|After the bustle and noise of Matlock Bath it comes as a surprise to find just over the hill a peaceful village like Bonsall nestling in a deep dale. Bonsall is a village of many parts; The steep road up from the Via Gellia is called The Clatterway. At the village green The Dale splits off to the left while the High Street carries on all the way to Town Head. Between Town Head and The Dale is Uppertown while just along from The Dale is the hamlet of Slaley. |
Bonsall has a long lead-mining heritage and once boasted five pubs. The moor above is pock-marked with the remains of lead-mines and the village comprises mainly small lead-miners and weavers cottages.
At the centre of the village is an old market cross on a circular base of steps outside one of the two remaining pubs, The King's Head, dating from 1677. Just along church lane is the Victorian church, which overlooks the village. Over in The Dale is the other remaining pub, The Barley Mow, which hosts the annual Bonsall Chicken Race on the first Saturday in August.
Bonsall Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - The Pavilion at Matlock Bath
1 - Bonsall Market square
2 - Cromford - Scarthin and millpond
3 - Matlock Bath
4 - Matlock Bath from above the Temple Hotel
5 - River Derwent at Matlock Bath
6 - Middleton by Wirksworth cottages
|Carsington and Hopton are two small villages to the north of Carsington Water that run into each other along the single narrow lane that connects them. They are well placed for exploring Carsington Water and the southern edge of the Peak. There is a pub at the Carsington Water end of the village. |
Hopton Hall, which is hidden behind and interesting and curvaceous high brick wall, is the home of the Gell family, who have been here since 1208. They were the lords of the manor of Wirksworth and became rich on the proceeds of lead-mining. Many of their tombs are in Worksworth church. Others were more widely famous - Sir John Gell was a Parliamentarian general during the Civil War and held Derby for Parliament. He brought the Mace here from the House of Commons when Cromwell finally dissolved Parliament during the Commonwealth. Another Gell founded the school at Wirksworth and yet another built a road to connect the lead-mines along the Griffe Grange Valley above Cromford - this became known as the 'Via Gellia' and is now the A5012.
Carsington & Hopton Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Brassington house
1 - Brassington village
2 - High Peak Trail - Hopton Incline
Cromford is a substantial village which was constructed by Sir Richard Arkwright to house his employees at the nearby Cromford Mill. The village is centred around the Greyhound Inn and the market place in front of it, which Arkwright constructed in 1790 over the brooks which gave Cromford (crooked ford) its name. Behind this is the millpond, which was constructed to regulate the flow of water from Bonsall Brook to the mill, and in the other direction the village stretches right up the hill towards Black Rocks and Wirksworth.
It's a busy, bustling place at the junction of the A6 and the Via Gellia (A5012). There are several shops in the area around the Greyhound Inn, including the magnificent Scarthin Bookshop. On the other side of the A6 the road to Cromford Wharf and the Cromford Canal takes you to Arkwright's Mill, which is now a major visitor attraction, and the village church, which contains Arkwright's tomb and lies in a secluded spot near Willersley crag. Opposite the crag on the other side of the Derwent is Willersley Castle, built by Arkwright as his home and now a hotel. Just up the A6 toward Matlock is Arkwright's grand and imposing Masson Mill, which now houses a useful and interesting shopping complex.
