This text is from a booklet produced by the Earl Sterndale History Group and remains their copyright.
At first sight, as you approach the village from Buxton, Earl Sterndale, with its post-war housing estate and post-war church, looks like a very modern village. Nothing could be further from the truth. This area has been inhabited from the very earliest times. Excavations in Dowel Cave have found remains that show it was probably used as a hunting cave in the Palaeolithic Age, making it one of the earliest inhabited places in the whole country.
By the Neolithic Age, both Dowel Cave and Foxhole Cave on High Wheeldon were being used as shelter and burial sites. There are Bronze Age cairns on Hitter Hill, Cronkston Low and Hind Low. The hill above Harley Farm has a Romano-British burial mound, and in Dowel Dale there are remains of a Romano-British settlement.
The Eastern edge of Earl Sterndale parish is a Roman Road known as The Street and now part of the A515.
The lost Anglo-Saxon settlement of Salham, mentioned in Domesday, was laid waste by William the Conqueror. He then gave the land to his right-hand man, Henry de Ferrers, along with a huge area stretching to the south of the county including Ashbourne and Matlock. Henry de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, established the present village of Earl Sterndale, distinguishing it from the nearby King Sterndale which was land owned by the King.
The first mention of Earl Sterndale (as Stenredile, meaning stony valley) was in 1244. By 1330, it had become Erlisstenerdale and then gradually developed its present name.
There was a short period at the end of the eighteenth century when it was called Church Sterndale.
The Chatsworth map of 1614 shows the surrounding fields under strip cultivation and the names of tenants. Goodwin, Needham, Gilman, Heathcote and Wheeldon are still local names today.
The Duke of Devonshire has been Lord of the Manor since this time.
Earl Sterndale has never been a market town like Longnor and the majority of its inhabitants have always been farmers, farm servants or agricultural labourers. However, by the nineteenth century, there were a number of other occupations listed.
There were occupations relating to the railway at Hurdlow and Parsley Hay: a railway miner, a plate-layer, a railway labourer, a goods agent for the railway and a coal agent. There were people providing local services: a glazier and tinman, a dressmaker, a shoemaker, a butter huckster, a letter carrier, a game keeper, a stonemason, a wheelwright, a blacksmith, and two millers. Quarrymen start to make their appearance as well.
By the beginning to the twentieth century there were several small shops, chiefly the post office and grocery store. There was a sweetshop, a bakery, and a butcher’s in the hut in front of The Quiet Woman Inn. There was another pub across the road. Visiting tradesmen came with hardware, clothing and green-groceries.
With the advent of the car, Earl Sterndale’s proximity to Buxton means that all these shops with the exception of the post office have now disappeared.
The Recreation Ground
An acre of land was given to the village by the then Duke of Devonshire in 1921 as part of the peace celebrations after the First World War, “to be laid out as a play-ground for the school children and a public recreation ground.”
The Village School
This was opened in 1850, replacing many other buildings used for teaching over the years. The schoolroom was extended in 1895 and a porch was also added. This apparently made it suitable for 92 children. At the moment, the school has its full complement of 32 pupils with not an inch to spare.
We know there was a school of some sort existing locally in 1712 when James Hill left £2 yearly in his will to the school master, “for teaching four of the poorest children.”
Running along behind the school and parallel with the main road is Back Lane. A hundred years ago, it was known as Back August Lane, which must have developed from Occrust Field (earlier Oxrestes) there on the 1614 map. One of the houses on Back Lane is Bank Side Cottage with a lintel dated 1724.
There was probably a chapel on this site from the founding of the village, though this was most likely built of wood and burned down. A Saxon font survives from this earliest period. In the mid-sixteenth century, an inventory of Church goods list “Sterndall Chappell” as having “one bell and one broken bell” as well as various priest’s vestments. The church registers begin in 1765.
The chapel was repaired in 1793, “but it soon became utterly ruinous.” It was taken down in 1828 and built on a larger scale with a small embattled tower and three bells.
In 1850 the Church of St. Michael and All Angels was finally made a full church with its own parish, which is the largest in the area, consisting of 33,000 acres.
It was restored again in 1881 and enlarged to hold 252 sittings. It was restored yet again in 1908. Then finally, in 1941, an enemy plane dropped incendiary bombs on its roof and it was left a burnt-out shell.
The present church was rebuilt and re-dedicated in 1952, hence its modern appearance.
The war memorial is a granite column paid for by public subscription and erected in 1922.
There is an interesting gravestone commemorating Billy Budd, who fought with the British Army in the Afghan War in 1880 where he had to march 300 miles without shoes.
A sad gravestone of the Bagshaw family records the deaths of their children aged 7 months, 3 years and 4 years. Two sons who survived into manhood both died aged 25, one of them killed in action in 1915.
The Village Green
The stone commemorates the coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
This was originally the village workhouse from around 1774 to 1826. It was run by a Mr. Griffen who gave his name to the lane running down from the Quiet Woman to the crossroads.
The building then became a smithy and later a shop and post office for many years before eventually becoming a private house.
The Quiet Woman Inn
The building dates from 1625 and has been a public house for most of the time since then. It was in the occupation of succeeding generations of the Heathcote family for possibly 300 of those years.
The upstairs room was once used as a school and the building has also included a cheese-making factory and a butchers shop.
A row of cottages opposite The Quiet Woman Inn is shown on the Chatsworth map of 1614 but it is impossible to say whether any parts of the present buildings dates from this time.
Originally two houses, now knocked together, it was once a sweet shop.
This cottage was once the home of Billy Budd whose gravestone is in the churchyard. There is a small building at the back which used to serve as a mortuary and is dated 1865.
Originally a barn but completely rebuilt as a house around 1912.
Rose Cottage and Chapel View
These were formerly one building which was a public house known as The Star Inn. Until recently the ring for tying up horses outside was still visible.
The next three cottages form a small terrace all dating from the early 1700’s.
This cottage was originally a bake house supplying Lilac Cottage which was the village bakery.
This was once used as a school. As it is so small, it was probably a dame school for very young children.
This was originally three separate cottages named Chapel View Yard. Since the present building certainly dates from 1804 and possibly 1745, the chapel in view could not have been the Methodist building, but must have referred to St. Michael’s Church, which was still a chapel at that point.
The Methodist Chapel
Travelling Methodist preachers came to Earl Sterndale in 1787 to hold prayer-meetings and Rowland Heathcote was one of those converted. He opened his farm for regular worship and at his death in 1820 left an annuity for the continuing support of preaching.
Thomas Johnson, a miller from Glutton Bridge, then bought “100 sq. yds. More or less, being part of a garden” from John Bagshaw of Chapel Cottages. The total was £7.10s. and a Wesleyan chapel was built on the site, opening in 1850.
It was originally in the Burslem and then Macclesfield circuits but has now been included in the Buxton circuit.
A Grade II listed building with a remodelled early nineteenth century front.
Early maps show a run of houses along this side of the road. These have now all disappeared though it is still possible to make out some old footings.
It is likely that the centre of the village used to be around the Mere, with Hall Farm, Home Farm, Mere Farm and the farm that is now the first Sycamore Cottage.
This used to have mullioned windows along the front of the building nearest to the village, which could date it in the same period as the Hall.
This was once an important source of water for the village which is very short of springs and wells. As the water table fell because of quarrying, it became derelict, until it was restored in 1999 by local labour.
The earliest deeds relating to Mere Farm are written in Latin and date from 1688. This must make it one of the oldest buildings in the village.