Whaley Bridge

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Whaley Bridge is a small town and civil parish in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England, situated on the River Goyt. Whaley Bridge is approximately 16 mi (26 km) south of Manchester, 7 mi (11 km) north of Buxton, 9 mi (14 km) east of Macclesfield and 28 mi (45 km) west of Sheffield, and had a population of 6,226 at the 2001 census. This includes the village of Furness Vale, which falls within the boundaries of Whaley Bridge.

There is evidence of prehistoric activity in the area, including early Bronze Age standing stones, burial sites and the remains of a stone circle. A bronze-age axe head was discovered in 2005. There has long been speculation that the ‘Roosdyche’, a complex of banks and ditches on the eastern side of the town, is of prehistoric human origin, but investigations in 1962 concluded that it was formed by glacial meltwater.

The name of Weyley or Weylegh appears in many 13th century documents and is derived from the Anglo Saxon weg leah meaning a clearing by the road. In 1351 the lands of Weyley and Yeardsley were granted to William Joddrell for his faithful service to Edward, the Black Prince. In the 14th century, it housed the residence of William Jauderell and his descendants (the name also spelt Jodrell). The Jodrells continued to call their lands Yeardsley Whaley for centuries and when the first local government board was formed in 1863 and the area became an urban district, the town adopted its popular name of Whaley Bridge and the town has been called so ever since.

The River Goyt formed the historical boundary between Derbyshire and Cheshire. The present town of Whaley Bridge was divided into smaller towns in both counties. Historical records show that in 1316 on the Cheshire side there were Taxal, Yeardsley and Whaley with the last two being combined into one district of ‘Yeardsley-cum-Whaley’. The Derbyshire side consisted only of Fernilee which included the villages of Shallcross and Horwich. This side was in the parish of Hope and was part of the Forest of High Peak, while the Cheshire side was part of the Forest of Macclesfield. From 1796 Taxal and Yeardsley were effectively joined in that the Jodrell family was the main landowner in both towns, although the administration of these remained separate until 1936.

Up until the late 19th century the population of the area grew slowly. For example in the diocesan census in 1563, Taxal is recorded as having 26 households, and by the mid-18th century Taxal and Yeardsley together only reached 55 households. In 1791 land at Whaley Bridge was advertised for sale, the owner believing that its waterpower would be useful in the textile industry, but the two townships remained very small and only had a population of 853 between them by 1841. Up to this time agriculture and coalmining had been the main occupations.

The town expanded greatly in the Industrial Revolution and the population almost trebled to 2,322. Although there had been coal mines from earlier times, by 1871 cotton mills had become the dominant industry. Coalmining took place in the area from its very early days because of a large geographical fault which traverses the Whaley Bridge basin from east to west resulting in the coal outcropping in various places. Documentary evidence of 1587 indicates a well-established coal industry in the “Towneshepp of Weley” known today as Whaley Bridge. Today, there is less intensive agriculture labour and there is no coalmining in the area.

Whaley Bridge continues to expand as new housing is built, but it retains the character of a small town. As the self-styled ‘Gateway to the Goyt’ it attracts tourists, mainly walkers, but it has not become dominated by the tourist industry, unlike some other local towns and villages. With a good commuter railway service to Manchester many people travel to work in the Manchester or Cheshire areas. With the introduction of ADSL broadband internet services increasingly people work from home.

The town has been twinned with Tymbark, Poland since June 1994.

The Cromford and High Peak Railway was granted Parliamentary consent in 1825. It was fully opened for passenger and goods traffic on 6 July 1831. The railway linked the wharf at the head of the Whaley Bridge Branch of the Peak Forest Canal to the Cromford Canal at Cromford Wharf. It had seven inclined planes, the first being situated within the town of Whaley Bridge itself. Unlike the other six inclined planes, which were operated by stationary steam engines, this one was operated by a horse-driven gin, which remained operational until 9 April 1952. This plane was much shorter than the others, being only 180 yards (165 m) long and rising at 1:13.5. Approach to the top of the plane was under a very low bridge and, because of this, waggons had to be hauled to and from the top of the plane by horses.[citation needed]

Horses also worked the bottom section of the line and the tracks ran onto a wharf and into two mills. Another notable feature on the bottom section is an iron bridge that carries the line across the River Goyt.

The Peak Forest Canal and basin were built in the 1790s and opened on 1 May 1800. An important building at the head of the Peak Forest Canal was the Transhipment Warehouse, built in 1832. In this building goods and minerals were transferred to and from the many working canal boats servicing local industry. The building straddles the head of the canal which is fed by the Combs and Toddbrook Reservoirs to the south.

A new joint project between British Waterways and several Whaley Bridge community groups to bring this important building back to life, and to serve as a centre of the Whaley Bridge community, was envisaged in 2007 and is the subject of a grant application to the East Midlands Development Agency under their Waterways Regeneration Funding offer in 2008.

