Last week I tipped up at one of my favourite railway stations, Cromford in Derbyshire. It simply reeks with atmosphere, reached up a quiet lane and positioned immediately before a tunnel entrance.The only sound was an approaching East Midland train making its way up to Matlock from Derby, and once its diesel throb had been lost in the maw of the tunnel silence descended once again. Built around 1860 for the Midland Railway, there is more than a splash of elegance about it. Quite possibly it was designed by G.H.Stokes, an assistant to Joseph Paxton who transformed Chatsworth's gardens and designed the 1851 Crystal Palace.
The main building is the usual Midland staple with stone walls and painted valances, but over the classic latticed footbridge is a remarkable waiting room with diamond paned windows, a steeply pitched roof and a gabled steeple of a turret. Probably the result of a French building Stokes had seen on the Continent. Certainly the house up above is like a mini chateau, and even more amazingly this was the station master's house. Oh how times have changed; the Acme Thunderer whistle blew long ago for such things, even on station masters. But perhaps we may occasionally see a steam locomotive rumble loudly into view from the tunnel, as in the 1910 photograph above.
Back in 1995 the location was used for the cover of the Oasis single 'Some Might Say', the first of their output to be top of the Hit Parade for them. They were booked to shoot the video for it here but Liam didn't turn up so it never happened. (That's him on the footbridge.) Both 'chateau' and waiting room (actually two rooms, one for women, one for men) have been very sensitively restored and the latter is available as a self-catering holiday let. Do guests wake in the night and look out through a diamond pane to see an indistinct figure waving a lantern on the footbridge and crying out sepulchrally "Look out below!".
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph