Hartington - a short history

Hartington's name is of Anglian derivation, which means the village was most likely founded as a farming settlement in the 6th or 7th century.

The village was centred around a knoll overlooking a level area (now the market place), which was blessed with a water source. The village church was built upon the knoll.

By the time of the Domesday Book, the manor of Hartington was in the hands of Henry de Ferrers, who also had estates at Tutbury and Duffield. De Ferrers probably built nearby Pilsbury Castle around 1070 or 1080 as a wooden motte and bailey castle, and that would have been his base in this part of Derbyshire.

Pilsbury Castle had a short history and was almost certainly abandoned long before 1266, when the land around Hartington was confiscated from Robert de Ferrers III, Earl of Derby, for rebelling against King Henry III, and given to the Duchy of Lancaster.
pilsbury castle site

Pilsbury Castle is now no more than a mound - aerial view

st giles church hartington

St Giles' church, Hartington

The village gained a market charter from King John in 1203, one of the earliest such charters in the area, and evidently prospered.

The church is the only medieval building remaining and is probably not the first on the site. It has some sections which date from the 12th century, but most of the building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The tower and the porch entrance were added in the late 14th century and the whole building was restored quite sensitively in the 19th century.

The church lacks any distinctive features such as old brasses or tombs, which many of the local churches have, but it is a fine building, and one which dominates the village.
The other major building of the village is Hartington Hall, a lovely Jacobean building constructed in 1611 and which is now a Youth Hostel.

Shortly after the Hall was constructed, Charles Cotton took possession of Beresford Hall, just outside the village. Here he hosted his friend, author and fellow fisherman Izaak Walton, and the result was the 'Compleat Angler'.

Cotton was a spendthrift who lost several fortunes and he soon lost Beresford Hall, which has now almost completely disappeared, with only a Tudor 'Prospect' tower remaining.

hartington hall youth hostel

Hartington Hall is now a Youth Hostel

the village shop was once the town hall

The village shop was once the Town Hall

The market made Hartington an important local centre and during the 18th and 19th centuries it was the centre of a huge parish, later spilt into four parts.

The local economy was boosted by the development of the copper mines at nearby Ecton Hill, which were phenomenally productive in the late 18th century.

The wealth and standing of Hartington at this time can be best judged by the fine old Town Hall building, which is now the general store.

Cheesemaking was for centuries and important local industry, and since 1900 Hartington has been a centre for making Stilton Cheese. The factory is a few hundred metres beyond the Market Square, and the Old Cheese Shop sells the factory's delicious wares.

Click here for more details of Hartington's recent history
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