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Old Duffield Village, Church, and Castle,
With some Personal Reminiscences.

A Lecture given before the Duffield Branch of the Church of England Men's Society, Dec., 8th., 1921,

Celtic Occupation


 

 
An important point to remember is that Duffield is a notable example of continuity of occupation. From very ancient times it has been a home of man. Before recorded history begins - at a time when the greater part of the country was a trackless waste, very sparsely inhabited, largely covered with thick woods and great fens and marshes - a settlement of people lived here, who were protected from marauding foes by a stronghold, or fortified place, on what we know as Castle Hill and this hill has been held by successive waves of invaders and settlers through all the succeeding centuries.

This settlement at Duffield was probably chosen for two main reasons. There was here a well-watered plain, with sufficient open land for pasture (the name Duffield is from the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, and means "the field or pasture by the water"). Also, this was the entrance of the valley leading up to Wirksworth, where from time immemorial lead has been mined. Untold wealth has come out of those hills about Wirksworth and Cromford. To give you an example: the stipend of the Vicar of Wirksworth partly consisted of a tenth of the lead taken out of the mines in the parish. It is stated that, in the year 1852 the tithe received from a single mine was about £1200. The income from this source afterwards fell to £800 or £900 a year, and now, I should think, is a negligible amount.

Let us try to catch a glimpse of Duffield from the earliest days of which we have any authentic information. The first people whom we can trace here were the Celts, who came in prehistoric times from the far east, spreading from the tablelands of Asia, across northern Germany, until they reached our shores, and pushing their way inland mainly by ascending rivers. So, from the Humber, up the Trent, and then by the Derwent, came ages ago a band of these men, who founded a Celtic village on the mound raised up above the floods, the swamps and the marshes of the river, known now as Castle Hill. This settlement was defended by a moat round the base of the mound, and further by oak stakes on the outer edge of the moat, remains of which have been found.

 
Webmaster's Note
Later authors have suggested that the idea that the Celts inhabited the castle mound is erroneous. As a non-historian, I have no opinion on this. In my grandfathers account, oak stakes are mentioned, which it is now suggested are more typical of Anglo-Saxon defences. They might however be from the foundations of the Norman castle. The only way to resolve the matter would be if the remains were rediscovered and modern dating methods applied.
 
However, Dr. Cox in his account of the 1887 excavations (1) describes some pottery items and stone tools that, at the time, were identified as Celtic. He suggested that more might be found, but from a look at the plan, the area where they were found would seem to have been built over in the following century.
 
The meaning of the name Duffield that my grandfather gives was from the understanding of the time. Later writers suggest that it derives from 'Duf''Feld', the field of doves. I return to this point elsewhere
 
1. Cox, J.C., Duffield Castle; its history, site, and recently found remains; with some account of the seven Earl Ferrers who held it.geneal. tab., Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 9, 1887.
 
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First published 1922, Derby, Harpur and Son. Website copyright 2001 Jed Bland. 16.04.01, 18.07.04