Above: The architect’s sketch of Errwood Hall, produced for Samuel Grimshawe in the early 1830s.
Goyt Valley by Roly Smith part 2
Part 2 of ‘Goyt Valley’, a concise natural and social history of the valley. Click here to read part 1.
Before the Flood
The derivation of the valley’s name is unsure. In Royal Forest proceedings dated 1285, the river was known as Gwid or Gwyth. This corresponds with the Welsh ‘gwyth’ for channel, conduit or vein, but this connection is now considered doubtful. Whatever its true origin, it appears to have been associated with the once-common Derbyshire dialect word or ‘goit’ for stream or watercourse from the Old English ‘gota’ for a watercourse.
A walk down the length of the valley from the A.537 Buxton – Macclesfield road is a walk back in time. Starting from the Cat and Fiddle Inn, at 1,690 feet the second highest in England, you can trace the fascinating history of this secluded vale from the clues left for the discerning eye.
Cat and Fiddle Inn
The Cat and Fiddle, a landmark of light on the bleak moorland road, is not an early building. It is thought to have been erected early in the 19th century by John Ryle, a Macclesfield banker.
Many suggestions have been made to explain the odd name. It is not thougnt to have a direct connection with the ‘Hey, Diddle Diddle’ nursery rhyme, but may have been named after a photograph of a cat and fiddle given by the Sixth Duke of Devonshire to the landlord in 1857.
Derbyshire Bridge, a narrow, gritstone structure at the head of the valley, gets its name from the fact that the Cheshire/Derbyshire border once followed the line of the River Goyt. There is now a Ranger briefing centre, information point and car park near the bridge.
Remains of coal mines, an important source of energy and employment at one time, can be seen in the Goyts Moss — Derbyshire Bridge area. But the coal was of poor quality and mixed with shale and was chiefly mined by farmers in the 1800’s and early 1900’s for domestic use.
Following the road down the valley to Goytsclough Quarry you soon see the old packhorse bridge spanning the river to the right of the road. This was once used by salt smugglers from Cheshire, intent on avoiding the Salt Tax, but in those days it was situated in the now drowned hamlet of Goyt’s bridge.
On the opposite side of the road is the Goytsclough Quarry, the unlikely birth place of the giant Pickford’s removal company. The gritstone quarry was first worked by Thomas Pickford in 1670. His estate had been confiscated by Cromwell, so Pickford turned to road mending. Nothing remains today of the huge water wheel which used to crush the stone. In its day, it was reputed to be the world’s largest.
The stone was first quarried for pavements in Macclesfield, but after a few years, Thomas Pickford was transporting gritstone slabs to pave the streets of London. The flagstones were carried in panniers by packhorses which travelled in teams of 40 or 50. Pickford realised it was uneconomic for the panniers to return empty, so he arranged to carry and distribute goods on the return journey to people in neighbouring villages.
Gradually his business diversified, as he dealt increasingly in merchandise and less in stone. Later still, the business, still using the packhorse as its emblem, developed into the largest removal and storage company in Britain.
Goytsclough Paint Factory
The ruined remains of a number of cottages and some earth works around the stream that flows from Deep Clough near Goytsclough Quarry are all that remains of the Goytsclough paint-making factory. At the height of its activity in the 1890’s the factory employed 22 people.
It used barytes from Ladmanlow in the manufacture of the paint, which was crushed and the powder bagged and loaded onto the Cromford and High Peak Railway to become a constituent in paint-making.
Errwood Hall and the Grimshawes
Today the majestic ruins of Errwood Hall still bear witness to the size and past grandeur of this solid Victorian mansion. The hall was built in 1830 by Samuel Grimshawe, founder of a Catholic family which was to dominate the life of the valley for nearly a century.
The family lived in great style and entertained, especially during the grouse shooting season, on a grand scale. The estate, which boasted 40,000 rhododendron and azalea shrubs, even had its own coal mine.
The school was run by Miss Dolores de Bergrin, a Spanish aristocrat, who was the personal companion of Mrs. Grimshawe, towards the end of the last century.
Miss Dolores was greatly loved, not only by the Grimshawes, but by the whole estate, and when she died in her middle forties, the Grimshawes built a tiny shrine to her memory on the moorland not far from The Street. Fresh flowers are still placed on the small altar inside, to this day.
