Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Hope Valley

David Sissons, Footpath Inspector for seven parishes in the Hope Valley

This article is from Signpost 69, Autumn 2021

I check seven parishes in Derbyshire’s Hope Valley. Thornhill, Brough-and-Shatton, Aston and Offerton are small parishes, and the public rights of way can be checked in a few days. Bamford is a large parish, but it has few public rights of way and can also be checked in a few days. Hope and Castleton however are both large parishes with many public rights of way and checking them usually takes me a few months.

There is much debate about the meanings of place names, ‘Hope’ being no exception. Margaret Gelling writes that a possible origin is the Anglo-Saxon or Old English, ‘hop’, meaning ‘remote, enclosed place’ (Place Names in the Landscape, JM Dent, 1984). Most commonly it seems to refer to a small, enclosed valley or a blind valley, and it occurs as a place name element in other nearby places in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire like Ashop, Midhope, Hopedale, Stanshope, Hassop and Glossop. The place name translation more or less fits Hope Valley, enclosed as it is by high ground: on the north going west from Bamford Edge, Win Hill, Lose Hill and the Mam Tor Range, round Windy Knoll and Rushup Edge at the west end, then to the south going east over Eldon Hill, Bradwell Moor and Offerton Moor, its eastern end opening down the Derwent Valley.

Part of an interesting case study in Castleton parish concerns a medieval corpse route from Edale to Castleton. Edale acquired its first church in 1633, consecrated in 1634, so it is likely that its corpse road over Hollins Cross was in use for the best part of three centuries between 1300 and 1634, assuming Edale church had burial rights from its foundation. Hollins Cross relates to Hollins Farm, just down the slope on the Edale side. ‘Hollins’ often refers to holly trees, the leaves being used for winter fodder. ‘Cross’ almost certainly indicates that there may have been a cross at this junction of tracks, and this would have been an obvious place for corpse bearers to stop and rest after the climb from Edale. The entire journey – approximately three miles – would have taken about an hour and a half from Edale, given that the corpse bearers would have been moving at a solemn pace and carrying a weight, and perhaps it would have taken just over an hour back.

Ways along which the dead were transported for burial in distant mother churches have various names: church-way, kirk-way, corpse road, corpse way, corpse gate, lych way, lyke way, burying lane, coffin road, bier way, death road, funeral path and so on. As the corpse approached the mother church it would be left in the lych-gate, where the vicar would take charge of it. The elements ‘lych’ and ‘lyke’ (as in ‘Lyke Wake Dirge’ and ‘lych-gate’) derive from Anglo-Saxon ‘lic’, or Old Norse ‘lyk’, both words meaning ‘body’. The place name, ‘Liggate’, for the area around and below Hollins Cross, might be a Scandinavian combination of ‘lyk’ and ‘gata’ (way, road) or a combination of Anglo-Saxon ‘lic’ and Scandinavian ‘gata’. In that case its probable literal meaning would be ‘corpse way’. Barkers Bank, to the east of Hollins Cross, is called Liggate Bank on some earlier maps. However an alternative meaning of ‘Liggate’ might derive from the Anglo-Saxon, ‘Hlidgeat’ - ‘swing-gate’. The English Place Name Society (‘The Chief Elements used in English Place Names’ - EPNS Volume 1 Part 2 - 1930) adds that ‘hlidgeat’ especially refers to a swing-gate set up between meadow or pasture and ploughed land, and this could exactly describe the terrain at the top of Hollowford, with pasture on the hillside up to Hollins Cross and ploughed land adjacent to the top of Hollowford - ‘Breedy Butts’ and ‘Windy Wappins’. The place name element, ‘geat’, can also refer to a hollow or gap, as it does in nearby Winnats Pass - ‘Wind Gates’. The side road - ‘Siggate’ - on the south east of Castleton, perhaps gives weight to the ‘corpse way’ interpretation.

Another interesting case study in Castleton parish is the Odin Mine near Mam Tor. This is one of the oldest lead mines in Derbyshire, and ‘Odin’ is often related to the Norse God of that name. But is there any evidence that Scandinavian settlers, presumably Hiberno-Norse rather than Danish at this point, were involved in lead mining here? My own untested theory is that ‘Odin’ might derive from a dialectal form of ‘olden’, perhaps pronounced ‘owden’, and some Victorian scholar who’d maybe read Matthew Arnold’s ‘Balder Dead’ immediately jumped to the conclusion that ‘owden’ was the Norse God. As I said, there is much debate about place names.

Next: Inspect to Protect Rights of Way

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