Wirksworth is a must-visit for history enthusiasts, most notably due to the integral role the town played in the industrial revolution. Its ancient history remains unfounded, but it is theorised to be the site of the lost Roman town of Lutudarum.
The town had a very prosperous run during the lead mining-era, with much of the plush architecture throughout the town owing to that era; the quaint, Georgian-era buildings make simply walking around Wirksworth a pleasure.
Get a sense of the people and their spirit at the Wirksworth Stall Market, a hugely popular weekly occasion amongst both locals and tourists, bringing the very best in local produce to the town for over 800 years.
In terms of recreational activity, Wirksworth has got to be one of the most varied in the whole of the Peak District. Hop on the The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway line, a heritage train that passes through some of the best-looking local scenery.
Explore nearby quarries at several local landmarks and tourist attractions; most notably, StarDisc – a stone circle and celestial amphitheatre – built atop a former quarry. The Stone Museum is also located amongst several former quarries, and even features a walking tour that shows you round one of the former industrial heartlands of lead mining in the Peak District.
Wirksworth is renowned for the vast amount of prehistoric remains and relics uncovered during excavations of the area. Wooley rhino bones were discovered in the the Dream Cave – a nearby, limestone cavern – in 1822.
It is theorized that Wirksworth is the site of the lost Roman town of Lutudarum, however, no evidence has been uncovered. It is clear that a road left Buxton in a southern direction towards the present site of Wirksworth, and the Romans would have definitely been attracted to the thermal springs that were formerly located in the area.
Wirksworth was a popular settlement during the Anglo-Saxon-era, documented in a record dating 653 in which it is referenced as being part of the kingdom of Mercia. An Anglo-Saxon coffin lid of intricate design was discovered in 1820 underneath the the town’s St Mary’s Church, which became known as ‘Wirksworth Stone’.
The town was thriving by the medieval period and is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having the largest population in the whole of the Peak District, and of boasting three lead works. The town’s highly popular market was ratified in 1306, and, alongside the profits made from lead mining in the area, helped make Wirksworth a highly prosperous town.
Limestone quarrying became the town’s biggest industry during the industrial revolution, while Richard Arkwright opened a string of successful textile mills throughout the area.
Wirksworth Stall Market – Wirksworth’s defining feature since 1306, the town’s stall market has always been integral to the town’s sense of community. The market prides itself in uniqueness, and delivers the best in fashion, local produce, furnishings, and gifts. Taking place between the hours of 9am and 2pm every Tuesday, the market can be found right outside the Wirksworth Memorial Hall.
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway – The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway line passes through Wirksworth and is your chance to traverse through the heart of the Peak District in authentic steam locomotives built in the 1950s. This 9-mile long heritage railway line (the longest in Derbyshire) takes you through the most scenic of Derbyshire countryside, with panoramic views of surrounding dales. running parallel with the River Ecclesbourne, the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway makes for a perfect, idyllic trip back in time. At one point, the train climbs a slope with a 1 in 27 incline before reaching the station of Ravenstor, Matlock.
StarDisc – This contemporary stone circle was devised in 2005 by local artist, Aidan Shingler, and completed in 2011. It stands on top of Stoney Wood, a former quarry turned community-run gathering site, and boasts unbeatable views of Wirksworth. The circle features star charts and constellation inscriptions enclosed by 12 silver granite stones representing the 12 months of the year. It is free, open all day, and meant to inspire all who visit.
The National Stone Centre – Located on the site of Wirksworth’s disused quarries, the National Stone Centre condenses the 300-million-year history of stone, regarding both its industrial and its geological past, into a fun and informative museum and self-guided walking tour. The visitor centre is where you’ll find the museum part, where it explains the creation of the world to the present, relative to stone usage through the centuries. The walking tour takes you through the quarries, with information boards detailing the historical significance of the stone below your feet. A particularly interesting segment of the walk stretches along a prehistoric reef.
Wirksworth Heritage Centre – This heritage centre is home to several fascinating galleries, which each detail the rich history of Wirksworth. The permanent exhibitions showcase a number of fun and interactive displays, each telling a part of Wirksworth’s story: from mining to well-dressing. While the rotational exhibitions tend to focus more on topics external to the town.