Most of us would be hard pushed to name three famous people from the Peak District, so like us you may be surprised at the number of them. It really is amazing how such a small region was home to quite so many world changers.
Several of the Peak District’s heroes were instrumental in pioneering mass-production technology and methodology in the mills and factories that sprang up across Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and beyond. Towns like Belper and Buxton were at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and some of the Peak Districts most tenacious and hardworking sons like William Strutt, Joseph Whitworth and Samuel Slater took these ideas to America.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Perhaps the most famous person to have lived in the Peak District - one the world’s best known nurses, who looked after soldiers at the Crimean War. Florence was named after the Italian city of her birth. Florence spent most summers in Derbyshire until her death in 1910. The ‘Lady with the Lamp’ as she was known, is one of the greatest humanitarians of the 19th century for her services to the British Army and its injured soldiers. At her hospital camp, she was known for her strict sanitary rules and this reduced mortality dramatically. For many years she was on the British £10 note too.
Florence Nightingale lived in Lea, a picturesque village set in the countryside of the Derwent Valley. Lea was primarily the summer residence for Florence and her family but she provided books for the local primary school there and obtained the services of a doctor for the local people over the years. Visitors today will enjoy a visit to Lea Gardens, a rhododendron garden spread over a 3 acre site.
John Hurt (1940 - 2017)
John Hurt rose to prominence quickly and after being cast as Quentin Crisp in the Naked Civil Servant for the BBC in 1975, he grew in popularity, earning him a knighthood in 2015 for his services to drama. His most famous roles have been in Hollywood hits like The Elephant Man, Alien, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as well as his role as Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, as the ‘War Doctor’ in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, and voicing many famous characters from The Lord of the Rings, Merlin and Watership Down. If you're a film buff, you might want to have a read of our guide to filming locations in the Peak District whilst you're here.
John Hurt was born in Chesterfield, a bustling market town just 11 miles south of Sheffield and known for its history as a former Roman fort from the 1st century, as well as being home to an old coal field. Visitors to Chesterfield today can enjoy the markets that are still held here multiple times a week and offer an array of the finest local produce and crafts. Read our handy guide to the town here.
Vivienne Westwood (1940 - 2022)
At the age of 14 Vivienne Westwood moved away from Derbyshire to Harrow in Essex and began her career as a fashion designer known for bringing modern punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream. Her designs, combined with her marriage to Malcolm McLaren, manager of the punk band The Sex Pistols and singer of Buffalo Gals, meant that she was foundational in shaping the punk scene of the 1970s. She is known as one of the most famous fashion designers in the world for her creations and fashion collections such as Cut and Slash, and the Red Label. She was also an outspoken activist for causes such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, civil rights issues and climate change.
Vivienne Westwood was from Tintwistle, a small village in the High Peak region of Derbyshire, just north of Glossop. Historically Tintwistle was part of Cheshire and dates back to the 11th century, earning itself a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086. Visitors today can glimpse the Gothic windows and distinctive tall tower of Christ Church, as well as a number of the pretty stone cottages that line the streets. It is also home to the successful Tintwistle Brass Band. Ideal for moorland walks that were once highway routes, walkers will enjoy Featherbed Moss Moor where an abundance of native cotton grass grows, or check out our guide to the Peak's best walking routes for more inspiration.
Brian Clough (1935 – 2004)
Well known for being the outspoken football manager of Nottingham Forest and Derby County, Brian Clough was born in Middlesborough but lived in Derbyshire during his years managing Derby County. During his time as manager, he led the club to be promoted as Second Division champions and later champions of England for the first time in the club’s entire history. He moved on from the club and later managed Brighton and Hove Albion, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.
