Bakewell is a compact town and the only true town within the Peak District National Park.
Bakewell’s name is said to derive from the warm springs in the area – the Domesday Book entry calls the town ‘Badequella’, meaning Bath-well. The town was built on the west bank of the Wye and the site was probably occupied in Roman times (there is a Roman altar at Haddon Hall, found nearby).
The Saxons left their mark here and in 924 Edward the Elder ordered a fortified borough to be built here. The church was founded in 920 and some Saxon fragments can be seen in the porch. However, although parts are Norman, most of the modern building dates from the 13th century and it was virtually rebuilt in the 1840s. It contains many interesting monuments and is well worth a visit.
A few yards up the hill from the church is the Old House Museum, housed in one of the few genuinely medieval buildings of the area. This house serves as a local history museum and is in the care of the Bakewell Historical Society. Other places of historical interest include Bagshaw Hall, a fine 17th century house built by a rich lawyer, and several old buildings down King Street, such as the Old Town Hall, the Red Tudor House and the Hospital of the Knight of St John. Just off the Buxton Road lies Victoria Mill, which ground corn from water power until 1939.
Two of the original wells (which serve up water rich in iron at a temperature of 15 degrees Centigrade) still survive. These are the Bath-well in Bath Street and Holywell (or Pete well) in the recreation ground. The others have been filled in long ago. Likewise, little except the bridge across the Wye (built around 1300 though widened since then) now survives of the old Bakewell, which was quite medieval in character until the early 19th century. In 1777 Arkwright opened a mill in the town and it was perhaps the resulting surge in prosperity which caused the town to be largely rebuilt in the 19th century.
One such building is the Rutland Arms, overlooking the town square and built in 1804. Jane Austen stayed here in 1811 and in Pride and Prejudice she has Elizabeth Bennet stopping here to meet the Darcy’s and Mr Bingley. However, the Rutland Arms’ chief claim to fame is as the place where the Bakewell Pudding (Bakewell has never heard of tarts) was invented by a chef of 1859 who made a mistake. You can now buy Bakewell Puddings at several establishments across the town, all claiming to have the original unique recipe.
Bakewell has one of the oldest markets in the area, dating from at least 1300. The first recorded fair was held in 1254. Markets are still held every Monday and, unlike most of the other local centres, there is a thriving livestock market at the Agricultural Centre which is well worth a visit. Every August there is a show and well-dressing.
There are some very pleasant walks along the river from the bridge in the centre of town. Downstream leads to the recreation ground and upstream takes you to the site of Arkwright’s mill, via Holme Hall (a fortified manor house dated 1626) and Holme Bridge (dated 1664). The mill burned down in 1868, but the cottages associated with it (Lumford Terrace), still survive.
Bakewell has a full range of shops, pubs and restaurants. There are numerous options for accommodation and there is also a Youth Hostel.
Bakewell is the home of the Peak National Park Authority, who have their main offices at Aldern House, Baslow Road. They operate the town’s information centre which is in the old Market Hall in Bridge Street, with a parking area (except on market days) and public toilets next to it. It is open daily 9.30am – 5.30pm in summer and 9.30am – 1pm in winter. Telephone: 01629 813 227.
Old House Museum
The Old House Museum in Bakewell is about 200 metres away from the church, situated in the oldest standing building in Bakewell (dating from 1534). It houses a small exhibition of local life and artefacts.
The building is a typical yeoman’s house of the 16th century and belonged originally to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield. At one time it was leased in 1777 by Richard Arkwright to house workers for the mill he built in the town. By 1935 the house was in a state of disrepair and was due to be demolished when it was saved by the Bakewell and District Historical Society and restored. The exterior is of local sandstone but the interior walls are of wattle and daub.
The museum is open April to October 11.00am – 4.00pm
Admission costs £3.00 for adults and £1.50 for children.
Old Market Hall
An impressive building that dates back to the 17th century and now accommodates the Tourist Information Centre. Goods produced by members of the Peak Products organisation are attractively displayed for purchase. In addition, if you want something a little different, you can send a postcard to the future as well as acting as landscape detective!
Tel: 01629 816 558