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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Cromford: St. Mary's Church and the Bridge
St. Mary's Church and the Bridge

St. Mary's Chapel in Cromford is on the opposite bank of the River Derwent from Willersley Castle. The river acts as the parish boundary. The church was commissioned by Sir Richard Arkwright and the building work completed by his son. It is the burial place of several members of Arkwright family, including Frederic George Alleyne Arkwright who died during World War One. Sir Richard Arkwright was buried first at Matlock but was later re-interred here.

Writing in 1877, Charles Cox describes Cromford Church as follows:-

"The endowment deed of the new chapel at Cromford, by Richard Arkwright, under date 20th September, 1797, sets forth that owing to the extensive manufactures, the village of Cromford had become very populous, that it was distant two miles from the parish church of Wirksworth, that Sir Richard Arkwright (father of this Richard Arkwright) shortly before his death erected a chapel on a parcel of land called the Smelting Mill, containing in length, within the walls, from east to west, seventy-two feet, and in breadth forty-one feet two inches within the walls; that he had intended to have it endowed and consecrated, but that he died before its completion, leaving instructions for its endowment, etc., etc. The charges paid by Richard Arkwright for consecrating the chapel amounted to £65 3s. 6d.†

The new chapel is dedicated to St. Mary, and it is said that it herein followed the dedication of its predecessor, but of that we have no satisfactory proof.

The chapel, or church as it may now be termed, when originally erected by Mr. Arkwright, partook of the plain characteristics of that time, and was destitute of a chancel, It was lighted by a double tier of five windows, circular-headed, and having cast-iron frames. In 1858-9, it was greatly improved and "gothicised," by cutting down the two rows of windows into one, and dividing them with stone mullions and tracery. At the same time a new chancel was added, the west portico built, and the galleries and flat ceiling of the interior removed. The extent of these alterations, although the ground plan and walls of the 1797 chapel still remain, may be gathered from the fact that they cost the late Peter Arkwright, Esq", the sum of £3,000.

The small tower over the west portico contains a single bell, which is inscribed :-

" Edward Arnold fecit. Leicester, 1796. "

† Add. MSS., 6,666, ff, 355, 357."[1]

Richard Arkwright endowed St. Mary's with £50 in 1797. The sum was later augmented by a further £200 from Mr. Arkwright, £200 from Queen Anne's bounty, a Parliamentary grant of £800 and another £200 in 1826[2].

Tom Henshall must have taken the picture for this photographic postcard
of St. Mary's from the County bridge.

A subscription list was opened in 1888 as a way of raising funds to light St. Mary's with gas[3]. The church closed at the end of 1896 for further improvements, replacing the old chancel arch with one considerably wider and the flooring with "vetrious mosaic". New carved oak choir stalls were installed, the vestries improved and two new windows were added. The roof and seating were also renovated and the pulpit, which was said to have been ugly, was enhanced. The stained glass and the magnificent wall painting was done by Mr. A. O. Hemming, a well known church artist of the day. These have been very carefully restored by the Arkwright Society in recent years. The renovation was carried out under the direction of Derby architects Messrs. Naylor and Sale. It was re-opened in April 1898, when the Bishop of Southwell dedicated the gifts to the church. The acoustics were said to be considerably better as a result of the work[4].


The message, written across the back of the top card, reads: "This is typical of the village church found in the villages of England. Cromford is about 22 miles North of Ticknall and is a most lovely old fashioned place. Hosiery and Silk are manufactured here".

The sender of Tom Henshall's photographic postcard wrote the following message on 31 May 1909: "came here by the 1.10 train and are having a good time. We have done plenty of climbing, up Jacob's Heights & been on the switchback. It was grand. We are sitting opposite the river watching the rowing boats". It is possible that, after climbing Jacob's Ladder, they visited the Fluor Spar Cavern on the Heights of Jacob and bought this card from the Henshalls.

1. "Cromford Church and Bridge". No publisher. No. 1872. Printed in England. Not posted.
2. "Cromford Church, Matlock Bath". Photographed, published and printed by TMH (Thomas Meredith Henshall). Posted 1 Jun 1909 in Matlock Bath.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Cox, J Charles (1877) "Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire Vol II" Chesterfield: Palmer and Edmunds, London: Bemrose and Sons, 10 Paternoster Buildings; and Derby.

[2] Glover, Stephen (1833) "The History and Gazetteer of the County of Derby ..." Edited by T. Noble. pub. Derby and London.

[3] "Derbyshire Times", 21 April 1888.

[4] "Ibid.", 16 April 1898.

In the Matlock section of the website:
There is a pedigree for the Arkwright family
Details of the Arkwright Coat of Arms
Descendants are named in various Matlock directories and census returns elsewhere onsite
Matlock & Matlock Bath's War Memorials, which includes Scarthin's memorial

Willersley Castle engraving (Cromford Hall), before 1791

Extract from "The Beauties of England and Wales"
(1802), written shortly after his death, which describes of cotton manufacturing and has more on the mills, Willersley Castle (plus an engraving), Sir Richard Arkwright and the area surrounding Willersley.

Willersley Castle, 1802 engraving

Willersley Castle

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Our Genealogy
Images of
Matlock & Matlock Bath
Cromford Trade Directories

Elsewhere on this web site:

Arkwright & His Cotton Mill in Matlock Bath

Cromford Church, Bridge, and Rocks

A. O Hemming also painted the chancel walls at St. Giles' Matlock

There is more about Thomas Meredith Henshall

Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers