St Mary's Church, Wirksworth
Wirksworth shown within Derbyshire
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
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|UK Parliament||West Derbyshire|
|List of places: UK • England • Derbyshire|
Wirksworth is a small market town in Derbyshire, England, with a population of over 9,000. The population of the Wirksworth area including Cromford and many other small villages is about 12,000. Wirksworth is listed in the Domesday book in 1086. Within it is the source of the River Ecclesbourne. The town was granted its market charter by Edward I in 1306. The market is held every Tuesday in the market square in the busy town centre. Perhaps the finest building in Wirksworth is St. Mary's Church, which was one of the first centres of Christian teaching in England and is believed to date back to around 653 AD. The ancient Wirksworth Hundred or Wapentake was named after the town.
Wirksworth is on the border of Amber Valley and Derbyshire Dales districts
Historically, it developed as a centre for lead mining, but then later on, it branched into quarrying.
Many of the institutions in the area have connections with the Gell family, of Hopton Hall, whose most famous member was Sir John Gell, 1st Baronet, who fought on Parliament's side in the Civil War. One of his predecessors, Anthony Gell, founded the local grammar school, and one of his successors, Phillip Gell, opened the curiously-named Via Gellia (possibly named in allusion to the Roman Via Appia), a road from the family's lead mines around Wirksworth to the smelter in Cromford. (In the middle of the last century Anthony Gell School became one of the first comprehensive schools and remains a model for local, community-based education in a rural area)
Wirksworth is rumoured to be the ancient Roman town of Lutudarum, although there is much speculation as to the exact whereabouts/origins of this settlement. This used to be the capital of the area and up until the late industrial revolution, the town was the 5th biggest in Derbyshire, after Derby, Chesterfield, Matlock and Buxton. In 2009, a small team of volunteers undertook a project to discover a Roman fort near the Vicarage but the attempt was unsuccessful.
During the carboniferous period (between about 359 and 299 million years ago), Wirksworth was under tropical oceans, thus giving it vast quantities of limestone for quarrying. There is an extensive history of quarrying, which scars the surrounding of the town, whilst Dene Quarry is still operational in the neighbouring village of Cromford.
The area may well have been visited by Homo erectus as long as 150,000 years ago, during warm inter-glacial periods. An Acheulean handaxe from the Lower Paleolithic has been found at Hopton nearby. From other remains found in the county there would seem to have been human presence at least periodically until the Romans arrived and found a thriving lead industry.
Perhaps the finest building in Wirksworth is St. Mary's Church, which was one of the first centres of Christian teaching in England and is believed to date back to around 653 AD. The ancient Wirksworth Hundred or Wapentake was named after the town. There is a tiny carving in the church of a miner with his pick and "kibble" or basket. This carving is also claimed by nearby Bonsall, where it was found. The ore was washed out by means of a sieve, the iron wire for which had been drawn in Hathersage since the Middle Ages. Smelting was carried out in "boles", hence the name Bolehill. The lead industry, the miner, the ore and the waste, were known collectively as "t'owd man."
It is not known when lead mining began, but certainly it was flourishing in Roman times. A possible Roman road led to a ford between Duffield and Milford and thence to the garrison at Derventio (Derby) and to Rykneld Street and possibly but not certainly, to the ports on the Humber. In Anglo-Saxon times there were many mines owned by the Abbey of Repton. Three lead mines are identified in the entry for Wirksworth in the Domesday book.
Every man had the right (and still does) to dig for ore wherever he chose, except in churchyards, gardens or roadways. All that was necessary to stake a claim was to place one's "stowce" or winch on the site and extract enough ore to pay tribute to the "Barmaster."
Henry VIII granted a charter to hold a miners' court in the town called the Bar Moot, which still exists, though the present building dates from 1814. Within it is a brass dish for measuring the levy which was due to the Crown. Even into the twentieth century, the punishment for stealing from a mine was to have one's hand nailed to the stowce. One then had the choice of tearing oneself loose or starving to death. The Barmote Court is still held today and controls all matters of lead mining.
