Updated 18 Sep 2011

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Photo 634


The mysterious snuff-box, picture from Rob Lawford.
"Presented to Mr Percival as an acknowledgement of his
services in support of the Wirksworth Races Sept 1848"

Derby Mercury, Wednesday 2 Nov 1831
"The New Game Act---At the Special Sessions, held in and for the Hundred of Wirksworth on Saturday last, three applications for Licenses to sell game were made and granted, viz. John Potter, of Ashbourn; and William Marsh and Benjamin Percival of Wirksworth."
Derby Mercury, Wed 10 November 1852
"DEATH At Wirksworth, on the 5th inst., much respected, Mr Benjamin Percival, grocer and tea-dealer, aged 62"
Derby Mercury, Wed 28 March 1838
"WIRKSWORTH---At a Vestry Meeting convened on the 22nd instant, the following persons were nominated to serve offices:- Messrs Hartley, Williamson, Ford and Shaw, to be Guardians; Mr Benjamin Percival and Mr James Nall Overseers of the Poor; and Mr A D James and Mr Jonathan Jepson, Surveyors of the Highways for the year ensuing."

Benjamin Percival 1790-1852

An inscription on a snuff-box owned by Rob Lawford mentions a Mr Percival and Wirksworth Races in 1848. Wirksworth Races were held at Carsington Pasture; there is only one Mr Percival in the Parish Registers, a Benjamin. Benjamin Percival (1790-1852) ran a grocers and Tea Dealers business in North End and Coldwell Street Wirksworth. His father John was a shoemaker. Benjamin died in 1852, and the running of the business was taken over by his son John, his daughter Ellen and daughter-in-law Harriet. Later on the business seems to have run its course, and Ellen has become a cook and domestic servant.
Anyone with knowledge of the Wirksworth Races, please contact the author on


       1794           1790               1808  
       Sarah  1823    Benjamin   1843    Martha
       1841     |     1852               1891?
 |        |          |        |       |
1824     1825       1827     1828    1830
John     Elizabeth  William  Sarah   Ellen
Benjamin   |        1829     1831    1878
1859       |
 |         |
m 1858   m 1860
Harriet  Robert

See Census on: 1841, 1851, 1861a, 1861b, 1861c and 1871.
See Tradesmen on:Percival

Derby Mercury, Wed 27 Sep 1837
Names of Persons Licensed to Deal in Game
Cope, William, Derby
Fields, Thomas, Derby
Green, Thomas, Alfreton
Holmes, Joseph, Stanton
Lees, Matthew, jun, Buxton
Mason, Frederick Wm.,Derby
Mozeley, John, Winster
Percival, Benjamin, Wirksworth
Pidcock, John, Buxton
Potter, Charles, Ashborne
Taylor, Samuel, Belper
Warner, William, Chesterfield
Made up to the 7th September inclusive
By Order of the Board,
Stamps and Taxes
Notes on the Minor Horse Race Meetings held in North Derbyshire 1727-1939.
Fox, S B (1988)
Unpublished typescript in Derbyshire Local Studies Library, Matlock.

1732 Races held on Thu 31 Aug and Fri 1 Sep
Aug 31st: 10 Guineas Purse, for horses, 14 hands, to carry 10 st.
won by:Mr Readings "Pheasant Betty". Four started.

Races were held occasionally at Wirksworth, but did not attract much interest or horses.

1733 A Purse of 10 guineas for Galloways. over 2 heats.
Mr Taylor, bay gelding, "Merry Andrew", beating two others.

On the same course was a 15 Sovereigns Plate for Hunters
weight, 10 st over 3 heats
Mr Thornhill, ches. g "Little John", beating three others.

