Two months ago, I wrote about the drowned village of Derwent; now, at long last, I’m going to discuss the village lying even deeper under the waters of Ladybower Reservoir: Ashopton.
Ashopton was a much more recent development than its sister village, with most buildings having been constructed following the opening of the Sheffield to Glossop toll road (the modern-day A57 Snake Pass) in 1821. The Ashopton Inn dated from 1824, and was originally a staging post, where horses were changed prior to the ascent to, or following the descent from the Snake Inn – where an additional two horses were added to the usual four to aid with the even steeper part of the pass that led from the Inn to Glossop on the far western edge of Derbyshire.
The toll bar cottage, built in 1821, was moved a short distance from its original site in 1825, in order to ease the work of the toll keeper, who had originally had to collect at two toll bars in order to catch all travellers passing through the junction. Tolls were collected up until 1875, after which the cottage became a private residence – possibly incorporating a shop – until its demolition in 1943.
In addition to the businesses that directly served coach travellers, the village had a Post Office, a rather grand Methodist Chapel, shops, farms and cottages (some of which doubled as alehouses for the villagers). There was also a village football team.
When the construction of the reservoir began, a number of prominent buildings in Ashopton and Derwent were recorded for posterity by the artist Kenneth Rowntree as part of the Recording Britain initiative. These paintings are now held by the Victoria and Albert Museum and can be viewed online. In addition to the houses of the main village, several farms were drowned following the building of the reservoir, including Cockbridge Farm, home of Aaron Thorp. In August 1959, The Times reported that Mr Thorp, now living in Ashbourne, was keen to know whether the gateposts at the entrance to his drive had been uncovered due to the recent drought, since he regretted leaving them behind. I’ve made enquiries over the past couple of years, but none of his relatives seem to remember whether he ever recovered the gateposts.
Unlike Derwent Village (and possibly Mr Thorp’s gateposts), Ashopton lies too far under the waters of Ladybower to ever reappear, and is presumed to be buried under silt as well as the reservoir water. On my recent trip to the banks of the reservoir, I saw no evidence of the village, beyond what may once have been a horse trough — if so it must have been alongside a bridleway or cart track linking Ashopton to Derwent or an outlying farm, although I’ve since realigned my mental picture of it, and realised that much of what I was looking for lies on the far side of the modern viaduct to where I stood to take the majority of my photographs. It’s quite fortunate, therefore, that so many people have collected together memories and photographs of the village and its inhabitants in order that they might continue to be remembered.
Two books I found particularly helpful in composing this post were Vic Hallam’s Silent Valley, and Howard Smith’s The Story of the Snake Road (a very new acquisition for me as I only picked up my copy in the village pub-cum-Post Office last weekend). Next month, weather permitting, I plan to go in search of Birchinlee (the ‘Tin Town’ built for the workers who constructed the three reservoirs).