The River Goyt is a strong feature in the Cheshire landscape, and has played quite the role in its history too. If you’re not aware of this river’s past, you may be surprised to find out some of the things that have happened around its waters.
The Goyt has been around for millions of years and has seen ice ages as it cut a path through the surrounding valley. Goyt originates from the old English word gote or gota, via goit, meaning a channel for water. This means that by the time the name came about, it had already carved a significant enough channel to deserve the name.
Up until the 1930s, the area looked very different to how it is today. The hamlet of Goyts Bridge grew around it, and a suspension bridge amazed Victorians who would come by to visit in the 19th century. Today you can’t see much evidence of this era; a spectacular Victorian mansion named Errwood Hall was demolished in the 1930s, leaving only a family cemetery and shrine behind. You can still see a packhorse bridge near Goytsclough Quarry which was removed from its original location and reconstructed there.
Between 1831 and 1877 there was a railway running alongside the river, though this was no longer used after a fatal accident. Part of the track still remains, and you can walk along this route to look across the valley for a great view.
Back then, the valley was also a noisier place. The Chilworth gunpowder factory was open from 1800 to 1920, and was the site of many fatal accidents.
Changes With Reservoirs
The biggest change to the valley was the introduction of the reservoirs. Fernilee Reservoir was the first to be built in 1938, on the site of the old gunpowder factor. In 1964, work started on Errwood Reservoir which was then opened in 1968. This changed the shape of the whole community, removing schools, coal mines, quarries, railways, factories, and the old mansion from the landscape.
If you visit the Goyt Valley today and look out across the reservoirs, it’s hard to imagine how it all would have looked back then. However, up until as recently as the 1930s, it was a whole different landscape.
The river itself has also seen changes to the map: it flows under the Derbyshire Bridge, which used to form the boundary between Derbyshire and Cheshire. The line has now moved, although the river of course remains in the same place.
There are a few legends and myths that come along with the river. One of them regards a man named Pym, who was said to be a highwayman. Packhorses would move along the transport route away from the quarry, and return loaded with goods and money. Pym would apparently lay in wait along the route at a place now named Pym’s Chair. However, another piece of local knowledge persists that Pym was actually a preacher who would deliver sermons at this location – so poor Pym may have a bit of a poor reputation through no fault of his own.
Another romantic legend is that the river is haunted. A girl whose Royalist lover fell into the river and drowned apparently haunts it, though it’s not clear whether she can be found along the whole length of the river or just in one place!