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
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."
The message, written across the back of the 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".