Drowned village where you can still hear the church bells coming out of the mud 80 years later


Families were evacuated and buildings submerged when Derbyshire’s scenic valley was sacrificed to create a reservoir to supply water to fast-growing towns

Tourists explore the ruins of Derwent emerging from the mud in a drought

The eerie remnants of a lost village submerged underwater in the 1940s have made a ghostly reappearance when the weather is particularly hot and dry.

The slowly decaying ruins of the buildings that were drowned to create Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire periodically emerge from the mud when water levels drop sufficiently.

Last reported four years ago, these rare and fascinating exhibits offer a glimpse into what Derwent’s farming community was like.

The Village Church of St John and St James in the heart of the village, with seating for 140 parishioners, was initially left intact when the evacuated valley was flooded in 1945.

The tower and spire of the village steadily emerged high above the surface of the reservoir.

Even though the bells have been removed, some say the ethereal sound of their tinkling can still be heard across the sunken valley where the structure stood until it was deemed a hazard and blown up 75 years ago .

The ghostly steeple of Derwent Church rose steadily from Ladybower Reservoir


RCsprinter123/Wikimedia Commons)

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Derwent was a close-knit Peak District hamlet with cottages built of local limestone, a school and sheep grazing on the hills all around.

There was also a historic country mansion called Derwent Hall, once owned by the Duke of Norfolk, which had been used as a youth hostel.

Along with the nearby village of Ashopton, Derwent was designated by the authorities in 1935 as a necessary sacrifice in order to provide sufficient water for the growing urban populations of Derby, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester.

Despite strong protests the properties were compulsorily purchased by the Derwent Valley Water Board over the next 10 years and the villagers moved nearby near the village of Bamford.

A map showing where the village of Derwent was before it was drowned


Contains data from the Ordnance Survey © Crown Copyright and Database Law / Wikimedia Commons)

Ashopton was the largest community, with a post office and shop, a Wesleyan Methodist chapel, a garage as well as numerous stone houses and farmhouses and an annual wool fair.

Its buildings were all demolished before the reservoir was filled, but much of Derwent remained virtually as it was.

Many families had lived in the valley for generations, and the bodies of their long-deceased relatives were exhumed from cemeteries for burial elsewhere.

When walls and even entire buildings reappear in Ladybower, it attracts large numbers of hikers and tourists to the area, aiming to walk in the footsteps of ancient villagers.

The Ashopton Viaduct – where the village stood – at Ladybower Reservoir in the Upper Derwent Valley


AFP via Getty Images)

In November 2018, when water levels were particularly low, a man became stuck in “extremely thick mud” while exploring the site.

He had to be rescued by the Edale Mountain Rescue Team.

At the time, Dave Ashton of the Peak District’s Upper Derwent Visitor Center told the BBC that it was rare that the buildings could be seen.

He said the last time he saw the remains was during a drought in 1995 and the hot summer of 1976.

“It is rare to see the ruins of the village of Derwent.”

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