Bonsall History

Bonsall village is set in a deep sided dale beneath Masson Hill, a mile east of Matlock Bath and a mile north of Cromford in Derbyshire. The wooded road up from Cromford is known as the Via Gellia, named after the Gell family by Philip Gell who built the road in the 1790’s to carry lead and stone from his quarries to the Cromford Canal.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Bonsall people mostly earned their living from farming, lead mining, framework knitting and in the cotton mills at Cromford and Via Gellia. Farming was generally not a full time occupation because the poor soil could not provide sufficient income to support a family. Many farmers did not live on their land but walkd from Bonsall to their fields everyday which explains why there is a large number of field barns in the area but relatively few old farm houses. Some of the large farmsteads are still worked today mainly in arable and dairy farming.

Many of the fields around Bonsall are still littered with the remains of miner’s work, though for safety, most of the shafts have been capped.

Stockings were a major industry and buildings from that era are still in existence- an excellent one in an area known as the Dale has it’s date 1737 engraved over the door.

Bonsall Brook rises on the upland and flows S. E toward Cromford where it proved significant in Richard Arkwrights choice of site for his mill.

There are a large number of small business’s now operating in this thriving village, many were set up with the conversion of the Via Gellia mill in business units in 1986. The 13th century stone built St Jame’s Church stands in a prominent position overlooking the village. It has a fine tower surrounded by crowns and gargoyles and is summounted by a splendid spire. The church has had many additions and extensions throughout the centuries.

A free school was founded in 1717 out of rent left by William and Elizabeth Cragg and with further bequests from Elizabeth Turner, for the education of 25 boys- 20 to be from Bonsall and 5 from Snitterton and Wensley villages. The boys endowed school closed over 40 years ago and is used as the village hall. Bonsall primary school is situated near the church, attended by around 70 children, a head and 2 teachers.

There was once many pubs in the village but now there are only 3, the Kings Head, established in 1677, the Pig of Lead and the Barley Mow.

Bonsall has an annual Well Dressing with at least 3 wells dressed, usually in late July.