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Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:Alstonefield is a large parish, situated in the Staffordshire Moorlands in one of the most beautiful parts of the county. It lies adjacent to the River Dove and so the county boundary with Derbyshire is its eastern boundary. The parish originally included Fawfieldhead, Heathylee, Hollingsclough, Longnor, Quarnford, Sheen and Warslow.

The name Alstonefield derives from the personal name Aelfstan and means ‘Aelstan’s field’ or open land. This fits with the physical location of the parish situated as it is on a limestone plateau. In the Domesday Book of 1086 Alstonefield is called Anestanefelt. It was a manor of Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury, and tenanted to William Malbanc, an important baron of the Earl of Chester. The manor consisted of three virgates of land (up to approximately 90 acres). Only one villein (an unfree tenant who held his land by performing agricultural services) is recorded.

In 1532-1533 at least 90 families and four ‘syngulfolkes’ were recorded in Alstonefield. By the time of the Hearth Tax assessment of 1666, 55 households were assessed as liable for the payment of the tax but there would also have been some additional households considered too poor to pay. The largest dwelling was Beresford Hall. Its owner Charles Cotton was described in the tax return as ‘the poet and friend of Izaak Walton’.

Alstonefield’s parish church is dedicated to St Peter and dates from the Norman period, notably the chancel arch. It has a fine two decker pulpit and box pews, all dating from the Jacobean period. The churchyard contains probably one of the oldest gravestones in the county in memory of Anne Green and dating from 1518.There was also a Wesleyan chapel, built in 1824, and a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Milldale, built in 1835.

Provision for the poor was made through the establishment of a Gilbert workhouse, that is an incorporated workhouse supported financially by a number of townships which included Alstonefield, Butterton, Grindon and Wetton, as well as by a number of townships on the Derbyshire side.

Education has a long history in the village and schoolmasters were recorded in the village from the 16th century onwards. An endowment in the will of German Pole in 1725 left £40 to be invested to pay for the teaching of poor children to read and this appears to have led to the establishment of a school. This was later re-endowed by the Harpur Crewe family and a new school was built in 1842. As with many village schools, it was a large single room which could eventually be divided by sliding doors. Falling numbers led to the closure of the school in 1982. Private schools also existed in the village in the 19th century.

Farming was the predominant occupation in the parish for centuries, supported by a few agriculturally related trades. Lode Mill was built as a corn mill in 1814 and continued to operate until about 1930 when it was taken over as a joiner’s and wheelwright’s business. By 1912, Mrs Hambleton kept a refreshment room at Milldale to cater for the increasing number of visitors who came to enjoy the scenery of Dovedale and Milldale.

For more information and for memories of Alstonefield, see Alstonefield Memories by Tim Eades, Dorothy Critchlow and Doris Goodwin (2002).