Updated 11 Apr 2007

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Aerial photos by Neil France

These photos were taken by Neil France while hanging from his paramotor flying machine or something similar. A much larger album of Neil's photos can be found at: www.flickr.com/photos/view_from_above/447479429/.
Also see: emails on the subject.

01 - Wirksworth town centre, looking South-East. Use the Interactive Map to see the buildings close-up.
02 - Alport heights (SK305-515). A thousand foot hill with a trig point, now graced by two big radio masts and a motorcross course. Bottom right is Spout village, 2 miles SE of Wirksworth. Top right is Coneygreave Farm. The area used to be called Ashleyhay. The gorsey area is National Trust.
03 - Riber Castle (SK309-590), a fine view of the mock gothic ruin built about 1867 as a summer retreat by the famous John Smedley. Built on the summit of a steep hill, it is the most eyecatching sight on a visit to Matlock. The Hydro, built by the same man, is the next most eyecatching sight. More views and info on X166.
04 - Matlock Bath (SK295-584). The bridge over the River Derwent is Jubilee Bridge, and top-right is the Railway station. Across the river, Matlock Bath faces the highest inland vertical cliff in England. The A6 follows the river along the Dale.
05 - Bonsall Moor (SK245-600). Looking E along Bonsall Lane at the junction with Bonsallmoor Lane. The ridge looks down on Winster (left) and is pockmarked with old lead mine shafts, some said to be still open but all dangerous.

06 - Middleton Top engine House (SK277-552) on the old Cromford & High Peak Railway. Built in 1828, the CHPR once had 9 such stationary engines dragging trucks up 1 in 8 inclines. Middleton Top is now the only engine house still existing. The railway has been dismantled, and turned into a trailway for walkers and cyclists.
07 - Cromford Village (SK295-569). The village was rebuilt around 1780 by Sir Richard Arkwright to house workers in his new water-powered Cotton Spinning Mill, which introduced the factory system and changed the world. The Lake in the village centre is behind a dam which controlled the supply of water to the waterwheels driving the spinning machines in the factory.
09 - Middle Peak Quarry (SK280-545), 66 acres on the NW edge of Wirksworth town. Mechanisation in the 1950's greatly increased production, heavy lorries passing through the town nearly ruined Wirksworth with vibration, dust and danger. Inactive for 12 years, quarrying threatens to start again in 2007. Limestone quarrying replaced lead mining around 1800 when the lead ran out after 2,000 years.
10 - Masson Mill (SK295-573) and River Derwent. Masson mill was the second built by Sir Richard Arkwright, about 1783. Arkwright also built himself a fine big house at Willersley, looking down onto the mill from the other side of the river. 100 years later, Lawton the manager of Masson also built himself a fine house called Woodbank, looking down onto the Mill from the other side of the mill.
08 - Old blackpowder store in Wirksworth quarry. Powder was used in blasting leadmines long before its use for rockblasting in limestone quarries, and was well understood. Made from sulphur, charcoal and saltpetre, it was the only known explosive until around the mid 1800s, when it was replaced by TNT

Emails on the subject

    Stuart Flint writes:
    Hello John

    I found the photographs by Mr France most interesting but would point out that Middle Peak Quarry is not the place known as The Big 'Ole ..The Big 'Ole was part of Dale Quarry which is to the south of Middle Peak Photo .09 .Middle Peak is where Bowne & Shaws was sited before Tarmac took over.. The Dale Quarry owned by Harward later in partnership for a time with my kinsman George Colledge...Colledge's own Quarry known as Baileycroft which is below Middle Peak next to what was Stoneycroft Quarry owned at one time by John Waterfield who was also Landlord for a time at The Lime Kiln Inn which gained its name from the Lime Kilns in the yard twixt Baileycroft and Stoneycroft Quarry. Baileycroft now part of Harrison Drive, named after William John Harrison of my kin who was Chairman of Wirksworth Urban District Council in the 1930s. As far as the dust and dirt of quarry workings in the 1950s- up to closure of local quarrie's.. people as myself who were reared within the sound and site of quarring (Hopton Wood Stone Middleton) born into the places where quarrying was a vital part of our community life ..I personally would not mind seeing in particular Middle Peak re opened..nor for that matter Middleton Mine

    When my wife and I first married we lived within the shadow of Middle Peak on Cavendish Cottages Cromford Road which we rented from my kinsman Joseph Flint who had been a Blacksmith / Engineer at Shaws Quarry . (Joe Grandson of Joseph Flint who played cricket for Derbyshire 1870s ) The field next door to our house bordered the quarry and the Stoneycroft Railway line into the sidings on Cromford Road..Other than for having to clean the windows and sills regularly of lime dust..we lived happily near the works..and of course, it being a local grown industry, it employed local men..although as my Grandfather and others of my kin were killed at Killer Bros Quarry Middleton..my father vowed never to let any of his sons become quarrymen..

    Many people move into the Wirksworth area from other places and have little thought or apparent care as to how the town became prosperous first with lead and then with the quarrying of limestone gritstone etc.. Wirksworth needs local industry to survive.. With new methods of stone extraction today..there needs to be little polution created from modern quarrying.. and that goes also for coal extraction and coal fired power stations all home produced industries which avoids reliance on other countries...

    02 Coneygreave Farm is where my 3XGrandfather John Flint's 1st wife Anne Peate was born in the late 1760s his 2nd wife on Annes early demise in childbirth Elizabeth Colledge my true 3XGrandmother they parents of Samuel Flint who married Mary Killer of the Killer Quarrying family...

    Footnote.. Near to Coneygreave Farm is a track called Peat Lane. Alport Heights is one of my favourinte places ..It is said that on a clear day the Welsh border can be seen from the Heights.. My Flint and allied family way back in the 1600s lived at The Bent Alport and Ashleyhay/Shottle and Alderwasley ..

    Hope you do not mind me making these comments

    Regards Stuart G Flint

Neil France was awarded the General Aviation Safety Award for 2005 by the Civil Aviation Authority. The citation reads:

In June 2005 Neil France, a private pilot from Matlock, accompanied a friend who is also a pilot on a local flight from Derby Airfield in an aircraft type Mr France had not previously flown in. Not long after take off, the pilot became medically incapacitated with his leg locked on the controls and the aircraft entered a steep spiral dive. Mr France managed to take control to regain level flight and, after exchanging headsets with the unconscious pilot, made contact with Derby Radio for advice regarding approach and landing speeds. Mr France restrained the pilot, who regained consciousness just at the point of flare, and safely brought the aircraft to rest on the runway at Derby Airfield.

See: CAA website

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