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 - Wirksworth market square
2 - Wirksworth Church - tomb of Sir Anthony Lowe
3 - Wirksworth Church - Gell tombstone
4 - Wirksworth Church - Gell tombstone
5 - Wirksworth Church - Saxon stone fragments
6 - Wirksworth Church - Saxon tombstone
7 - Saxon miner in Wirksworth Church
8 - Moot Hall in Wirksworth
9 - Steeple Grange Light Railway engines
10 - Steeple Grange Light Railway
11 - Steeple Grange Light Railway train
12 - Middleton Top Winding Station
13 - Black Rocks climbers
14 - Black Rocks, Cromford
Local places of interest
Arkwright's Mill, Cromford
Cromford Mill, Cromford, Derbyshire, was Richard Arkwright's first cotton mill and was one of the industrial revolution's most important symbols. This is where the revolution in the production of cotton began.
Black Rocks Country Park
Black Rocks Country Park, Cromford, Derbyshire, is an outcrop of sculpted gritstone rock which offers a spectacular situation above the Derwent Valley at Cromford.
Carsington Water is a Severn Trent Water reservoir in Derbyshire, between Ashbourne and Wirksworth. It has a visitor centre, sailing club, fishing, and cycling and walking trails.
Crich Tramway Museum
The National Tramway Museum offers a fun day out for all ages - the finest Transport museum of its type, with over 70 vintage steam, electric amd horse-drawn trams from all over the world to ride upon.
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is a project to reopen the railway between Wirksworth and Duffield. This is staffed and run by volunteers, based at Wirksworth Station.
Gulliver's Kingdom is a theme park for young families, in a situation overlooking Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.
Harboro Rocks are an edge of magnesian limestone near Brassington, offering rock climbing and fantastic scenery. Harboro Cave was inhabited from the Ice Age.
Heights of Abraham
Heights of Abraham are a tourist centre with two show caves - Rutland Cavern and Great Masson Mine - plus a cable car and other attractions, above Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.
High Peak Junction and Cromford Canal
High Peak Junction is the former junction of the High Peak Railway and the Midland Railway, just south of Cromford
High Peak Trail
The High Peak Trail takes the line of the former Cromford and High Peak Railway betwen Parsley Hey and Cromford, in the Derbyshire Peak District.
High Tor, Matlock
High Tor is a lofty limestone crag which towers over Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. There is a public park on top.
Lead Mining Museum, Matlock Bath
The Lead Mining Museum at Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, is owned by the Peak District Mines Historical Society and is in the Pavilion Building alongside the River Derwent. They also run the nearby Temple Mine, where you can see what a lead mine was like.
Masson Mills, Matlock Bath are Sir Richard Arkwright's masterpiece, a magnificent early 19th century mill. The mill has been converted into a shopping village, with exhibition and conference centre, but it also has a working textile museum.
Middleton Top is the last surviving winding engine from the now defunct Cromford and High Peak Railway, near Middleton by Wirksworth, Derbyshire Peak District.
National Stone Centre, Middleton by Wirksworth
The National Stone Centre, Middleton by Wirksworth, Derbyshire, has geological displays, fossils, stone walling courses, panning for gems and other activities.
Steeple Grange Light Railway
Steeple Grange Light Railway lies just off the High Peak Trail, just below Middleton by Wirksworth. It runs narrow gauge trains on lines used to serve the former quarries.
Wirksworth Church, Derbyshire, has important and impressive Saxon carvings. Betti the Mercian monk may have been buried here, as are the Gell family and Anthony Lowe