Smisby History Pages
The Ivanhoe Connection
Extract with kind permission of Derbyshire Life and Countryside (January 1986) article by Roy Christian
When that noble patron of the arts, Sir George Beaumont war entertaining his friend Sir Walter Scott at Coleorton Hall in the summer of 1819 he took his guest to visit Smisby, which was then - and still is today - what a 19th century guide-book writer described as a tolerably fair specimen of an old-fashioned English hamlet'
They climbed a watch-tower belonging to Smisby Manor House and looked south- ward across a level plateau to the splendid keep of Ashby Castle, two miles away Much nearer to them, mainly in Smisby parish and in Derbyshire - for county and parish share a common boundary at that point they noted a field which Sir George pointed out as the traditional scene of tournaments in medieval times
Sir Walter made a mental note of the scene, and at Abbotsford later that year he dictated to an amanuensis (for he was too ill to hold a pen): 'On the verge of a wood, which approached within a mile of the town of Ashby, was an extensive meadow, of the finest and most beautiful green turf ... the ground ... sloped gradually down on all sides to a level bottom.'
You will find it in chapter seven of Ivanhoe which appeared late in 1819, though it seems to have been much later in the century that Ashby began to make use of its Ivanhoe connection. The watch tower has gone now.
On its site is a house called 'The poplars', (formerly) the home of Miss Marion Bailey, a retired head teacher, and her mother.
The tournament field, to which the Ordnance Survey gives the stamp of authority by indicating its position on their maps in the italic script used for non- Roman sites of antiquity, is just as Scott saw It.