South Yorkshire's Anston has double appeal
PUBLISHED: 12:21 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:17 20 February 2013
The twin villages of North and South Anston, once pitted with quarries, are now havens for wildlife as well as commuters, Bill Hearld discovers
There is a little bit of Yorkshire propping up the very heart of London. It is the historic claim to fame of Anston, near Sheffield, that the Houses of Parliament are built of stone from the village's quarries.
A disastrous fire destroyed the original Houses of Parliament in 1834 and it was decided that its replacement would be one of the world's most impressive structures. The then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, instigated a competition to design the new Palace of Westminster and a group of experts scoured the country to find the best stone for the job.
They decided on the quarries of Anston and, from 1840 to 1844, nearly half a million cubic feet of rock was gouged out of the earth in the South Yorkshire villages. Even more was quarried over the next ten years.
All the stone was shipped along the nearby Chesterfield Canal, out through the Humber estuary via the North Sea, to Westminster. But the experts had not reckoned on the heavy pollution in the nation's capital and over the coming years large tracts of the stone deteriorated and had to be replaced although much of it still remains today.
Nowadays, Anston is a very quiet parish with little industry, though some quarrying is still carried out. It is a dormitory for 11,000 people who largely work and play in nearby Worksop, Rotherham and Sheffield.
The parish is actually two villages, North and South Anston, which are built on opposing hillsides above a small valley. They are separated in the dip by the busy A57, a freight railway viaduct, a Plaxtons bus and coach glazing depot and two filling stations.
South Anston is the smaller of the twin villages, dominated by the imposing, hillside St James' Parish Church and the large Methodist Chapel. It has just two pubs, a post office and a tiny parade of shops.
The lovely homes are stone-built (naturally) in steep and narrow, twisting lanes. A Garden of Remembrance, which contains an ornate carved pinnacle from the Houses of Parliament brought back as a memento of the historic reconstruction is, sadly, locked up because of 'inappropriate' behaviour by some teenagers, though it is opened for special occasions.
Just across the A57 is North Anston, a not unattractive suburban sprawl which runs seamlessly into the former mining town of Dinnington. Large, open areas of greenery seem to be everywhere and the old part of the village again has some beautiful stone-built homes, especially The Green, which has been described as like something out of a Jane Austen novel.
North Anston's Greenlands Park is a 17-acre hidden gem - formerly the Anston Quarry from which much of the parliament stone was dug - with scenic walks, a children's play area, a new doctors' surgery and a new pavilion as well as football and cricket pitches. North Anston also has a parish hall and Anston Stones Wood, a protected area of limestone woodland containing attractive walks.