Cromford Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Richard Arkwright
1 - The Pavilion at Matlock Bath
2 - Black Rocks, Cromford
3 - Black Rocks climbers
4 - Bonsall Market square
5 - Cromford - the Greyhound Inn
6 - Cromford Canal and Wharf
7 - Cromford - Scarthin and millpond
8 - Cromford - High Peak Junction
9 - Matlock Bath and High Tor
10 - Matlock Bath
11 - Cromford - Willersley Castle
12 - Cotton Doubling machine at Masson Mills
13 - Masson Mills
14 - Matlock Bath from above the Temple Hotel
15 - River Derwent at Matlock Bath
16 - Steeple Grange Light Railway
17 - Steeple Grange Light Railway engines
18 - Steeple Grange Light Railway train
|Matlock, the county town of Derbyshire, is a former spa town situated at a sharp bend in the River Derwent, where it turns south to carve its way through the ridge of limestone which bars its route towards Derby. Just downriver of the main town lies Matlock Bath, which is enclosed by the limestone cliffs of the gorge and contains the main tourist attractions of the locality.|
In many respects Matlock seems quite a new town, certainly when compared with Buxton or Bakewell for instance. The reason is that Matlock was an unimportant collection of small villages centred around the church until thermal springs were discovered in 1698. Even this did not lead to an immediate development of Matlock because the route down the Derwent was blocked by Willersley crags at Cromford, so the road to Matlock from the south arrived by a circuitous and hilly route.
Matlock church at Matlock Town
This situation was remedied by the cutting of the road through Scarthin Nick near Cromford in 1818, though Matlock had already begun to gain a reputation as a rather select spa by then. The Victorian era saw the development of Matlock Bath as a fashionable resort and the construction by John Smedley in 1853 of the vast Hydro on the steep hill to the north of the river crossing at the centre of the town. This enormous hotel functioned as a spa until the 1950s, when it closed and was taken over by Derbyshire County Council as its headquarters.
The coming of the railways in the 1870s transformed Matlock again, this time into a resort for day-trippers from the Derby-Nottingham area and further south. From then on Matlock spawned tourist attractions in the form of show caverns, cable railways, petrifying wells, pleasure gardens and even recently a theme park. The evidence of the change which came over the place can be seen best at Matlock Bath, where the amusement arcades along the main road provide a sharp contrast with the elegant Victorian villas above.
The modern town is divided neatly into two: the main town radiating out from the river crossing opposite the railway station and Matlock Bath spread out along the gorge to the south. Whereas Matlock itself seems solid and Victorian with neat stone houses going in rows up the hill, the Bath has a more frivolous air. Overlooking it all is the gigantic folly that is Riber Castle, built in the 1860s by the same John Smedley who constructed the Hydro.
Matlock Bath from High Tor
The town has a full range of shops and facilities, however the principal hotels are both in the Bath - the New Bath Hotel is out on the road to Cromford opposite Wildcat crags and the Temple Hotel is on the hill below the Heights of Abraham.
The tourist information centre is now at the Peak Rail
shop on Matlock Station. The telephone number is 01335 343666.
Matlock Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Richard Arkwright
1 - The Pavilion at Matlock Bath
2 - High Tor
3 - Bonsall Market square
4 - Cromford - the Greyhound Inn
5 - Cromford Canal and Wharf
6 - Cromford - Scarthin and millpond
7 - High Tor and Riber Castle from across the valley
8 - Matlock Bath and High Tor
9 - Matlock view
10 - Matlock Bath
11 - Matlock church
12 - Matlock - Riber Hall
13 - Cromford - Willersley Castle
14 - The cable railway to Heights of Abraham
15 - Cotton Doubling machine at Masson Mills
16 - Masson Mills
17 - Matlock Bath from High Tor
18 - Matlock from High Tor
19 - On Giddy Ledge, High Tor
20 - Matlock Bath from above the Temple Hotel
21 - River Derwent at Matlock Bath
|Middleton by Wirksworth (so called to distinguish it from another Middleton near to Youlgrave) is perched high on a hillside above Wirksworth and Cromford.|
Founded in Saxon times as a farming hamlet around an unusually high spring, the village developed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a lead-mining centre (like nearby Wirksworth) and a few of the older buildings in the upper part of the village date from this period.
The arrival in 1825 of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, which passes just below the village, brought rapid change. Middleton sits on some of the purest limestone in Europe, and the ability to transport this stone meant that large quarries developed all around the village and higgledy-piggledy groups of quarrymens' cottages spread across the hillside. Among other things, Middleton stone is noted for being used for WWI war gravestones.
