COLUMN: Treasures made here in Derbyshire
If ever there was an English county of great beauty, traditions, history and contrasts it is surely Derbyshire. From the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site and the birth of the Industrial Revolution to some of the grandest country houses to be found anywhere in the world, Derbyshire has it all, even boasting the first national park in the country, the second most visited national park in the world!
Not surprisingly incredibly diverse products (don’t like this word - trying to think of an alternative) have roots in our county.
One of Derbyshire’s unique claims to fame is Blue John, which needs little introduction to locals as it is one of the gems of the northern Peak District.
Prized by craftsmen for hundreds of years this dramatically veined flourite has been fashioned into urns, chalices, bowls and jewellery. Although only found in a small area of our county fine examples of worked Blue John are held by the Vatican and the Whitehouse, proving the enduring international appeal of this local treasure.
Similarly, produced only in the area around Ashford-in-the-Water near Bakewell, Black Ashford marble production helped to provide rural workers on the Chatsworth estate during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries with a way of generating extra income during those lean winter months. Italian craftsmen brought to Derbyshire by the Duke of Devonshire helped to tutor locals in the art of ‘pietra dura’ techniques.
This local ‘black marble’, actually a form of bitumous limestone, was cut, polished and inlaid with a colourful variety of semi-precious stones, marbles and stained shells to create geometric ‘scrapwork’ patterns and intricate floral designs, depicting dog-roses, jasmine flowers and forget-me-nots amongst many others.
Items produced ranged from pieces of jewellery to candlesticks, obelisks and even tables.
Rare and large examples can achieve many thousands of pounds in auction and are sought after across the globe.
Production of both Blue John and Ashford marble items diminished due to changing fashions and depletion of raw materials. Though unfortunate, this has ensured that the desirability of these pieces has steadily increased over the years and there may well be people out there with Blue John and Ashford Marble items who don’t realise the value of their belongings.