The village of Rowsley stands at the confluence of the Rivers Wye and Derwent, with wooded hills on either side. It was the beauty of its setting in the 19th century which attracted artists, poets and anglers. Though the wonderful scenery remains unspoilt, the Peak Village Shopping Complex also draws visitors in the 21st century to the village.
There are two Rowsleys, not surprisingly called Great and Little, but perhaps more unexpectedly it is the later that has the larger population. Little Rowsley on the eastern side of the River Derwent was in Bakewell Rural District Council, and Greater Rowsley on the other side was in Darley and Matlock Urban District Council. Now they are united as one parish in Derbyshire Dales.
Greater Rowsley is much the older part of the village and has a number of handsome buildings. The arrival of the railway in 1849 brought about the development of Little Rowsley.
Paxton built an impressive Italianate Railway Station along with four stone cottages to house railway workers. The Station Hotel, now renamed the Grouse and Claret, was built nearby and everything was ready to extend the line through the valley. Unfortunately, there was a problem. The Duke of Devonshire was adamant that he would not allow the line across Chatsworth Park. If that was not bad enough, the Duke of Rutland also refused an alternative plan for the railway to run across his estate at Haddon. All the railway company could do at the time was to run trains between Rowsley and Ambergate.
The problem was solved when the Duke of Rutland agreed to the plans of the Midland Railway to build a track out of sight, in a cutting behind Haddon Hall. A new station was built a quarter of a mile south and instead of the line running up the Derwent Valley, it ran along the Wye Valley. Paxton’s splendid station was left isolated in the wrong valley. It was not until 1867 that the line finally reached Manchester.
In 1967, when Dr Beeching closed the line, the extensive marshalling yard and locomotive shed were no longer required and Rowsley lost a major employer. For a few years, the yard was used by an engineering business. Transformation then took place into the Peak District’s first and only Factory Outlet Shopping Centre.
A mill has stood in the village since at least the 16th century. The latest, Caudwell’s Mill, was founded in 1874 and continued to operate for 104 years. When it closed a group of enthusiasts got together to save what was the only complete Victorian water turbine – powered roller mill in the country. They had a fight on their hands, as according to the Millers’ Manual Association, milling machinery no longer needed must be destroyed to prevent re-use. After a lot of persuasive talk, agreement was reached to waive the ancient right and allow a small amount of flour to be produced and the mill used for exhibition purposes.
There is a busy Craft Centre at Caudwell’s Mill, an excellent café, and well-stocked gift shop and picture gallery. But, if you just want to relax you can stand on the wooden footbridge and watch the ducks on the millpond, in idyllic surroundings.
The Duke of Rutland was Lord of the Manor of Rowsley and many of the properties are still in the family name. He built the school and teacher’s house in 1840, and the church 14 years later. The Rutlands built the row of cottages in Wye Terrace for the workers at Caudwell Mill. Almost certainly the best-known building in the village is the Peacock Hotel, with a stone peacock sitting above the door. Built in 1652, as a private residence, it later became a hotel and in its time has housed many famous residents including Royalty.
The Peak Well opposite the Peacock Hotel is the site of the main Well Dressing during the village festival that takes place on the last weekend of June each year. At the same time, down Church Lane, passed the village shop and post office, the church holds a Flower Festival.
Inside St Katherine’s Church is the finally carved tomb of Lady Catherine Manners, who died shortly after the church was built. The single bell came from Haddon Chapel. Two boys, while out swimming discovered the Saxon Cross on the bed of the River Wye.
Along Chatsworth Road are the Midland Cottages, where the railway workers lived, and the Methodist Chapel of 1910. The Derek Topp Gallery, at the A6 end of the road displays contemporary applied art.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
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 throughout the year 9.30-5.30pm.
Peak Village (Tel. 01629 735326) is the Peak District’s first and only factory outlet shopping centre, set in beautiful surroundings at Rowsley. Open every day .
Peak Rail (Tel. 01629 580381) a preserved railway, operating steam trips on Sundays throughout the year. Trains normally also operate on Saturdays from April to October and mid-week in the peak season. Telephone for details.
Grouse and Claret (Tel. 01629 733233) formerly the Station Hotel, but due to the demise of the railway it was renamed. A grouse and claret is the name of a specialist dry fly used in trout fishing in the locality. A large popular pub offering food lunchtime and evenings. Beer Garden. Children’s play area. Accommodation.
Caudwell Mill Tea Rooms (Tel. 01629 733185) have an excellent reputation for food and serve both hot and cold meals. If it seems a little like sitting in church there is a reason. The seating and serving counter have both been salvaged from Crich Carr Chapel when it closed. Normally open daily please ring for details.
A contrasting walk through beautiful limestone country with superb views, crossing the isolated gritstone plateau of Stanton Moor, covered with its Bronze Age relics.
Stanton in the Peak cricket ground, passed on the walk, must be one of the prettiest in the country.