News & Views - December 1982 - Issue 32



Christmas is coming and all the work will stop, The factory and the garage, the quarry and the shop. A lot of time and effort will be spent on food and drink, but what is Christmas all about, do we ever stop to think? We send each other Christmas cards, of comic pictures, funny verse,

But I think as each year passes the cards are getting worse. What happened to religious ones, the wise men from afar, And pictures of the shepherds, the stable and the star?

Of Joseph and of Mary, when travelling, and how

They found that all the inns were full, are we thinking of them now?

There’s more to Merry Christmas than the tinsel and the holly, it’s possible to go to church, and still be very jolly.

A birth, a celebration, part of the church’s year, a festival of happiness that Christians all hold dear. While industry is resting, the work bench and the plough, spend a little time with Jesus; are you thinking of Him new? In a world with millions starving; of jealousy and hate, can we find time for worship before it is too late?

Let’s not forget the Bible and what the Scriptures show, That very special infant, two thousand years ago.

Let the bells ring out, the psalms, the hymns, and then let’s make a vow,

We’ll not forget Nativity; are we thinking of Him now?

So, pause awhile… .remember……when you wake on Christmas Day, That Christ was born in Bethlehem; He’s still alive today!

Bob Woodroffe, Hartington

The Vicar and Mrs Gibson send their sincere Christmas greetings and the assurance of their prayers for 1983 to all our readers and their families. Those wishing to use this season for special giving to the homeless, the hungry and the oppressed

will find Christian Aid envelopes available in church. As Editor of the Newsletter, the Vicar wishes to express his indebtedness to the members of the Editorial Committee and to all who have contributed items of news and interest during 1982. He also apologises for the poor reproduction of the November issue, due to using stencils which had deteriorated through age.


The Primitive Methodists built the present chapel in Bigg- -in in 1842. But there were Methodists, or dissenters as they were called, in the area nearly years earlier. The Wesley- -an Methodist Magazine for May 1871 recorded that “the Rev. John Wilshaw, who went out to the itinerant ministry in 1773 from the neighbourhood of Leek, had begun to preach; and, being full of zeal, was frequently ministering as an evangelist in the villages for many miles around his own residence, wherever he could obtain a house”. The account goes, on to say that, “Being much talked of and wondered at, as an unlearned man who could pray and preach without book., he was mentioned to a Mr. Ralph Ratcliffe, who was informed that he had preached in various parts of Staffordshire and Derbyshire, and that he would be glad to preach at Biggin also, the place of Mr. Ratcliffe’s residence, if a house could be obtained. Mr. Ratcliffe carelessly answered, ’He may preach at my house if he pleases’. This being reported to Mr. Wilshaw, he sent a message to Mr. Ratcliffe, to the effect that he would preach at his house on a certain day. Surprised and somewhat disconcerted, that his off-hand expressions should have been unexpectedly acted upon, he said, after brief consideration., ’As my word is gone, he shall preach; and if he says anything contrary to the Scriptures, I can put him out, and forbid him to come anymore!”.

You see, Ralph, pronounced Raif, was a Churchman. When the exhibition was held in church a few years ago, the Church- -warden’s accounts for Hartington Nether Quarter in 1756/57 were on display and the churchwarden for that year was none other than Ralph Ratcliffe! However, the story continues that,”under that first sermon – for the preacher, though remarkably eccentric, was sound and inpressive – Mr. Ratcliffe was convinced of sin; he forthwith gladly became a member of the Methodist Society, and from that time hospitably received both travelling and local preachers for more than fifty years, until his death at the age of ninety”. Ralph’s residence was opposite Biggin Hall and sermons, class meetings and prayer meetings were held there. He was the class-leader of the village Society almost from its commencement.

Ralph was a widower and to his residence there came as housekeeper in 1783, his niece Elizabeth Ratcliffe. She had been born December 7th 1763 at Bank Top Farm, Sheen. Her father, Richard, elder brother of Ralph, was also a Churchman.

We are told that he “died, of acute disease, after a few days illness, when she was six years old and before her youngest sister was born, Elizabeth being the oldest of four daughters.” As a child she had been ” tenderly and carefully instructed in the things of God” by her father and when, at about the age of nineteen, she arrived at her uncle’s house in Biggin, “she found a faith and practice in harmony with all she had learned, felt and retained from the paternal training”.

