Above: The ruins of Withinleach Farm lie close to St Joseph’s Shrine (inset), beside the path leading from Errwood Hall.
The ruins of Withinleach Farm lie just a short distance from St. Joseph’s Shrine, the small circular building dedicated to the Spanish companion of Jessie Grimshawe. I’ve walked past them many times, but without taking much notice.
It was during my research into the stone circles below Foxlow Edge that I came across Chris Wilman’s Facebook group on ancient sites, landmarks and roads of the High Peak.
Chris pointed me towards a book published in 1810 – The Antiquities of Lyme and its Vicinity – which includes this intriguing entry:
Between Foxlow Edge and the Banks is a convexity containing the farm house, called Within Leach. Here are the signs of a most evident, ancient encampment…
I’ve looked in vain for the encampment described by the writer, William Marriott. Chris has identified a hollow which may be the ‘convexity’. But it would take an archeological excavation to uncover what now lies hidden deep beneath the thick, marshy vegetation.
This fade shows Withinleach Farm on an 1880s map, and the landscape today. It looks a fairly substantial set of buildings. But they may be ruins at this time as the farm isn’t named on the map. So I find it a bit of a mystery; why it was abandoned, and when.
Gerald Hancock briefly mentions the farmhouse in his ‘Goyt Valley Romance’, saying it was last occupied in 1835 by one of the Hibbert family. And Mike has managed to find an entry in the Cheshire Land Tax Records which confirms that William Hibbert was occupying the farm in 1826.
A commemorative plaque inside the shrine shows it was built in 1889. Gerald says this tranquil spot, just a few yards from a stream, was a favourite place of prayer and contemplation for Dolores de Ybarguen, Jessie Grimshawe’s Spanish companion.
The Grimshawes would have known that an ancient settlement was once discovered here. And it does seem a very special spot. Which perhaps explains why the shrine was built here. But not why the farm was abandoned.
It’s yet another Goyt Valley mystery, which will possibly never be solved. But that’s what I find so fascinating about this unique landscape.
Page update: 25.9.19
Bill Brocklehurst, whose family farmed in the Goyt Valley for generations, told me that the buildings at Withinleach were used as a barn and shippon by the Grimshawes.
About half-a-dozen calves would have been tethered in the shippon, and fed with hay and silage from the barn. There was another very similar barn and shippon at Calfhay, close to Nook Farm.