The Diary: New series takes Peak at a dark past

Adam Smart, Ewan Anderson and Matthew Smart in Peak In The Past documentary
Adam Smart, Ewan Anderson and Matthew Smart in Peak In The Past documentary
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It is one of England’s most beautiful landscapes – but Tim Knebel is a man on a mission to make sure you never look at the Peak District in quite the same light again.

He’s a Sheffield archivist and historian, and he’s just made the first episode of an online TV series about the region’s past.

But be warned: the 30- minute documentaries ain’t as pretty as their picture postcard settings. Murder, mayhem and men hanging from the gallows are the main ingredients.

Over six episodes – the first of which has just gone live online – Tim and sister Holly, a broadcast journalist, retell stories of crime, carnage and, in one case, a copper called Inspector Cruit. They range from two Wardlow sisters murdered in the same night but by different people in different places to a desperate woman found drowned in a Bleaklow pond.

And it’s all based on research done by Tim while working at Sheffield Archives, in Shoreham Street.

Now the pair are hoping that first episode – about the 1840 slaying of nine-year-old chimney sweep George Hadfield by 19-year-old Luke Clarkson near Tideswell – will prove such an internet hit that producers pick it up for mainstream TV.

“I came across the story of George while in the archives,” explains Tim, 32, of Woodseats. “It was such a sad case. This little lad was crossing the Peaks looking for work with Luke Clarkson who was supposed to be looking after him. But over three days the teenager battered, whipped and threw him into rivers. I was reading about it and realised I knew a lot of the places mentioned in the reports, and I thought the idea of marrying that beautiful landscape with the drama would work on TV.”

He got sister Holly – who is 26 and was then working for High Peak Radio – on board, as well as school friend, Dave Mackie, a freelance video producer in Bristol.

“We realised we had the skills to do so we made the first episode,” explains Tim.

In the first episode Holly speaks to experts about the area as she pieces together the killing of George, the trial of Luke and the eventual punishment. Three Sheffield schoolboys – brothers Matthew and Adam Smart of Beauchief and Ewan Anderson of Millhouses – star in reconstructions.

“Now we just hope people like it,” says Tim. “The Peak District is a majestic place but there’s no denying it has a dark past.”

Watch at www.peakinthepast.co.uk