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Glossop & Old Glossop

Glossop & Old Glossop

Like Hope, Hathersage and Chapel-en-le-Frith, Glossop was once a vast parish of over 50,000 acres, subsequently subdivided, covering the hills of the western Dark Peak. In 1086 it was part of an even larger entity, the lordship of Longendale, held directly by the king, and it remained as such except for a brief period under Henry I when it was granted to William Peveril. After the Anarchy however, Henry II gave it to the Cistercian Abbey of Basingwerk, Flints (now Clwyd) and they held it until the Dissolution. As a result, Henry VIII granted it to Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury and it remained largely with his descendants, the Talbots and the FitzAlan-Howards, Dukes of Norfolk, until the twentieth century.

Old Glossop sits on a south facing hillside, and originated in the medieval period. The modern town, initially Howard Town, later New Glossop and now just Glossop, was created around cotton mills in the early 19th century through the encouragement of the FitzAlan-Howards (whose coat-of-arms can be seen all over the place) and lies further down, occupying the valley.

The name, according to modern reference books, derives from the Anglo-Saxon hop(e) (= valley), suffixed to the notional Saxon name of ‘Glott’ (in the genitive, hence an additional ‘s’), thus ‘Glott’s valley’. However, these references invariably prefix the name with an asterisk, which means it has been deduced by academics from the name’s earliest forms but is unattested by any known personage bearing it. Bearing in mind that the area probably remained under British control until near the end of the seventh century, one might propose a British origin for the first element, like Glôg (= a rock or knoll, appropriate enough hereabouts) or the well- attested British personal name Glywys, with the Saxon suffix added. Such hybrid place names are not uncommon, especially in the North and West and more are being admitted as research is re-defined.

Such arcana did not affect our visit on a blazing hot day. Old Glossop is a total delight, and once was centered on the hall, latterly a vast, rather unlovely mansion, demolished by the Council in 1959 (see Country Images May 2018). This lay quite close to the church of All Saints, with a fine park rolling down the hillside. The church itself is an ancient one, and quite substantial, but has suffered numerous rebuildings – no less than five since the beginning of the 19th century, leaving little of the original 12th century church. 

Glossop town Hall from Norfolk Square

We actually began beside the stump of the medieval churchyard cross, rather neglected looking, on the south side, by walking up from the church past the former church primary school of 1854 by Matthew Ellison Hadfield (1812-1885), a Glossop man, son of the Dukes’ local agent, Joseph, who, through the patronage of the Howards rose to eminence as an architect here and then in Sheffield as Weightman & Hadfield. He designed much of the new town of Glossop. The school is remarkably substantial, and was converted into several spacious houses three years ago, winning an award. 

We pressed on past up to the upper road, Church Lane continuing NW until we reached ‘the opposition,’ as one elderly local called it, the splendid late Regency Catholic church (also dedicated to All Saints) by M. E. Hadfield of 1836, although it looks almost earlier, with its neat classical villa of a presbytery beside it. It was the private chapel of the (staunchly) Catholic Dukes of Norfolk until 1925, despite the hall also having had an attached chapel. 

We then pressed on along Church Terrace until we reached the main (Woodhead) road, where we turned left down the hill into Glossop proper. Woodhead Road morphs into Norfolk Street, and for half a mile one passes through a leafy suburb with houses either side ranging from late Victorian to inter-war.

Further down, things change: opposite the corner of Kent Road is a pair of stone built houses, very pretty, in an unexpected cottage orné style, followed by a substantial mid-Victorian terrace, with further terraces beyond on both sides. This continues for another country half-mile until suddenly the descent steepens and the road widens. On the right is the very striking Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway’s classical station of 1847 (by the omnipresent Hadfield, naturellement). The noble lion crest of the Howards atop the parapet attests to the fact that the 13th Duke personally paid for the one mile branch line from Dinting that terminates at the rather grand station itself. The line (later the Great Central, then 1923-1948, the LNER) is today still operating and long electrified.

Old Glossop: The Bull’s Head

Opposite the station a very tall sub-Jacobean Conservative club of 1909 with a first floor angle gallery upheld by a stumpy fat column with stiff leaf capital. Further down, on the corner of High Street, we found the early Victorian Norfolk Arms Hotel, very welcoming, where we paused for much needed sustenance.

