Victorians

Curbar Edge inspired a poem by a man who was nearly the Poet Laureate

“The gritstone edges ensure scintillating views and extensive panoramas across the valleys and moors. From the flowing Derwent valley we climb to the edges and visit a monument to one of England’s most famous warriors.”

Chatsworth to Curbar Gap through Baslow : Circular Walk - Map and Directions : Google Earth Tour for this Walk

The writers on the Victorians route:

John Hall - Sebastien Ferranti – William Watson

With short abridged extracts from The Literary Way, written by Terry Goble and published by The Creative Peak

Curbar Edge

On this walk we will join three Victorians, who had such vastly different lives and interests. One gave his name to technology, which became commonplace in households in the 1960s. His wife wrote a fascinating biography of this man and his inventions. To tempt us even further, many of us still have, in our houses today, something that he devised. Of the other two men, we shall meet, one was a local poet from Sheffield, whereas the other strode on the national stage and many believed he should have been the Poet Laureate.

Our walk initially borders the Derwent, but after Bubnell and Baslow we go up onto the gritstone ridges for some wonderful views. The East Moors which we cover, in this chapter and the next, give such striking contrasts. On the western edges, overlooking the Derwent Valley, the late August sun gives us a stunning purple landscape as the heather flowers in profusion. Contrast this with a cold windy winter’s day on Big Moor, with the marshy grasses whistling in the swirling air and we have the most bleakest of landscapes.

We leave the majestic Chatsworth and take the path along the river, past Queen Mary’s Bower, and through the revolving gate and follow the path a few hundred yards. We pass a very pretty row of thatched cottages and turn left over the stream bridge and come out into the Goose Green area of Baslow. Just on the other side of the green is the a main road on which heavy weekend traffic arrives from both Chesterfield and Sheffield. We turn towards the church. Our route goes down between the church and the Rutland Arms to the River Derwent. Once away from the main road it is a quiet and picturesque village. The old bridge with its ancient toll booth makes as good setting, as does the weir a little up stream. The hamlet of Bubnell is on the far side of the bridge from Baslow.

Fair Baslow!

John Hall was a business man, born in 1824, who lived at Norbury which, at the time, was outside of Sheffield, but now is part of the conurbation. John wrote poetry that was mainly published in the local newspapers and the occasional magazine, with one of his first published works being in Eliza Cook’s Journal. He chose to draw together his poems for his family and published a private edition of his works in 1877. The poems represent places that he visited and major events in his life. He called his collection of poems, Thoughts and Sketches in Verse. The first poem in the book is dedicated to Baslow. It is about three pages long so let us take the view at the end:

Such are the charms which thou canst boast,
Fair Baslow! - such thy beauteous host;
Thoughts and Sketches in Verse
– John Hall, J.H.J

As we return to the main road, a little along the road on our right is Baslow Hall, which is not visible from the road. It is now a reputed restaurant and small hotel. One man who lived there from 1913 was an electrical inventor, who would see his company continue his innovative approach. It would later grow into a large corporation, which manufactured power supply electrical equipment, computers and defence electronics. His name was Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti.

Inspired Electronics

Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti was born in Liverpool in 1864 and moved to Baslow Hall in 1913. He grew his business from a small firm to a multinational corporation within his lifetime. For many of the generation that were around when televisions became common place in the home, the name Ferranti will easily resonate. Of course, television was added to an established portfolio of electrical products already produced by the corporation.

Sebastian himself, and the original direction of the company, focused on the provision of electricity. Even in his schools days he had a fascination with inventions especially concerning engines. As a young man his inventive mind turned to electricity. He was the pioneer of high voltage systems and how they could by cascaded down to the local levels necessary for widespread electrical lighting. He was the inspiration behind the building of Deptford power station, which was the first in London to proved mass lighting. He also developed the meters for measuring electrical usage. The Ferranti meters have had over a hundred years of service and are the very familiar small dials, each with a single hand, and a revolving disc showing electricity is being used. Ferranti’s work has had it impact on each and every one of us and we now take for granted for it resulted in the national grid electrical system. Sebastian died in the 1930’s, but his pioneering spirit continued in the Ferranti Company. The second commercial computer in the world, the Ferranti Mark I went on sale in 1949, which was in the very earliest days of computing.

