Would You Believe It?
by Julie Bunting
Little Longstone & Great Longstone
Bleak as the Peak’s limestone villages may be for many long months every year, Little Longstone has been one of the brightest in the rare sunshine that we get.
Practically all of the village’s houses line its one proper road and, however tiny, each garden blooms with traditionally English flowers – snapdragons, roses, pansies, marigolds and hollyhocks. Golden nasturtiums tumble over fossil-laden walls and the trees shading the road drop bright laburnum pods.
Much visited by hikers en route to the breathtaking Monsal Dale, Little Longstone connects with Ashford and Wardlow by pretty footpaths. The village has its own Manor House, rebuilt c1700 on an estate owned by the Longsdon family, who still own the Manor and have lived in Little Longstone for at least seven hundred years.
Under Queen Elizabeth I the Manor of Little Longstone was purchased by Bess of Hardwick and thus passed by inheritance to her descendants, the Dukes of Devonshire. The small and sleepy settlement has, however, had its share of controversy.
Back in 1399 Godfrey Rowland of Little Longstone was taken to Peak Castle by a gang of men including Sir Thomas Wendesley and the vicar of Hope. Rowland sought justice after being imprisoned for six days without food or drink, having his stock confiscated and the horror of having a hand amputated.
Less bloody disagreements over land ownership led to many later local lawsuits, especially between the Devonshires and Eyres throughout the first half of the seventeenth century.
For hundreds of years the surrounding land, now mainly sheep farming country, utilised the three-field open arable system, well established by the sixteenth century. The earliest pinfold, used as a temporary pen for stray cattle, was sited opposite the stocks, the remains of which still survive.
Little Longstone’s only inn, ‘The Packhorse’, has operated midway along the village street since 1787 and offers a cosy bar or country beer garden to spend a quiet hour on an Indian Summer’s evening. Great longstone Only a few fields away the road curves into Great Longstone. The village centres around its ancient and immaculate village green where stands its stone ‘cross’ atop timeworn steps, and the war memorial bearing the names of eighteen villagers.
During a much earlier war, Longstone men joined a riot in Bakewell to burn the papers calling them up to fight Napoleon, having had their names drawn by lot in Hope church.
Great Longstone only modestly outgrew its ancient Domesday Survey boundaries when it covered land for three ploughs, woodland, six acres of meadow and some ‘waste’. As part of the manor of Ashford, it passed in and out of Crown ownership before eventually being sold to the Cavendish family. The Parish Church of St. Giles has some thirteenth-century stonework and the finely carved oak roofs display fascinating detail of crests, figures and foliage.
The ornate alabaster pulpit was installed following the church’s restoration in 1872 and whilst the attractive windows have no great age either, all are memorials to loved and respected villagers, such as Joseph Scott who was the village schoolmaster for almost fifty years. Further glass was installed by the Wright family who, together with the Thornhills, have been connected with Great Longstone for many centuries.
Amongst the village’s notable buildings, the red brick Hall lies close to the centre and behind Longstone Garage stands the now listed Shakerley Building dated 1667. During the early 1920s it served as a tiny theatre presenting plays put on by and for the villagers.
The vicarage has a former life too, in 1828 it was converted from an Inn which found its present home on the main road, with the other village inn – the St. Crispin to the other side of the Post Office and newsagents. Just over a century ago Great Longstone supported, in addition to farmers and blacksmiths, two shoemakers – with another in Little Longstone.
Even earlier, Church Lane Farm, fronted by a picturesque row of stone troughs, operated as a brewery but the sign which offers refreshment to today’s ramblers reads simply ‘Fresh Milk’.