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Derwent Valley | 617 Squadron "The Dambusters"



ladybower damThe Upper Valley of the Derwent in Derbyshire, (just off the A57 halfway between Glossop and Sheffield) is a deep valley dominated by three great reservoirs, Ladybower, Howden and Derwent , known collectively as the " Peakland Lake District".   

The upper two dams, Howden and Derwent, were constructed by Derwent Valley Water Board to provide drinking water for the cities of the north and east Midlands, built between 1901 and 1916, they were such a large undertaking that a village called Birchinlee was built  in the upper valley to house the workers and a narrow-gauge railway was built between Howden Dam and the Midland Railway at Bamford. The dams were opened by King George V in 1916.

In May 1935, after much nationwide opposition, work began downstream on the construction of the Ladybower Dam across the River Derwent in Derbyshire, three-quarters of a mile south of Ashopton, a village on the road linking Sheffield and Glossop.


This project, built to supply water to the citizens of Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester, caused considerable controversy because it involved the flooding of the villages of Derwent (left,1912) and Ashopton to be demolished.

Despite protests the dam went ahead and Ladybower, the largest of the three reservoirs, was completed in 1945, though the reservoir took a further two years to fill. At the time this was the largest reservoir in Britain.


Many buildings were sacrificed beneath the waters including ancient farms and Derwent Hall, a property of the Dukes of Norfolk dating from 1672. The spire of the Parish church was visible for a while whenever the water level was low, but was demolished for safety reasons.

(1) The viaduct being built in the early 1940's through Ashopton village

 (2) By 1941, the 945 foot long viaduct was almost complete

(3) By 1945, the waters of Ladybower were already rising beneath the viaduct.

map - click to enlarge

(4) The map shows the sites of Derwent and Ashopton before the construction of Ladybower.  





Derwent Dam looks magnificent after heavy rainfall By 1946 the remains of both villages were covered, and the flooding of the two villages was the worst damage inflicted by the water authorities in their many projects around the Peak District,  although twice since then, when the waters have fallen - in 1976 and 1989 - stonework from the village of Derwent has re-appeared, and ironically Ladybower and the two other Dams in the valley have now become major tourist attractions, the Derwent Dam (click to enlarge) looks magnificent after heavy rainfall.

Many thanks to Chris Croome - for his photograph of Derwent Dam.

click here for larger picture of bridge

The information and photographs on this page are from a book by Vic Hallam called "Silent Valley"

(this book can be ordered from Waterstones, Meadowhall, Sheffield)

Silent Valley is the story of these two lost villages, of how they developed and finally quietly died during the second world war.


Memories of "Tin Town" -

Life in the navvy village of Birchinlee

(this book can be bought from WHSmith, Meadowhall,Sheffield)

The navvy village of Birchinlee was a short lived community of about 1,000 people which existed for just 15 years as the Howden and Derwent Dams were constructed in the Peak District between 1901 and 1916

NEXT : 617 Squadron ' The Dambusters' in the Derwent Valley




   ...updated November 2017...

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