Updated 13 Mar 2003
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
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(from "Beauties" 1802)
The manor of Cromford was purchased of Sir Peter NIGHTINGALE, by Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, in the year 1789. Since this period its population has greatly increased, from the establishment of the cotton trade; and, according to the returns made in the year 1801, the number of inhabitants was then 1115; and that of houses, 208; a few new houses have since been erected. At Cromford is a small, but very neat chapel, of hewn stone, begun by Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, but completed since his decease, by his son. It was first opened for divine service on the 4th of June, 1797, and consecrated on the 20th of September in the same year. It contains a handsome marble font, an organ, and two small galleries, at the west end, for the use of the children that attend the Sunday-schools. In this village from one to four hundred tons of calamine (the ore of which is obtained on Mr ARKWRIGHT's estate) are prepared annually by a Birmingham company.** On the left of the road leading up Cromford towards Wirksworth, stands an alms-house, or, as it is generally called, a Bead-House, which was founded in the year 1651, for sick poor widows, by Dame Mary TALBOT, widow of Sir William ARMYNE, Bart, and daughter and coheir of Henry TALBOT, Esq, fourth son of George, Earl of SHREWSBURY. At Scarthin Nick, a perforated rock near Cromford, about 200 Roman coins of copper were found a few years ago; chiefly of the lower empire. Several of them were in good preservation, and are now in the possession of Charles HURT, Jun, of Alderwasley.
** Footnote: At Cromford is a society of rather a singular kind, instituted by the owners of cows, to insure against loss attending that kind of property. The cows belonging to the members are valued twice a year, and each person pays monthly, at the rate of one penny per pound, in proportion to the value of his stock. Whenever the fund of the society amounts to 40 pounds, the payments are discontinued, till it is reduced below that sum; and when any member's cow dies, he is indemnified to the full extent of its worth.
(from Lewis, 1848, Vol 1, p.730)
A chapelry, in the parish and hundred of Wirksworth, union of Bakewell, southern division of the county of Derby, 1 mile north-by-east from Matlock; containing 1,407 inhabitants [in 1848], and comprising 1,308 acres, of which 125 are common or waste land. This place, which is pleasantly situated on the river Derwent, was an inconsiderable village prior to the year 1776, when Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, having purchased the manor, erected mills, which were the first ever put in motion by water, and established a cotton manufactory of large extent. Since this period it has greatly increased, and at present it is a flourishing place, consisting chiefly of neat and commodious dwellings for the persons engaged in the factories, many of them built round an open space where a small customary market is held on Saturday, and others chiefly in detached situations. The cotton manufacture affords employment to more than 1,000 persons; there are a manufactory for hats, one for ginghams on a small scale, and a paper-manufactory. In the neighbourhood are extensive mines for lead and calamine, and quarries of marble and limestone. A great quantity of lapis calaminaris is exported annually. The Cromford canal communicates with the Erewash canal near Langley bridge, and commodious wharfs and warehouses have been constructed on its banks. The Cromford and High Peak railway, for the conveyance of minerals and merchandise, commences at this place, and pursues its course to the Peak-Forest canal, near Whaley bridge; the whole line is thirty-three miles, in which it attains a rise of 990 feet above the level of the Cromford canal : it was opened in 1830. The chapel, a small neat building in the Grecian style, begun by Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, in 1794, and completed by his son, Richard ARKWRIGHT, Esq, who endowed it with 50 pounds per annum, was consecrated in 1797. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, 96 pounds; patrons, the family of ARKWRIGHT; the great tithes have been commuted for 90 pounds, and the vicarial for 11 pounds. The Wesleyans have a place of worship.(Back to the MENU)
(from Glover, vol 2, 1833, pp.325-30)
CROMFORD (Crumforde). A small market-town, a township, constabulary and chapelry, in the parish and hundred of Wirksworth. It is 16 miles north from Derby, 8 miles north from Belper, 1 1/2 miles north from Wirksworth, 9 miles west from Alfreton, 10 miles south from Bakewell, 1 mile south of Matlock Bath, and 142 miles north-north-west from London.
