The Village of Youlgrave
The ancient village of Youlgrave (or Youlgreave as it can also be spelled) lies on the ridge to the north of Bradford Dale, deep in the heart of the scenic White Peak of the Peak District.
From the junction with the A6 the Youlgrave road climbs steadily above the floor of the Derwent Valley winding past the hamlet of Alport and after a series of bends ascends the hill until it reaches the top of the ridge to enter the village Main Street.
Within Youlgrave is the dominant feature of the Parish church of All Saints which possesses a 15th century square tower, widely renowned as possibly the finest in Derbyshire. Narrow lanes run north and south off Main Street, with those on the south descending steeply down the hillside towards the River Bradford at the valley bottom.
Historical records suggest the church has had Saxon origins, and the current structure with Norman pillars was built around 1130. It boasts a unique Norman font which features a stoup supported by the carved figure of a Salamander, a Continental symbol of baptism and the only one in England. The font was the cause of some local controversy early last century as it originally belonged to the church in Elton. When the Elton spire collapsed, the church had to be rebuilt in 1812 so the font lay in Elton churchyard until 1833. At this time is was spotted by the Vicar of Youlgrave, Rev.Pidcock, who initially removed it to his garden and used it as a garden ornament. His successor, Rev.Wilmot, recognised it for what it was and had it placed in the church in 1838. When the villagers of Elton heard they realised their loss and demanded the font back. Youlgrave refused and in an effort to resolve the dispute peacefully, Mr.Thornhill of Stanton Hall financed the making of an exact replica and presented it to Elton's church.
In 1870 the Thornhills also made a gift to Youlgrave Parish Church of a full peal of eight bells, which were manufactured at the foundry of Mears & Stainbank in London. The eighth bell is inscribed with this rhyme: `I call the living, mourn the dead. I tell when days and years are fled; For grief and joy, for prayer and praise, To heaven my tuneful voice I raise.`
To the west of the church on Main Street stands the Bull`s Head, an old coaching inn built from 1675. Opposite the centre of the oldest part of the village stands the circular construction known as `The Fountain. This is a reservoir, sometimes mistaked for a war memorial or even and air vent, which holds 1500 gallons, built in 1829 to provide water for the villagers, each household paying the sum of sixpence a year for its use.
Youlgrave is recorded in the Domesday Book as `Giolgrove`, probably a corruption of the Saxon `Auldgroove` which refers to an old mine. Local miners were often known as `groovers` or `grovers` and the history of lead mining in the area dates back to the Romans.
The original village school was built in 1672 and had 25 pupils. The site is now occupied by the imposing Victorian structure of the Youlgrave Co-operative Society building (1887) with it`s three-arched front, now a youth hostel. It stands opposite the Fountain at the village centre with the rest of the narrow main street in both directions offering a variety of stone built dwellings ranging from early 17th to late 19th century.
One of the oldest and most impressive is the Old Hall built around 1656, and up a street nearby stands Old Hall Farm built in a similar style about twenty years earlier.
The `new` Church of England Primary School which stands next to the church was erected in 1887/8 and the dining room & kitchen were added almost a century later in 1979.
Other noteable dwellings include Auburn House built in 1734 for the Coates family. Rev.Coates was vicar of Youlgreave in 1650, and the family made a fortune in the cotton industry.
It is a place for walkers & ramblers with some of the most beautiful valley walks in the country. It has an olde-worlde and unspoilt Derbyshire hamlet at either end of Bradford Dale; Middleton to the west and the quaint, picturesque hamlet of Alport to the east. Between the two and annexed at the southern end of the village is the former hamlet of Bradford, built beside the river which takes it`s name.
The one mile riverside walk which covers the length of the dale from west to east ends at Alport bridge, one of several old packhorse bridges along this stretch of the river. This marks the joining of the rivers Bradford & Lathkill and also denotes the southern gateway to Lathkill Dale. The walk is exhilerating for its charm and sheer tranquility. It is a must for any visitor to the upland White Peak village of Youlgrave.