Highwaymen & Hangings
A beautiful walk just minutes from Littonfields Barn will bring you into the stunning Cressbrook Dale.
In the dale you you will find a tall limestone stack dominating the north end of the valley. This is referred to locally as either Peter’s Stone or Gibbet Rock.The name Peter’s Stone is reputedly due to it’s domed top bearing a resemblance to St Peter’s Basilica. However, we prefer the name Gibbet Rock which has a far more exciting origin in the local history of Derbyshire Highwaymen and hangings!
According to local folklore, on New Year’s Day, 1815 Hannah Oliver, the toll-keeper at Wardlow Mires was murdered and robbed of her red shoes by local man, Anthony Lingard. He was hung for the crime and after execution in Derby his body brought by horse and cart to be hung in chains, known as a “Gibbet”, on top of the stone.
Lingard’s skeleton is alleged to have hung on the gibbet for more than ten years, only being removed after locals complained about the gruesome noise of the bones rattling in the wind.
The valley was a regular route for packhorses during the 18th century and they were a prime target for highwaymen. The most notorious being Black Harry who had a prolific career before being finally caught in nearby Stoney Middleton and hung on gallows in Gibbet Field overlooking Cressbrook Dale.
Such was his notoriety that one of the old packhorse ways across Stoney Middleton Moor is named Black Harry Lane after him and there are a series of signposted walks and trails to enjoy, taking in many of his old haunts. Click here for more details of the Black Harry Trails.
Today Cressbrook Dale is a National Nature Reserve, famous for its limestone landscape, abundant wildlife and flowers, especially the beautiful Early Flowering Purple Orchid. Walking through it today, it’s hard to believe that this beautiful and peaceful place could have such a gruesome past.