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Peak District Towns and Villages: New Mills Heritage Centre and Torrs Riverside Park

Villages around New Mills Heritage Centre and Torrs Riverside Park


Modern Chinley is a large busy village with many stone-built Victorian buildings. It is situated just on the western edge of the Peak District National Park. It is a good base for exploration of the western side of the Peak District and for walks up onto Kinder and its outlying hills.

View of Chinley and Cracken Edge
View of Chinley and Cracken Edge
The area around the village was part of the Royal Forest of the Peak and there was probably little but a few isolated farms here until the 17th century. The oldest building in the area is the Elizabethan hall built at the nearby hamlet of Whitehough by the Kyrke family at the end of the 16th century and now the Old Hall Inn, but some farms along Stubbins Lane are also quite old and in 1711 Charles Wesley was entertained at Chinley End Farm, which still stands in Lower Lane.

In fact Wesley was a regular visitor here and preached often at nearby Chapel Milton, for the area was a hotbed of early Nonconformism. Perhaps one reason why he came was because Chinley was also the home of Grace Murray (later the wife of Charles Bennet, another famous preacher), who is said to be the only woman Wesley loved and would have wished to marry.

The New Chapel
The New Chapel
The industrial revolution came to the Chinley area and brought the construction of three mills along the Blackbrook which runs through the village. These were followed in 1799 by the Peak Forest tramway, a crude railway which used horse-drawn wagons to carry stone from the quarries at Dove Holes to the canal at nearby Bugsworth basin. The arrival of the railway in 1867 and its later extension in 1901 to carry trains to Sheffield saw Chinley grow rapidly and in the early years of the 20th century it was an important railway junction and a regular stopping-point for trainloads of ramblers at weekends. The modern village contains many houses from this era, built out of stone quarried from nearby Cracken Edge for wealthy commuters who took the train to Manchester every morning. The railway is still an important connection from Chinley to the wider rail network.

The centre of the village has some shops and there is a pub at nearby Whitehough. Chinley is beautifully situated with plenty of walking close at hand and a walk up Chinley Churn or Cracken Edge gives an excellent view across the area.

Chinley Chapel
0 - Chinley Chapel
Chinley Chapel interior
1 - Chinley Chapel interior
Chapel-en-le-Frith church
2 - Chapel-en-le-Frith church
Chapel-en-le-Frith cottages
3 - Chapel-en-le-Frith cottages
Chapel-en-le-Frith market cross
4 - Chapel-en-le-Frith market cross
Chapel-en-le-Frith stocks
5 - Chapel-en-le-Frith stocks
Chapel-en-le-Frith Hearse House
6 - Chapel-en-le-Frith Hearse House
Chinley Farm
7 - Chinley Farm
Chinley with Cracken Edge behind
8 - Chinley with Cracken Edge behind
Chinley - Whitehough Old Hall
9 - Chinley - Whitehough Old Hall
Chinley shops
10 - Chinley shops
Combs and Combs Edge view from Eccles Pike
11 - Combs and Combs Edge view from Eccles Pike
Chinley and Chinley Churn from Eccles Pike
12 - Chinley and Chinley Churn from Eccles Pike
Chapel-en-le-Frith from Eccles Pike
13 - Chapel-en-le-Frith from Eccles Pike


Overlooked by Kinder Scout, Hayfield is an old village which was once a staging post on the pack-horse route across the Pennines from Cheshire to Yorkshire. The old pack-horse route went from here the up the Sett valley and over the watershed at Edale Cross (where the old stump of a cross still exists) and descended Jacob's Ladder into Edale. The age of the settlement can be seen from the old cottages which survive around the centre of the old village, and some of the farms around here date from the late 17th century.

Hayfield cottages
Hayfield cottages
In the 19th century cotton arrived followed by the railway and Hayfield grew enormously so it now straggles down the Sett valley and merges into Birch Vale and New Mills. However the old centre of the village, to the east of the main road which cuts the village in two, is really quite charming, with a fine church and lots of old cottages. It is also packed with amenities for the visitor with pubs, shops and cafes.

Hayfield view
Hayfield view
The main importance of Hayfield for the visitor is that it is the gateway to the west side of Kinder and the narrow road which leads off the side of the Royal Hotel takes you in that direction. On the way it passes another pub, the Sportsman, before arriving at Bowden Bridge quarry, the starting point for the famous 'Mass Trespass' and now a car park with public toilets and a small Peak Park camp site opposite.

