“The Derbyshire Village of Froggatt”
The 17th Century writer Dr Thomas Fuller spoke of “God, the only worker of wonders, hath manifested himself greater in the beauties of Derbyshire than in any other county of England.” Byron said “Derbyshire is unsurpassed amongst the counties of England” and further asserts “The diverse terrain is as noble as any in Greece and Switzerland”.
One of the finest views in Derbyshire is along the ancient highway from Chesterfield to Manchester via Old Brampton, passing south of Big Moor to Curbar Gap. In late summer, with the heather in deep purple, one is awestruck by the panoramic view extending almost full circle from the demesne of Chatsworth to the outline of Longstone Edge, on to Win Hill and the distant Pennines. Passing through the gap, both Curbar and Froggatt Edges dominate the scene on the right as descent is made into Froggatt lying on the east bank of the Derwent.
The village of Froggatt was known in the 13th century as Froggecot and a century later as Frogcot. The name derived from its low lying and once damp situation in the Derwent valley – the home of many ‘frogs’ and ‘cott’ indicating a dwelling. His delightful village had achieved fame by the near proximity of the ‘Edge’ which, since its ‘Access to Open Country’, has attracted as many visitors as nearby Chatsworth House – the residence of the Dukes of Devonshire.
The early settlers in the village – and we know of two farmsteads and a number of grit-stone-cottages – were tenants of the Duke of Rutland whose ancestors, the Vernons Avenels and Peverils, extended back to Norman days. Place names in Derbyshire show evidence of the Viking occupation (793-933AD) and in Froggatt the name “Hollow Gate” exists which signifies a ‘sunken road’ probably dating from those early times.
The 17th century records on local history gave Froggatt as being a small hamlet where drainage was good, the soil and vegetation rich, with many springs that yielded good water. The oldest part of Derwent Farm in the centre of the village, carries to this day the date 1653.
The round arch of Froggatt Bridge was also built at this time. The bridge provides access to the villages of Eyam, Stoney Middleton and to nearby Stoke Hall – the fine house built in the 17th century for the famous Royalist William Cavendish who smoked a pipe at Marston Moor and spent nearly a million pounds losing his estates in the cause of Charles I.
A number of listed cottages are situated in the village. In the centre the Wesleyan Reform Chapel stands and this building is over 200 years old. The Chapel has played an important role in the life of the village and is part of the Bakewell Wesleyan Reform Circuit.
A document dated June 1662 written by the Constable of Baslow and addressed to “John ffroggatt, gent of Froggatt, for the sum of £15.0.0 represented tithe due for the provision of the militia at Bakewell”.
Industry in the area consisted of agriculture, mining, lime burning, stone masonry and weaving. Lead mining in Derbyshire goes back over 2000 years. In the early part of the 18th century at nearby Stoney Middleton over 1000 inhabitants worked and prospered in lead smelting.
The industry declined at the end of the 19th century due mainly to cheap imports from Spain. The last working mine in the area was above Eyam at Ladywash which was linked underground by a 700 foot tunnel with nearby Glebe Mine. The Magpie Mine situated at Sheldon, some six miles from Froggatt, is probably the best known mine today. It worked until 1950 but costs proved too high and it was abandoned. However, the mine head are [sic] one of the best examples of lead miming in Britain. Workers in the lead mines earned considerably more than their contemporaries working in the Derbyshire coal mines.
The ‘spa waters’ of Stoney Middleton were reputed to be good for health and many years ago Froggatt folk would walk up Cow Ease and along Stoke Brook into Old Lane to a well in Middleton which was ‘efficacious in curing rheumatism, scrofula and some defects of the eye.’
Many large estates in the area were sold during the years following the Great War, the most significant being that owned by His Grace The Duke of Rutland who in March 1920 sold in Derbyshire 600 lots of Freehold property covering 14,500 acres. 17 lots in the Froggatt and Curbar parish were sold by Thurgood & Martin at Bakewell Town hall on 19 March of that year. Most of the properties had fairly limited facilities with an earth closet and an adjacent ash pit, and only one, the property now known as the Nurseries had hot and cold water and an indoor toilet.
The village of Froggatt benefited about this time from Lady Riverdale who bequeathed to the National Trust – “In memory of her Parents Charles and Josephine Bingham” some 16 acres of woodland above the Derwent called Froggatt Wood. The wood is a truly peaceful and secluded spot abounding with interest affording a good footpath to adjacent Nether Padley and the Grindleford Bridge. What springtime joy to see the bluebells and trees adorned in new colour!
Froggatt folk boast of their equable climate which provides horticultural impetus on Show Day and which has given a remarkable run of good weather. They are confident that this English tradition on the banks of the Derwent can be enjoyed by their successors well into the 21st century.
From “Froggatt and Froggatt Horticultural Society 1935 – 1994”, compiled by John E. Agg and Tom Gorst 1994