A View of the Present State of Derbyshire by James Pilkington

A View of the Present State of Derbyshire by James Pilkington is in Prehistory.

A View Of The Present State Of Derbyshire; With An Account Of Its Most Remarkable Antiquities; Illustrated By An Accurate Map And Plates. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. By James Pilkington. Derby: Printed and sold by J. Drewry; Sold also by J. Johnson, No. 72, St. Paul's Church-Yard; And J. Deighton, Holborn, London, M,DCC,LXXXIX [1789].

The village of Chelmorton stands at the foot of a high eminence, and contains about forty houses. The inhabitants meet with some employment from the lead mines. The manufacture of ribbands has likewise been lately introduced into the place. However it is not at present carried on to any great extent.

About a quarter of a mile north east from Chelmorton a barrow or low [Chelmorton Low Round Barrows or Five Wells Chambered Tomb [Map]] was examined in the year 1782, and several particulars have been communicated to me respecting its external appearance, and inward construction.

The barrow, which I shall now attempt to describe, is a small circular mount, whose circumference at the base measures about seventy-five yards. Its height is seven feet. At the top is a hollow resembling a bason. Upon measuring down one side to the bottom, and ascending the opposite it was found to be eight yards across. But its perpendicular depth was no more than three feet. — A knowledge of its inward construction was obtained by some labouring men, who were searching for stone to build a walled fence in a neighbouring field. After removing a thin covering of moss and soil from the lower extremity or skirts of the mount, they discovered a kind of breast-work or regular wall of single stones formed without mortar. Not apprehensive of meeting with any thing extraordinary beyond this wall they proceeded in their work, but were soon surprized by the sight of several human bodies. They found, that the wall was the end of a cell or coffin, in which the bodies had been deposited. The breadth of the cell within was two feet, but its depth was not fully ascertained. It was supposed to be about a yard. The sides consisted of stones eight inches thick, and about two feet wide. They were placed upon their edge, and formed a kind of wall or partition. The stones used for the covering were from one to three inches thick, but not large.

Though some of the stones, and a small quantity of the soil had fallen into the vault, yet several human bodies or skeletons might be clearly distinguished, lying at full length with their heads towards the center of the mount. The bones had never been disturbed, and were apparently united together at the different joints, but by the slightest motion were found to be entirely loose and unconnected. — Upon examination they were discovered to be remarkably strong and sound. The ribs in particular were so little decayed, that they would easily bend without breaking. Those who saw the bones, thought that they were uncommonly large. It was imagined that the persons, to whom they belonged, must have been, when alive, at least seven feet high. The teeth were found, and perfect. From the number of bones and skulls, and the dimensions of the vault it was supposed, that it contained about four or five human bodies.

Though only one vault was opened and examined, it was presumed, that others were carried throughout the whole circumference of the mount: And from the width of that, which I have described, it was calculated, that there are about twenty in number.

Books, Prehistory, A View of the Present State of Derbyshire by James Pilkington, A View of the Present State of Derbyshire Section VI Derby

Section VI. Archdeaconry Of Derby.

At Rowtor near Birchover, there is upon a high pile of rocks a large stone so exactly poised upon one end, that a child might easily give it a vibratory motion. It is said to be four yards high and twelve in circumference. Whether it has been placed here by accident or design, it is not possible to determine. But it has been supposed to be a rock idol, and an object of idolatrous worship. — Mr. Cambden takes notice of two tottering stones near Birchover. But I could only find that, which I have now mentioned. I was however informed, that there is one of a similar nature upon a high ledge of rocks at the distance of a quarter of a mile, called Bradley rocks.

On Stanton moor is a small circular work, the diameter of which is sixteen yards. On the east side are several single large stones, lying on the surface, called cat stones. They are upon the edge of a steep declivity, which over- looks Darley dale.

