LEA AND HOLLOWAY
The villages of Lea and Holloway situated in picturesque countryside climbing up from the Derwent Valley, together with Dethick and Lea Green, have formed a single parish for over 100 years.
The Nightingale family first brought prosperity to the area. Peter Nightingale had amassed a considerable fortune from lead mining, and in 1707, bought Lea Hall and consequently became Lord of the Manor. Florence Nightingale – renowned throughout the world for her nursing skills – was a direct descendant.
Things became more interesting when Peter Nightingale II born in 1736, and known as ‘Mad Peter’ because of his reckless horse riding, gambling and heavy drinking, took over. His life style did not seem to affect his business capabilities. He established a successful lead smelting business at Lea Bridge and extended an arm of the Cromford Canal up to where Smedley’s Car Park stands today.
He built a Hat Factory, adjacent to the wharf on the canal. Leased out in 1792, during the first half of the 19th century, it employed 100 or more people. They made hats for both the military and the gentry. Nothing is left of the building, blown down in 1955, but the wharf remains.
In 1784, Peter Nightingale pulled off a masterstroke when he built Lea Mills. Originally, the factory produced cotton, but Richard Arkwright of Cromford soon successfully sued him for using his patent. Undaunted, he extended the factory and took up wool spinning and the manufacture of hosiery. A few years after Peter Nightingale died childless, in 1803, the Smedley family leased the factory. But it was nearly another 80 years before the Nightingales completely relinquished control.
When Peter Nightingale died, he left the estate and all his money to William Shore, on his sister’s side of the family. On coming of age, William took control of the estate, changed his name and soon afterwards married. He became the father of two daughters, the second of whom was to become a household name in this country and through most of the world.
Florence was actually born in Italy, on the 12th May 1820, in the city whose name she bears. On returning to England, the family moved to Lea Hurst but Florence’s mother hankered after the social whirl she had been used to and soon persuaded her husband to move south. Embley House, in Hampshire, was purchased and after ‘that’ the family only spent the summer at Lea Hurst.
The social life did not satisfy Florence and to the family’s horror she expressed the desire to take up nursing. After many intense arguments, Florence eventually got her way. Despite the continuing opposition of her family, she took up an appointment as manager of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances in London. It was not long after this that she went to the Crimea and became a legend - the lady with the lamp, whose shadow the sick soldiers kissed as she passed through the wards.
On returning to England, she continued with her work, but she did not forget her connections with Lea Hurst. She set up a reading room in Holloway and provided books there and to Lea Primary School. For the sick, she obtained the services of a doctor.
Another remarkable character only seventeen years older than Florence Nightingale existed in the parish at the same time. John Smedley II, despite leaving school at the age of 14, turned round the fortunes of his father’s business at Lea Mills, from insolvency to prosperity.
At that point, he decided it was the right time to marry his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Harwood the daughter of the vicar of Wirksworth. They travelled to Switzerland for their honeymoon, but he contracted fever.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Lea Gardens (Tel. 01629 534380) hold a rare collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers in a lovely woodland setting. The attractive teashop provides seating both inside and out. Plants are available for purchase. Telephone for further information.
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. A not to be missed attraction, along with Masson Mill situated about a quarter of a mile away on the A6, that has been converted into a shopping village and working textile museum. Open daily.
John Smedley Factory Shop (Tel. 01629 534571) established over 200 years ago, sells a wide range of luxury knitwear at its factory shop at Lea Bridge. It is acknowledged as a leader in the specialist field of fine gauge knitted products of the highest quality. Open every day 10-4pm.
Jug and Glass (Tel. 01629 534232) before it was converted into a pub it formed part of a row of weavers’ cottages. It comprises several cosy wood-panelled rooms, including a restaurant. There is seating outside and bar snacks are available lunchtime and evenings.
The Coach House (Tel. 01629 534346) is a converted farm and buildings with an attractive courtyard. Containing a tea room, licensed restaurant, ice-cream parlour, craft and gift shop. Accommodation. Open all year Tuesday to Saturday and Bank Holiday Mondays – tea rooms from 10.30-5pm.
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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There is so much to see on this enjoyable walk, which picks out many of the places associated with Florence Nightingale and her family, while exploring the lovely countryside around Lea.
The walk takes you through the grounds of Lea Hurst, where Florence and her parents lived during the summer months.
Smedley’s Mill was revitalised by the remarkable John Smedley, in the early 1800s; he went on to build and run the Hydro at Matlock Bank, and Riber Castle as a retirement home.
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