Whaley Bridge is a civil parish with the status of a town. At the lowest level of local government is Whaley Bridge Town Council, consisting of 12 councillors. Three councillors are elected for each of the four wards of Fernilee, Furness Vale, Taxal and Yeardsley.

The next tier of local government is High Peak Borough Council. Whaley Bridge constitutes one of the borough’s 28 wards. It returns 3 of the 43 borough councillors. At the last council elections in May 2007, two Liberal Democrat and one independent councillor were elected.

The top tier of local administration is the 64-member Derbyshire County Council. The town is included in the electoral division of Whaley Bridge and Blackbrook, electing one county councillor.

The township of Yeardsley-cum-Whaley, Cheshire, was part of the ancient parish of Taxal. The township adopted the Local Government Act 1858 and formed a local board to govern the town. Under the Local Government Act 1894 this became Yeardsley-cum-Whaley Urban District. On the Derbyshire side of the Goyt, the parish of Fernilee was included in Chapel en le Frith Rural District. In 1936 a county review order merged the urban district with the built-up part of Fernilee to form Whaley Bridge Urban District, with the new district placed in Derbyshire.

In 1974 the Local Government Act 1972 came into force, abolishing all urban and rural districts in England and Wales, and replacing them with non-metropolitan districts. Whaley Bridge became part of the district of High Peak, with a successor parish formed for the area of the urban district. The parish council resolved that Whaley Bridge should have the status of a town.

The Church of England parish of Whaley Bridge has two churches. St James, Taxal stands on a site a mile from the town centre and was established in the 12th century. Parts of the tower may date back to that time, although much of the church was rebuilt in the 17th and 19th centuries. Holy Trinity, Fernilee was established near the town centre in 1905. Parts of the town are included in the Cheshire parish of St John, Disley, and are served by the Church of St John the Divine, Furness Vale.

The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Whaley Lane, serves the parish of Whaley Bridge and Disley.

The United Reformed Church and Methodists formed a local ecumenical partnership, the “Whaley Bridge Uniting Partnership” in 1983, subsequently joined by the Baptists. The partnership has three places of worship: Whaley Bridge Uniting Church, Fernilee Methodist Church and Kettleshulme Chapel.

The Good News Church is an evangelical church based in the Gospel Hall, Old Road.

Whaley Hall is a large detached Victorian house near Toddbrook Reservoir. Since 1979 it has been a retreat house and conference centre run by the “Community of the King of Love”: an ecumenical community of men and women.

Whaley Bridge has an annual carnival month during which the ‘Whaley Water Weekend’ (W3), started in 2000, and Rose Queen Carnival, started over a hundred years ago, take place. The W3 started out as a minor community event based directly on the canal basin. In 2011 the twelfth W3 was held. The event attracted over 2,000 visitors and included both free short canal boat rides and a longer Heritage Trip, with an historic commentary, to Bugsworth Basin. This longer boat trip is run in cooperation with New Horizons from Marple, a 72-foot boat built especially for those with limited physical capabilities. On shore there was Punch and Judy, a mini zoo with Meerkats, a fairground, craft and plant stalls, food and ice cream and a live music on an outdoor stage. 2012’s event will be 8 to 10 June. The weekend of W3 is followed by the Well Dressing Weekend, a traditional Derbyshire event in which the local well is decorated with large collages of cones, flower petals, etc.

Carnival month ends with the Whaley Bridge Rose Queen Carnival, (30 June 2012) where groups of local young people from the town, Rose Queen royalty from other villages and invited bands process through the main streets in their finery and on decorated floats culminating in events, stalls and entertainment held at Whaley Bridge Bowling Club.In 2009 a Fell Race, known as The Whaley Waltz, was added to the Rose Queen programme and annually attracts over 180 runners. Organised by Goyt Vally Striders the race starts in the centre of the village and climbs 900 ft to Windgather Rocks. It finishes after crossing the River Goyt on Forge Road. Following the Carnival is the Rose Queen Pet Show, 2012 July 4, where locals bring their pets to compete in different classes.

The final event of the year is the switching on of the Christmas tree lights outside the Jodrell Arms Hotel, close to Whaley Bridge railway station. This is usually done by the chair of the Town Council and is accompanied by seasonable music from members of Whaley Bridge Brass Band. Father Christmas traditionally arrives at the Transhipment Warehouse on the Whaley Wharf of the Peak Forest Canal on a canal boat and processes to the Mechanics’ Institute accompanied by his helpers. Businesses make their contribution to the town’s Christmas decorations by way of small trees above their shop windows and bright lights around their shop fronts.The Town Council erects two large trees each year, the second being by the Soldier Dick public house at Furness Vale.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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