About half a mile from Birchover is another rock, called Cratcliff rock. On the west side, and at a considerable height from the foot of it, is a small cave, which seems to have been some time the abode of a hermit. To the right hand, on entering it, is seen a crucifix about a yard high. It is in relief and quite perfect, excepting, that one side of the face has been a little injured. I have not been able to meet with any tradition respecting the character of the person, who inhabited this solitary and retired cave. But it was, probably in former ages, the abode of some zealous and mistaken devotee.

In an inclosure, on Hartle moor, is part of a circle of stones standing upon one end. The diameter of the circle is about eleven yards. The present number of stones is six, three nearly upright, two leaning a little, and the other broken off near the ground. To complete the circle, one or two more seem to be wanting. The length of the largest stone, above the surface of the ground, is about two yards and a half. The other four are somewhat shorter.

Mr. Rooke takes notice of a circular work, called Castle-ring, about a quarter of a mile from the little valley, which separates Hartle moor from Stanton moor. He says, that it has a deep ditch and double vallum, and that the entrance is visible on the south-east side, where part of the vallum has been levelled by the plough. The diameter from north-east to south-west is one hundred and forty-three feet, and from south-east to north-west one hundred and eighty-five feet. As no coins have been found near it, he supposes it to have been not a Roman, but a British encampment. Some however give it to the Danes.

At the distance of about four or five hundred yards from Cratcliff rocks is a very conspicuous place, known in the neighbourhood by the name of Robin Hood's Stride [Map], or Mock beggar's hall. It is a high perpendicular pile of rocks, upon which are two erections of rough huge stones, rising each to the height of four yards, and standing at the distance of twenty- two from each other. When seen a few miles from the place, where, they are situated, the pile of rocks resembles a large house, and the two erections at the opposite extremities appear like chimnies belonging to it. This appearance has given the place the name of Mock Beggar's hall.

Part, if not the whole of this eminence is evidently the work of art. But it cannot be affirmed with certainty, what was its original design and use.

It has been observed, that the Druids had in their groves their sacred erections, that is, their mounts and hillocks, called gorfedau from their sitting aloft upon them. On them they pronounced their decrees and sentences, and made their solemn orations to the people.

Whether the two elevated points under consideration were ever used for such a purpose, it is not possible at this distance of time with certainty to determine. But it seems not improbable, that this was their original design, when it is considered, that the spot, on which they are situated, is almost surrounded with Druidical remains.

The hamlet of ALPORT contains about twenty-two houses.

The village of MIDDLETON, which stands in a deep and narrow valley, contains about forty-five houses.

In this hamlet is one of the most striking monuments of antiquity, which is to be met with in Derbyshire. It is about a mile and a half distant from Newhaven, and is known by the name of Arbelows, or Arbor-low [Map].

This ancient remain consists of an area, encompassed by a broad ditch, which is bounded by a high mound or bank; and the form of the whole is nearly that of an ellypsis, or imperfect circle.

The area B. B. measures from east to west forty- fix yards, and fifty-two in the contrary direction. The width of the ditch C. C. is fix, and the height of the bank D. D. on the inside five yards. The height is continually varying throughout the whole circumference; but is at a medium what I have now mentioned.

The bank has evidently been formed from the soil, which has been thrown out of the ditch, but it is not carried entirely round the area. To the north and south there is an opening, or passage F. F. about fourteen yards wide. On the east side of the southern one is also a small mount or barrow E. This stands in the same line of circumference with the bank, but is entirely detached from it.

In the area are several stones of different size. About thirty large ones, lie round the border of it and generally point with the narrower end towards the center. They are rough and unhewn, and are for the most part about five feet long, three broad, and one thick. Whether the present is their original position is uncertain. I have been informed, that a very old man, living in Middleton, remembers, when he was a boy, to have seen them, standing obliquely upon one end. Besides these there are about fourteen smaller ones intermixed with them in an irregular manner, and three marked A. lying near the center. Of the last number one is larger than any other within the area.