The principal part of the town, and the extensive cotton-mills belonging to Messrs R.and P. ARKWRIGHT, are situate in a deep valley on the south bank of the Derwent, enclosed by lofty limestone rocks to the north, south and west, except one street, which runs up the southern hill; to the east, an open valley of some extent, is clothed with the richest herbage. Through this valley the river Derwent flows and the Cromford canal is carried. The new line of road from Derby, through Belper, Cromford, Matlock and Bakewell, to Buxton and Manchester, is of great advantage to the town.(Back to the MENU)
The new RAIL-ROAD, which joins the Cromford canal about one mile and a half south of the town, is carried through the north-west part of the Wirksworth hundred, running past the west portion of the High Peak hundred, over a mountainous country, to Whaley-bridge, where it joins the Peak Forest canal. The building of numerous bridges, the forming of inclined planes, erecting steam-engines, and cutting through immense rocks, have been attended with a serious expense; the whole estimated cost, agreeable to the first calculation, being 163,000 pounds, which sum it will probably exceed before the whole line is opened.
The houses and mills are chiefly built of excellent gritstone, procured in the township, and chiefly belong to Richard ARKWRIGHT, esq. The town is eminently distinguished by the founder, Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT; that most ingenious mechanic having established the first cotton-mill, in 1771, erected in the county, and the first upon so large a scale in England. His astonishing and wonderful penetration may be discovered in the very choice of a situation so suitable to carry on his extensive plans and operations, which laid the foundatuion of that immense wealth now enjoyed by his family. The mills are supplied from a never-failing spring of warm water, which also proves to be of great advantage to the canal in severe seasons, as it rarely freezes up, in consequence of a portion of the water from this spring flowing into it. These mills, and those of MASSON, erected a little higher up the Derwent, belong to and are worked by the grandsons of the eminent founder, who employ nearly 800 persons.(Back to the MENU)
The valuable lead-mines, the manufacture of red lead, grinding and preparing calaminaris [zinc ore], the wharfs, the canal, and the rail-road, together with the extensive smelting mills of the Messrs ALSOP, the hat-manufactury and worsted-mills at Lea, which are in the immediate neighbourhood, not only give employment to a numerous and increasing population, but render the town of great importance in a mercantile view.
In 1821, the township contained 232 houses, 271 families, 1,242 inhabitants, now increased to about 1,600. Of the families, 4 were employed in agriculture, 262 in trade or handicraft, and 5 variously.
In 1790, Sir Richard ARKWRIGHT obtained the grant of a market, which is now held on Saturday. The fairs are held on the 1st of May and the 1st of October.(Back to the MENU)
The extent of the township is 1,348ac and 16p of limestone and gritstone land, chiefly belonging to Richard ARKWRIGHT, esq, who has considerably improved and beautified the estate by extensive plantations, which add much to the surrounding scenery. The land is watered by the Derwent, Cromford Moor-sough and Bonsall-brook; it is much divided; every person employed at the mills, capable of purchasing a cow, has a little plot of land allotted to him sufficient to maintain it. The average rental may be stated at 20 shillings per acre. The estimated annual value of all the buildings and land is 3,596 pounds, 13 shillings and 10 pence. The average of seven years' poor-rates is 297 pounds, 12 shillings. County-rates 54 pounds, 15 shillings and 6 pence, and church-rates 14 pounds, 15 shillings and 9 pence. The pauper children are chiefly sent to the cotton-mills. There are large Friendly Societies; Sunday-schools at the church and at the Methodist chapel; an excellent inn and four public-houses; a water corn-mill; a bridge, repaired at the expense of the county, and a handsome free day-school, built and supported by Richard ARKWRIGHT, esq, for boys and girls. Almshouses for six poor widows, &c, in the township.(Back to the MENU)
Footnote re Friendly Societies: At Cromford is a society of rather a singular kind, instituted by the owners of cows, to insure against loss attending that kind of property. The cows belonging to the members are valued twice a year, and each person pays monthly, at the rate of one penny per pound, in proportion to the value of his stock. Whenever the fund of the society amounts to 40 pounds the payments are discontiued, till it is reduced below that sum; and when any member's cow dies, he is indemnified to the full extent of its worth.
The large handsome inn, erected in the market-place, in 1778, is kept by Mrs HIGGOTT. Here the London, Manchester, and Nottingham coaches change horses.
"In Cromforde, there were, at the time that Doomsday-book was compiled, two carucates of land to be taxed, and it then belonged to the king."(Back to the MENU)
The manor of Cromford, at the Conquest, belonged to the king. In 1350, Sir Hugh MEYNELL, of Meynell Langley, had a grant of free warren in his lands at Cromford, which he held under the Duke of Lancaster. These lands, which are supposed to have constituted what is now the manor of Cromford, were afterwards in the family of LECHE, from whom they passed by sale to the AGARDS. Thomas AGRD died seised of it in 1548. From the AGARDS it passed by sale to Sir William CAVENDISH. Henry TALBOT, esq, of Ronalton, co. Notts, esq, third son of George, Earl of SHREWSBURY, died seised of the manor of Cromford in 1596. From Mary, Lady ARMYNE, his daughter and co-heiress, it passed to Evelyn, Duke of KINGSTON, descended from her sister Gertrude. The Duke sold it, in 1716, to William SORESBY, gent. William SORESBY, the grandson, dying unmarried, his two sisters became his co-heiresses : Mary married william MILNES, esq, and Helen, the Rev Thomas MUNRO. Mr MILNES purchased MUNRO's moiety : and in 1776, sold the whole to Peter NIGHTINGALE, esq, of Lea : of whom it was purchased, in 1789, by sir Richard ARKWRIGHT, father of Richard ARKWRIGHT, esq, the present proprietor.(Back to the MENU)
The CHURCH, a plain building of hewn stone, erected on a piece of ground called the green, was begun by the late Sir Richard AKWRIGHT, and completed by the present Richard ARKWRIGHT, esq. This chapel was opened for divine service, 4th of June 1797, consecrated 20th of September in the same year, and endowed by Mr ARKWRIGHT with 50 pounds per annum. It has been since augmented by a further sum of 200 pounds from Mr ARKWRIGHT, 200 pounds from Queen Anne's bounty, a Parliamentary grant of 800 pounds and in 1826, another of 200 pounds. The patronage is vested in Mr ARKWRIGHT and his heirs. The Rev Richard WARD, of Matlock Bath, is the present incumbent. The church is fitted with an organ, a handsome marble font and two small galleries.
There was formerly an ancient chapel at Cromford, which has been demolished many years.(Back to the MENU)
MONUMENTAL INSCRIPTIONS IN THE CHURCH
On the south side of the communion table is a beautiful white marble monument by CHANTRY. Sacred to the memory of Martha Maria, the beloved and affectionate wife of Richard ARKWRIGHT, jun, esq, and daughter of the Rev William BERESFORD, of Ashbourn, who died on the 12th day of March 1820, aged 40 years. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Also in memory of their children, Richard ARKWRIGHT, who died November 19, 1810, aged 5 weeks; Richard ARKWRIGHT, who died February 18, 1813, aged 6 weeks; and Agnes Maria ARKWRIGHT, who died March 16, 1813, aged 4 years.
LADY ARMYNE'S ALMSHOUSES - Dame Mary ARMYNE, by a codicil to her Will, bearing date 14th August 1662, gave to the rector or parson of Matlock, county of Derby, for the time being, and to three others, a yearly rent charge of 16 pounds, 10 shillings out of her manor lands and tenements in Cromford, to be paid quarterly by 40 shillings a year, to six pooor widowers or widows past their labour by age or impotency, and 15 shillings a year each for a gown at Christmas. There are six almshouses here, in which these widows (who are appointed by the overseers) reside. It is not known by whom they were built. Mr ARKWRIGHT, the owner of the manor and estate, repairs them, having been purchased subject thereto, and pays the 40 shillings a year to each, and 6 shillings and 8 pence for a gown, making the total rent charge of only 14 pounds a year. The other 2 pounds, 10 shillings cannot be proved to have ever been paid, and is thought to have been deducted for land tax.(Back to the MENU)
The ROCK HOUSE, the seat of Peter ARKWRIGHT, esq, is built on a high limestone rock, overlooking a beautiful part of the Derwent vale.
