Bakewell's medieval bridge
Bakewell's medieval bridge

There was a fortified town at this ford on the River Wye in Saxon times, built in the early 10th century by Edward the Elder, but a Roman altar found at nearby Haddon Hall suggests that there was a Roman presence in the area long before Edward's time.

Even before Edward ordered Bakewell to be fortified there was a church in the town, founded in 920. Two Saxon crosses in the churchyard probably predate the church, and further Saxon stonework can be seen in the church.

The current church building is largely a product of the 13th century, and it boasts a lovely 14th-century tower and spire. In the church interior are fine monuments to the Vernon family of Haddon Hall.

The name 'Bakewell' betrays the town's origins; In the Domesday Book of 1086, Bakewell was called "Badequella", or "Bath well", a reference to the natural mineral springs that are common in this area of Derbyshire.

There are still two springs in Bakewell, one in Bath Street, and the other at Holywell, in the town recreation grounds. Every August the wells are "dressed" in a traditional ceremony that probably dates back to the pre-Christian era.

St John's Hospital (Bakewell Almshouses)
St John's Hospital (Bakewell Almshouses)

There is a musical procession to the well, and the well head is decorated with colourful blossoms and artwork. It is thought that the practice is a form of ancient fertility rite, though now it owes more to promoting tourism than any sense of linkage to the past.

Richard Arkwright chose Bakewell as the site of a cotton mill in 1777, and the resulting prosperity changed the character of the town. Today very little of medieval Bakewell remains, and the town has a decidedly Georgian and Victorian flavour. The early 14th-century bridge across the Wye still stands as does 17th century Bagshaw Hall.

The Old House Museum, close by the church, houses a local history museum in one of the few remaining medieval buildings in town. The Old House was adapted by Richard Arkwright for his workers, and you can trace the history of how the house changed and how the mill-workers used the building.

Also near the church is St John's Hospital, not a hospital in the modern sense, but a row of almshouses built in 1709 on the site of earlier almshouses founded in 1597 by Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. The Manners family, Dukes of Rutland, maintained the almshouses for over 200 years, until 1920.

The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop
The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop

Bakewell is also the home of the Peak District National Park administration, with offices in Baswell Road. The town makes an excellent centre for exploring the Peak District.


The delicious concoction that bears Bakewell's name came about as the result of an accident in 1859. Apparently a cook at the White Horse inn, now demolished, was making jam tarts and almond cake at the same time. She mistakenly poured half of the cake mixture into the prepared jam tart crust. Not wishing to throw out the unintentional mix, she popped it in the oven. The result was Bakewell Pudding, which proved an instant success.

Several Bakewell bakeries claim to produce the original Bakewell Pudding. Perhaps none has a better claim than The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop on The Square, which has been selling the puddings since 1865.

The shop was founded by Mrs Wilson, wife of a tallow candle maker, who bought the original recipe and launched the shop from the 17th-century building her family rented from the Dukes of Rutland. All puddings are hand-made, using the still-secret recipe. There is also a traditional Bakewell Tart, made with cake crumbs.

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About Bakewell
Address: Bakewell, Peak District, Derbyshire, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location map
OS: SK215685
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Bakewell, All Saints Church - 0 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Old House Museum - 0 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Haddon Hall - 1.8 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Thornbridge Hall Gardens - 2 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Edensor, St Peter's Church - 2.4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Youlgreave, All Saints Church (Youlgrave) - 2.6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Chatsworth - 3 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Caudwell's Mill - 3.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

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