Ferranti and his family lived at Baslow Hall and, from 1918, gradually introduced electricity. His biography was written in 1934 by his wife. This is what she had to say about the introduction of electricity into Baslow Hall. The description below was installed between 1921 and 1925

It is necessary to give some account of the electrification of Baslow Hall, for the problem connecting it, occupied my husband’s spare time during our first years there. Panel heating with thermostatically operated pumps and valves to control the house temperature was fitted throughout.... An electric laundry was also installed with washer, ironer, electric clothes drier and airer.... Practically every labour saving or other device which contributed to comfort was fitted at Baslow including wireless to all rooms, floor polishers, vacuum cleaners, bed warmers and airers, ultra-violet ray apparatus, every example of electric cookers and heaters, electric vacuum clothes brushes, refrigerators etc....
The Life and Letters of Sebastian Ziani Ferrant
i by G Ferranti & R Ince

After our brief look round Baslow it is now time to take the steady climb upon to the gritstone edges that have been evident since we first saw them behind Chatsworth. From the Rutland Arms we go back towards the centre of Baslow, but we turn left at the mini-roundabout. We’re now going to follow this road up, through this quiet part of Baslow, until it becomes a track. It gradually gets steeper. Eventually we reach a gate that indicates that it leads to the Open Access of the moorlands.

The Iron Duke Memorial

If we go through the gate and take the path to the right, we are heading towards a monument that looks out over the valley back towards Chatsworth. When we reach it, we discover that this three metre obelisk is dedicated to the Duke of Wellington. The ‘Iron Duke’ was a soldier and a statesman. We can see Chatsworth House in the valley. When the Duke visited there, he was impressed by the work of Paxton. One of the waterfall features, in the rockery, built by Paxton, is named after him.

This obelisk on Curbar Edge was erected by a local man from Baslow. Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington lived from 1769 to 1852. He was one of the leading military figures of the nineteenth century. His most noted achievement is a history legend. It was his leadership of the forces that defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He had become a Duke two years before the famous battle following recognition of his previous military expertise. He went on to become Prime Minister on two separate occasions.

These gritstone moorlands are so different to the limestone on which we have been walking. The moors have many significant archaeological sites. This is because pre-historic farmers were the last to farm the high hills. All subsequent farming involved the removal of the valley forests and the development of many centuries of cultivation on the valley sides and along the floor. Our route takes us across the moor towards the large smoothed rock that stands high about the heather. It is Eagle Stone, not because it looks like an eagle, but it is thought to be a derivation of Eccles stone, which is of religious significance. As one would expect, it tends to have various stories associated with it, such as, a local young man must climb it before his proposal of marriage will be accepted.

Nearly the Poet Laureate

We have been walking along Baslow Edge, which becomes Curbar Edge. In a newly formed 1894 Literary Periodical called The Yellow Book there was a sonnet by the poet, Sir William Watson. He was a great supporter of Lord Tennyson as the Poet Laureate. When Tennyson died in 1892, William was mooted as a successor to him as, at the time, he was the leading poet in the land. William was thirty-four when the Laureate, who had held the post for forty-two years, died. However, William had taken an interest in South Africa and expressed his opposition to the sabre rattling as the prelude to the Boer War. In the eyes of many politicians, it made him unsuitable for the role and so the post went to someone else. As we stroll along the millstone grit edges towards Curbar Gap and Curbar Edge, we look down on the Derwent Valley as it stretches from Calver to Baslow. William Watson wrote a sonnet entitled Night on Curbar Edge.

Let’s rest awhile at Curbar Gap

The area through which we have on this walk, Baslow and the gritstone edges, inspired all three of the men in this chapter in different ways. Sebastien decided to build his house here, even though he was working in the cities of Manchester and Sheffield. William Watson travelled around the country as was common for a man of his status, but he was sufficiently pleased with the area, when he stayed nearby, to turn it into verse. Finally, John Hall was a businessman who took his relaxation by journeys from Sheffield into the Peak district and favoured Baslow and the Derwent Valley.