Introduction to Archaeology in the Peak District

The Peak District and surrounding areas are rich in archaeological remains, dating back to the stone ages, one of the most important of these being Cresswell Crags. Cresswell Crags are a series of caves that represent the earliest human occupation in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area (late palaeolithic and mesolithic are the oldest remains found there when they were visited seasonally during the last Ice Age). Cresswell Crags lie just outside of the Peak District but are well worth a visit, especially if you are on the East side of the region.

There are literally dozens of other caves and rock shelters in the heart of the Peak District. Please click here for more information. The majority are more recent, the Bronze age is well represented by stone circles and the well known Swine Sty settlement, there are Iron age hill forts (notably Mam Tor and Carl Wark although the latter has not been conclusively dated and could span more than one period.), a few Roman remains such as Doctors Gate Roman road and the site of the fort Derventio in Derby, some Anglo-Saxon carvings scattered round the Peak's churches (like T'Owd Man in Wirksworth church, depicting a lead miner with pick and ore basket plus the fine collection in the porch of Bakewell church) and to the south of the Peak in the Trent Valley.

But the Peak is not just about the stone age and bronze age caves, stone circles and burial mounds. There are Roman remains too. Not spectacular but certainly interesting. There are some Saxon remains scattered round the Peak District, normally associated with the churches. To the south of the Peak District, still in Derbyshire, Repton was a major Saxon site.

You will also find a few Norman and medieval remains here and there, including ridge and furrow, very well preserved round Tissington. Perhaps the Peak District is best known for its industrial archaeology, lead mining has been carried out since at least Roman times and the Derbyshire town of Cromford is regarded as the birthplace of the factory system - Arkwright's mill, otherwise known as Cromford mill, powered by the waste water from the local lead mine flowing out from its sough. Indeed, the Derwent Valley from Derby Silk Mill to the Masson mill at Matlock Bath has been designated a World Heritage Site.

There are many legends around the Peak, some say that Robin Hood was actually based in the moors around Hathersage. There are various pieces of (possibly) archaeological evidence for this, including the area of Stanage Edge called Robin Hood's Cave. This would have been an ideal refuge for a band of outlaws. It seems more likely that many areas of the country used the name ‘Robin Hood’ to describe their local outlaws.

Derbyshire archaeological time line - a brief summary of the type of site from each archaeological era.

DISCLAIMER - probably not necessary but we need to let you know that this information and all of the other information in the archaeology section is given in good faith and has been compiled from notes taken whilst attending an evening class in archaeology (quite a few years ago now so there will most likely be new knowledge of these sites). If you decide to visit any of the sites, please take great care. We cannot accept any liability for your actions in exploring any of the sites mentioned on our website. Many are on private land so you should seek permission from the landowner before visiting. Nor can we accept any liability from any use of the information given here. If it is for educational purposes, please cross check with other sources to confirm accuracy.

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