mugs of tea or coffee and a good selection of food. A section of the café sells crafts goods. Open Tuesday to Sunday from the end of March to the end of October. Reduced winter opening.
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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GREAT LONGSTONE WALK
An easy walk, it first climbs gently up towards Longstone Edge, before descending to Little Longstone. The next stop is Monsal Head with its magnificent view.
The last section of the walk takes you back to Little Longstone and then along the Monsal Trail.
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