This, essentially, is the grandly planned centre of Howard Town, later (New) Glossop. We proceeded along Henry Street to Norfolk Square behind the pub, where Tesco have tactfully adapted the station’s good shed, and passed, on our right, an Italianate building, now shops, and a hidden Masonic Hall, its modest entrance amidst a stone residential terrace looking almost furtive in its discretion but, from the notices advertising the availability of a large hall for weddings, funerals and bah-mitzvahs (as it were), we deduced that behind lay an edifice of noble proportions, invisible to us. 

Opposite lay sloping Norfolk Square itself bosky and with elegant buildings in the usual honey-coloured Dark Peak millstone grit on all sides. The NE corner is host to a tall Jacobean Liberal Club of 1914 by Paul Ogden, with blue plaque honouring Hon. Mrs. Mary Partington MBE a philanthropic ex-Mayor of the town and daughter-in-law of the largest employer in the Borough, Edward, 1st Lord Doverdale). Beside it is a splendidly Belle Epoque war memorial in bronze with winged victory (by Vernon March of Hadfield’s old practice) and an interwar Classical range to the west. The view is closed off by the Town Hall of 1838 (Matthew Hadfield again) rather good, with a loggia to the street and a grand façade well behind to the south overlooking a useful car-park.

Looking west along High Street (where there is much more to see, but which we forbore to explore through time constraints) one can see in the distance the monumental bulk of the Wren Nest Mill (1815-1839) now flats with retail below. We, however, made a brief foray along in front of the grand pedimented interwar Post Office in Victoria Street to admire the south front of the town hall complex (alas, covered in scaffolding) and the enormous Howard Town Mill, with its classical lodges and towering bulk, now a no-frills hotel and retail complex.

That done, we turned east along High Street East (Sheffield Road) where, after another half mile of stone terraced houses, built by the Howards and their entrepreneurial cotton mill proprietors for their burgeoning workforce, we reached a roundabout. 

Here we turned off north up Corn Street, which leads straight into the lower part of Manor Park, once the parkland of the hall. This enabled us to enjoy what is really a quite large and verdant urban paradise which we crossed via the side of the lake, over the brook and out into Manor Park Road. Here we were faced by a pair of Wesleyan Chapels. A largish one of conventional formal type dated 1860 and designed by the minister, Revd. Benjamin Frankland, alongside a smaller, earlier more vernacular version of 1836, now a retail outlet.    

We pressed on up Manor Park Road, bringing us back into Old Glossop, passing the park on our left and on our right, houses of increasing vintage, with one good Regency villa amidst them, set back behind a wall and railings. We speculated that it was perhaps originally the home of the Dukes’ agent, although Hadfield’s father, had lived out of town at Lees Hall. At the corner of Shepley Street stands the Queen’s Arms, a three storey late Regency corner pub, its sides chamfered to allow traffic past, with a rather grand former Co-op behind, on Church Lane with a gable-end tablet carved with a beehive (for industry) and the date 1908. We re-passed the church’s fine cast iron gates, and a little further up on the right Old Cross, a sort of shrunken and attenuated Medieval market area, now enclosed by old stone cottages.

Looking (and walking) up the street, provided us with a classic view, the village’s more pretentious houses being on the east side, including a particularly fine double gabled house (No. 36) just below the corner of Well Gate and a slightly earlier simpler one adjacent. Reaching the top, we could enjoy the raised pavement and 18th century cottages of the part of Church Street above the parish church and before us, the welcoming sight of the Wheatsheaf inn (18th or early 19th century) and, to its left on Church Street, corner of Dunne Lane, the Bull’s Head (late 17th century). Spoilt for choice, we walked around behind the two inns, via Dunne Lane, Blackshaw Road, and the more picturesque Thorpe Street, bringing us back along the raised pavement to seek further refreshment in the Bull’s Head – very pleasant indeed with actual rooms, as inns should be, not gutted to take CCTV surveillance. 

The view down Church Lane falling away virtually from the inn’s steps is one of the finest sights in Derbyshire on a fine day like ours, and although the journey was lengthy (and with some somewhat boring sections between the two settlements going down and prior to reaching Manor Park), the whole place was full of excellent building and things of interest. 

NB: For the less energetic, go by car, park off Victoria Street in New Town opposite the Jury’s Inn, walk that section, then drive up to Old Glossop via Manor Park Road, park in the Wheatsheaf’s car park and, having made your peace with the landlord, enjoy this delightful old settlement at leisure.


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