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Matlock: Willersley Castle, early 1900s
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Arkwright family pedigree

Arkwright & His Cotton Mill

of Willersley Castle

The Southern Entrance to the Dale

Cromford Church and Bridge (in another part of this site)

River Derwent from Scarthin Rock

A view of Willersley from the southern entrance to the Dale at Matlock Bath dating from the early 1900s. The picture was taken in the wintertime as many of the trees are without their leaves and it looks as if the ground closest to the river is covered with a thin layer of frost. The photo was taken from Derby Road, close to where one of the Willersley lodges used to be. Willersley Rocks Lodge or Scarthin Lodge as it was also known as has been demolished, but the entrance gates survive today and can be seen close to the pull in and bus shelter on the A6 close to Cromford.

At one time a single seat was next to the gates but it was replaced by the double version (bottom right in the above picture), which was in situ for many years though it was finally removed when the road was widened in the 1960s[1]. The seat can also be seen in the Southern Entrance to the Dale, linked on the right.

The rare image below is of Willersley Rocks or Scarthin Lodge, which appears to have been built in the Gothic Revival style with its windows and doorway having Perpendicular Gothic arches; indeed, the windows look rather like church windows. There are also battlements around the roof line, unlike the softer Georgian architecture of Willersley's other Lodge. Conservationists would have fought hard to preserve this building today.

Enlargement of Willersley Rocks Lodge, next to the A6 under the Scarthin Rock.
Demolished in the 1960s. It was the home of Henry Woodward, a lamplighter, in 1901.
He was the lodge keeper in 1911, and employed by Willersley Castle.
Note the smaller seat next to the gates.

Bulmer's Directory of 1895 tells us more about Willersley Castle and its grounds:

"It is a large quadrangular mansion, with embattled parapets, erected in 1788, from the designs of Mr. W[illiam]. Thomas. The house occupies an elevated position, from which the grassy lawns slope to the bank of the Derwent. A wooded eminence forms the background, and immediately behind the castle rises an immense range of perpendicular rocks, adorned with trees, shrubs, lichens, mosses and creeping plants"[2].

The house was built after a huge rock was removed. According to Horace Weir, writing in 1910, Arkwright had to spend something like £3,000 on the removal work before he could start to build. Weir also quoted a supposedly little known comment from the great man. Apparently a young man of "noble birth" was overheard remarking on the great man's lack of well known ancestors. Arkwright's response was that he could follow his own line back equally as far as his critic's. "Noah," he is reputed to have quipped, "was the first Ark-wright"![3]

In September 1905 Willersley's lawns were filled with the Arkwright family's tenants who had been invited to the celebrations marking the coming of age of Mr. Richard Alleyne Arkwright, the heir to the estate. Great preparations were made for the event and a large marquee was erected on the paddock in front of the Castle. Seven hundred of the tenantry from Cromford, Matlock, Wirksworth, Bonsall, Middleton and the Marple estate sat down to dinner (now known as lunch). During the afternoon the numbers swelled to eleven hundred as school children joined the tenants and they were all served tea[4].

Enlargement of a section the top image

Unfortunately, after the First War Mr. and Mrs. Arkwright found it difficult to keep things going and after Frederic Arkwright's death his surviving son, Richard, was unable to live at Willersley as he faced both crippling death duties and a number of legacies to pay out under his father's Will that would reduce his income to half that of his father[5]. The London firm of Knight, Frank and Rutley first advertised the property to be let, either furnished or unfurnished, in 1923. They described the historic stone mansion as being about 400 feet above sea level, with a southerly aspect and panoramic views of the Derwent. The property had five reception rooms, a billiard room and 17 principal bedrooms as well as ample servant accommodation in the house, the lodges and various cottages[6]. Four years later the mansion house was sold, ending over a hundred an twenty years of Arkwright occupation.

Willersley, Winter 2001.
Around a hundred years later.
Willersley is almost impossible to see when the trees are in leaf from this position today.

1. and 2. "Willersley Castle, Matlockbath". Boots Cash Chemists "Pelham" Series. Posted 4 May 1907 in Matlock Bath and sent from Lilly to her Aunt A, a Miss Pinder.
Postcard in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
3. "The Tors, Entering Cromford". An enlargement of a section of the postcard, published by A. J. Newton of Post Office Cromford and posted in 1907. © Kenneth Smith collection
4. Photograph of Willersley Castle © Andy 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] There are some photographs of the road widening in Michael Fay's "The End of a Long and Winding Road". Scroll down to the section on "Difficult civil engineering work".

[2] "History, Topography and Directory of Derbyshire", (1895) by T. Bulmer and Co.

[3] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 1 January 1910. Willersley Castle, Cromford. By Horace Weir.

[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 September 1905. Fete at Willersley Castle.

[5] "Derbyshire Times", 8 September 1923. Willersley's Future. Death Duties' Toll on Cromford Estate. This was the report of a meeting, held in Cromford School, where Captain Arkwright spoke to the tenants and explained the situation he faced.

[6] "The Times", 7 Nov, 1923. To be let, furnished or unfurnished.