Churches In Wirksworth


Wirksworth Church is dedicated to St Mary and was built in a cruciform shape in the later style of English Gothic, consisting of a chancel with aisles and clerestory, transepts, clerestoried nave of three bays, aisles, south porch and a central tower with a small spire which contains 8 bells dating from 1702.

The first church on this site was built in Saxon times but probably perished as a result of Viking raids. However the Norman’s built a new church on the old foundations but this was totally renovated in the 14th and 15th centuries with the only Norman surviving remains being the west transept wall and the bases of the tower piers and the font.

The base of the crossing tower is 13th century with early 14th century above. It has a quatrefoil frieze instead of battlements and the exceptional feature of a lead-coverd ‘spike’ instead of a proper spire.

Within Wirksworth church there is an extremely detailed coffin lid of around 800AD which is on the north wall. It was found during building work in the 19th century and was probably from the sarcophagus of an important saint buried here. The carvings tell stories from the life of Christ. In the Gell Chapel are monuments to Ralph Gell with his two wives and Anthony Gell his son who founded the local school. In the south transept is a stone slab with the carved figure of a miner carrying his pick and kibble.

The church register of baptisms dates from 1610 and the marriages and burials from 1608.

In the graveyard of St Mary’s is the grave of Matthew Peat who lived for 109 years and 10 months before his death in 1757, whilst under a copper beech tree in an unmarked grave lies Elizabeth Evans otherwise known as ‘Dinah Morris’ in the book ‘Adam Bede’ written by her niece George Eliot in which Wirksworth is given the fictional name of ‘Snowfield’

To the east of the church are Gell’s Almshouses of 1584 and the grammar school founded in 1576 by Anthony Gell and rebuilt in 1828.