Elisabeth remained with her uncle for about five years., during which time” the preachers who were stationed in the Burslem Circuit (then recently formed and comprising Biggin)…. mentioned her to Robert Keeling, a potter working for Josiah ‘Wedgwood, who was a class leader at Newcastle-under-Lyme”. He and Elizabeth Ratcliffe were residing at opposite ends of the Burslem Circuit, 24 miles apart, but as a result of the matchmaking efforts of the preachers, Robert Visited Biggin. Their marriage took place in the following year at St. Giles’ Church, Hartington on 18th March 1788. Elizabeth moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme and in 1789 Robert himself became a local preacher and continued to visit Biggin for the next 20 years. Two of their sons became Methodist preachers, the Rev. Isaac Keeling, who was President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in 1855 and the Rev. Ralph Ratcliffe Keeling.

Ralph Ratcliffe died at the age of 90 years and was buried at Hartington on 26th March 1817. One wonders where the Methodists of Biggin met during the next 25 years until the present chapel was built. According to the Quarter Sessions Reports of 1829, there were two groups of dissenters meeting in Hartington Nether Quarter. At a farmhouse in Biggin there were 6 males and 9 females calling themselves Primitive Methodists, whilst at a labourer’s house in Heath- -cote 4 males and 4 females professed the religion called “The ‘Wesleyan Old Methodist”. Bennett Buxton’s grandfather, also called Bennett, who was born in 1829, later lived next to Biggin Hall, and was a Methodist Society Steward. Maybe the Methodists continued to gather in the house which had belonged to Ralph Ratcliffe.

The Rev. John Wilshaw, who had been born at Elkstones, died at the age of 75 years on 27th July 1818 and was buried at Warslow. His great, great, great grandsons, Maurice and John Lowe continue to preach the same Gospel of Jesus Christ. ADG


One of my first tasks each day is to feed the wild birds. They seem to know the time! I think they watch for the smoke rising from my chimney! I have lots of regulars, but my favourite is a large gull, He first came for food 10 years ago, every morning he would be perched on the wall opposite my house, when he saw me out with the food, he would fly in a large circle, then land near me. After he had been fed, he would spend lots of time on the wall waiting for the next feed, I christened him William and after a few weeks he would come flying down when I called his name. When Spring came, he left and I didn’t expect to see him anymore. But when the chilly Autumn came, I went outside and a large bird was on the wall, I called “William” and he flew down. He has come every Autumn since and has become quite bossy, his special treat is a marrow bone. If a cat or a dog comes near his food, he will sit on the wall and squeal until I go out and shoo them away. I love all the birds, including a white starling who often comes, but William is very special and I hope he will continue to come for many more years. Now winter is coming, please put out food and water for the birds; it can save their lives.                                                       Polly Webster


This year we decided to go on a motor-cycle holiday to somewhere hot and sunny. The best place, taking time and mileage into consideration, was Portugal. With a laden machine we boarded a French ferry at Plymouth and arrived 24 hours later at Santander, Northern Spain. It was very sunny as we set off for Palentia. We crossed the mountain range, then came to Wheatfields and fields full of sunflowers, also desert-like plains and rocky villages. The temperature rose as we travelled further inland. By sunset we arrived at Salamanca, a large and very old city. This was our first night’s camp. The next morning, we set off early for the Portuguese border. The sky was already bright blue and the sun very hot; we stopped often for cold drinks.

Once in Portugal we decided not to stay in the tourist area. On our travels we found the people and scenery quite amazing. We passed through miles of scrubland and thick green woodlands. The swell of gum and eucalyptus were quite familiar to us, reminding us of Western Australia.


The part, of our holiday which made the greatest impression upon us was the small villages where extreme poverty existed and where mechanisation of any kind was only for the very few rich people. We saw families washing in the streams and farmers with an ox and oxcart, living in old shacks that were almost falling down. We noticed that life was centred round the family with up to four generations engaged in a job or activity. In all the small communities there was an air of happiness and contentment, which we felt shows that personal fulfilment doesn’t always need wealth and possessions. We spent our last few days in Figueira-dafoz, a beautiful fishing town on the Portuguese coast. Nowhere were English people more welcome, which is a nice change these days, isn’t it?                                                                                 

                          Lynda and Robin Hill

At the Service of Thanksgiving for a hopeful future for Biggin School held in church on 28th November, all sections of the com- -munity were represented. West Derbyshire District Council was represented by Councillor Frank Holland, its chairman, and Mrs Holland, Councillor Fred Glossop, Ward Member, and Councillor Molly Glossop. The recommendation of the Working Party that no action should be taken to re-organise primary education in Hartington and Biggin had been endorsed by the Schools Sub-commit- -tee on the 24th. The post of headteacher has now been advertised. This news has come as a great relief to many.

