WIRKSWORTH WELL DRESSINGS 2004
Once again Wirksworth Well Dressings were well attended and large crowds gathered to watch the Annual Procession to mark the crowning of the Well Dressing Queen. As usual the well dressings were decorated to a very high standard using only natural materials.
The custom was first adopted in Wirksworth, to celebrate the arrival of piped water in the town, in 1827, when the taps were dressed. Nowadays the dressings are placed in convenient locations around the town and visitors can obtain a map of the sites to ensure they do not miss any.
The small town of Wirksworth does not perhaps make much impact on the busy traveller driving through. All those visitors, however, with time to explore the narrow streets and maze of interesting alleyways, to admire the old buildings and lovely views, to visit the ancient church and the cathedral–like close, will soon find themselves falling in love with this fascinating old town.
The limestone cottages of The Dale and Green Hill cling to the hillside, as if Wirksworth was some little Cornish fishing village with nothing but the sea missing. In places it is possible to walk from the garden of one house onto the roof of another below. This is the area where the lead miners used to live, the jumble of small cottages having been built mostly of random stone extracted from nearby quarries. Nowhere is the lack of planning more apparent than in the area between the remains of Dale Quarry and Middle Peak Quarry, know locally as Puzzle Gardens.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin stands on a site at the junction of at least five ancient trackways. It was one of the first centres of Christian teaching and may well have been built on the site of a prehistoric stone circle. The church dates back to about 653 and a path completely encircles the churchyard giving it a cathedral-like appearance. It contains the ‘Wirksworth Stone’ that has been described as ‘one of our greatest archaeological treasures’. Look out for the much admired carved figure of a leadminer with his pick and kibble on the west wall. On the Sunday following 8 September, the ancient custom of clypping is still observed, when the congregation join hands in thanksgiving to completely encircle the church.
For those wanting to know more about Wirksworth a visit to the highly acclaimed Heritage Centre is essential. Situated just off the market place in Crown Yard, it stands alongside Crown Yard Kitchen where snacks and home cooked meals can be purchased. The Heritage Centre is housed in what once was a Silk and Velvet Mill where the ’Wirksworth Story’ is explained on three floors. This takes you on a fascinating journey through time from pre-historic days, when the bones of a Woolly Rhino were found, through the lead mining era to the present day. Excellent views over the town are obtained from the windows.
The Well Dressings are now over for 2004, but there is still plenty to look forward to for local people and visitors alike. In September the town celebrates the talents of local, national and international artists, along with performers of all descriptions, when it holds its prestigious annual festival.
During the first weekend of the festival the Art and Architecture Trail takes place. When visitors can get a glimpse of properties not normally open to the public as well as viewing an array of contrasting exhibitions. This is definitely an event to mark down in your diary, which I hope to cover in greater detail on this site in the near future.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Wirksworth Heritage Centre: (Tel. 01629 825225) where the ‘Wirksworth Story’ is told taking you on a fascinating journey through time on three floors of the centre. The special displays are excellent and if you want something different you can always try a computer game. For further information see the special feature
The National Stone Centre: (Tel. 01629 824833) tells the story of stone, its geological and industrial history. The exhibition inside shows how advanced technology makes use of stone in an incredible number of ways. Outside the visitor centre, the quarry trail takes you back over three hundred million years. Open all year seven days a week.
North End Mills: (Tel. 01629 824731) one of the largest factory shops in the country which sells clothes for all the family. Visitors to the Mills can still see hosiery being made, have a coffee and admire the display of old photographs of Wirksworth. Open seven days a week.
Well dressing is not unique to Derbyshire, but it is the county where the tradition is the strongest. Almost all the wells dressed every year are either within the county, or only a short distance from the county boundary. Click below to read the fascinating story.
Click below to read the remarkable 'Wirksworth Story' of how this small town recovered from what seemed almost insurmountable problems to gain both national and international recognition for its achievements.
Enjoy a Outstanding walk that reveals much of the heritage of the area and the industrial landscape.
The Old Lock Up, now a luxury Guest House, served as a police station for 100 years and DH Lawrence and his German born wife Frieda, listed as an alien, had to report there once a week during the First World War when they lived at Middleton-by-Wirksworth.
In the 19th century, North End Mills along with four other mills in Wirksworth manufactured 800 miles of ‘Red Tape’ each week. Visitors to the mills can see hosiery being made at what has become one of the largest factory shops of its type in the United Kingdom.