Wirksworth, a History

“Wirksworth was a town when Canterbury was a village and Liverpool was a swamp” (Local saying)

There is a measure of truth in this, for Wirksworth is the town in Derbyshire with the earliest surviving charter. Abbess Cynewaru, speaking twelve centuries ago in 835, calls us her ‘villa’, her town of Wirksworth. Being a town is in many ways an attitude of mind, that is to say the inhabitants of the settlement regard themselves as a town. This is certainly the case with Wirksworth, whose long-standing residents are firm in this belief: indeed many a newcomer has had their knuckles very severely rapped for using the word village when referring to Wirksworth.

This book is an attempt to unravel the history of this town. All such histories will please some people and annoy others. We have tried to include topics we felt would be of interest to most readers, both residents and visitors.

Matthew Parris, Member of Parliament for West Derbyshire from 1979 until 1986; radio and television presenter; journalist and prolific writer, notably on politics and travel, writes:

“As a Derbyshire MP I was never booed anywhere but in Wirksworth Town Hall, never felt for any other town the curious affection Wirksworth inspires, and know nowhere in England a town with a stronger sense of place. This remarkable local history goes a long way to explaining that sense of place. Clear, carefully and extensively researched, and fairly judged, this is a fascinating book about a fascinating town.”

The authors:

Anton Shone is an archaeologist with a keen interest in the history and development of the Kingdom of Mercia and its province of the Peak District. He has supervised a number of digs in and around Wirksworth during the last 10 years and has sought to illuminate the history of the town and its role in Mercia through archaeological fieldwork and investigation.

Mary Wiltshire has lived in the Wirksworth area for fifty years and has always had a keen interest in the town and its history. For the last ten years she has researched the landscape history of Derbyshire, publishing with others Duffield Frith and Medieval Parks of Derbyshire.


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