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Places Pevsner Forgot III – Froggatt & Bretton

Places Pevsner Forgot III – Froggatt & Bretton

There have to be places that Sir Niklaus Pevsner omitted simply because the buildings there were not really worthy of record, but whilst one could not really say that about Froggatt, with Bretton it is different, for there are precious few buildings there in any case, but, like Aston and Thornhill, the scenery is electrifying. That said, there is not exactly a superfluity of buildings in Froggatt, either, hence the necessity of taking both together although, unlike Aston and Thornhill, they are not contiguous. Bretton lies half way up the ridge behind Eyam, whilst Froggatt is on the east side of the Derwent some three miles to the east of Bretton as the crow flies, but a deal further by car.

Visiting Froggatt, which lies a couple of pastures east of the Derwent and overhung by the spectacularly craggy millstone grit Froggatt Edge, is best done by beginning at the lowest point.

There are two ways of approaching the village, both equally rewarding. One is to take the A625 Sheffield road from Calver. One crosses the Derwent on a highish bridge over a miniature gorge, passing a grade II listed toll cottage and, having done so, one takes the next turning left, Froggatt Lane north into the village. The alternative is to drive up the B6001 Hope road from Calver up through a couple of turns until you meet the first tight turn, Stoke Lane. This gives one a splendid view of the exquisitely restored Stoke Hall, once the seat of the Simpson family, designed by James Payne no less, with help from James Booth, the gifted Stoney Middleton builder who contrived the octagonal church there.

This lane takes one to a delightful 18th century stone bridge over the river (probably also the work of Booth and also grade II listed) which we cross and, in a short while, one arrives at a T-junction at which a left turn will bring you into Hollowgate, where both access routes converge. We left the car near the junction of Hollowgate with Spooner Lane, which runs level northwards, and Moorlands Lane, which diverges to your left and climbs.

The cluster of mainly 18th century stone built cottages here make a delightful ensemble, and we were struck by the fact that the least pretentious, standing just by the junction, was a Wesleyan Reform Chapel no less, and indeed, its sheer undemonstrative charm seemed to us wholly appropriate. It bears the date 1832, but as the Methodist Reform movement was only formed in 1859 by a group which broke away from mainstream Methodism a decade earlier, the little building either began life as a barn or similar, or began life as a mainstream Wesleyan chapel. 

Adjoining it was (presumably) the former Manse, very early 19th century, with a pair of listed seventeenth century cottages beyond, whilst opposite, on the inside of the junction, stands eighteenth century Rose Cottage (also Listed Grade II), the giveaway being the unmoulded stone mullions to the windows. There are six or seven stone built cottages on the east side of Spooner Lane, too, which add charm to the ensemble at this point. However, we chose not to pursue this lane as it peters out in water meadows slightly further north, but instead turned up Moorlands Lane.

This lane ascends through a number of gentle curves towards a junction with the Sheffield Road, well above the main village. It is delightfully bosky and affords excellent views of the valley, although most of the houses are 20th century ones. Whilst few are of any real pretension (and so would not have detained Sir Niklaus), they are all sequestered, and no doubt pretty expensive to buy for the punters from Sheffield, too which, one has to remember, is within commuting distance. 

The Wesley Reform Chapel 1832

The one house that did attract our attention was Frog Hall, a late Victorian stone-built villa superbly positioned overlooking the valley to the west but its façade largely obscured by a lush growth of creeper. The name seemed rather unlikely, and indeed, I recalled that I had a postcard of it, when it was relatively new, captioned The Moorlands, hence, of course the name of the lane (or vice versa); re-naming it so whimsically seemed to us a bit of a shame, really. 

Architecturally, it is Jacobethan in style with one section breaking forward, well furnished with mullioned windows and sprouting a cluster of diamond stacks on top, which the postcard shows were originally crowned by long salt-glazed cylindrical pots, now removed. Whilst it might be the work of a Sheffield architect, it may really be the work of a local firm, like John and Samuel Fletcher, father and son, builders and masons based in the village at this time and armed with a pattern book. We were amazed to find it unlisted but felt sure that Pevsner would have enjoyed critiquing it!

