Review of ‘The Chatsworth Villages - Beeley, Edensor & Pilsley’, by Diane Naylor

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 16th January 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

THE CHATSWORTH VILLAGES : Beeley, Edensor & Pilsley

Over 300 photographs have been brought together by Diane Naylor to produce for the first time a visual history of these three Chatsworth villages. The photographs are not from the Chatsworth archives but have been provided by many families and individuals connected with the estate communities.

It would be wrong to imagine that Beeley, Edensor and Pilsley, along with their smaller outliers such as Dunsa and Calton Lees, are stuck in a centuries-old time warp. In between pictures of renovations and modernisations, we can see when roofs were still thatched and roads unmade, at least one mortuary was in use and village shops thrived. Pilsley Bakery and Calton Lees sawmill are seen at work, the mill in Chatsworth Park has yet to suffer almost fatal storm damage, and Edensor school, where boys were taught copperplate writing, has yet to be demolished.

Front Cover

Diane Naylor's text provides fascinating surprises, not least a 20th-century comment that if Beeley were 'dumped down in the East End London ... it would be regarded as a slum village.' She describes a Ha-ha, reveals the racy secrets of a 'Birdcage' and explains the purpose of a row of standing stones - an oddity which has puzzled some of us for years. I wonder, though, whether the 'crooked' barn is in fact a cruck barn ... perhaps both?

Here too are reminders of the many former ways of earning a living on the estate, with its lead smelters, coal pits, gritstone quarries, tanyard - and sales of ice and damsons. A rich vein of colourful characters populates the pages, from a pioneering inventor to Charles Dickens and John Betjeman - and last but far from least, the villagers themselves. The author has done them proud.

Published by Landmark Collector's Library with a foreword by Lord Burlington, The Chatsworth Villages is widely available locally, priced £14.99 (ISBN 1-84306-198-8).

Review by Julie Bunting


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