THOR'S CAVE AND WETTON

Grid Ref: SK 108 554
30 August 2003

Cave spacer Thor's cave
Thor's Cave seen from the road between Wetton
and Wetton Mill   
  Thor's cave, in deep shade on the left of the rock,
viewed from the west side of the valley    
Wetton Mill   Cave
Tea room at Wetton Mill   Entrance to Thor's Cave
St. Margaret's   Nave
St. Margaret's, Wetton   The Nave looking towards the much older west tower
Gable   Coat of Arms
The date shown on the gable is 1675   A clue to Wetton's history as part of the Chatsworth Estate

 

The Manifold Valley in North Staffordshire is a great favourite with both walkers and cyclists. It runs northwards from Waterhouses, which lies on the A 523 between Leek to Ashbourne. A popular way to visit the valley is by bicycle from Waterhouses. There you can park and either bring your own bike or hire one. The path in the valley is only for cyclists and walkers and is along the line of the former Leek and Manifold light railway line. It has been covered with tarmac and so even after prolonged wet weather it is a pleasant route. The first part of the track from Waterhouses follows the River Hamps, frequently dry, until its confluence with the Manifold. About half a mile beyond one passes a lofty limestone eminence to the right which contains Thor's Cave. This can be reached up a steep track from the Manifold Valley. A less strenuous route is to go from Wetton Mill up the minor road to the village of Wetton. After looking round the village you can follow a path to approach Thor's cave from above. The waters of the Manifold usually disappear underground near Wetton Mill, only to emerge a few miles down the valley at Ilam. At the end of the cycle track one can emerge onto a minor road at Hulme End and cycle another couple of miles into the charming village of Hartington in Derbyshire. There are two tea-rooms on the Manifold Valley track and further refreshment facilities in both Hulme End and Hartington.

A glance at the Ordnance Survey Map (Landranger 119) shows that this area is littered with prehistoric tumuli. The valleys were fertile and the hills suitable for defensive positions. Archaeological investigations has shown that the area was inhabited in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Moreover there was copper ore at Ecton, south west of Hulme End. One of the mines was owned by the Dukes of Devonshire and profits from it are said to have funded the building of The Crescent in Buxton. Samuel Carrington, a local antiquary and the school master at Wetton excavated Thor's Cave in the 1860s. He found flint arrowheads, bone combs, bronze bracelets, iron adzes, Samian ware and a Roman coin. Nearby at the base of Beeston Tor is St. Bertram's cave where Saxon jewels and coins of King Alfred were found. St. Bertram was buried at nearby Ilam. Samuel Carrington was buried in the churchyard at Wetton.

Wetton is mentioned in the Domesday book as Wade Stone. It is a village of sturdily built limestone cottages, some dating from the 17th century. Until 1947 it was an estate village belonging to the Duke of Devonshire. The land was sold when the family were faced with two sets of death duties and was offered initially to the sitting tenants. Like many villages it has lost its school but the former school building, erected in 1866, was converted in 1997 into a village hall.

It is thought that there has been a church on the site since about 1100 which was later rebuilt. The base of the tower, which has large quoin stones, may be from the 13th century while the upper part of the tower is 15th century. The main body of the church was destroyed by fire in the early 19th century and rebuilt in 1820. It would appear that any monuments within the church were lost at that time. The church is unusual in being a single chamber without a separate nave and chancel. The church is being restored and the bells are being rehung. They have not been rung in living memory. High on the east wall are the recently restored arms of George IV, the monarch when the church was rebuilt. Boards showing the Ten Commandments, the Creed and Lord's Prayer are also being restored. The restoration work is supported by grants but the parishioners have been engaged in many fund raising activities. The Parish of Wetton is now part of the United Benefice of Alstonefield, Butterton, Elkstone, Ilam and Warslow in the Diocese of Lichfield.

Sources:

A History of St. Margaret's Church, Wetton, by M. I. Humphrey, 2001, a booklet available in the church, draws on History of Wetton by James Robert, 1900.
The Old Parish Churches of Staffordshire, by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, 1996.
The Buildings of England, Staffordshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin, 1974, ISBN 0 14 071046 9
The King's England, Staffordshire, by Arthur Mee, Hodder and Stoughton, London, first published in 1937.

 

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