Mr ARKWRIGHT is now building a school-room, 60 feet by 20 feet, and one story high, to be divided in the centre, one room to be for boys, the other for girls.
At Cromford, some years ago, was discovered a number of Roman coins, now in the possession of Charles HURT, jun, esq, of Wirksworth.
(from Woolley's Derbyshire, c.1715, DRS 1981, No.137, p.205)
CRUMFORD, about a miles south-east from Middleton, in a bottom, also in Wirksworth parish, having a pleasant brook running through it and falls into the Derwent here, which runs by the end of this village, under a good stone bridge. In Edward III's time [1327-77] it belonged to the MEYNELS of Meynel Langley, held under the Duke of LANCASTER. It was in Doomsday Book called Crunford. In Edward VI's time [1547-53], Thomas AGNES left his son Francis an estate here. 5 Philip & Mary  Sir William CAVENDISH died and left his son Henry an estate here. In 38 Elizabeth [1595/6] Henry TALBOT of Kinaston in the county of Nottingham had lands here, who left it to his three daughters, Elizabeth, Gertrude and Mary. He was the son of Gilbert, called the great Earl of SHREWSBERRY. His daughter Gertrude married Robert PIERPOINT, Earl of KINGSTON, by whom this manor came into this family who are lords of it. In the south-west side is Crumford moor, where are very rich lead mines which have for some time been drowned out, but a great sough is now carrying up to unwater them at a great expense. About a mile from hence, beyond a high hill, lies a pretty seat called Wignall, also in Wirksworth parish.(Back to the MENU)
(Taken from 'The Derbyshire Village Book' published by the Derbyshire Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, 1991. ISBN 1 85306 1336)
CROMFORD. Sir Richard Arkwright - the cradle of the Industrial Revolution - the birthplace of those 'satanic mills' - are all synonymous with Cromford, but there was habitation here long before Arkwright came, it being mentioned in the Domesday Book as an outlier of the manor of Wirksworth. The original hamlet nestled beside the 'crooked' ford crossing the river Derwent - hence its name Cruneford, to Crumford then Cromford. The older villagers pronounce it 'Crumford'.
Sadly the only remains of this hamlet, destroyed by the Arkwrights, are the ruins of the Bridge chapel, one of the few surviving in Derbyshire. It is still possible to see the crudely carved cross by the doorway and the niche in the wall, where a light was placed at night to guide travellers across the ford. Here prayers were offered for a safe crossing.
The bridge now spanning the river is unique, as the upstream side has rounded arches and the downstream side three pointed l5th century arches - some of the oldest bridge work in Derbyshire, part of the original packhorse and footbridge. An interesting stone on the bridge marks the spot where, in 1697, Benjamin Heywood of Bridge house, returning home on horseback after an evening's jollity in the local hostelry, failed to take the bend on the bridge, went over the parapet, and horse and rider landed, unharmed, in the river. The annual Raft Race on Boxing Day draws crowds to the finish at the bridge.
With the arrival of Richard Arkwright in 1771 and the building of his three cotton mills, the need for housing for his workers led to the building of the village on its present site, nestling at the foot of the surrounding hills. North Street is a fine example of workers' houses, considered models for their period.
Alison Uttley is another famous name connected with Cromford. Born at Castle Top Farm where she lived until her late teens, she wrote the famous Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig Stories. Her books, The Farm on the Hill and The Country Child, evoke life in the village in the late 1800s.
The village remained virtually unchanged until 1921 when the Arkwright estate was sold and one or two new houses were built. After the Second World War the village, like Topsy 'just growed'. A large council estate was built, and later extended, and private housing estates were developed, so that today the original village is almost enclosed by these additions. As the village altered, so did the occupations of the inhabitants. Previously employed in the cotton mills, lead mines and quarries, now they work at the County Offices in Matlock and commute to Derby, Chesterfield and further afield. September is the highlight of the year with the arrival of the Wakes. A legacy of the Arkwright era, it takes place on the weekend nearest to 8th September, the church's patronal festival.
