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People have been living in and around Monyash since Neolithic times (3750-1750 BC) and probably before then. The nearby impressive stone circle and henge, Arbor Low, was likely built around 2000 BC by people living in the village who also farmed the relatively fertile soils at the head of Lathkill Dale.
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The village can attribute its existence, and its name, to water. Lying underneath the centre of the village is a narrow band of clay deposited during the Ice Age. This resulted in pools of standing water, a highly unusual feature in a limestone area. Over time meres (ponds) were fashioned into the clay by the villagers to provide a constant source of water. At one time the village had five meres and at least twenty wells providing the inhabitants and their livestock, as well as passing drovers, with a plentiful supply of water right up until recent times.
The first written account of the village appeared in the Domesday Book in 1086 when it was referred to as Maneis. The name Monyash has developed through many forms before and after then and is derived from the Old English words mani and eas for many waters.
During the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age (circa 800 BC to AD 43) the settlement of Monyash expanded and areas of woodland were cleared around the village. The wood was used to construct timber roundhouses and to provide fuel for cooking. The land was demarcated by tracks, ditches and walls. The villagers grew crops and reared sheep and cattle.
The village was probably little affected by many bloody invasions by the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings and Normans over the next 1000 years; though the Romans are known to have developed lead mining in the area. The Romans (sometime after AD 43) also constructed a road which forms the southern boundary of the parish (along the route of an older Neolithic trackway).
In the 7th century Monyash was part of the Pecsæte ‘tribe’, covering the central and northern part of the Peak District. One rare find from this period was the Benty Grange helmet on the outskirts of the village. The helmet probably belonged to an important member of the ruling Pecsæte. By the 8th century Monyash had become part of the Kingdom of Mercia, later becoming part of the Danelaw – the area ruled by the Danish/Viking invaders.
Sometime around AD 1100 a small church was built in Monyash possibly on the site where the Early Britons worshipped pagan gods. Over the next 900 years it underwent various additions, developments and restorations and it is now a grade II* listed building with many intriguing features.
During the 14th century Monyash prospered with the granting of a charter for a weekly market, and from the mining of lead. Indeed over the next few hundred years Monyash grew into a major lead mining area with many villagers digging for lead and working in a few industrial-scale mines. Besides farming, other activities included limestone quarrying and marble polishing. As a result of all this activity, by the middle of the 19th century, Monyash was a busy place, with a population of 473, almost twice what it is today, with a wide range of trades including blacksmiths, cobblers, butchers, wheelwrights, wool merchants, joiners, dressmakers, shoe makers, its own policeman and five pubs. There were over 100 pupils registered in the school at this time.
In the 17th century Monyash became a centre for Derbyshire Quakers. John Gratton, one of their most famous and influential brothers, lived in Monyash for 34 years. His home became the Quaker Chapel. Around 1840 the original Methodist Chapel was built, which was later extended in 1888.
Over the next 100 years as lead mining came to an end, the village trades and shops, including the garage and post office, slowly disappeared. The village was revitalised in 1981 when the Integrated Rural Development scheme injected new investment and created new opportunities in the village. As a result, the village hall was built, a children’s play area constructed, the school extended, buildings restored and businesses helped. Grants were provided to maintain the many miles of dry stone walls, provide water supplies to fields, develop flower rich fields and plant new woodland areas.
Today, farming is still the mainstay of the village though tourism is now an important industry with many amenities aimed at the tourists, including The Bull’s Head and the Smithy Café, and several bed and breakfast and holiday accommodations. The Church, the Methodist Chapel, The Bull’s Head and the thriving primary school provide differing focal points for the villagers. Fere Mere, the remaining mere, and the annual wells dressings serve to remind us of the importance of water to life; and the reason for the existence of the village.