The High Peak conundrum of Buxworth and Bugsworth - a tale of two names

PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 January 2016

Cottages in Buxworth

Cottages in Buxworth

as submitted

Mike Smith disentangles the High Peak conundrum of Buxworth and Bugsworth

The Peak Forest Canal in the High PeakThe Peak Forest Canal in the High Peak

The 1950 edition of a popular annual called The Saturday Book included an article written by John Arlott, a journalist who would become the country’s most articulate cricket commentator. The piece, entitled ‘Round Britain with an Ear-Trumpet’, listed pleasant and unpleasant English place names. Mr Arlott’s choice of sweet-sounding names included Red Roses, Merry Maidens and Midsomer Norton, whilst his list of less agreeable names featured Blubber Houses, Sour Milk Force and Ugley.

Although Derbyshire places did not figure in either list, it is surprising to find that the writer’s round-up of pleasant names did not include at least one example from a county that contains places such as Ashford-in-the Water, Peak Forest and Alsop-en-le-Dale. However, one place name in the county could well have been a candidate for the ‘ugly’ list if it had not been altered 15 years earlier.

For many centuries, a small settlement in the High Peak had been known as Bugsworth, a name that reflected its Norman origin as the ‘homestead of the Bugge family’. In the 1930s, the village schoolmaster, Mr Prescott, and the local vicar, Revd Towers, embarked on a campaign to alter the name of the village on the grounds that it sounded ugly. After a lengthy debate, their proposal was put to residents in a referendum. As a result, Bugsworth became Buxworth.

Six decades later, a group of residents began a campaign to revert back to the original name, a move prompted in part by the renovation of the eighteenth-century ‘port’ at the foot of the village, which had continued to be known as the Bugsworth Basin. A second referendum was held, with voters opting by a small majority to hang on to their softer-sounding modern name. Much to the confusion of visitors, the village is still called Buxworth and the port is still known as the Bugsworth Basin.

The Bugsworth BasinThe Bugsworth Basin

The basin was developed in the 1790s to receive limestone carried on a fleet of waggons along a six-mile tramway linking quarries near Buxton to the Peak Forest Canal at Bugsworth. The waggons were horse-drawn for much of the route, but horse-power was replaced on the steepest stretch by a ‘gravitational’ railway, involving loaded descending waggons being attached by a hemp rope to empty ascending waggons, so allowing their weight to pull the lighter trucks up the hill. In its heyday, the Bugsworth Basin was the largest inland port in the country, with up to 600 tonnes of limestone per day being loaded onto a fleet of 40 barges for transportation to Manchester and beyond.

After the tramway closed in 1926, the basin became progressively more derelict. In 1968, the Inland Waterways Protection Society stopped the rot by embarking on a scheme to make the canal usable again and to restore remnants of the kilns where some of the limestone was converted into quicklime. A line of stone sleepers was exposed near the terminus of the tramway and, over time, part of the route was developed as a walking trail.

In the days of the working port, the Navigation Inn provided liquid refreshment for the men employed in the basin. Nowadays, it is a popular port of call for tourists visiting the former interchange, for boaters sailing their pleasure craft along the restored canal and for walkers and their dogs who enjoy ‘walkies’ on the ‘Tramway Trail’. Landlady Janet Hiorns even offers a canine menu with a choice for dogs of Lamb and Rice Kibble, Salmon and Potato or Chicken and Rice Cube.

Explaining why she and her partner Roger moved from Yorkshire six years ago to become licensees of the inn, Janet said, ‘I had been searching for a pub that had letting rooms and was located near water. As well as ticking these boxes, the Navigation struck me immediately as an inn patronised by the type of locals who would make us feel welcome. A clear sign that we do feel thoroughly ‘at home’ here is that our surname is painted in ‘canal art’ style on the back of one of the benches in the pub. And we have added to the homely ambience by providing real fires, home-cooked food and real ales, including the famed Timothy Taylors. Our next project is a photographic collage to the memory of a former landlady: Pat Phoenix, better known as Elsie Tanner of Coronation Street.’

Cottages in BuxworthCottages in Buxworth

The Navigation is located at the foot of a short lane that runs between the village of Buxworth and the Bugsworth Basin. As if this juxtaposition of different place names was not confusing enough for visitors, a plaque in the Victorian parish church indicates that the building was registered originally as St James’ Church, Limedale. Apparently, Limedale was proposed as a new name for Bugsworth some six decades before Revd Towers and Mr Prescott began their own name-changing campaign.

A plaque on a pretty cottage flanking the village street tells yet another intriguing story of place-naming. In 1837, a resident of the cottage called Joel Clayton left Bugsworth to seek his fortune in America and was joined over the next five years by several members of the Clayton clan. The family prospered and, together with a man called Charles Rhine, they managed to establish a new township in California’s Diablo Valley. The toss of a coin was used to decide that the new settlement should be called Clayton rather than Rhinesville. Clayton has been officially twinned with Buxworth since 1997.

Instead of resorting to the toss of a coin when two eminently suitable candidates applied for the headship of Buxworth Primary School earlier this year, the governors appointed both of them. Working on the premise that ‘two heads are better than one’, Louise Moore and Jennifer Rackstraw share responsibility for the running of the school and for the teaching of the pupils in Class 4. Jennifer said, ‘Being the head of a small primary school can be quite lonely but, as joint heads, we have the great advantage of sharing any problems that may arise and pooling our ideas.’

In the few months that they have been in charge, Louise and Jennifer have introduced ‘Travelling Tuesdays’, when pupils move from their normal class teacher to be taught by a specialist in subjects such as French, Music, Art and Information Technology; ‘Ground Force Sundays’, when volunteers help with clean-ups and redecoration, and ‘Parents for Lunch Days’, when parents have lunch in the school. They have also started a Bike Club which is run by two parents and involves 36 children.

The Navigation InnThe Navigation Inn

As a member of Team GB’s Triathlon squad at the European championships, Louise has a passion for sport that has prompted her to introduce a sports club and an after-school running club that has been joined by no fewer than 87 per cent of the pupils. Louise’s headteacher colleague is an enthusiastic participant, using the runs to ensure her speedy recovery from a recent operation.

On the day of my visit to the school, Harry Owen, a Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning gymnast, had come into school, not only to give even further encouragement to the children to get involved in sport but also to talk to them about the need for a healthy diet. At the same time, Buxworth Pre-school was welcoming PCSO Karen Green of the Police Safer Neighbourhood Team, who gives talks on issues such as road and firework safety and being ‘stranger-aware’.

The pre-school is managed by Sarah Heyes and caters for eleven children on each of five morning sessions, all of which are held in the War Memorial Club. At other times of the day, the well-equipped club hosts all manner of activities and groups for the lucky adult residents of Buxworth, a place that is still known locally as ‘Buggy’, despite that change of name in the thirties.

Latest from the Derbyshire Life and Countryside