The Village of Ashford in the Water - Derbyshire

A collection of notes written by Howard Needham Walters in the 1960s.
Contributed by Moyra Burnett on 28th November 1999 and reproduced with her kind permission. Howard was Moyra's uncle.

Ashford appears in the Domesday Book as “Aisseford,” a pure Saxon word meaning “the ford of the ash”. The suffix “-in-the-Water” is of quite recent origin, adopted to distinguish this from the many other Ashfords in England. Henry II built a “Hall” here, surrounded by a moat, which he occupied on occasion.

In the year 1199, the manor (which included the neighbouring villages of Longstone and Sheldon) was granted by King John to Griffin, son of Wenunwyn - a Welsh prince. It later reverted to the Crown, and was bestowed by Edward II on the Earl of Kent, ultimately falling into the hands of the Cavendishes, who still own it as part of their estate as Dukes of Devonshire. In 1408 it passed into the hands of the NEVILLEs, the great and powerful family which played a decisive part in the Wars of the Roses.

In 1257, Griffin founded a chantry (an endowment for the saying of masses for his soul), and a “Chantry House” was built as an adjunct of the Church, where it still stands, better known as 'Chantry Cottage'. For a more comprehensive definition see ‘Chantry’ in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

The NEVILLEs built a residence or hunting lodge, the remains of which were found in the field known as the Hall Orchard, north of the church. Although the NEVILLE's residence was lost to posterity long ago, it was only in 1938 the building known as Neville Old Hall which stood in front of the medieval tithe barn (now an Art Gallery) was pulled down.

In 1550, the manor was sold to Sir William CAVENDISH and was held by his successors, the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire, for the next three centuries. The two large lime trees in the Hall Orchard were planted by Lady George CAVENDISH to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales, March 10, 1863.

Many members of the CAVENDISH family have lived in Ashford, notably at Churchdale Hall, and several of them are commemorated in the church where an old hatchment is preserved, dated 1724, showing the Cavendish arms. William CAVENDISH, who married U.S.A. President John F. KENNEDY's sister Kathleen Agnes KENNEDY, was born and raised in Churchdale Hall.

The chief industry of Ashford was formerly the Marble Works established by Henry Watson in 1748. A memorial to him in Ashford marble is to be seen in the church near the main door. The industry he founded continued until the beginning of the 20th century, when it succumbed to foreign competition.

A Free Grammar School was founded in the village in 1631 by William Harris, a notable local benefactor. It was succeeded by a Church of England (Aided) Primary School. The buildings of the latter date from about 1880 and were erected on the site of the old school for boys, the girls having been previously accommodated in another building further along the Buxton road.

The population of the parish in 1789 was 540, living in 119 dwellings. By 1846 this had risen to 950 persons in 184 dwellings. In 1968 the population was about 650, and there were about 230 houses in the parish. A number of cottages in the village must be of considerable age, but many of those that remain have been entirely rebuilt within.

Of the larger houses, Churchdale Hall was founded in 1336; the Rookery on Buxton Road dates from the 16th century; Greatbach Hall was probably built of stone in the early 17th century; Ashford Hall was begun in 1772, and Thornbridge Hall is Victorian. The cottages in Court Lane (to the north-east of the church) are said to have been the residence of the parish priest in former times, but this is conjecture. The subsequent Vicarage, which stands on the hill to the north of the church, was built in 1864 by the Revd John Luxmoore, who was parish priest for 51 years. The site was given free by the Lord of the Manor, the Duke of Devonshire. The beauty of Ashford's two medieval bridges over the Wye is well known [as may be seen in the many photographs of (for instance) the Sheep Wash Bridge].

By 1846 Revd W. G. Giles was parish priest and resided at the Rookery. He died in 1854 in Ireland. His body was brought back to Ashford for burial and a brass in memory of him is to be found in the chancel of the church.

William Spencer CAVENDISH, Marquis of Hartington, who as stated previously married Kathleen KENNEDY would have been the 11th Duke of Devonshire had he not been killed in World War II, five weeks after their wedding. Sadly, Kathleen, who became the Marchioness of Hartington when she married William (Billy) CAVENDISH, was killed in a plane crash about four years later, during a heavy storm in France. She is buried in the churchyard of Edensor Church where the Bishop of Nottingham conducted a short service which was arranged by Billy CAVENDISH's parents, the 10th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. On Kathleen's gravestone are the words “JOY SHE GAVE -- JOY SHE HAS FOUND”. Edensor church is located on the Chatsworth Estate, where the Cavendish family, later the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire, have been Lords of the Manor since the 16th century.


A Holy Trinity Church pamphlet for visitors dated about 1950, and the recollections of Howard Needham Walters.

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