The road to Glossop takes you via Little Hayfield, a small hamlet about 1km north of the main village. The mill here survives, though it has been converted into flats, and the pub here is called The Lantern Pike after the sharply pointed hill which overshadows the place. It's well worth an ascent - the view is excellent.

Kinder Scout from Hayfield reservoir
0 - Kinder Scout from Hayfield reservoir
Hayfield from Mount Famine
1 - Hayfield from Mount Famine
Hayfield view from Hollinworth Head
2 - Hayfield view from Hollinworth Head
Hayfield cottages alongside the River Sett
3 - Hayfield cottages alongside the River Sett
Hayfield - mass trespass plaque
4 - Hayfield - mass trespass plaque
New Mills view from Ollersett Moor
5 - New Mills view from Ollersett Moor
Birch Vale print workers cottages
6 - Birch Vale print workers cottages
Hayfield from Lantern Pike
7 - Hayfield from Lantern Pike
Little Hayfield and Kinder Scout from Lantern Pike
8 - Little Hayfield and Kinder Scout from Lantern Pike
Hayfield War Memorial and Royal Inn
9 - Hayfield War Memorial and Royal Inn

New Mills

New Mills is a former mill town which formed at the junction of the Rivers Goyt and Sett. It is located just outside the Peak District National Park and just inside the western boundary of Derbyshire. The town comprises several districts which merge into a conurbation - New Mills itself, Ollersett, Newtown and Low Leighton. Further up the Sett Valley are Thornsett and Birch Vale, which are separated from New Mills by some green spaces.

The whole area once formed part of the Royal Forest of the Peak and had a number of small scattered hamlets. The name 'New Mills' was first recorded in 1391 to refer to a corn mill on the River Goyt and by the 16th century this was in common usage as the name for the area around the hamlets of Beard, Ollersett, Thornsett and Whitle.

New Mills Torrs
New Mills Torrs
Where the Sett joins the Goyt is an area of hard sandstone called Woodhead Hill rock, and the combined river has carved a spectacular gorge, called The Torrs, 30m deep. The river offered ample water power to early industrialists and from the 1780s onwards a series of cotton mills were constructed alongside the river. The first of these was Torr Vale Mill, which still stands and only closed in 2000, having been used continuously for over 200 years. The ruins of several other mills can be seen in the gorge.

To service the new industries communications were improved, starting with the Peak Forest Canal, which was constructed between 1794 and 1804, linking the town with Manchester. In the 1860s the arrival of the London and North Western line between Manchester and Buxton saw New Mills Newtown station constructed, followed soon after by the Midland Railway between Manchester and London which created New Mills Central station. Both of these lines are still operational but the branch line between New Mills Central and Hayfield has closed and is now the Sett Valley Trail.

Until the 19th century New Mills was virtually cut in two by the deep gorge of the Goyt and the only crossing involved a tortuous descent down to a bridge just above the river level, followed by an equally hard ascent the other side. Church Road bridge was constructed in 1835 to carry the turnpike road from Newtown to Thornsett across the river, but this only partially solved the
Union Road Bridge
Union Road Bridge
problem, so in 1884 the 94 foot (29m) high Union Road Bridge was constructed across the centre of the gorge. Viewed from river level it looks very impressive and was constructed out of the rock from The Torrs itself.

Coal mining and printing were other local industries. The standard method of using engraving to print calico was invented in New Mills in 1821 and a large printing works was constructed at Thornsett. Poor quality coal was mined at several sites on the local moors, notably Ollersett Moor. These mines thrived in the 19th century and had all closed by the First World War, though some small-scale mining continued sporadically until 1947.

Modern New Mills looks like a typical mill town, perhaps owing more to Lancashire than Derbyshire, with the centre a warren of narrow streets and stone-built cottages. The town's post-industrial decline has been somewhat compensated for in it's growth as a home for Manchester commuters and there have been a lot of new houses built. A range of local industry still thrives - one former mill makes Swizzels 'Love Hearts' sweets, and other firms are involved in engineering, quarrying, textiles and computer software.

Recent developments include the opening of the stunning 'Millenium Walkway' above the Goyt and the Torrs Hydro - a community owned and funded hydropower scheme.

