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The historic importance of Dale Abbey began in about 1130 when the Virgin Mary appeared to a Derby baker and told him to go to Depedale, to live a life of solitude and prayer. At that time it was a wild and marshy place and the hermit carved out a home and chapel in a sandstone cliff. Here he continued to worship in solitude until one day the smoke from his fire was seen by a Knight, Ralph Fitz Geremund the owner of the land. Intending to drive the intruder away, he rode over, but on hearing the hermit's story he was filled with compassion, allowing him to remain and bestowing on him the tithe money from Borrowash Mill. This enabled the hermit to build a small cave chapel and home on the site of the present church. 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. Other hermits succeeded him as residents of Dale, until an Abbey was founded. Although Augustinian canons came to Deepdale in the 1150's, 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 this splendid building are the 13th century east window and the abbey gatehouse. The former gatehouse was used as a jail in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now part of a private dwelling in the village.) Excavations in the 1870's, 1880's and 1930's 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 hermits cave was enlarged in the 18th century by Sir Robert Burdett, who entertained in it. Today, the cave and surrounding woodland may be visited via a short footpath from Dale village, and it is possible to see the hermitage with its gothic arched doorway and windows, which faced north and which would have been a dark damp home. Above the left window is evidence of beams, now removed, which perhaps supported a canopy which jutted out to shelter the cave. Inside the western section of the cave are wall sconces which once housed a small shrine and cross, carved into the wall.