Having attempted to describe the figure and dimensions of this ancient monument, I shall now assign some reasons for regarding it as a Druidical temple or place of worship.

I believe it is generally allowed by antiquarians, that circular and ellyptical monuments; of this kind are of civil or religious institution; that they were either places of council, or courts of justice; or that they were designed or the rites of worship. Now upon examination there are found a few circumstances, respecting this in particular, which render it probable, that it was once used for the latter purpose. It seems reasonable to suppose from the number and size of the stones, lying near the center of the area, that there formerly Hood a cromlech or altar in this situation. One of them, which was most probably supported by the other two, measures three yards in length, and two in breadth, and is about one foot thick. Upon this large broad stone, it is very likely, that the sacrifices were offered. Perhaps the other stones within the area might be used as seats or supports for those, who attended the celebration of the rites of worship. As they seem to diverge from one common center, it has been imagined, that they were intended to represent the rays of the sun, and that this luminary was the object of devotion. This conjecture is ingenious and plausible. — But there is another circumstance, which renders it still more probable, that this ancient monument is a Druidical temple. A few years ago a transverse section was made of the barrow [Arbor Low Henge Barrow [Map]], which has been mentioned, and in it were found the horns of a stag. Now there appears good ground to believe that the animal, to which they belonged, had been offered up in sacrifice. For as mounts of this kind are throughout the neighbouring country places of buried, we may reasonably suppose, that this in particular was employed as a repository for the bones of the victims, which were used in the celebration of religious rites.

The high broad bank, with which the area is inclosed, seems to have been designed to keep off intruders, and to render the offices of devotion more private and solemn. The openings to the north and south very probably were passages into the place of worship. But the ditch seems to have been occasioned merely by the formation of the bank with which it is encompassed.

The situation of the place, which I have now described, though considerably elevated, is not quite so high, as some eminences in the neighbouring country. It, however, commands an extensive view, more especially towards the east, and seems to be well suited to the general idea of a heathen place of worship.

In one of my excursions into the Peak I discovered another ancient monument [Bull Ring Henge [Map]] of this kind. It is about twelve miles north from that, which I have now described. It is situated near the south-west side of Peak Forest. It lies about three quarters of a mile to the right of the road from Buxton to Chapel-en-le-Frith, and at the distance of about two miles from the latter place.

The area measures from east to west forty- eight yards, and fifty-fix in the contrary direction. The ditch is about six yards wide, and the bank six yards high and twelve broad at the base. All the stones, excepting one, are removed. Nor is there at present any mount near the opening, either to the north or south. Indeed there does not appear ever to have been one in such a situation. Nothing can now, however, be determined with certainty in regard to this point. For this ancient remain being situated in an inclosed part of the county has been considerably altered by improvements in agriculture. A wall has been carried across the area through the openings in the north and south parts of the bank. When I saw it, the west division of the area had been ploughed, and sown with corn.

Upon Wirksworth moor, near the road leading from the town to Shottle, is a circular work. The area in one direction measures about twenty-nine, and in another thirty-one yards. The bank is two feet high, and fix wide, and entirely surrounds the area. The figure of this ancient remain evidently shews, that it was not used for the same purposes, with the other two, which have now been described.

Besides the houses, which have been enumerated in the parish of Youlgrave, there are eleven at Gratton at Pilhough twelve; at Grange-mill six and about eight at other places in the neighbouring country.


The living is a rectory; and the church is dedicated to St. Helen. It is in the gift of the dean of Lincoln. The living is divided into two parts: the northern division is valued at £9 13s 1½d. and the southern at £48 1s. 9d. and yearly tenths 19s, 3¾d.

The whole parish contains three hundred and eighty-one houses. Of these one hundred and ninety-fix are situated in the liberty of Darley, and the lordship of Little Rowsley in the high Peak; and one hundred and eighty- five in the lordships of Wensley and Snitterton in the wapentake of Wirksworth. In all these places agriculture and the mining business are the chief supports of the inhabitants.