The Market Place is dominated by the Greyhound Hotel built by Arkwright. Here the Manchester stage coach stopped for stabling and victuals. Impressive Rock House - Arkwright's home - gave him a view over his mills. Gracious Willersley Castle standing above the Derwent, started by Sir Richard but burned down before it was finished and not completed until after his death, is now the headquarters of the Methodist Holiday Guild. During the Second World War it served as a maternity hospital for mothers from the East End of London, and there are many who can proudly say they were born in a castle.
St Mary's church, Arkwright's private chapel, also completed after his death, was built on the site of the old lead smelting hills. Here the Arkwrights are buried and there is a chantry memorial tablet to the family in the church. St Mark's, the village church, was closed in 1957 and demolished several years later.
Rose End Meadows, acquired by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in 1987, is a wealth of flowers, some rare, and moths and butterflies, showing that it has remained virtually untouched for three centuries, thanks to its previous owners, the late Mr and Miss Ollerenshaw, who farmed it the old fashioned way. What a legacy!
At HOPTON, another small hamlet in the parish of Wirksworth, is the seat of the GELL family, which has been resident here from the time of Queen Elizabeth. John GELL, who was sheriff of Derbyshire in 1634, and in 1643 created a Baronet by Charles the First, was a very active partizan in the cause of the Parliament during the Civil War, and performed several spirited actions in its service. It appears, however, that his conduct was not always regarded as satisfactory; for having been appointed receiver of the money arising from the sequestrations of the effects of those persons within the county who were suspected of being friendly to the King, an order was issued to enforce the payment of 6000 pounds, which remained unaccounted for in his hands. He was afterwards tried for misprision of treason, and sentenced to forfeit his estate, and be imprisoned for life; but within two years received a pardon. The ancient manor-house of the GELLS has been lately pulled down, and its site occupied by a neat modern building. The grounds have also been much improved; and a new road, distinguished by the appellation of the 'VIA GELLIA', has been carried towards Matlock through a romantic valley, which affords several very beautiful views. In making the road, an iron dagger, and some iron heads of spears, were found, covered to the depth of three feet beneath the surface by small stones. About one mile south from the valley, on a rising ground, is a large barrow, 196 feet in circumference, in which an urn of coarse baked earth, full of bones and ashes, was discovered by some laborers who were preparing the ground for a plantation. The urn fell to pieces on endeavoring to take it up : its circumference was four feet three inches. It was covered with a piece of yellowish freestone, much corroded, on which the following lines, forming part of a Roman inscription, were legible:
. . . . . GELL PRAE C. III L. V. BRITThis, Mr ROOKE, who communicated an account of the discovery to the Society of Antiquaries, explained as follows:
(from Lewis, 1848, Vol 2, p.545)
HOPTON. A township, in the parish and hundred of Wirksworth, southern division of the county of Derby, 1 3/4 miles west-by-south from Wirksworth; containing 83 inhabitants [in 1848], many of whom are employed in working lead-mines. Hopton was the property and residence of Sir John GELL, who, when Charles I raised the royal standard at Nottingham, proceeded to Derby, assembled a strong body of troops for the Parliament, and performed a conspicuous part throughout the war. Almshouses for four persons were erected in 1719, by Sir Philip GELL, Bart, and endowed by him with a rent-charge of 22 pounds and 6 shillings. Military weapons and some other relics of antiquity have been found.(Back to the MENU)
(from Woolley's Derbyshire, c.1715, DRS 1981, No.138, pp.205-6)
HOPTON, near adjoining to Carson, or rather part of it lying westwards. A small village, or rather the seat of the GELLS, Sir Philip GELL having there a convenient, then magnificent seat. It was in Doomsday called Opetune and was part of the King's lands. I find no more of it till 7 Elizabeth [1564/5] Ralph GELL died possessed of it and several other lands and lordships in this neighbourhood, which he left to his son Anthony who died 25 ditto [1582/3] and left it to his brother Thomas GELL, in which family it still continues.