Other graves of members of the Errwood Estate are found in the family burial ground, on a prominent hill top above ‘the Hall. One recalls Captain John Butler of the Grimshawe’s private ocean-going yacht, ‘Mariquita’.
The Grimshawes, according to an early guide book, ‘lived in the style of foreign princes with a large household of foreign servants’. But now the glory that was Errwood is faded, and the house was reduced to a ruin when the Fernilee Reservoir was built in 1938.
Chilworth Gunpowder Factory
The peace of the Goyt Valley was shattered during the afternoon of August 12th, 1909, when a terrific explosion shattered the air. It came from the Chilworth Gunpowder Factory, now beneath the placid waters of the Fernilee Reservoir, and resulted in the death of three workers.
According to local tradition, there had been a gunpowder factory in the Goyt since the 16th century, when it is said, powder was supplied for use against the Spanish Armada. The Chilworth factory employed 120 men just before the First World War, and on that summer afternoon in 1909, Joseph Hill (aged 32) George Raven (26) and Percy Southern (18) were the only men working in the corning house.
Hill was killed instantly, Raven, thrown on to the far bank of the river, died in Buxton Hospital three days later, as did Southern, from his injuries. The ‘Inspector of Explosives’ concluded that a foreign body, possibly metallic, had caused the fatal blast.
Cromford and High Peak Railway
One of the country’s earliest railways, the Cromford and High Peak, followed what is now the eastern side of the Fernilee Reservoir, climbing out of the valley at Bunsal Cob.
Built by Josiah Jessop and opened at a cost of £200,000, in 1830, the railway was 32 miles long and linked the Cromford Canal with the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. Passenger services were withdrawn in 1877 after a fatal accident.
Trucks were hauled on the single track by horses where it was level. On steep inclines, like at Bunsal Cob, the train was hauled up by steam engine. Three loaded wagons were towed down and six empty ones pulled up, the engine acting as a regulator to check the chain of wagons.
The road from Bunsal Cob to Goyt’s Lane follows the line of this old railway and gives a clear impression of the incline. The small reservoir near the Goyt’s Lane car park was used to provide water for one of the steam engines, and there was another at the bottom of the incline.
Present day visitors to the Goyt Valley can have little idea of the sylvan scene which once existed in the northern end of the valley, but which now lies beneath the calm waters of the twin reservoirs of Fernilee and Errwood.
The first to be constructed was the Fernilee, at the northern, lower end of the valley. It was built in 1938 by the Stockport Corporation Water Undertaking, under an Act of Parliament which also authorised a second reservoir (i.e. Errwood).
It is the larger of the two, with a capacity of 1,087 million gallons, and cost £480,000 to build.
In 1964, planning approval was given for the second reservoir, Errwood, to be built just upstream from Fernilee. Three and a half years, and £14 million later, it was completed and filled to its capacity of 927 million gallons.
Water for the reservoirs comes from a catchment area covering 3,806 acres. Errwood is linked to Fernilee by overflow tunnels beneath the dam. The water stored in the reservoirs is drawn off to treatment works further down the valley before entering the mains supply at an average rate of seven to eight million gallons a day.
Sailing and fishing clubs are based on the 78-acre Errwood Reservoir, proving that such developments can have a dual use, providing recreation on one hand, and a water supply to thousands on the other.
The Traffic Scheme
The Goyt Valley traffic scheme is an exercise in managing the countryside for the benefit of all concerned, whether they be motorists, walkers, farmers or foresters.
On summer weekends non-essential traffic is banned on the main valley road between The Street and Derbyshire Bridge. This allows visitors to leave their cars and walk along the traffic-free roads or use the specially provided mini-buses to better appreciate the beauty of the valley.
Special facilities have been provided by the National Park Authority to help people enjoy their visit to the valley. These include waymarked walks, a nature trail and picnic areas adjoining the car parks.
A full-time ranger is based in the area and works in close liaison with local farmers, landowners and visitors. He is assisted at weekends by part-time rangers who are also there to help the visitor get the fullest benefit from his stay. Further details are available in the free Goyt Valley Traffic Scheme leaflet, available from the National Park Office or Information Centres.
Reproduced with permission. Published by the Peak National Park. Written by Roland Smith, research by Simon Stables, Information Group. ISBN No. 0.901428 299.