The quarries around the village closed in the late 20th century and Middleton is now more of a commuter village with some light industry centred around the former quarries.
The village is spread out around a long main street with several narrow sections where it passes between old buildings. There are two pubs and a post office, plus a nice Victorian church and several Non-Conformist chapels, only one of which is still active.
DH Lawrence spent a year here living in a cottage on the road down to the Via Gellia to the north of Middleton.
Middleton by Wirksworth Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Middleton Top Winding Station
1 - Middleton by Wirksworth cottages
2 - Middleton by Wirksworth view
3 - Steeple Grange Light Railway
4 - Steeple Grange Light Railway engines
5 - Steeple Grange Light Railway train
Wirksworth is one of the oldest towns in this area of the Peak District and is still one of those with greatest character. Centred around its marketplace, where markets have been held since Edward I granted the right in 1306, it has many fine old buildings with picturesque alleys and craftsmen's yards. The reason for the splendour of many of the buildings is Wirksworth's historical trade - it was the southern centre of the Derbyshire lead industry and the Soke and Wapentake of Wirksworth, as it was called, was one of the most productive mining areas.
Wirksworth Market Place
Wirksworth was well established by Saxon times and the Abbey of Repton owned the mining rights here in the 8th century, the Abess sending a coffin of Wirksworth lead for the burial of St Guthlac in 714. After the Danes sacked Repton in the 9th century the area fell under Danish influence, giving rise to typically Danish names like 'Wapentake'.
The town prospered through Mediaeval times, giving rise to a fine 13th century church which replaced a Norman one which in turn had replaced a Saxon church. This lies to the east of the market place, behind the library. In the opposite direction is an area of narrow streets and alleys called The Dale and Greenhill, where many old cottages and houses of lead merchants survive, notably a magnificent Jacobean house known as Babington House. Just off the market place is the town's information centre and Heritage Centre, sited in a pleasantly converted old merchant's yard. Wirksworth was the meeting place for the Barmote Court of the lead mining 'Liberties' of the low Peak and the Moot Hall, where the court meetings are still held, lies in a little back street north of the church.
The town was for many years under the influence of the Gell family who were lords of the manor and based at nearby Hopton Hall. Sir Anthony Gell founded the local school in 1546 and Sir John Gell was a Parliamentary general in the Civil War. Both are buried in the church. Another historical link is with George Eliot, who based the character of Dinah Morris in her book 'Adam Bede' upon her aunt Elizabeth Evans, who lived in Wirksworth and was a Methodist preacher. Her house may still be seen.
The town is now a small bustling local centre whose main industry is limestone quarrying. It has a range of small shops and as many pubs as you would expect in an old market town, of which the Hope and Anchor, the Red Lion and the Black's Head are the most notable.
The town has a welldressing in Whit week, and every September there occurs the unusual ceremony of 'Clypping', in which the church is encircled by the congregation holding hands around it. Wirksworth has also recently developed an excellent Arts Festival, which happens over a weekend in September. The Festival includes all forms of Art, with the market Square the centre for music, dance and street acts while many of the houses around the village play hosts to many different forms of artistic expression. Tours and tour maps can be bought in the local shops during the festival.
Wirksworth Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
0 - Wirksworth church - exterior view
1 - Saxon miner in Wirksworth Church
2 - Wirksworth Church - Saxon tombstone
3 - Wirksworth Church - Saxon stone fragments
4 - Wirksworth Church - Gell tombstone
5 - Wirksworth Church - Gell tombstone
6 - Wirksworth Church - tomb of Sir Anthony Lowe
7 - Middleton Top Winding Station
8 - Black Rocks, Cromford
9 - Black Rocks climbers
10 - Moot Hall in Wirksworth
11 - Wirksworth market square
12 - Steeple Grange Light Railway
13 - Steeple Grange Light Railway engines
14 - Steeple Grange Light Railway train