Updated 14 Oct 2000

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Description of WIRKSWORTH and CROMFORD in 1821

from Pigot's Directory

WIRKSWORTH, a market town and parish, giving name to the hundred in which it is situated; is 140 miles from London,48 from Manchester, 20 from Buxton, 14 from Chesterfield and Derby, 6 from Belper, and 3 from Matlock, on the direct road from the metropolis to Manchester. In Domesday Survey it is called Werchesworde, but, according to vulgar tradition, took its derivation from the circumstance of malefactors being condemned to work in the lead-mines here, and their labours proving valuable, it was said their work is worth, hence the easy transition to its present mode of spelling. Several courts leet and courts baron are held at Easter, Michaelmas, and at other periods, by the various lords in the different manors in this parish, principally lesses of the crown; the magistrates in the town and neighbourhood sit on the market day; but there is no particular government, a constable and head borough being the only municipal officers. The public buildings are a handsome town hall, built of stone; the moot hall, a neat modern erection, where two courts sit, at Easter and Michaelmas, for the trial of mineral causes; a free grammar school, alms-houses, founded by Anthony F(G?)ell, Esq. and a handsome Gothic church, dedicated to St. Mary, which is a vicarage, in the patronage of the dean of Lincoln; the present incumbent is the Rev.Henry Gordon; the curates are the Rev.Nathan Hubbersty, master of the free grammar school, and the Rev.William Hutchins. Other places of worship are, chapels for the independent and Wesleyan methodists, and general baptists. The lead business has been for centuries the staple trade of the place. About 50 years ago a pig of lead, weighing 126 lbs. was discovered on Cromford moors, with the name of the Emperor Adrian, in raised letters, upon it, and others of a similar kind have been found in places adjacent; these circumstances form good evidence that mines of this metal were worked here by the Romans; and it is ascertained that the Saxons found them productive in the eighth century. The ore is found in great plenty round about this town, especially towards the north, north-east and west, of various kinds, besides other minerals, as lapis calaminaris, ochres, antimony, flour (sic) and other spar, mill and grind-stones, and grit-stone. The denominative quantities of the lead ore are distinguished by the names of bing and peser, and a third, which being passed through a sieve in washing, is called smitham; the fourth, caught by a slow stream of water, is termed beleand, and is as fine as flour, but the most inferior in quality; all the ore,as it comes from the mines, is beaten in pieces and washed by women; the lead is then melted in furnaces, and poured into moulds of various sizes. Lead, although of so much consequence, is not the only article of commerce connected with this town. Calico, gingham, and silk weaving employs many of the inhabitants; beside wool-combing, and the making of hats; and upon the banks of the river Ecclesbourn, which forms the eastern boundary of the parish, are several corn mills, and a tape and smallware manufactory: the Cromford canal runs parallel with the river, for the distance of about three miles, passing on to Whaley, in Cheshire, where it communicates with the Peak Forest canal and will shortly be joined by a rail-road from Manchester, which has already cost upwards of 135,000 pounds and it is estimated that 20,000 pounds more will be required to complete this great undertaking: the length of the rail-way when finished will exceed thirty-three miles. In Wirksworth are several genteel residences, and in its neighbourhood are Willersley castle, the seat of Richard Arkwright, Esq. Hopton Hall, the seat of Philip Gell, Esq. &c.&c. The general aspect of the country here is fertile, producing fine herbage, and corn of most descriptions, except on the north side, which, in consequence of the devastation and spoil made by the mining operations, has rather a sterile and barren appearance, although it affords good pasturage for cattle. The weekly market is on Tuesday: fairs are on Shrove Tuesday, Easter Tuesday,May 12th, July 8th, September 8th, and the third Tuesday in November, for cattle, pediary, &c. the last named being also a statute fair for hiring servants. The entire parish of Wirksworth contained, in 1821, 7,315 inhabitants, of which number 3,787 were returned as belonging to the township, and 901 in the hamlet of Middleton-by-Wirksworth.
CROMFORD, a village, situated about mid-way between Matlock and Wirksworth, is eminently distinguished by the extensive cotton works, established by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, the father of the improvements effected in this branch of the trade in this country, and of the extension of the cultivation of cotton on foreign climes. These works are now in the proprietary of Messrs. Robert & Peter Arkwright;which, with the lead mines, smelting works, manufacture of red lead, grinding and preparing calaminaris, &c. give employment to a great number of hands, and renders this village of high importance in a mercantile view. Willersley castle, the beautiful seat of Richard Arkwright Esq. stands on the south side of a commanding eminence, which terminates the extensive range of rocks that forms the eastern boundary of the Derwent in its course through Matlock dale: the castle consists of a body, in the form of an oblong square, having a circular tower rising from the centre of the roof, and semi-circular ones projecting from the entrance and the two wings, with a round tower at each angle: the whole edifice is embattled, and the exterior of white free-stone. This building was erected by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, in the year 1782: on the 8th of August, 1791, the house (before it was inhabited) was, by an over-heated stove, set on fire, and the combustible part consumed. The mansion is now furnished with great taste and neatness; the gardens and walks are most judiciously laid out, and the plantations are rich and extensive: the number of trees planted by Mr Arkwright on this estate, have averaged 50,000 annually. The chapel here, under the establishment, was begun by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, and finished by his son Richard (sic). It is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the family, and in the incumbency of the Rev. Richard Ward. Here are also a Wesleyan methodist chapel, and Sunday schools, the latter established by the late Sir Richard Arkwright, to whom, indeed, the origin of the town may be entirely ascribed. In 1790 this gentleman obtained the grant of a market, which is now held on Tuesday. In 1821 the township contained 1,210 inhabitants, but the population has been increasing since that period.

Copyright © 2000, John Palmer, All Rights Reserved.