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The historic importance of Dale Abbey began in about 1130 when a Derby baker had a vision of the Virgin Mary telling him to go to Deepdale (the old name meaning, literally, 'deep valley') to worship God.
The Hermitage, a schedule ancient monument, is situated within Hermit's Wood. This wood is a relic of the forest that used to cover much of this part of Derbyshire and is itself on the County Register of Biologically Important Sites.
Although Augustinian canons came to Deepdale in the 1150s, it was not until about 1200 that the Abbey of St Mary was founded by Premonstratensian Canons. The abbey flourished and owned 24,000 acres of land until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.
Today, however, all that remains of this splendid building are the 13th century east window and the abbey gatehouse which are behind the former Methodist chapel, now the Gateway Christian Centre. The former gatehouse was used as a jail on the 18th and 19th centuries. Walls and stone from the abbey are incorporated in a number of buildings. Excavations in the 1870s, 1880s and 1930s exposed parts of the abbey including the Presbytery. The unique semi-detached church of All Saints, part of which was built by the hermit, became the chapel for the abbey infirmary. The stonework by the hymn board is believed to be part of the original building. The church is in regular weekly use and has hardly changed since 1634, retaining its box pews.
Attached to the church is the verger's farmhouse, a former public house which was demolished and rebuilt around 1883. To the east of the abbey window are earth banks which dammed the Sow Brook to make a monastic fish pond. Local legend has it that Alan a' Dale of Robin Hood's 'Merry men' came from this village and that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married here (doubtful! as they are supposed to have been married at Edwinstowe).