Derwent Hall and Environs, Derbyshire, November 2018

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People's Republic of South Yorkshire.
1. The History
Derwent is a small village in Derbyshire that was famously flooded in 1944 when the Ladybower Reservoir was created, along with the village of Ashopton, Derwent Woodlands church and Derwent Hall. The Derwent Valley Water Board met at Nottingham to discuss constructing the great Ladybower Dam previously in 1934. Before the First World War it was estimated that the project would cost £750,000 but by 1934 the cost was believed to have increased by 50%. It was also estimated that the dam would take ten years to construct. A year later The Times newspaper reported that the Water Board had decided to complete the programme of works they had begun in 1899, with the third installment of the project and the construction of a third dam at Ladybower. Hence, from that date onwards, Derwent Hall's fate was sealed.

Map of Derwent Village:

45062871365_361dda0095_b.jpg Derwent Map by HughieDW, on Flickr

All of the buildings in the village had been demolished by autumn 1943, and the water-level in the reservoir began to rise by the end of 1944. The village’s packhorse bridge that spanned the River Derwent just near the main gates of Derwent Hall (picture below) were removed stone-by-stone and rebuilt elsewhere due to its designated monument status. The stones were numbered and then they were stored. In 1959 the bridge was rebuilt on the Derbyshire-Yorkshire boundary at the head of Howden Reservoir at Slippery Stones.

31019097477_01a35121e1_o.jpg _98987204_bridge by HughieDW, on Flickr

The main casualty of the flooding of the village was Derwent Hall. It was a fine and picturesque old-gable building, built in 1672 by Henry Balguy, initially as a moderate-sized farm house. His son, also Henry, rebuilt the house two decades later, on an attractive small H-plan manor house of two storeys with gabled attics. After changing hands a number of times over the next two-hundred years, the manor came into the possession of Lord Edmund in 1878. He subsequently spent the next four years transforming it into a house of some style and ambition. He then sold the house to the Water Authorities in 1924 and after that the hall’s days were numbered. It was used as a Youth Hostel Association holiday centre from 1932 until 1943 when the dam was all but completed. It was then vacated and Charles Boot, a notable demolition contractor, employed to dismantle it. The best pieces of architectural salvage went to Boot’s home at Thornbridge Hall, Ashford. Meanwhile, the Derby and Nottingham both acquired oak panelling and other items for their respective Council HQs. The two pairs of late 17th century gate-piers and their iron gates were relocated to Woodthorpe Hall, Holmesfield and Ladybower Dam respectively. The remainder of the house was then reduced to low standing walls (see picture below).

45233891034_d7224b03d0_o.jpg 20181118_164632 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Since 1945, only the spire of the abandoned parish church (since dismantled) has appeared during dry periods. The church held its last service on 17th March 1943. The bell from the church was relocated to St Philip's Church in Chaddesden, which was built in 1955. Meanwhile the bodies from the graveyard were exhumed in 1940 and reburied in the village of Bamford. Initially, the church spire was left intact to form a memorial to Derwent. However, it was dynamited on 15th December 1947, on the grounds of health and safety, as people were swimming out to the spire.

45233890824_41cc3ce52b_o.jpg s11327 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The site of the village has periodically reappeared when reservoir levels have fallen, notably in 1976, 1989, 1996, 2003 and, of course, 2018. Despite being flooded, some houses still survive above the waterline along with the remains a civil parish of Derwent. As of the 2011 Census, the population of Derwent was listed at just slightly less than 100.

2. The Explore
Was in two minds whether to post this as it’s not your usual exploring. It’s been getting a lot of attention in the press recently and is becoming something of an unofficial tourist attraction. That said, it isn’t normally seen and is still a bit of an effort to get to. It also involves getting very muddy. I remember taking a few pictures back in 1996 when water-levels were low and a few things started to poke out of the water. However, the current level of the reservoir has not been seen for many years. It made a very pleasant wander over a couple of days in November.

3. The Pictures

Starting the walk from the Fairholmes carpark, the first thing you come across is the massive aqueduct:

31023142407_33f7ebf6b7_b.jpg img9571 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44145561670_bccd4152f7_b.jpg img9574bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

If you look carefully you can see the remains of an old Mini Cooper on the bank of what was the Derwent river:

45878337592_598d75f72f_b.jpg img9471 by HughieDW, on Flickr

32056771918_ac3da6435f_b.jpg img9467 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Passing under the viaduct, you immediately come to what was once known as the Water houses. There’s a fair bit to see here:

45237791214_30c0171539_b.jpg img9561 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44145619980_a8cdf29121_b.jpg img9567 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Fireplace brick with a maker’s name on:

45046440685_c6d5dd0524_b.jpg img9558 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The garden path is still visible too:

45909387752_1292d829a3_b.jpg img9552 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Then it’s the push on to the main attraction – the pretty extensive remains of the hall:

45926013871_a4fa423824_b.jpg img9449 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45013952445_4edd6f6c66_b.jpg img9441 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45220197724_9ed4572454_b.jpg img9498bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

32073242528_434b9f7ca9_b.jpg img9501bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

An old fireplace:

45033625615_f4ae231ec9_b.jpg img9506 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45221807164_1fa6542e86_b.jpg img9510 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45221642814_a200c5248b_b.jpg img9523 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45896313912_5548b05296_b.jpg img9530bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

45896210602_aef1356f59_b.jpg img9535bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

Steps down to the cellar:

45221368954_025e38b4a3_b.jpg img9538 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44141768590_a6d0aebd03_b.jpg img9545 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45033359335_ded4953da4_b.jpg img9529 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Finally, a few shots of the other side of the ‘river’:

45945063591_a269173993_b.jpg img9495 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44111408590_7bed679bb2_b.jpg img9434bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

45876881582_0bb90c962b_b.jpg img9439 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45876903602_b5a998aa96_b.jpg img9435bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

32055275848_08fd427a50_b.jpg img9427 by HughieDW, on Flickr

45202388844_80c307cb8b_b.jpg img9423 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Hugh Jorgan

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That's interesting. Looks like it was a bad idea to build a grand house or to build a reservoir. It looks like you can only take these shots when the river level is low. Looking at the remains of the hall and your before photo it must have been a grand place in its day.


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Directly above the centre of the earth
Lovely job,enjoyed that.I saw a similar thing back in 1995 when Haweswater reservoir in the Lakes dried up ,not as impressive as this though,although the drowned village of Mardale packhorse bridge did survive in situ.
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The Wombat

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Mar 16, 2013
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Interesting pictures Hughie
I saw this on the news, and contemplated driving up myself to have a look. I still might when I have less time.

Did you attempt the steps to the cellar?
Nicely photographed


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Aug 4, 2016
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That's lovey is that mate
I'm glad you did decide to post it cus that's real
History, and history that's very rarely seen.
I really should go and take a look as it's not to far from me.
Thanks for posting.


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Apr 3, 2008
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Expected a pile of rubble with 'Here's where the hall was' but nope - pleasantly surprised by this one. There's some top quality stone work went into the last incarnation of the hall and quite sad that it wasn't re-used. It does however explain why other parts of the hall were taken - they too will be of a high quality if the stone work is anything to go by.

I'm pleased they moved the grave yard - drinking human gravy from your cold tap would be unpleasant!

Like many other threads this one has reminded me of something up this way that needs doing..


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Aug 11, 2014
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Some great pictures here and thanks for also posting the map I visited twice over the last couple of weeks and found the map helpful in placing certain buildings. The site is really facinating to see and stand there imagining what it used to look like.