Wirksworth Races took place on Carsington pasture, just South of Manystones Lane, and 500 yards West of the disused windmill; about a mile East of Brassington, and 2½ miles West of Wirksworth, O.S. reference SK 245 544. The course was probably within the enclosure banks reported in the PDMHS Bulletin Summer 1995 entitled "Roads,Agricultural Features and Mines on Carsington Pasture" by Lynn Willies. In that case the course would be about 1 mile round. The area is flat and windswept, about 1,000 ft above sea level
Derby Mercury, 22 Sep 1847
Derby Mercury,Wed 8 Sep 1824

Notts Guardian, Thu 20 Sep 1849
Derby Mercury, Wed 5 Sep 1849


----Anyone with more details for publication on this webpage, please email ---- ---------------
Aileen Durn wrote
Horse racing in Sindelmore (Sinfin Moor) was established by the early 1700s. A newspaper records a notice of racing across the moor on July 26th 1733 at the well established venue. The race meetings were formal functions drawing gentry from all over Derbyshire. Horses were entered for races at the town’s inns. The Nag’s Head in St Peter’s Street, the George, the King’s Head and the Old Ship, Full Street. There are references to Race Balls being held at the County Assembly Rooms and the Virgin's Inn on the Market Place. Horses were entered for races at the town’s inns. The Nag’s Head in St Peter’s Street, the George, the King’s Head and the Old Ship, Full Street.

An Act of Parliament of March 27, 1740, regulated horse-racing and led to restrictions at Alfreton, Bakewell, Wirksworth and Tideswell, which benefited the Sinfin course and increased crowds at events. By 1770, the turn-out had become much more upmarket, with William Cavendish, the future 5th Duke of Devonshire, and his entire family present to celebrate his 22nd birthday. Following the races, the whole Cavendish family and Polish Ambassador enjoyed an evening of 'lavish entertainments' at the George's Head and Greyhound with Local nobility, gentlemen and tradesmen. Around that time, William Cavendish also donated a sum of £3, 12s 6d to the five local parishes.

Although the course had a prefabricated grandstand, the exposed course and often water-logged moor was not for the fashionable and during the late 1780s racing was transferred to a new course at the Holmes in Derby where a “handsome and commodious” permanent grandstand was built.

Did you know? Previous to race meetings across Sinfin Moor, an order was given to destroy any mongrels that strayed upon the course.

It is believed that an advance party, sent ahead from Derby by Bonny Prince Charlie, crossed Sinfin Moor on the way to Swarkstone Bridge where they received news that the King’s army were assembling near Lichfield. They turned back to Derby before retreating to Scotland where they were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden.
Hi John
Thanks for the additional information. I must admit I found the crime link most interesting and, at times, amusing!
I have attached an image of the snuff box; if you need a specific resolution let me know. The inscription is reasonably clear though just in case it reads as follows:
"Presented to Mr Percival, as an acknowledgement of his services in support of the Wirksworth Races. Sept.r 1848".
If you manage to discover any further information I’d be delighted to hear from you.


Rob Lawford
Hello Rob,
There's quite a lot about Benjamin Percival (1790-1852) on my website, use the Search facility. Go for Registers, Census, Wills, Tradesmen, and Crime Unhappily nothing in Ince. He probably came from Repton, father called John, BP married twice, had 5 children, first 2 children married, etc His eldest son John may have been found not guilty of manslaughter He did business as a grocer and tea dealer at least 1821-1846 Died in 1852 aged 60. But no obvious connection with Wirksworth races. If you can send me a scan of the snuff box, I can put that on a webpage online, your email will not be mentioned unless you want. Someone may write in with more info about Benjamin, it often happens.
John Palmer, Dorset, England
Hi there, John
Thanks for the rapid response!
Yes, it is an odd one, eh? The inscription appears on a silver snuff box that we have and is dated September 1848. It reads as follows:
“Presented to Mr Percival, as an acknowledgement of his services in support of the Wirksworth Races”
From your records there is only one Percival family mentioned – Benjamin Percival, a grocer of Coldwell St, aged 50 in 1841, so I would guess that there’s a good chance of him being our man. Clearly it seems that the races were an important event but I’m unable to find anything on the subject.
I’ll keep trying to discover more. If I have any success I will let you know.


Rob Lawford
Dear John,
I recently came across your work on the Wirksworth parish records site (most helpful – thank you!).
I write to ask if you know of anyone that I might contact that is familiar with the mid 19th century history of the area? I’m particularly interested to learn more about the Wirksworth Races but have so far drawn a blank.
Do let me know if you are able to help.

Thanks and regards

Rob Lawford

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