The villages of Hadfield & Padfield, Derbyshire
PUBLISHED: 14:24 01 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:14 18 January 2018
Former 'twin' mill villages near Glossop that are now among the most sought after places to live.
Hadfield and Padfield are the conjoined twins of the Peak District. They have place-names that are almost identical and they sit side-by-side on a gritstone hillside above the Longdendale Valley. Although both villages are in fine shape today as favoured places of residence, they have not always been so healthy. From the mid-19th century until the Second World War, their joint lifeblood came from employment provided by the many cotton mills in the district, but they almost went into terminal decline during the Depression, when 67 per cent of the adult work force in the area was out of work.
In 1940, Maconochies injected a life-saving transfusion by establishing a food factory at the foot of Hadfield. As local historian Anthony Perry points out, the villagers were so grateful for the new job opportunities that they were more than willing to tolerate the all-pervading aroma of Kep Sauce and Pan Yan Pickles. However, a further decline set in during the 1970s, when the cotton mills disappeared in rapid succession. Even the food factory, which had been acquired by Nestlé, ceased to operate in 1999, but no sooner had Nestlé left than Hadfield was ready to milk its new-found fame as the location for The League of Gentlemen, a cult television series.
Before describing the Hadfield of the television age, let us return to the days when cotton was king. In the 19th century, the mills attracted job-seekers from far and wide, including Irish Catholics fleeing from the Potato Famine. Their religion was shared by those members of Hadfield's indigenous population who were tenants of Lord Edward Howard, the local Catholic squire. In 1858, Lord Edward and his wife, Lady Augusta, established a church to serve this growing Catholic community.
Today, the Church of St Charles Borromeo receives tender loving care from an army of volunteers. On the day of my visit, I encountered Darrell Critchlow, who helps out in many practical ways and recently re-painted all the statues, Arthur King, who takes the collection at services and rings the bells each day at noon, and Chris Wild, who arranges the flower displays. Chris showed me the Lady Chapel, where members of the Howard family are buried, and explained that St Charles's resting place is in the Italian town of Arona, where he is celebrated by a colossal statue, which she viewed on a recent group visit to celebrate the Glossop church's 150th anniversary.
St Charles' Church has its own colossal feature in its south-west corner, where there is a massive four-square tower. Its founders also established a school, now housed in a replacement building. When I paid a visit, headteacher Steve Williamson and caretaker David Shepley were working alongside a group of pupils who were creating allotments in the school grounds. Each class will have a plot, where they will grow vegetables, which will then be sold to parents.
The pupils who were hard at work on the occasion of my visit included members of the School Council, as well as several children who give support to fellow pupils by acting as 'buddies'. Steve Williamson has spent much of his own life at the school: he was educated there and worked as a classroom teacher before returning eight years ago to take up the post of headteacher.
Vegetable plots are already well established at Hadfield Infant School, which stands higher up the long approach road to the village. Headteacher Christine Taylor is a great believer in the benefits of lessons taking place out of doors, particularly as a means of increasing the motivation of boys. When I arrived, all the members of one class were in a courtyard, where they were sheltering under umbrellas as water was sprinkled down on them - their lesson topic was the Amazon Rain Forest!
As well as raised vegetable beds, the school has a greenhouse, a woodland area, a wildflower meadow, a butterfly garden and lots more specialised gardens. At break time, some children were chatting to their friends in the 'quiet garden', while others were reading in the 'enchanted garden'. Yet another group was enjoying more boisterous pursuits on the log trail. Not surprisingly, Ofsted inspectors spoke of 'a very caring school which looks after pupils from all groups well and in which they are safe and happy'.
Nor is that happiness confined to the pupils. When I chatted to Christine Taylor, Key Stage One manager Helen Thorpe and Foundation Stage Manager Sarah Keen, I was struck, not only by their boundless enthusiasm and commitment, but also by the happiness that teaching clearly brings to their lives. Being educated by teachers such as this must be great fun and very rewarding.
After leaving the infants' school, I crossed over the road to Hadfield's junior school to meet headteacher Andrew Cartledge and learn something of the experiences in store for the children when they proceed to the next stage of their education. I discovered that these include lots of opportunities for creative expression. For example, every child in Year 5 plays the flute or the clarinet and some of the pupils have worked with local artist Alison Eyers to produce a colourful curtain which illustrates Noah's Ark and now has pride of place in the school hall.
Out-of-school experiences include residential courses at Todmorden's Robin Wood, which almost sounds as if it is the home of outlaws, and annual visits to the battlefields of northern France, where the children always lay a wreath to one of the local men who died in action. Another annual fixture is Technology Day, which has included visits from Richard Noble, the former holder of the world land speed record, and astronaut Ellen Baker. The most recent Technology Day took place in St Andrew's Church, where the erection of a huge mobile planetarium allowed everyone to look up to Heaven.
