Castles, stately homes and railways feature in new book about abandoned Derbyshire - including Sutton Scarsdale Hall and the American Adventure

Derbyshire is home to a myriad of places and buildings which have been left behind by history.

From well-known castles and stately houses to more obscure family homes, air raid shelters, derelict mines, railways and even a theme park.

Behind the façade, each has a story to tell – of former glory, why they were left to ruin and why they remain abandoned.

A lucky few have even been ‘reclaimed’, brought back to life and repurposed, but all these structures and places bear witness to a way of life that has past, whether fading industries, military threats that have disappeared, leisure interests that have had their day or social status and personal wealth that has moved elsewhere.

New book, Abandoned Derbyshire by Nathan Fearn, published by Amberley Publishing this month, offers a picture of an often forgotten part of the history of Derbyshire over the centuries.

Photos include the Lost Villages of the Derwent Valley and the construction of Ladybower.

While some abandoned places discover a new lease of life after becoming deserted, the mass exodus from the triumvirate of villages known as Derwent, Ashopton and Birchinlee was always destined to be final, the settlements never to be populated again.

The forgotten road at Mam Tor is also included.

Lying below the magnificent spectacle of the hill are the remains of a half-mile section of road that acts as a reminder of nature’s power and the unpredictable nature of the Peak District’s topography.

This A625 road was built in 1819 and is referred to by some locals as the ‘new road’, linking the village of Castleton with the High Peak town of Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Some of the county’s abandoned landmarks are places of sombre and poignant reflection.

One such site exists on Bleaklow, one of the Peak District’s highest and most remote points. It was here on the windswept, isolated Dark Peak moors that US Air Force Boeing RB-29A Superfortress came down in difficult conditions in 1948, claiming the lives of all those aboard.

There’s a certain romanticism that comes with rail heritage, not least in Derbyshire.

Wingfield station is curious in that while it has, until 2023, been disused and derelict since 1967, the Derby to Leeds line that it once served remains operational, now forming part of the Midland Main Line.

Following a compulsory purchase by Amber Valley Borough Council in 2018 plans were put in place to restore the station and give it a new lease of life.

Further developments in 2019 saw Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust take ownership of the building and, gradually, new life has been breathed into its tired foundations and it has been brought back from the precipice. It has subsequently been restored.

Sutton Scarsdale Hall is not your archetypal abandoned building. It is, in fact, one of the most curious derelict structures the county has to offer.

Stood imperiously at the summit of a hill close to Chesterfield and Bolsover, this Grade I listed Georgian stately home, designed in the baroque style, retains a sense of grandeur and opulence, despite these days being little more than a shell.

Internally, the hall’s rich assets were removed and spread far and wide to surprising and exotic locations. A significant amount of its inner sanctum, for example, was exported to America; three rooms are currently on display at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. Not even the roof was spared, ripped off for its lead in 1919.

Yet the final stage of the process – the full demolition of Sutton Scarsdale Hall – never actually happened. By now a shadow of its former self, the ruined hall was in fact saved by writer Sir Osbert Sitwell, who purchased what remained of the property in 1946 and saved it from full demolition.

The once grand Oakhurst House in Shining Cliff Woods, Ambergate, has the depressing distinction of having never really been wanted by its intended residents.

In 1994, plans were put in place to demolish the house; however, that permission has since expired, meaning Oakhurst still stands in Shining Cliff Woods – abandoned, structurally unsound and rightly fenced off from the public. Largely out of sight and out of mind, it deteriorates further with every passing year, now far more famous for its current state than the varied and interesting days it once enjoyed.

Few places of local abandonment have captured the imagination of Derbyshire natives more in recent times than the old American Adventure site in Ilkeston, which operated for three decades between 1987 and 2007. Even now, phrases such as ‘Is American Adventure abandoned?’ and ‘What does the American Adventure look like today’ feature highly in online search results.

The haunting pictures that circulate of the abandoned park have given the site a sense of other-worldliness.

Despite its initial period of success and popularity, the park’s popularity was on the wane from the latter part of the 1990s.

When the park closed for the season in 2006 many of its flagship rides had already disappeared or were out of commission and the park was a shadow of what it had once been.

In January 2007 it was officially announced that the site would not reopen and what had once been a thriving theme park quickly spiralled into dereliction. Fastforward to the site’s final days in the early 2020s and the theme park resembled a ghost town.

The remains of the theme park have now gone without a trace, a new housing development taking their place. Yet the legacy remains and the nostalgia of what it once was.

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