Online historical documentary TV series explores the Peak District’s dark past...


A pioneering online historical documentary television series, which explores some of darkest and most dramatic episodes of Peak District history, has just been launched by a local community heritage group Peak in the Past.

Thanks to support from National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Peak in the Past group have created three episodes so far which are now freely available to watch online.

In the series, broadcast journalist Holly Knebel teams up with her brother Tim Knebel, an archivist, to bring some of the darker episodes of Peak District history to light (and to life), exploring the past of the Peaks and offering an enticing peek into the past. The series is filmed and directed by freelance film-maker Dave Mackie.

Holly, Tim and Dave all grew up in Derbyshire and are former pupils of Highfields School in Matlock. Drawing on their shared love of the Peak District and its history, the trio decided to try and combine their respective skills in broadcast journalism, archival research and film-making in the creation of an innovative historical documentary project.

Making the television series has been very much a grassroots’ community endeavour and has involved contributions from various local people. Pupils (aged 14-16) from Lady Manners School, Bakewell and students (aged 17-19) from Chesterfield College have assisted film-maker Dave Mackie with the filming which has taken place at multiple locations throughout Derbyshire. Members of two local community theatre groups, Bakewell Youth Theatre and Tideswell

Theatre, have also acted in the series’ various dramatic historical reconstruction scenes, which are central to the narratives of each episode.

Each episode focuses on a different Peak District village and investigates a series of startling true-life historical events which occurred in each place. Peak in the Past’s pilot episode ‘A Sweep of the Peak’ centres on Tideswell and reveals the tragic never-before- told tale of three young pauper chimney sweeps from the village who took a fateful journey across the White Peak in search of work back in October 1840 which had devastating consequences. The second episode ‘The Plagued Village’ centres on Eyam and interweaves the remarkable story of sacrifice by the plague-stricken village back in 1665 -1666 with two curious murder mystery stories from the 18 th and 19 th -centuries which have left intriguing imprints on both local landscape and legend. The third episode ‘Shadows of the Gallows’ centres on Wardlow Mires and examines a bizarre sequence of grisly events which took place in the same desolate valley back in the 1800s: murders involving a pair of red shoes and a poisoned cake; a 16-year- old girl killing her friend at the very spot where a rotting corpse hung overhead; and a highway robbery leading to exile to the other side of the world, a daring escape, armed shoot-out in the Australian outback and the “living hell” of a convict on Norfolk Island!

Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “This innovative project has explored little-known aspects of Peak District heritage, and the TV series provides an excellent opportunity for people to discover the fascinating history of their local community. This is a great example of National Lottery players’ money being well spent!”

Alongside creating the historical documentary series, the Peak in the Past group has also delivered reminiscence sessions and history talks in local residential care homes, as well as running local history workshops in Derbyshire primary schools, as they seek to engage a range of people (from school-children through to elderly residents in care homes) in their community heritage activities.

Founder member of Peak in the Past Tim Knebel explains: “The project is about bringing different parts of the community together to explore and share fascinating aspects of local history and heritage in imaginative and visually engaging ways. We aim to showcase the beauty of the Peak District landscape whilst revealing the dark history which lurks underneath and contributes to its enduring appeal”.

The full Peak in the Past historical documentary series can be watched on the website: