Three Shires Head

Three Shires head owes its name to the fact that Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire all meet at this point, it is where the three borders come together. It is a difficult place to find as you have to walk across fields to get there, and there are no signposts to direct you, however the walk is well worth the effort as it is a very tranquil spot with the river Dane flowing over the rocks under an old pack horse bridge.

In the past thorn trees were thought to have been special, and were thought to have been planted by a holy person, this perhaps stems from the story of Joseph of Arimathea thrusting his staff into the ground on Weary-all hill at Glastonbury, where it took root and grew into a Holy Thorn tree which blossomed only at Christmas time.

The thorn tree was also said to be the abode of tree spirits and it was also said to mark the spot of a battle or a place where a venerated person was buried, these became marking points or boundary markers. This would have been the case at Three Shires Head where there is an area known as Cut Thorn, this would have been named after a thorn tree with cuts or marks on it to mark the boundary between the three shires.

There have been many sightings of ghosts in this area around Three Shires Head and Sutton, many have been rough looking men on horseback, often carrying a storm lantern and galloping down the centre of the road much to the consternation of local traffic! A computer operator was driving down the road which passes Cluelow Cross on the 5th January 1995 when he came across one such phantom charging down the centre of the road. He had a long black beard and a three cornered hat on his head, the driver braced for the impact but it never came as the horse and rider passed right through the car never to be seen again!

It was believed that in the past many illegal activities had used to take place at Three Shires Head. Bare knuckle fighting was a common activity which would go on here, also counterfeit money was produced in this area, the nearby village of Flash (Quarnford) was renowned for this. Unfortunately the local police were fighting a losing battle as they would make their way to Three Shires Head with arrest warrants when they knew that illegal activities were taking place, only for the perpetrators to jump across the border into the next shire where the warrant could not be served.

If you follow the river Dane upstream from Three Shires Head it will take you through some only mine workings and eventually you will reach the source of the river Dane on Axe Edge, this in itself is a very enjoyable walk.


8 Responses to “Three Shires Head”

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  3. is the source of the River Dane at Dane Head, Old Coal Road, Axe Edge Moor

    • Hi Paul, The source of the Dane is on Axe Edge which I have been to. You can reach it from a small lane off the A53 Leek to Buxton road on your left as you travel from Leek past the travellers rest and before you start dropping down into Buxton. However it is hard to actually determine where the river starts as it emerges from boggy ground.
      Regards Gary

  4. It’s usually known, and is shown on the Ordnance Survey, as ‘Three Shire Heads’.

    • Having lived in this part of the world all my 62 years, it was always referred to by locals as ‘Three Shires Head’ or simply Three Shires’ a meeting place of Staffs, Cheshire and Derbyshire where in the past locals could cock fight with impunity as they were immune from prosecution as they moved from county to county, where the police had no jurisdiction.

  5. Some references to this area from 1533, 1620 and 1656 may be of interest – “THREE SHIRE HEADS, (111-009685), the Three Sheres 1533 Db 373, the (three) shire stones c. 1620 Orm2, The Three Shire Mears 1656 ib., “the three county-boundary stones”, where Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire meet, v. ϸrēo, scīr, hēafod, stān, (ge)mǣre.”. From English Place-Name Elements Relating to Boundaries by Boel Jepson, Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University 2011

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