"ASHBOURNE, (or Ashburne) a parish and market town, chiefly in the hundred of Wirksworth, partly in the hundreds of Appletree and Morleston, and Litchurch, in the county of Derby, 10 miles to the S.W. of Wirksworth, and 139 miles from London by road, or 146¾ by rail. It is connected with the North Staffordshire railway by a short branch line to Rocester. The parish is situated in Dovedale, and comprises the chapelries of Alsop-le-Dale, Clifton and Hulland, the hamlets of Sturston and Yeldersley, and the liberties of Newton Grange and Offcote-Underwood.
The Henmore, a small stream, divides the town into two parts, the southern of which is called Compton. At the Conquest, Ashbourne was a royal manor, and its name in Domesday Book is Erseburn. It formed part of the Duchy of Lancaster from the reign of Edward I. to the reign of Charles I. by whom it was sold with other estates in the duchy. It was the scene of a battle during the civil war, and was captured by the forces of the parliament in 1644. It was retaken, and visited by Charles I. in 1645.
One hundred years after, the Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, with several officers, remained in the town a night, taking possession of the Manor house. The town stands on the eastern side of the river Dove, in a deep valley embosomed in green hills, and rich in grand and beautiful scenery. Thorp Cloud is the most prominent hill in the neighbourhood but there are many other lofty and grotesque masses of rock in the dale, bearing such fanciful names as "My Lady's Chair", the "Twelve Apostles", &c.
The houses are nearly all built of red brick, the streets are paved, and lighted with gas, and there is a good supply of water. At the south-western extremity of the town is the railway station, and at the N.E. is an open space forming the market-place. The principal occupations are the cotton and lace manufacture, malting and cheese-making. Iron is obtained at Thorp Cloud Hill. The numerous fairs held here form an important part of the business of the place.
There is a reading and newsroom, a savings-bank, and a house of correction, erected in 1844, containing 4 cells. Petty sessions are held every Saturday, and polling for the southern division of the county takes place here. The town is the seat of a County Court district and a Poor-law Union, which embraces 61 parishes. The new union workhouse, which was completed in 1856, stands on an elevated spot called Church Banks. The town is not incorporated, but is governed under a recent Act of Parliament by the churchwardens and overseers.
The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Lichfield, value with the rectory of Mapleton St. Mary, £304, in the patronage of the bishop. The church is dedicated to St. Oswald. It was erected in 1241, by Hugh de Patishall, Bishop of Coventry, and is a large structure in the form of a cross, with a square tower surmounted by a lofty octagonal spire, ribbed with ball flower mouldings, and rising to the height of 212 feet.
This spire, which is remarkably elegant, is known as the "Pride of the Peak", and contains an ancient sanctus bell, in addition to the peal of eight bells in the tower. The church is mostly in the early English style, and has many monuments of the Cockaines, Bradburns, and Boothbys. The marble tomb of Penelope, only child of Sir Brooke and Dame Susanna Boothby is much admired. It was executed by Banks, in 1791. The church was restored in 1845.
There are besides three district churches - one at the village of Alsop-le-Dale, another at Hulland, and a third at Clifton; the latter is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and was erected in 1845. The livings of all are perpetual curacies of small value. The Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, and Lady Huntingdon's Connexion have places of worship in the town.
A free grammar school was founded here by Sir Thomas Cockaine, William Bradburn, and others, in 1585, the present revenue of which is £214. There are free schools for 30 boys and 30 girls, established and endowed by Mr. Spalden, in 1710, with £10 a year each. To the same benefactor the town owes its almshouses for four widows of clergymen, and ten almshouses for poor persons, with an income of £222 per annum. There are also almshouses founded and endowed by R. Owfield, John Cooper, Mr. Pegg, and others. The parochial charities amount altogether to £943.
Ashbourne Hall, the ancient seat of the Cockaines and Boothbys, is now the residence of Captain Holland, R.N. Ashbourne Green Hall and Ashbourne Grove are the other principal residences. The cottage in which Moore was residing at the time of the composition of "Lalla Rookh" is not far from Ashbourne. There is a stone bridge over the Dove.
The river is noted for its excellent trout and grayling. The market is held on Saturday. Fairs are held for the sale of horses, cattle, and wares of many kinds, on the first Tuesday in January, the 13th February, the second Monday in March, the 3rd April, the last Thursday in April, the 21st May, the 5th July, the 16th August, the 20th September, the third Monday in September, the 29th November, and the 15th December. There is a large sale of cheese at the fair in March and on the third Monday in September, and of wool at the July fair. The steeple-chase takes place the first week in March."
"NEWTON-GRANGE, a hamlet in the parish of Ashbourne, hundred of Wirksworth, county Derby, 4 miles N.W. of Ashbourne, its post town."
"OFFCOTE-UNDERWOOD, a liberty in the parish of Ashbourne, hundred of Wirksworth, county Derby, 2 miles from Ashbourne, and 13 N.W. of Derby. It is situated in the valley of the river Henmore, near Dovedale."
"STURSTON, a township in the parish of Ashbourne, hundred of Appletree, county Derby, 2 miles E. of Ashbourne, on a branch of the river Dove."
"YELDERSLEY, a township in the parish of Ashbourne, hundred of Appletree, county Derby, 3 miles S.E. of Ashbourne."