A property developer renovating a derelict farm building has uncovered a fascinating piece of Derbyshire history.
Steve Monaghan was demolishing an outbuilding at his farm near Ashover when he came across a stone pillar inscribed with the names of three local villages.
Now after seeking expert advice Steve has discovered that some 300 years ago the object was a guide stoop and it is the first to be discovered in the county for 20 years.
Guide stoops were hefty stone pillars that helped travellers find their way before there were any roads – similar to milestones except that they just showed the name of the nearest town.
Steve, 60 said: “When we bought the place the stone was well concealed - it was partially built into an out building. The old boys who used to live there didn’t really know what it was. It wasn’t until we took down the surrounding building that we realised it was some sort of sign post.”
A picture of the stone was posted on Facebook and Les Beeston - a keen walker from Matlock - said he immediately recognised what it was. “When you go rambling you see these posts around the Peak District,” said Les. There are probably about 20 of them. “
He contacted Sheffield historian Howard Smith, who he knew was an authority on guide stoops and has written two books on the subject. The two men travelled to the farm to take a look.
Howard said: “It is absolutely genuine - the first one to be discovered in 20 years.
“The stone is abut 300 years old and the same size as a farm gate post.”
The inscriptions on the stone were of Wirksworth Alfreton and Bakewell.
“If you faced the inscription on the stoop you always knew the place would be on your right - some stoops had a pointing hand.
“In those days some people couldn’t write but could read the place names. If you were a traveller your life could depend on you finding your way to the next place.
“It was the days before land was enclosed and there were no walls or roads, just grazing and woodland. Even modern walkers find it difficult to navigate sometimes particularly in bad weather.”
Howard has informed the Derbyshire Archaeologist at Matlock and expects the stone to eventually become listed.