If you ever purchase a calendar featuring ‘images of Derbyshire’ you can bet your bottom Bakewell tart, that at least one month will be illustrated with an image of millstones, abandoned on the moors.
Indeed the millstone is the iconic symbol of the Peak National Park,
I’m shamefaced to say I’d never been up here until last Friday, I knew about the place, just below High Neb on Stanage Edge.
It’s a popular spot for photographers, as you can imagine, there is something a little magnetic about those stones, the rough and the smooth, the taming of the stone
We thought is might be the sort of landscape that would give poetic inspiration to Glo, (you see dear blog readers, we think of you on our sorties) and this shot is for Gerry, we know how she likes a little whimsy in her world.
So what is the story of this graveyard of stones? The most informative website is Peak District Industrial Landscapes
Gritstone has been worked into tools to grind grain for at least 2,000 years. The earliest evidence are querns : simple blunt cones and cylinders worked entirely by muscle power can be found at Wharncliffe near Stocksbridge. Querns (that is hand powered stones) with a more familiar wheel design comes from an early medieval dig at Blackwell near Buxton. The millstones which attract the attention of the visitor most often, however, are the stones designed for use by water, wind and steam mills. There are probably 1,500 of these scattered throughout the Peak, although approx 80% are within 2 kilometers of a line drawn from Moscar (map ref.: SK2388) to Fox House (SK264803) and on to Dobb Edge (SK2687150) in the grounds of Chatsworth. A few more are on Stanton Moor or scattered around Ashover.
It took a man and a boy a month to cut a pair of these stones; and what I can’t help but wonder is how, given the influence of market forces (which I’m thinking must have been more real, urgent and hand to mouth then, than now) and given the number of stones still on the hill, did men and boys go on labouring on these stones long after they could still sell them? Here’s a stone left unfinished, we felt it had the look of a sacrificial altar about it).
Or are these stones the unrealised currency the men’s retirement* fund, for surely this type of labour must have been a young mans game, ‘ Eh lad, get some stones cut, for the lean times, when your back is to weary to work’. That is a miserable thought, please, other scenarios are welcome.
Look at the awesome view. (Joe told me to write that).
I use the word ‘retirement’ lightly, we are talking of an era where you worked to live, that was your lot.