Retro: Lives changed forever when villages drowned

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir
Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir
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Our A to Z tour of Sheffield and surroundings areas moved on to B yesterday but it seemed strange not to detour to have a look at a famous lost Derbyshire village.

Ashopton was a tiny parish of the nearby village of Derwent, a mile and a half away.

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir'Villagers turned out for this photograph in 1912, many of them in their Sunday best

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir'Villagers turned out for this photograph in 1912, many of them in their Sunday best

It was an isolated place and villagers didn’t travel far. Their main view of the outside world came via tourists visiting the beauty spot.

A programme made by ATV in 1966 spoke to several villagers about their memories of their home, lost under Ladybower Reservoir three decades before.

Villagers interviewed on the film said that most people worked on farms or on the estates of the Duke of Devonshire or the Duke of Norfolk, who owned Derwent Hall which was also drowned by the reservoir.

The TV reporter told how isolated farms and cottages had disappeared under the earlier Derwent and Howden reservoirs, built in the 1910s.

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir'Pulling down the Wesleyan Methodist Church - January 1943

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir'Pulling down the Wesleyan Methodist Church - January 1943

Like Ladybower, they were constructed to supply the increasing demand for water in cities like Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.

The steep-sided Upper Derwent Valley, with its geology and height above sea level, made it an obvious choice for the water engineers.

The TV programme describes how, poignantly, as the Second World War laid waste to many communities, the two villages of Ashopton and Derwent disappeared as well.

One woman interviewed said: “It was a very beautiful village.

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir'Pictured Cockbridge Farm, Ashopton, 1935

Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir'Pictured Cockbridge Farm, Ashopton, 1935

“It was such a pity to take all the houses, especially at that time we had to move there was a war on and houses were being destroyed everywhere.

“It was a pity to destroy those that were so good.”

Many of the villagers had been rehoused at Yorkshire Bridge near the reservoir and could watch as their communities were being destroyed.

There were a few mixed feelings as one man described how villagers who still had to use paraffin lamps and outside toilets were moved to the convenience of more modern homes.

Ashopton Inn 1936''Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir

Ashopton Inn 1936''Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir

He said that a lot of the beauty of his village had been lost anyway before he finally moved out, as trees and walls were taken down, leaving a wasteland “barren of anything which one liked to remember it by”.

Heralded as the largest artificial reservoir, formed by constructing an earthwork embankment in the British Isles, Ladybower Reservoir was intended to supply 53,666,000 gallons per day.

Work on the reservoir had begun in 1935 but its completion was delayed by the Second World War.

A crowd of 25,000 watched the official inauguration of the reservoir on September 25, 1945 by King George VI, who unveiled a plaque.

The king unlocked the gates leading to the embankment and operated the release valves, causing water to flow from the reservoir.

The ceremony marked the completion of a work programme initiated in 1899, when an Act of Parliament authorised the Derwent Valley Water Board to construct a total of six reservoirs.

Ashopton - old Toll House on the left for the 1821 turnpike - July 1935''Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir

Ashopton - old Toll House on the left for the 1821 turnpike - July 1935''Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir

Five-and-a-quarter miles of new roads were built to replace those underwater, as well as two viaducts made of reinforced concrete.

The spire of Derwent parish church was the last significant building in the villages to disappear from view.

It was dismantled in 1947 because of safety concerns.

The myth that the church bells could be heard ringing as the waters rose is just that: the bells had been removed years beforehand.

To see the 1966 TV programme, go to Lost villages of Derwent and Ashopton

The new viaduct at Ashopton before the village was flooded to make way for the reservoir.''Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir

The new viaduct at Ashopton before the village was flooded to make way for the reservoir.''Ashopton Village - demolished in the early 1940's to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir