Birchinlee, Derbyshire

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Location: Birchinlee, Upper Derwent Reservoir, Derbyshiremap
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Interesting Facts:
• Birchinlee was known as "Tin Town" and was a village built by the Derwent Valley Water Board to house workers and their families during the construction of the Derwent and Howden Dams from 1902-1916. Its maximum population was 970, men, women and children whereas the maximum workforce was 2600. Birchinlee was a model village unlike many others built for construction workers. It included hospitals, school, canteen, pub, post office, shops, recreation hall, public bath house, police station, railway station, rubbish dump with incinerator and had a water supply and sewage disposal. One of the well-stocked shops was owned by the Gregory brothers from Tideswell and local people from Derwent and Ashopton also shopped there. Although constructed from corrugated iron the houses were well decorated with workmen's huts, foremen's huts and married workmen's huts. There was an isolation facility for new recruits to ensure diseases were not imported.
• The huts did have an outer skin of corrugated iron, but they had a wooden lining.
• Although Derwent Reservoir wasn’t brought into service until 1916, most of the construction work had finished by the end of 1914 and the village was dismantled as the workers left, the last family leaving in February 1915.
• Eustace Sutton, the navvy missioner, ensured the spiritual and physical well-being of the people and ran educational classes. He wrote the history of Birchinlee but sadly this is hard to find except via the Bamford and District History Society.
• The work site was served by a railway line from Bamford. The stone for the dams was quarried at Bole Hill Quarry, Padley and transferred to Grindleford where it was transported on the Hope Valley railway line to a siding at Bamford where it was transferred to a train to the dams.
• The initial part of the railway is now the Thornhill Trail. The middle part is within the Ladybower reservoir. The road from the Derwent Dam to the Howden Dam mainly follows the old track-bed apart from where it goes round Ouzelden Clough (just before Birchinlee) The railway went straight across the clough on a viaduct, and the remains of its footings can still be seen when the water level is low.
• There are information boards and remnants of the village can be seen when walking to the west of the Derwent Reservoir and there are also the remnants of the railway viaduct.
• One of the buildings was rebuilt at Hope (see photo).
• For occupants names see the 1911 census for Hope Woodlands.
• Resources:
 The Story of Birchinlee by G Eustace Sutton (the navvy missioner) but sadly this book is hard to find except via the Bamford and District History Society or in local libraries.
 Birchinlee: The Workmen's Village of the Derwent Valley Water Board by Brian Robinson. ISBN 10: 0950849707 ISBN 13: 9780950849706 Publisher: Moorland Publishing Co Ltd, 1983
 Walls Across the Valley: Building of the Howden and Derwent Dams (1 Oct. 1993 by Brian Robinson
 Memories of Tin Town: The Navvy Village of Birchlee and Its People (31 Mar. 2010) by Brian Robinson
 Articles by Doctor Bill Beven, Peak District National Park archaeologist

With grateful thanks to Frank Parker of the Longstone Local History Group for research and fact checking.

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