The village of Hayfield sits peacefully in the narrow valley of the River Sett, surrounded by some of the wildest hills in the Dark Peak. Things were much different in its industrial past, when cotton and paper mills, calico printing and a dye works made it a busy and anything but quiet place.
It was wool that started the industrial expansion and the spinning and weaving of both wool and cotton became established in the 17th century. As the 1700s progressed Hayfield began to share in the great expansion of textiles, which was taking place in the Northwest. Three storeyed weavers’ houses replaced the former thatched cottages; three woollen mills were built by the river and later in 1810, a dye works. The prosperity did not last and handloom weaving began to decline, although Hayfield still had woollen mills until the mid 1800s.
Tourists now come to walk on Kinder Scout, or to explore the much gentler valley of the River Sett. For many years Kinder was barred to walkers, being preserved as a grouse moor. The peace was interrupted on Sunday 24 April 1932 by the famous Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. This had been well advertised in the Manchester Evening Chronicle and involved some 400 people. The police were waiting for the leader, Benny Rothman, at the railway station but he avoided arrest by arriving on his bike. The walk started from Bowden Bridge Quarry, just to the west of the village centre.
On the moor the walkers were confronted by gamekeepers, who were unable to stop them walking across Kinder to meet up with other parties of ramblers who gained access from different locations. Five ramblers were later arrested and imprisoned for their part in the demonstration. As a result of the trespass, access restrictions were gradually reduced.
In 1868, the railway came to Hayfield and was soon busy with both passengers and goods, servicing all the mills in the Sett Valley, but business gradually diminished and it closed in 1970. Now the line provides a traffic free route of two and a half miles for walkers, cyclists and horse riders between Hayfield and New Mills. At the former railway station a car park, information centre, picnic area and toilets are provided.
Flooding has been a regular problem in the past and in 1818 after a disastrous flood, the parish church of St Matthew had to be re-built and the floor level raised. A curious feature of the building is that it stands on a stream which can be seen emerging from beneath the church.
The Town Bridge, known locally as the Woolpack Bridge, built in 1837, is the third on the site the first two having been swept away by floods. When the present bridge was re-built it was discovered the north side was built on quicksand. This problem was solved when someone came up with the idea of using huge bags of wool pressed down in the sand. The bridge is still standing, which is testimony enough to the soundness of the idea.
The Royal Hotel has a strange history. It was built in the 18th century as a parsonage, but incorrectly conveyed into the vicar’s name. On his death in 1764, his family sold it and for forty years it was an inn. The new owner restored it to its original use, until in 1863, he disagreed with the choice of incoming vicar and it was converted back into an inn.
Arthur Lowe, the son of a railway worker, was born in Hayfield. He is best remembered for his role as Captain Mainwaring (Also but erroneously referred to as Mannering) in the well known television programme ‘Dad’s Army’. He died in 1982, aged 66, after collapsing from a stroke in his dressing room at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. A keen cricketer, he often used to bring members of the cast back to play cricket in the village.
The Pack Horse Inn built in 1577, was a stopping off point for ‘jaggers’ and their trains of packhorses on the long journey to Holmfirth, or to the south. Built in the same era the George was where the popular folk song ‘Come Lasses and Lads’ was first heard. The Bull’s Head did not come onto the scene until 1788, when industry was booming and the first two woollen mills were built.
Overlooking the attractive little cricket ground is Fox Hall, an impressive three gabled 17th century house. The lower storey of the Town Hall was once used as a prison, but many prisoners escaped up the chimney. The most dangerous, however, were handcuffed to the oven door! Beside the weir an attractive Memorial Garden has been created in the memory of three young people tragically killed in an accident at a Jazz Festival in 1983.
In Little Hayfield a mile to the north, Tony Warren created the television series ‘Coronation Street’. Pat Phoenix, who starred as Elsie Tanner, also lived in the village. Park Hall, a fine old house, is situated close by where Joseph Hague, who rose from rags to riches, once lived. He started work as an itinerant pedlar before becoming very wealthy and giving most of his money away. The annual Hayfield Sheepdog Trials and Country Show take place at Little Hayfield in September.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Glossop Heritage Centre (Tel. 01457 869176) contains a permanent exhibition of Glossop’s history and changing exhibitions of general interest. A Victorian kitchen illustrates what life used to be like in this interesting old town. Please telephone for opening details or visit website.
The Torrs Millennium Walkway a much admired walkway set deep in the the spectacular Torrs Riverside Park and gorge at New Mills. The walkway forms the final link in the Midshires Way long distance footpath.
The Sett Valley Trail follows the track of the railway line that linked Hayfield with Manchester as far as New Mills. There is an Information Centre at the former station at Hayfield and a car park.
The Packhorse Inn (Tel. 01663 740074) over 400 years old this pleasant old pub, standing at the bottom of Kinder Road, still provides refreshment for the traveller. Food is served at lunchtime and in the evening. A friendly welcome for walkers!
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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An invigorating walk, which after leaving the Sett Valley Trail climbs steadily up to Lantern Pike for glorious views over Kinder Scout and Hayfield. On a clear day with the aid of the viewfinder on Lantern Pike you will be able to pinpoint well known landmarks on Kinder Scout.
On the return journey Little Hayfield soon comes into sight and after passing Firbob Cottage, Clough Mill is seen close to the footpath. Opened as a cotton mill in 1830, it had to be protected by troops against attack from local spinners who felt the new technology threatened their livelihoods.
The final part of the walk takes you on a short riverside walk by the River Sett back into the centre of the village.
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