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Matlock : Willersley Castle
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Willersley Castle, built by Sir Richard Arkwright
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Arkwright family pedigree



Arkwright
Arkwright & His Cotton Mill



Engraving of Willersley Castle



Willersley Castle Terrace, 1933



In 1862 Willersley was described as follows:

"Willersley Castle, 2 miles S. from Matlock, the elegant seat of Peter Arkwright, Esq., is a handsome Gothic structural built of white freestone. It stands on a bold eminence, with verdant lawns sloping to the margin of the Derwent. Immediately opposite the castle rises an immense range of perpendicular rocks, whose grey crags jut over the sylvan walk which goes from Cromford to the chapel. The summits of these rocks are fringed with trees and underwood; and the view from the lawn is one of great diversity, and beautifully romantic. The grounds at the back of the castle rise to a considerable height, and are richly clothed with wood. The gardens and tasteful pleasure grounds are open to visitors two days every week. In the gardens is an immense gooseberry tree, trained to a wall, with branches 30 feet in length. The various branches of this remarkable tree measure 305 feet. The interior of the mansion is furnished with taste and elegance, and contains some admirable paintings by Wright of Derby, among which is a fine portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright, and a view of Ulswater lake, purchased by Mr. Arkwright, for 300 guineas. This is considered equal to any effort of landscape painting that this country has ever produced. Sir Richard Arkwright purchased this estate in 1782, of Thomas Hallet Hodges, Esq. In 1788, he erected a handsome mansion, which was reduced to a shell by an accidental fire in 1791, before it had been inhabited. On leaving the grounds the company are passed through a door, descending by Hag Tor and Wild Cat Tor, to the Lover's Walk, by far the most attractive portions of the Dale[1]."



There are two maids standing in the open doorway on the left.


Both images above date from the first decade of the twentieth century, when the Arkwright family were still living in the Castle. Willersley was used as a hospital from the beginning of World War One (Willersley Auxiliary Hospital)[7] but, following the sudden death of Frederic Arkwright on 18 July 1923, most of the estate was sold at auction by Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley over a five day period in 1927.

In early June that year it was reported that Willersley had been sold for £19,750, bought by Alderman Sir Albert Ball who was a former Mayor of Nottingham[2]. He sold it on almost immediately and in August the same year Willersley Castle, Limited, was registered as a private company, "to carry on the business of organisers and providers of holidays". It had been floated with the nominal capital of £10,000 in £1 shares. The directors included G. Gee of Duffield Bank, Duffield and H. A. Wood of The Shaws, Matlock[3]. The Castle and what remained of the estate had been purchased by the Wesleyan Methodists as holiday home and guest house for the Wesley Guild movement[4]. It was officially opened on 25 May 1928 by Mr. J. Arthur Rank, "son of the famous miller"[5]. An unforeseen outcome of the castle opening as a Guest House was that Starkholmes residents had insufficient water, as Willersley was the first port of call for the supply. The Council had to extend the mains to overcome the problem[6].

During and just after WW2 Willersley Castle was used as a Ministry of Health Emergency Maternity Hospital. Various people have written to the web mistress mentioning this, sometimes referring to their, or their relative's, birthplace as "Matlock Castle".

The reason this came about is because one Friday night, towards the end of 1940, a bomb fell on The Salvation Army Mothers' Hospital in London. A wing of the building was damaged and the hospital became unfit for use. The Salvation Army authorities approached the Ministry of Health to ask for their help in finding alternative accommodation. As a result the Ministry contacted Derbyshire County Council and patients were evacuated to Willersley[8]. It opened at the end on 1941 and by the end of May in 1942 there were about 30 nursing staff and 1,000 babies had already been born at Willersley[9]. The Home was a branch of the Salvation Army Mothers' Hospital at Clapton, also a training school for Midwives, and was run by the Salvation Army. The mothers who came were from the East End of London and most started their visit to Derbyshire by spending a fortnight holidaying in Wirksworth before entering the Hospital, seemingly staying with local families. But the earliest patients has arrived from the air raid shelters in the capital, having been unable to sleep in a bed for weeks[8]. By the time the hospital closed at the beginning of 1946 over 4,200 babies had been born at Willersley, including twenty sets of twins[10].

It is now called the Willersley Castle Hotel, run by the Christian Guild[7].


Willersley Castle, about 1960
Willersley Castle, about 1960


You may like to view more information on this website about the Arkwright family:
Matlock Biographies See ARKWRIGHT
Description of ARKWRIGHT Coat of Arms
Arkwright Family MI's
Matlock and Matlock Bath Trades Directories & Census
Cromford, DBY : Trade Directories
Wolley Manuscripts, Matlock
'The Beauties of England and Wales' (1802), cotton manufacturing, the mills, Willersley & the surrounding area, Sir Richard Arkwright
Cromford Church and Bridge - this is on the opposite side of the River Derwent and is where several members of the Arkwright family are buried

External Links:
National Portrait Gallery Search the collection (opens in a new window)


Top image: "Willersley Castle, Matlock Bath". Artistic Series, A.P. Co., 9 Bury Court, St. Mary Axe, London, E.C,No.1999. Chromotyped in Saxony. Not posted. Other postcards from this publisher date from the first decade of the twentieth century.
Second image: "Willersley Castle, Cromford". No publisher. Posted 24 Jul 1907 but message not relevant to image.
Third image: "Willersley Castle, Cromford, Derbyshire", published by District View Publishing, Leicester and posted 16 Mar 1960.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts and information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] "General Commercial Directory and Topography of the Borough of Sheffield with all the Towns, Parishes, Villages and Hamlets Within a Circuit of Twenty Miles" (1862), pub. Francis White & Co. Sheffield, p.830
There is a transcript on this website: White's 1862
[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 June 1927.
[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 16 August 1927.
[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 27 December 1927.
[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 May 1928.
[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 19 June 1928.
[7] Beresford, Charles "The Bath at War, A Derbyshire Community and the Great War" (2007). Country Books/Ashridge Press. ISBN 978 1 901214 91 8. The involvement of the Arkwright family in the War effort is discussed in some detail.
[8] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 June 1942.
[9] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 28 May 1942.
[10] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 30 April 1946.