1. Ralph GELL married Emma, daughter of Hugh BERESFORD of Newton Grange;
2. Anthony died without issue;
3. Thomas, who married Millicent, daughter of Ralph SACHEVERELL of Stanton and John CURZON to a second husband [sic];
4. Sir John, created baronet 29 January 1641. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Percival WILLOWBY of Wollaton in Comitatu Nottingham, a great commander in the Civil Wars, of the Parliament side. This county, in a manner, owes its security to his Grey-coats;
5. Sir John married Katrine, daughter of John PACKER of Donnington Castle in the County of Berkshire;
6. Sir Philip now living, married Elizabeth, the daughter of John FRAGG, Bart of Wiston in the County of Sussex. Francis died without male issue. The arms of this family are: party per bend Azure and Or, three mullets pierced in the bend, counterchanged; the crest: a greyhound Sable, collared Or. It is taxed with Carsington 94 pounds, 10 shillings and 6 pence.(Back to the MENU)
(Taken from 'The Derbyshire Village Book' published by the Derbyshire
Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, 1991. ISBN 1 85306 133
Carsington and HOPTON are two old mining villages which lie between the market towns of Wirksworth and Ashbourne. In the 7th century, one of the Northern saints, a monk named Betti, came down from Northumberland and set up a preaching cross, which now stands on the village green. It was previously in the Hall grounds and was brought up into the village several years ago.
The church of St Margaret is of l2th century origin but was rebuilt in 1648 and stands on the bottom slopes of Carsington Pastures. An entry in the register dated 29th September 1668 reads: `Sarah Tissington died. Born without hands or arms. She learned to knit, dig in the garden and do other things with her feet.'
Carsington Pastures is about 365 acres of open grazing land which rises steeply above the village to a height of over 1,000 ft above sea level. On the summit there is a large stone landmark, marked on the Ordnance Survey as the King's Chair, but known locally as the Lady Chair. The ground is scarred with remains of lead mines, the main source of wealth for the village for several hundred years and worked first by the Romans, who also brought the pretty blue and yellow pansy, known as heartsease, with them. A Roman pig of lead was found on the Owslow farm some years ago. Several of the old cottages in the village would have been originally the coes which were built round a mine shaft and at least one of them still has the mine shaft below the kitchen floor. A thick seam of lead was exposed during grave digging operations by the sexton in the 1930s, but could not be worked as the lead mining laws did not allow the mining of lead in churchyards, orchards or gardens.
For many years no building of any kind took place, but during the last decade a bypass has been built and the new Carsington reservoir is in process of building for the Severn Trent Water Authority. This has brought alterations to the villages with new houses being built and barns belonging to the farms along the valley being turned into desirable residences. There are only two farms left now in Hopton and the last farm in Carsington village was sold in 1990.
The Gell family lived at HOPTON Hall for several centuries until it was sold in 1989 and their influence can be seen throughout both villages. The Hall has been rebuilt and altered over the centuries but there is a part of the original Elizabethan hall still standing with the red brick addition of later years surrounding it. The main road originally ran beside the school and across the front of the Hall until the later road was built. That is the reason for the Miners Arms inn standing with its back to the main road, facing the little lane which was the old road. The Miners Arms is a large three-storey building of the l6th century, and was recently bought from the brewery by the landlord.
The Hall gardens are enclosed by a high red brick wall, which is hollow with a stove at one end. The hollow wall conducted heat from the fire round the wall, against which were grown various kinds of fruit trees. This warmth, together with its south-facing position, ensured an early crop of peaches and other fruits for the house. This was built by Sir Philip Gell, who founded the almshouses in Hopton in 1719. The road to Cromford known as the Via Gellia, or Gell's road, was also built at this time to convey the world famous Hopton Wood stone, which was being quarried on his land at Hopton, to the newly opened Cromford Canal, from where it was despatched worldwide.
Ithersay House was WONDERFUL. It had 3 stories, twisty passages and one of the small rooms on the second floor had the appearance of being much older. (I am now American and the second floor is the one above the ground floor). We were right opposite the Vicarage which was also badly damaged. Next door to us up the Derby/Wirksworth road was Cowley's Farm where we bought our milk etc.
My father had an office in London and he evacuated the office and all the staff to Idridegehay. The night of the bomb - it was 11:30 at night we were conmpletely unaware of any air raid, as we were too far from the nearest siren to get any warning. None of us were killed. My brother was home on leave from the Navy and went to see if the Sibbalds were OK. Miss Janet was standing at the head of the staircase in a nightgown covered in blood!. When rescued, it was found that a fragment of glass had pierced a blood vessel in her cheek and that otherwise she was unhurt.
