Above: This early 1900s OS map (click to enlarge) shows Upper Lodge lying at the junction of The Valentine and Long Hill. It’s very difficult to spot any sign of it today, amongst the thick undergrowth.

Above: This is the only photo I’ve managed to find showing Upper Lodge, which once sat at the top of The Valentine.

Upper Lodge

The photo at top left of the page was one of a collection lent to me back in 2010 when I first started this website by Gerald Hancock, author of Goyt Valley Romance. Gerald had written a caption on the reverse reading ‘The Bottom Lodge; Mrs Pickup kept a shop here.’

But after some research (click to view), it soon became obvious that this was in fact ‘Upper Lodge’. And judging from its design, would probably have been a gatehouse at the northern entrance to the Grimshawe’s Errwood Estate.

I’m not sure whether it was a shop at any time but it would have made an ideal spot, lying beside the main Buxton to Whaley Bridge Long Hill road (today’s A5004). And on the junction of The Valentine, the road that today leads down to the northern end of Fernilee Reservoir. This was once the main route for workers and traffic to and from Fernilee Gunpowder Mill;  the largest employer in the area.

Above: Click the ‘Now’ button to see where the lodge once lay – beside the junction of Long Hill and The Valentine.

There’s no record of a Pickup family in the census records below – although I only have them up to 1911. But Joyce Winfield mentions the Simpsons in her wonderful little book, ‘The Gunpowder Mills of Fernilee‘:

William Simpson, cousin of the Rev. Willie Simpson of Chinley Independent Chapel, came to the valley to work at the Powder Mills when he married Letitia Lomas. Their first proper home was Top Lodge, that tiny gatehouse built of dressed stone which used to guard the entrance to the Errwood estate, and there they stayed until 1937.

Life wasn’t easy bringing up three children without water, gas or electricity. Water had to be carried from the well across the road down through a trap door to the cellar-kitchen and clean washing carried back the same way to the line near the well. Fruit and vegetables – for which William won prizes – were grown on a piece of ground at the back until the Water Board took it from them.

Letitia Simpson had it hard from the beginning. Her father, John Lomas, had been a blacksmith in Sheen. When he died of a heart attack at 39, his wife, Rachel, pregnant with their fifth child, took the children and set off at 4.30 in the morning to find work at Burbage Laundry.

By washing blankets with a dolly tub, and peg working in the fields, Letitia supplemented Rachel’s income to a small degree. Enough only for food, so when the rent went unpaid the bailiffs took all but the table and chairs and the mattresses.

No bitterness followed these early hardships. No matter how little there was in the pantry, there was always a place at the table for a visitor, and a chalk cross on the well was the tramps’ sign that a meal would always be provided.

Census returns

Someone kindly sent me the census records for both Bottom Lodge and Top Lodge, but I’m afraid I can’t remember who it was. So apologies for not being able to include an acknowledgement. Whoever it was also added this note:

The names of the Lodges and their order in the returns change but they’re always recognisable. The 1901 returns seem to join them with Errwood Farm but I think that’s because they come after Errwood Farm on the return. They were definitely the lodges for Errwood Hall. The 1891, 1901 and 1911 returns give the number of rooms – four for Top Lodge in all returns, though for Bottom Lodge it’s three in 1891 and two in 1901 and 1911.

A few conclusions from this sample of 56 individuals in these two humble dwellings: Matthew Wilson and James Wilson were the sons of William Wilson, while George and William Lomas were brothers. I’m sure the Dranfields, Lowes and Simpsons could be fitted into the net as well. Nobody comes from much further afield than Chapel en le Frith.

Secondly, these may have been small cottages bursting at the seams with people in the 19th century, but the Goyt Valley was a fairly healthy place to live, probably because of a clean water supply. Thirdly, most if not all the children got at least a few years schooling, up to age 9. And finally, the males mostly depended on the gunpowder works and railway in the valley, or the bleach works in Whaley, for employment.

Photos of the ruins

Many thanks to James and his partner Merrill for sending these photos of the ruins of Upper Lodge taken in April 2022. Click on any to enlarge and use the arrows to scroll though.

SurnameFirst nameAgeRelationshipOccupationBirth place
1851 Census
1861 Census
WilsonWilliam47HeadGunpowder makerTaxal
WilsonJohn Thomas7 monthsSonFernilee
1871 Census
JodrellFrancis44HeadRailway LabourerFernilee
JodrellJoseph18SonRailway LabourerFernilee
JodrellJonathan16SonBleachworks LabourerFernilee
JodrellBenjamin14SonBleachworks LabourerFernilee
JodrellNancy Jane2 monthsDaughterFernilee
1881 Census
WilsonHannah40WifeWhaley, Cheshire
WilsonMary A.14DaughterCotton WeaverFernilee
WilsonJohn H.13SonBleachworks LabourerFernilee
WilsonAnna M.11DaughterScholarFernilee
WilsonSarah J.9DaughterScholarFernilee
1891 Census
DranfieldSamuel45HeadStoker Gunpowder WorksFernilee
DranfieldRaymond14SonCoal Mine WorkerFernilee
1901 Census
LoweRichard P.35HeadTeamster on FarmKettleshulme
LoweMary E.32WifeTaxal
LoweElizabeth A.4DaughterFernilee
LoweCharles22BrotherLabourer at Gunpowder MillRainow
LoweHerbert20BrotherLabourer at Gunpowder MillRainow
1911 Census
SimpsonWilliam42HeadCharcoal & Sulpher MillerDronfield