Wirksworth is one of the oldest settlements in Derbyshire, just outside the boundary of the Peak District National Park, having been a site of human occupation for 2000 years.
The first written history comes from Saxon times but it is known that the Iron Age Celts had settled here at the crossroads of two ancient trading routes, used by the Saxons as ‘portwegs’ or portways to use the modernised version of the word. The Romans were possibly the earliest lead miners in the region, when they departed, the abbey at Repton owned the mining rights. One of the symbols of Wirksworth is the Saxon carving of a miner, carrying a pick and kibble (ore basket). This was found at Bonsall and incorporated into the church during the late 19th century. Miners were referred to as ‘T’owd man’, so this carving is known by the same name.
There are a good number of beautiful old buildings in Wirksworth, many dating from the 17th and 18th century, the boom times for lead mining – the town was a very prosperous place indeed.
Staying in the Wirksworth area – The nearby village of Hopton is a good place to stay if you want to explore the countryside around Wirksworth, it is great for Carsington Reservoir as well as Dovedale, Ashbourne and the western moorlands of the Peak District. With places like the charmingly converted historic Dovedale Cottage, the more modern Kingfisher, overlooking Carsington water itself, and the detached gradeII listed South Sitch Cottage, just south of Wirksworth, you can treat yourself to a relaxing time. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, the impressive Swallow New Bath Hotel is about 5 minutes away at Matlock Bath or the Jackson Tor Hotel (a little further away) which is totally geared up for families and close to the children’s theme park of Gulliver’s Kingdom.
The church was founded in 653 and is wonderfully situated, in a close which conveys the air of a cathedral. It feels cathedral-like when you are inside too. The ancient ceremony of ‘Clypping the Church’ – which is thought to pre-date the Christian era – takes place annually on the Sunday following the Festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th, when the congregation encircle the church and link hands, thus symbolically and literally ‘embracing’ the church.