Review of ‘Bakewell: The Ancient Capital of The Peak’, by Trevor Brighton

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 2nd January 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

BAKEWELL : The Ancient Capital of the Peak
by Trevor Brighton

This exceptional new title is a project celebrating the golden jubilee of Bakewell and District Historical Society. Dr Brighton, its current president, acknowledges contributions to the book from other members and non-members.

This is the first time an author has brought together the continuous history of Bakewell from its Anglo-Saxon origins. Why and how Bakewell became the 'Ancient Capital of the Peak' and gained its ongoing importance as a market town, is the backbone of the story. Every imaginable aspect of local life has been woven into this portrait of a place which might not have come into being but for its extensive water meadows ... 'on which to produce hay for the oxen to eat during winter, which in turn determines how many fields can be ploughed and hence how many people can be fed.'

Front Cover

Endless surprises lie behind the progress of Bakewell and its legacies of religion, agriculture and industry. The author clears up any confusion between the early burgh and the later castle then moves on to investigate what made the town tick: its once numerous inns, places of worship, hospitals and almshouses, schools, houses and shops - hard now to imagine drains regularly backing up into familiar streets, or raw sewage being flushed into the Wye.

As for the old-time constable, when not dealing with public thrashings or cases of child cruelty at Bakewell mill, his duties included policing the fields for vermin with the aid of a crow shooter, a fox catcher and a moldewarper.

Glimpses of bygone characters bring the town to life, one such being the tragic 'poet of Bakewell' whose verses were sent to Queen Victoria. Photographs of the old chap and his curious cottage are just two of many rare illustrations. Assorted group photographs include a team of lady cricketers who 'played under male supervision'. A dose of common sense is brought to the legendary elopement of Dorothy Vernon, though she is almost put in the shade by the exploits of her father, nominated for a peerage nine times without success.

The presentation and scope of Bakewell The Ancient Capital of the Peak seems to lack nothing but an index and, for the benefit of future researchers, a bibliography - perhaps when it comes up for a reprint?

Published by Halsgrove in large, hardback format with almost 300 illustrations, this title is on sale locally priced £19.99. To order quote ISBN 1-84114-419-3.

Review by Julie Bunting

[Ed: I heartily recommend this book if you have an interest in Bakewell - it's wonderful!!!]


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