Hob Hurst's House
Words & Images: Colin Harrison
The next in our series of ancient sites and artefacts near Chesterfield.
Hob is a widely-used name for a variety of mythical (and nasty) creatures - 'Hob Hurst' is believed to refer to a goblin who lived in the nearby woods. It's thought to be the origin of the name 'Hobbit' in Tolkein's books, as he was an expert in folk myths and tales. It's exact age is uncertain, although it's certainly Bronze Age, so thousands of years old. It was probably a burial mound; like many such monuments, most of the original stone has been taken for other uses. It is unusual in that the mound is rectangular rather than round, and important because it was one of the first such sites to be protected by what has evolved into English Heritage. The path to it (of about 1.5 miles) is within reach of a reasonably fit cyclist; on the way, there's a short section where the main road narrows slightly, but generally the route is pretty quiet and bike-friendly.
To get there, leave Chesterfield on the Chatsworth Road, going up the hill until you pass the 50MPH signs, just over 2 miles from the Storrs Road junction. Take the next turning on the left (Hallcliff Lane) which merges with another road coming in from the right, then follow this along through an S- bend, until, just after a sharp left, the fields on your right become moorland; there is a gate and a stile immediately after the wall dividing them. Go over the stile and follow the path which runs parallel to the wall and ditch (on your right) as it goes up the hill. At this point, the path is relatively easy to follow, but after a while it turns slightly away from the field wall, near where it forms a corner. There are some waymarkers, but the posts they're on are only about the height of the surrounding heather, so you'll need to keep your eyes peeled for them, although the path goes in the same general direction anyway. The ground can hold a lot of water so may be muddy in places, even if it hasn't rained for a while.
After about 1.3 miles you'll see, on your left, a stone pillar in the heather; this is an old signpost or stoop, which is about 300 years old. It would have been put in place following the 1697 act which made local surveyors install them where two paths crossed on moors or other remote places, signposting the nearest market town. Getting lost on the moors wouldn't have been a good idea even in summer, and could easily be fatal in winter. Most of the path across nearby farmland would still have been fairly featureless tracks of heather at that time.
A few hundred yards after passing the stoop you come to Hob Hurst's House itself. It's not exactly Stonehenge, but then the nearest road (which is over the brow of the hill anyway) is the one you came from, where a few cars a minute would be a busy period. So, apart from some distant traffic noise drifting in the wind, and the occasional airplane high overhead, all you'll normally hear are the twittering of some twites or pipits, maybe a pheasant or grouse calling and, if lucky, the plaintive cry of a curlew. There are steps into the enclosure of the site itself; with your back to these (looking north-ish), there are far-reaching views across the hills and moors, towards White Edge.
The site is shown on OS maps (Landranger 119 or OS Explorer OL 24: map ref: SK 2874 6923).
Useful web sites: Megalithic Portal: www.megalithic.co.uk Derbyshire Heritage: www.derbyshireheritage.co.uk