New Mills Main Street
0 - New Mills Main Street
New Mills Torrs and Union Road Bridge
1 - New Mills Torrs and Union Road Bridge
New Mills Torrs - the Millenium Walkway
2 - New Mills Torrs - the Millenium Walkway
New Mills Torrs - Union Road Bridge and the Hydro
3 - New Mills Torrs - Union Road Bridge and the Hydro
New Mills Town Hall
4 - New Mills Town Hall
Birch Vale print workers cottages
5 - Birch Vale print workers cottages


Rowarth is a tiny village situated high on the hillside above New Mills in the north west of the Peak District, though it is most easily reached from Mellor or Marple Bridge as the roads from New Mills are rather circuitous.

The village dates essentially from the 1780s, when at least six watermills were constructed along the stream which runs through here. The mills span cotton or made candlewick and some operated until the early 20th century. Their legacy is some pretty stone-built workers' cottages in the centre of the village, plus Atherton House (dated 1787), which was a mill-owner's house, and the Little Mill Inn, a former mill which is now a pub.

Alongside the Little Mill Inn is a working waterwheel, which is usually turning. The original (and the building which housed it) was destroyed by a great flood in 1930, and the current wheel is a reconstruction.

About 2km to the north is Cown Edge, with fine views over Glossop and Manchester and best accessed from the A624 Hayfield-Glossop road, and just to the west of this is Robin Hood's Picking Rods - an enigmatic pair of dressed stones set in a crude stone base. Nobody has any clear idea what this monument is but the stones bear some similarities to the Bowstones above Lyme Park and to Cleulow Cross in Cheshire, which are Mercian or Norse boundary stones or crosses, so the Picking Rods could be something similar.

Between Rowarth and Hayfield is Lantern Pike, a prominent hill now in the ownership of the National Trust. This offers an excellent viewpoint over the Sett Valley, Hayfield, Kinder Scout and northwards.

Hayfield view from Hollinworth Head
0 - Hayfield view from Hollinworth Head
Hayfield cottages alongside the River Sett
1 - Hayfield cottages alongside the River Sett
Robin Hoods Picking Rods near Cown Edge
2 - Robin Hoods Picking Rods near Cown Edge
Hayfield from Lantern Pike
3 - Hayfield from Lantern Pike
Little Hayfield and Kinder Scout from Lantern Pike
4 - Little Hayfield and Kinder Scout from Lantern Pike
5 - Rowarth
Rowarth - restored mill wheel
6 - Rowarth - restored mill wheel

Whaley Bridge

Whaley Bridge is a former mill village centred around the River Goyt, which runs through the village. Until recently the village was dominated by a dyeworks, which provided the main local employment but this closed in the late 1990s.

Whaley Bridge first came to prominence as the terminus of the High Peak Canal - built at the end of the 18th century to carry limestone from the quarries above Chapel-en-le-Frith to Manchester and beyond. This was originally serviced by the High Peak Tramway - a primitive railway built in the 1780s which linked the quarries at Dove Holes with the main canal basin at nearby Buxworth. The Tramway was an interesting piece of engineering, comprising several fairly level sections with steep 'inclined planes' in between them. Horses pulled wagons full of stone along the level sections, and on the inclined planes there were stationary steam engines to haul the wagons up and down.

The Cromford and High Peak Railway opened in 1830 and linked Whaley Bridge with Buxton and then across the White Peak to Cromford. This unique railway crossed some formidable terrain with steep inclines and used a mixture of stationary engines hauling wagons up steep inclines, like that at High peak Junction south of Cromford, with normal sections of railway track in between. Rather similar in principle to the earlier High Peak Tramway.

The railway brought stone from the quarries above Buxton down to the canal at Whaley Bridge but turned out not to be viable so it shut before the end of the 19th century.

The railway linking Buxton to Manchester was constructed in the 1870s and passed through Whaley Bridge, bringing improved communications and boom conditions to this and other settlements along the line, with a rapid expansion of the local textile industry as well as the possibility of commuting to Manchester. Most of the buildings of the village date from this period.

Bugsworth Canal Basin
0 - Bugsworth Canal Basin
Bugsworth Canal Basin
1 - Bugsworth Canal Basin
Bugsworth Canal Basin
2 - Bugsworth Canal Basin
Bugsworth - Navigation Inn
3 - Bugsworth - Navigation Inn

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