Close to Bakewell, Ashford is uncommercialised but has plenty to offer the Peak District visitor.
The name of Ashford-in-the-Water unsurprisingly means ‘ford by the ash trees’ reflecting the fact that it developed at the site of a river crossing. This was where the ancient route of the Portway (from Nottingham to Castleton) crossed the river Wye. More recently, the A6 trunk road passed right through through Ashford although a bypass on the other side of the river has restored peace and tranquility to the village. It was mentioned as a Royal Manor in the Domesday Book. The village passed to the Cavendish Family in the 16th century (from the Nevilles) and finally sold off in the 1950s to pay death duties.
Industry has come and gone, corn milling, wool production and lead mining have all been carried out here or hereabouts. But perhaps the most famous of the industries, one which ensured that the name of Ashford was known widely was the trade in Ashford black marble. This is not a true marble but simply an impure form of limestone that polished up to a beautiful black. True marbles have been metamorphosed (changed physically) by heat from limestone.
The Sheepwash Bridge is exactly as its name suggests as well as having been a packhorse bridge when it was first built. Lambs were placed in the pen on one side of the river and the ewes swam across the river to get to them. The shepherds made sure the sheep had a good dunking on the way across! This was an easy way to clean the fleece prior to shearing. Take a good look into the waters beneath the bridge – it is possible to see a good number of large trout swimming around.The bridge is perhaps one of the most photographed in the Peak District.
There are many interesting buildings in Ashford such as the Hall, a Joseph Pickford design which was one of the Cavendish family residences (built in the 1770’s. Parts of the Church (Holy Trinity) date back to Norman times but it is mostly a Victorian rebuild. Inside the church, on the far side from the main door, hang funerary garlands of white paper fixed to wooden frames. These date back to the 18th century and were made to be carried ahead of the coffin of young girls in their funeral procession.
As with many of the villages of Derbyshire, Ashford-in-the-Water has its well dressing ceremony and a thriving cricket club. The Well dressings take place in early summer with the blessing taking place on Trinity Sunday. I think there are 5 wells in the parish but the one most people visit is the one close to Sheepwash Bridge. The cricket ground is exactly as you might imagine an English village cricket ground to look and is good enough to host an annual game with Derbyshire County Cricket Club in order to raise money for charity.
For more information about the Ashford marble industry click here or for more information about the paper funerary garlands click here (external links, both leave this site and open in a new window)