There is a tiny carving in Wirksworth church, taken from Bonsall church during a restoration project and never returned, of a miner with his pick and "kibble" or basket. The carving is known as "t'Owd Man of Bonsall." The ore was washed out by means of a sieve, the iron wire for which had been drawn in Hathersage since the Middle Ages. Smelting was carried out in "boles", hence the name Bolehill. The lead industry, the miner, the ore and the waste, were known collectively as "t'owd man."
By the eighteenth century there were many thousands of mines, all worked individually. Defoe  gives a very illumiating eye-witness account of a lead miner's family and of the miner himself at work. At this time, the London Lead Company was formed which brought in the finance to dig deeper mines, with drainage channels, called soughs, and bring in Newcomen steam engine pumps.
In 1777, Richard Arkwright leased the land and premises of a corn mill from Philip Gell of Hopton and converted it to spin cotton, using his water frame. This mill was adjacent to another, the Speedwell, owned by John Dalley, a local merchant. These mills still stand close together at Millers Green next to the Derby Road. Arkwright's was one of the first mills to try out the steam engine of Boulton and Watt, to replenish the millpond.
The Haarlem (as the mill came to be called) was sublet in 1792, when Arkwright's son, Richard, began to sell off the family's property assets in his move toward banking. It was given that name in 1815, when it was converted to weaving tape, by Madely, Hackett and Riley, who had established the Haarlem tape works in Derby in 1806. In 1879 the Wheatcroft family, who were producing tape at the Speedwell mill, expanded into Haarlem.
Both mills still exist. The Haarlem produces narrow fabrics, while the Speedwell produces cavity wall and roof insulation.
The Snowfield in George Eliot's Adam Bede is also said to be based in Wirksworth; Dinah Morris, an important character in that novel, is based on Eliot's aunt, who lived in Wirksworth and whose husband ran the silk mill, now Wirksworth Heritage Centre.
One of D. H. Lawrence's houses (Mountain Cottage), in which he lived with Frieda in 1918–19, stands below the B5023 road on the outskirts of Middleton-by-Wirksworth, approximately 1.5 mile NW of Wirksworth. Lawrence also reputedly spent a lot of time at Woodland Cottage on the opposite side of New Road. While staying in Middleton in the bitter winter of 1918–19, Lawrence wrote the short story A Wintry Peacock (published in 1921).
Wirksworth was the prime location of ITV's Sweet Medicine (2003), as well as playing occasional roles in its forerunner Peak Practice. More recently, part of Mobile was filmed on a train on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, and a large amount of an episode of the BBC's Casualty was also filmed here.
Abraham Bennet was curate of Wirksworth in the eighteenth century and did important early work in electricity, in association with Erasmus Darwin. There is a memorial plaque in Wirksworth church and a portrait by an unknown artist.
Districts of Wirksworth include Yokecliffe, Gorsey Bank, Bolehill, Mountford and Millers Green. Bolehill, although technically a hamlet in its own right in Wirksworth's suburbs, is the oldest and most northern part of the town, while Yokecliffe is a fairly new estate in the western area of the town. Modern houses have recently been built in the Three Trees area and the bottom of Steeple Grange.
There are five schools in Wirksworth: (Church of England and county infants, and regular combined but on two sites), Wirksworth Junior School, Anthony Gell School and Callow Park College. Anthony Gell was an outstanding local man who was requested to build a grammar school for Ms Agnes Fearne on her death. The original site for the school is now a private house on the edge of the churchyard. The current school is now a thriving 11-18 comprehensive on a larger site beside the Hannage Brook. It currently has approximately 800 pupils, including its Sixth Form. There are four school houses, each named after a significant local: Fearne (Agnes Fearne), Arkwright (Sir Richard Arkwright), Wright (Joseph Wright of Derby), and Gell (after Anthony Gell himself). The current headteacher is Mr David L Baker, who took up the position in September 2006. Most pupils come from Wirksworth itself, and the surrounding villages of Middleton, Carsington, Brassington, Kirk Ireton, Turnditch, Matlock Bath Cromford and Crich. Anthony Gell School is a Sports College.