Donations in memory of Horace Webster were divided between St. Oswald’s Hospital, Ashbourne and St. Thomas’ Church, Biggin, the latter receiving £49•00.

Presentations of carriage clocks have been made by Derbyshire Silica Firebrick Co. to Frank Wigley for 27 years’ service and to George Wigley and Eric Stevens for 25 years’ service each, whilst Stan Ollerenshaw has received a clock to mark 25 years’ service with J.M. Nuttall and Co. Ltd.

Congratulations to Mike Bishop of J.M. Nuttall’s who on December 11th, whilst running for the Midland Counties ”A” team, came 8th in the 8400 metres race at Crystal Palace.

At the Confirmation Service on December 5th,when the Vicar presented Julie Furness as an adult candidate to the Bishop of Derby, All Saint’s Church, Ripley was packed to the doors.

The proceeds of St. Giles’ Church Christmas Fair amounted to £225.04½


Friends afar.        Martin Wibberley will be flying from Kuwait to Sri

Lanka to spend a week there over Christmas, whilst Paul Mollatt expects to be in Bast Africa. Brenda Critchlow will be spending Christmas at the home of Andrew and Anne Mollatt in Barth, Australia. We send them all our very good wishes.

Ra Page won 1st prize in the 9-12 years class in the BEN painting competition to design a Christmas card. HEN – The Motor and Cycle Trades Benevolent Fund, which cares for distressed and dis- -abled members and their families of the motor, cycle and allied industries – presented Ra with his prize of a walkie stereo cassette player at the 1982 Motor Show in Birmingham.

The Backpackers Club Carol Service was something of an international affair. Among the lesson readers were Jan Havercarp from Holland, Ken Ward, President of the Club from Northampton and Captain Alan Smith from Florida, U.S.A., an attache at the American Embassy, Kensington, London. Recitations were given by Young Backpackers Paula Roche (Sandbach)& Janet Marks (Cambridgeshire), Betty Gibson, and National Organiser, Eric Gurney, whilst Maurice Roche accompanied the children on the organ when they sang the carol, “Away in a Manger”,

Hartington School gave a fine performance of “The Christmas Gift”, a nativity presentation in words and music, to a packed house. The Coffee Evening raised £362.10 for school funds.

Biggin Rovers have graced the top of Division A in the Hope Valley Football League since the beginning of November. We sympathise with the team in the loss of the changing hut which was burned down on December 4th.

The Devonshire Arms team have won through to the final of the Leek Citizen’s Advice Bureau Pub Quiz Championship and meet Peak Weavers, Leek on December 21st at Bank House, Leek. Team members are Irene Berry, Malcolm Bassett and Alan Ollerenshaw.

The Social Evening at Biggin School raised £109.15 for church funds,  James Bradbury completed the Dovedale Dash on November 7th, coming a respectable 700th out of 1600 runners.

The Whist Drive in aid of Cancer Research raised £352.00.

Prizewinners in Radio Derby’s Crossword have included Jean Stone of Hartington and Phyllis Wragg of Newhaven Farm.

Biggin School has appreciated the teaching help of Mrs Enid Testa.




19th 2.30 p.m. Hartington Church Carol Service with school children taking part.

6.30 p.m. Biggin Church Carol Service;
Soloist: Janice Evans (Buxton)
20th                  7.00    p.m.            Carol singers   meet   at         Stone’s Shop, Hartington

21st                   7.00   p.m.    Carol        singers   meet   at  Church View, Biggin

24th                  6.40   p.m.    Carol        singers   meet   at  Biggin Hall

11.30 p.m. Midnight Communion (Series 3) at Hartington

25th                  9.00 a.m. Christmas Day”Communion at Biggin Church (ASB)

10.00 a.m. Family Communion at Hartington (BCP) •

The Dedication of the porch gate and flower pedestals in memory of the watsoh family will take place in Biggin Church on Sup- -day, 2nd January at 11 a.m.

Holidays 1983 . The Vicar has been asked to escort parties to Canada June 6-24 and the Holy Land October 15 – 29-. Brochures available from the Vicarage.