John Roberts, a lay reader at the Anglican church, has been a governor at the school since the 1980s and is now chair of the governing body. John has a degree in Chemical Engineering and was a production manager at the Nestlé plant until the factory closed a decade ago. He now earns his living as a gardener, but gives many hours of unpaid help at the church, where he has converted an area of wilderness into a beautiful garden with a plethora of plants and a myriad of paths.
Inside the church, he has built a fine flight of steps to connect the nave with a deck at the front of the chancel. Flexible seating in the nave allows a wide variety of activities to take place and the drum kit and amplifiers on the deck are put to good use during the lively services, which draw in people of all ages.
Returning to Hadfield Road, I walked past some delightful cottages, most with mullioned windows and some with whitewashed walls. This attractive group faces the equally picturesque Spinners Arms, which stands alongside a green. There is another green in nearby Old Hall Square, where the hall dates from 1646. It is said that one of its residents went to the trouble of digging up the stone floor because he had heard that treasure was buried beneath it. His search yielded absolutely nothing!
The square is linked to Station Road, Hadfield's main street, by Kiln Lane, a steep road that enjoys magnificent views of the surrounding moorland. The producer of the television series The League of Gentlemen must have taken in this view on a particularly grey day, because she seized upon Hadfield as an ideal location for Royston Vasey, a grim town peopled by strange characters, including a butcher who sells 'special sausages' which are rumoured to contain human flesh.
When the series ran on television, the local shopkeepers made the most of Hadfield's new fame. D & D Newsagents sold Royston Vasey maps and League of Gentlemen fridge magnets, the Hikers' and Bikers' Café was renamed Royston Café and Mettrick's Butchers sold 'special sausages', although their secret ingredient was of an alcoholic, rather than a cannibalistic nature.
The series has ended now, but those businesses are still thriving. Newsagents Deborah and David Howarth are so busy that they haven't taken a break, except for Sunday afternoon car trips, for 21 years; the café is still known as the Royston Café, even though it has a new manager in Susan Nelson, and Mettrick's (recent winners of a Fine Food Northwest Award for its mutton cutlets) still responds to an occasional request for 'special sausages', but is best known for meat that is fully traceable from local farm to plate.
One of the newer businesses in the main street is the Music Stop, where Owen Wright provides popular daily music sessions for toddlers and young children. Her husband Brendan is a member of Dr Jelly's rock band and her daughter Samantha, who plays the French horn, has just gained a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music.
When I arrived in Hadfield's twin village of Padfield, classical music was emanating from the Congregational Church, where three members of Psappha were rehearsing before their visit to the St Magnus Festival on Orkney, where they will be playing The Lighthouse, a chamber opera composed by their patron, none other than Peter Maxwell Davies.
The congregational church is the only place of worship remaining in Padfield, because the imposing Wesleyan Chapel in Post Street has been converted into up-market apartments known as Chapel Lofts. At the head of Post Street there is terrace of beautifully maintained whitewashed cottages, superbly sited on a summit that commands wonderful views over the Pennines.
The Peels Arms, which stands immediately behind the cottages, has undergone a sensitive renovation that has seen the retention of its open fireplaces and its traditional pub atmosphere. The hostelry, which was recently named 'Pub of the Week' by the Manchester Evening News, manages to make locals, diners and walkers from the nearby Pennine Way feel equally welcome. It has three bed and breakfast rooms and a 30-seater dining area known as the Lord Howard Room.
My guide to the attractive little village of Padfield was Kay Simpson, who informed me that it is known as the 'village with three corners', as it consists of Post Street, Temple Street and Platt Street, which form a large triangle. She also told me of the annual Plum Festival, which commemorates the village's historic role as a centre of plum-growing. Apparently the festival includes a gruelling fell-side race in which the participants have to carry a sack of coal on their back - the connection between coal and plums is somewhat hard to fathom!
For the last 25 years, Kay has been the secretary at Padfield Community Primary School, which she calls the 'school with a view' -- and what a view it is, with Pennine hills rolling away to a far horizon when seen from the playground. Anne Harper, who was appointed headteacher last September, told me about the school's many awards. Its Eco Flag recognises the monitoring work of an 'Eco Committee' of pupils; its Forest School status reflects the existence of team building and problem solving exercises in an area of woodland and its International Award is recognition for its links with schools in Poland, Botswana, Turkey - and Didsbury.
The parents and children have recently been involved in a 'Big Dig' because, like the pupils in Hadfield, they are making allotment plots. Before the mill days, Hadfield and Padfield were agricultural communities. Through the activities of their children, the two villages would seem to be returning to their roots!