The house was probably built for Harvey Foster, who was certainly in residence when the postcard was sent (confirmed by the directory for 1908); we imagine that he was possibly a Sheffield businessman. If so, he had died or moved away by 1926, when it became the home of the widow of Chesterfield manufacturer Charles Paxton Markham JP DL (1865-1926), Frances Margaret, née Nunneley. He had divorced his first wife and married her in 1925, but had barely survived a year before the excitement became too much for him. His younger brother Arthur survived to be made a baronet in 1931. By 1932 though, one Brian Cooke was living there and remained there at least until the war.

We reached the top and turned hard right onto the main road, and were pleased to be able to descend, past the end of The Green, a pleasant if vertiginous street (ending as a path) running up from the village, before coming to rest at The Chequers inn, occupying a pleasant row of varied 18th century cottages on the east side of the road, with the woods below Froggatt Edge virtually hanging over it. This we found ideal for a pick-me-up, after which we resumed our downward path, noting the elegant listed Georgian house next to the pub (of which it seems it is now a part): three wide bays, two storeys, with an arched upper central window (with odd glazing bars, probably later) above the door with its bracketed entablature. One window had suffered the removal of its central mullion and an extraordinarily wide sash substituted. 

From the Sheffield road, which we found a trifle busy (inevitably) we discovered a track which led down beck through some woods to Froggatt Lane onto which we turned north and reached Hollowgate and thus the chariot, satisfied that Sir Niklaus would without doubt have noted at least the Chapel and The Moorlands, had he actually visited.  Now, however, we were ready to try our luck at Bretton.  

To reach Bretton, one can either take the A623 from Calver and turn north to Foolow, or from Froggatt, perhaps a trifle more enjoyably, cross back to Stoke Lane, turn right onto the B6001 and left up Sir William Hill (Road) at Grindleford. This then takes one up, up and away along Bretton Edge, Eyam Moor, past the trig point that marked Sir William Hill itself (named after one or other of the Cavendish Earls of Devonshire prior to succeeding the title), and thence slightly down into Bretton.

Froggatt: Bottom of Moorlands Lane

To be clear (as they say): there is no village at Bretton but, all is not lost, for the famed Barrell inn sits beside the road facing south giving heart-stoppingly broad views across the country-side towards Eyam, visible half left with the Derwent Valley beyond. The building is probably 17th century at its core, and has an amusingly undulating roofline, but the fenestration is all unmoulded mullions and architrave surrounds, so one would suspect a pretty comprehensive eighteenth century rebuild. Then, in the 19th century, a short cross-wing was added at the west end, awkwardly a little taller than the rest and harled over, suggesting it was built after the railway came and is brick beneath the render. Had it been built of local stone, the harling would have been un-necessary. There is a railway from which the brick could have been fetched either at Hope to the north or Great Longstone to the south.

Oh, and the pub! A complete delight; much against our will we felt obliged to refresh ourselves there and the weather being incomparable were inclined to desport ourselves on chairs on the south side of the road, the better to enjoy the view but discovered that the next door farm’s septic tank lay fifty yards below us in the field and was that afternoon in olfactorily overdrive mode (and the breeze from the south!), so we remained in the well timbered interior. After all, like all good pubs, it has rooms, much lacking in such places these days. Usually, it’s the impossibility of obtaining listed building consent to remove interior walls in pubs (so CCTV can keep an eye on the local roustabouts) that keeps inns like The Barrell so cosy but in the case of Bretton, I discovered that there were no listed buildings at all. The apparent antiquity of the pub (it claims a 1597 origin, being set on a packhorse road) and the slightly later (perhaps eighteenth century but much ‘improved’) stone-built Bretton Cottage beside it remain technically vulnerable to ‘improvers’.

Apart from some scattered farms of no real architectural pretension, that’s it. A splendid walk can be had by taking the lane northwards beside the Barrell, well chronicled in Country Images for December 2017, but for us, we’d seen enough to convince us that Pevsner probably missed Bretton too, as we felt that he might well have remarked upon the inn, if nothing else, had he seen it. 

The great thing was, that we didn’t!


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