We were, of course, very dirty - I was covered in soot and my fair hair was completely black. We were taken to Ecclesbourne Hall, just up the lane, where we were cared for by Mrs. Kenneth? Wheatcroft.
I am 80 now, and because of that incident, became deaf in subsequent years. I am writing you because I do not expect that there are many living survivors of that time.
The bus from Derby - Wirksworth used to take 40 minutes, and the bus driver knew where everyone lived, and would stop and chat if he saw someone he knew.
After losing our home at Ithersay House, we rented Meadow House, Summer Lane, Wirksworth from Dr. & Mrs. Christie. When I was last in England about 25 years ago I visited Wirksworth and went briefly to Meadow House.
Later in the war I was drafted (conscripted?) to work on the land and worked at Barrel Farm, Millers Green, not far from home. I used to walk over the fields in the pitch black, but I knew where the old mine holes were (surely these must now be covered or filled in).
General Walthall-Walthall was the local squire and Alton Manor I think was the name of his beautiful house.
I felt I had to contact you, and if there is some small detail that you might be interested in please e-mail me.
(Taken from 'The Derbyshire Village Book' published by the Derbyshire
Federation of Women's Institutes & Countryside Books, 1991. ISBN 1 85306 133
MIDDLETON, meaning Middle Town, is a small industrial village situated between Wirksworth and Winster, and is about 1,000 ft above sea level. In earlier years it was noted for a place of correction for lead miners, and Jail Yard still remains.
One notable character was George Buxton; though living in humble circumstances, he had great musical talents both as a performer and composer. His works were composed of psalms and hymn tunes, etc. A headstone in Wirksworth churchyard records his death at the age of 67. D.H. Lawrence spent one year at Mountain Cottage overlooking Via Gellia. In his book The Virgin and the Gypsy Woodlinkin was based on Middleton by Wirksworth.
The Congregational church is the most important building. It was built by Jonathon Scott who was the minister of Glenorchy chapel at Matlock Bath, as the lead miners had no place of worship. In 1785 the Congregational church at Northampton was altered and enlarged, and the pulpit and reading desk of the famous Dr Dodderidge came to Middleton, where the pulpit still remains. There are two other chapels and the parish church of Holy Trinity.
At Middleton Top there is the well known Engine House, an industrial monument built in 1829 to haul waggons up the 708 yards long, 1 in 8 1/4 gradient incline. The railway closed 134 years later but is now preserved by Derbyshire County Council - the engine being renovated by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society. The main occupations were lead mining and quarrying for the men, some of the women working at Masson Mill about two miles away. A Hall is said to have existed at the top of the village and nearby a barn where cocks were trained in the brutal sport of cock fighting.
There are a number of stories told. One day, a farmer and his servants were in the harvest field, leaving his wife and infant son at home, when a strange phenomenon occurred. The infant was asleep in his cradle and his mother left him for a moment. On returning she exclaimed `Oh God, my child has changed!' No-one knows if the child was substituted for another, or whether it was the work of the fairies, but he grew up to be a comely man and was known as Fairy Robert. When 90 years had silvered his locks, he still had the bloom of youth on his cheeks.
When there were very few taps in the village, people collected water from the Basin. Women assembled there with their cans. Often there were quarrels, but there was an individual who had his eye on these encounters, and he assumed the right to be King 6r Emperor over the water. He was known as Old Tom Bevy. He would leave his house at 2 am and remain until 9 am sitting on a three-legged stool, and would not allow anyone to have more than one can until all had been served. There was a woman who helped Tom Bevy. She considered herself Prime Minister and was known as `Polly Wag'. She would say `Na ya two hussies, yon big fahling aht abaht that drop o' watter. Yo shanner ha'it I'll tak it mysen.' Many surnames were the same, mainly Spencer, Doxey and Slack, most of them having family nicknames, some of which remain to this day.
In those days Middleton was a self-sufficient village, nearly every other building a shop or business of some kind. Social life revolved round the churches. There was little money but good fellowship, and above all, good family life.