Review of ‘The Lost Houses of Derbyshire’, by Maxwell Craven and Michael Stanley

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 10th February 2003, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Maxwell Craven and Michael Stanley
ISBN 1-84306-064-7 (2003)

This latest title in the attractive Landmark Collector's Series comes from Maxwell Craven and Michael Stanley. One of their earlier titles is the two-volume The Derbyshire Country House, but The Lost Houses of Derbyshire makes far sadder reading. Here we can see what has been lost: over 150 houses reduced or demolished, often without trace, between the 18th and 20th centuries. One period is described as 'a shameful fifty years' which reached its peak of destruction in 1938.

Although we have to hope that lessons have been learned, indignation about the losses does have to be tempered with reason. The cold, hard causes were insurmountable at the time, whether mining subsidence, impoverishment, deaths in wartime, or industrial encroachment. More unusually, a hall at Eyam was abandoned during the plague, a castle at Middleton fell into ruin when its owner took the wrong side in the Civil War, another hall drowned beneath the Ladybower reservoir and yet another was demolished because occupation threatened to pollute a new reservoir in the Goyt Valley, or so the authorities claimed.

Craven and Stanley have tracked down a wonderful collection of several hundred photographs and drawings for this hardback book, reproducing as many as three per page. They show impressive properties which were, of course, outward symbols of success, employing in their construction master craftsmen and others of fairly humble background. As the authors point out: 'It was not so much the sweat of men's brows that created the English country house, but the love and pride in their craft of these numberless and unsung heroes.' At least fixtures and fittings often found new homes.

Some historic properties, having been pulled down, burnt to the ground or left to fall into ruin, were replaced by impressive buildings of a different style. Local examples include Hassop Hall, Middleton Hall, Rowtor Hall, Thornbridge Hall and The Grove at Darley Dale, now the site of St Elphin's School. Craven and Stanley's authoritative text provides architectural detail and potted family histories about the people who loved and lived in some of the most important houses - that is, homes - in the county.

Review by Julie Bunting

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