In the Derbyshire Dales district, the town is the second largest in terms of both population and area after Matlock.
Fanny Shaw's playing field, just out of the centre of town, is the principal recreation area for the north of the town. It is currently undergoing extensive regeneration work to construct a new skate park and play area. In the south of the town, there is the "Rec", where there is another children's play area, along with cricket and football pitches.
The town is also a popular location from which to explore the Derbyshire Peak District and consequently features a range of accommodation for visitors. Many of these buildings are historic, such as the 18th century Old Manor House on Coldwell Street or the Old Lock-Up guest house which dates from 1842. Moreover, the town features a large and very grand Coach House, which was originally built for Sir Richard Arkwright, but has now been converted into a holiday cottage.
The Wirksworth Heritage Centre is a wonderful centre just off the Market Place in Crown Yard (adjacent to Crown Yard Kitchen). Within, is an extensive history of Wirksworth, from its prehistoric Dream Cave and Woolly Rhinos, through its Roman and lead mining histories, all the way to the modern era.
Wirksworth's well dressing was adpted after the arrival of piped water so that not only wells but also taps were decorated. Although the resulting creations are still advertised as well dressings. and carnival
A one-place-study of "Wirksworth and five miles around" is available on the web (see external link below). This includes: census, church monuments, crimes, church wardens' accounts, maps, a transcription of "Ince's pedigrees" , monumental inscriptions, old photos, Parish Registers and wills.
Some visitor attractions include:
Travelling to wirksworth is easy from most directions. There are regular bus services to and from Bakewell, Matlock, Derby, Ashbourne and Sheffield Meadowhall. The town is 11 miles north of Derby, and 4 miles south of Matlock and is located on the B5023 between Duffield and Cromford.
Wirksworth is a small town and as such, it is easy to get around. However, Bolehill and The Haarlem Mill areas are both around 1.5 miles from the center and it is advisable to get the 6.1 bus to either destinations if you are old or less able to walk. The center is completely walkable.
There are several attractions around the town, including St. Mary's Church, a large cathedral-like building, the Puzzle Gardens - which are basically lots of small alleyways and jittys in north-east central Wirksworth. There is a Heritage Center in the center and the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway terminates at Wirksworth. Trains run to Wirksworth North (Ravenstor) and occasionaly to Gorsey Bank (No station) in the east of the town.
If you are visiting in September (from the 8th to the 24th) you should definitely go to the Wirksworth Festival. A big festival celebrating the arts in Wirksworth, some events are free like the gig on the roof (a music festival that happens outside the Hope and Anchor pub) and some events you have to pay for tickets. Go to http://www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk/ for more information
It also has a range of campsites, hotels, youth hostels, and bed and breakfasts to stay in
There is the National stone centre where you can learn about the different types of rocks and fossils and the Peak tors if you want to visit different archeological sites
For a great family day out go to Carsington Water. In addition to offering water sports and a sailing club, there are walking and cycle routes around the resivour. Cycle hire is available and you can also get refreshments there.
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WIRKSWORTH, a market town in the western parliamentary division of Derbyshire, England, 14 m. N.N.W. of Derby, on a branch of the Midland railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 3807. It is picturesquely situated at the head of the valley of a small tributary of the Derwent, at an elevation exceeding 500 ft., and is almost encircled by sharply rising hills. The cruciform church of St Mary, with a central tower and short spire, is in great part Early English, with Perpendicular additions; but considerable traces of a Norman building were revealed during a modern restoration. There is a manufacture of tape in the town, and lead-mining and stone-quarrying are carried on in the neighbourhood; relics of the Roman working of the lead mines have been discovered. A large brass vessel used as a standard measure for the lead ore, and dating from the time of Henry VIII., is preserved.