Brian Clough lived in both Quarndon and nearby Allestree during his time as Derby County manager, and although these are small villages they have plenty to offer to visitors today. Set in the south of the Amber Valley, The National Trust’s neo-classical manor house Kedleston Hall is a just as short drive and a walk through Eyes Meadow, set within the World Heritage Site is also a must. Younger visitors will love the Bluebell Dairy Ice Cream Farm which is 8 miles away and offers the chance to meet the farm animals and sample the farm’s own ice cream. If all this talk of football has got you keen for some outdoor activities whilst you're in the Peak District, here's our handy guide to the best Peak district outdoor adventures.
Richard Arkwright (1732-1792)
This English inventor and business man was a leading force in the Industrial Revolution due to this work on the development of the spinning frame which allowed for the mass mechanisation of the cotton spinning process. Much of this pioneering work took place in his mill in what is now part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, due to its revolutionary history.
Richard Arkwright was born in Preston, Lancashire but many years of his life in Derbyshire, most notably Cromford where his first mill was but also at Bakewell and Wirksworth where he built subsequent mills. Cromford Mill remains a great place to visit and now being part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a visitor centre, shops, galleries and cafes for visitors to enjoy. Cromford itself is a great town to visit, with many visitors enjoying walks along the Cromford Canal, with its friendly ducks! It is a recognised site of special scientific interest and was originally built for transporting goods to and from the mill. The restoration of Aqueduct Cottage on Cromford Canal has recently been completed and is well worth as it offers a sense of the area’s history and has links to Florence Nightingale’s family. If history is your thing, you might enjoy our guide to the Peak District's historic houses and castles.
Timothy Dalton (1946 - )
Most famously known for being the fourth actor to play James Bond, he starred in The Living Daylights and License to Kill before Pierce Brosnan took over the role in 1995. Outside his role as Bond, he has starred in a number of prominent tv series including Jane Eyre, Doctor Who, Penny Dreadful and The Crown.
Timothy Dalton was born in Colwyn Bay, Wales but his family moved to Belper in Derbyshire when he was four. Belper is a wonderful place to visit, and like a number of Derbyshire towns has a rich Industrial history, and is listed on the Domesday Book as ‘Bradelei’. It has a wide range of independent shops, Artisan bakeries and local produce on offer, as well as being host to a Food & Real Ale Festival each summer and a Farmer’s Market every month. Visitors are also sure to enjoy a visit to the River Gardens which are situated near to one of the historic mills.
Hilary Mantel (1952 – 2022)
Hilary Mantel was the Booker Prize winning author of Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies and The Mirror and The Light, a trilogy which depicts Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power during the Tudor period. She also known for her work as the patron of the Endometriosis SHE trust. History fans might enjoy a visit to visit to the number of buildings across the Peak District which were built in the Tudor period, including Chatsworth House, which was originally a Tudor mansion built in the 1560s by Bess of Hardwick.
Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop which lies in the High Peak borough of Derbyshire and close to the county’s border with Cheshire, Manchester, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Visitors will enjoy the interesting architecture here which showcases the area’s industrial heritage and local sandstone, with the Dinting railway viaduct being a popular attraction as well as Howard Park. The town is also popular with walkers who come to explore Snake Pass and the Longdendale Trail.
Tess Daly (1969 - )
Most famously known for being the longstanding host of the much-loved celebrity dancing competition Strictly Come Dancing, Tess Daly has also hosted the National Lottery and The One Show.
Tess Daly was born in Birch Vale, a small village in the High Peak borough of Derbyshire, just on the edge of the Peak District National Park. New Mills, a former coal mining town, is the nearest major town and is home to a number of historic mills and attractions which visitors can explore including Torr Vale Mill, the Torrs Riverside park and the Millennium Walkway.
Other well-known people who were born or lived in the area are:
Vera Brittain (1893 – 1970) – Pacifist / Feminist / Journalist / Public speaker / Novelist / Poet. Author of Testament of Youth.
Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940 - ) – Actor / Comedian / Writer.
Thomas Cook (1808 -1892) – Founder of the World Wide Travel Agency (WWTA).
Robert Lindsay (1949 - ) – Actor.
Ellen MacArthur (1976 - ) - Yachtswoman.
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