Image: Row of cottages opposite Bonsall Church.The ancient village of Bonsall sits handsomely amidst the limestone hills two miles south west of Matlock and about the same distance from the A6 at Cromford, from where it is best approached, along the A5012 which winds steadily up the Via Gellia valley on its way to Grangemill, and eventually to Buxton.

The road to Bonsall climbs northward from beside the Via Gellia Mill and up the steep Clatterway before levelling out at the Victorian gothic Fountain beside the village recreation area, currently part of a village regeneration scheme. The Dale branches to the left whilst the main road continues up Yeoman Street to the Market Cross in the centre of the village, and then twists and turns up High Street towards Uppertown before winding its way over Bonsall Moor towards Winster.

The name of Bonsall is thought to have been derived from that of a settler named Bunt, and ‘Bunteshalle’, a ‘nook of land belonging to Bunt’ was a thriving community long before it was mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1087. The village owes its size and relative prosperity almost exclusively to the numerous industries which once flourished beside the Bonsall Brook, and to the now defunct lead mining industry which two centuries ago provided the area’s main employment.

Image: Cottage with characteristic frame knitters windows on the upper floor. Bonsall, Derbyshire village.But as with all of the Peak District lead mining villages, that industry gradually ended as the mines became unproductive. The Bonsall Brook established the village’s industrial connection with Cromford and during the late 18th century many of the inhabitants found alternative work in the textile mills established by Arkwright at Cromford and Via Gellia, for in fact it was the Bonsall Brook,- and NOT the River Derwent whose power was harnessed by Arkwright to drive the wheels and shuttles of his first factory at Cromford in 1771. Bonsall became an important centre for frame-knitting and the pioneering ‘cottage industry’ was born with around 400 frame knitters, mostly manufacturing hosiery, setting up in their homes. The characteristic long windows of the frame-knitters can still be seen beneath the eaves of a number of cottages today (pictured above).

Reference book which includes information and photographs about mining on Bonsall Moor ...
Peak District Mining and Quarrying - at last, a local history book that is easy to read and holds your interest for more than a few minutes at a time! Fascinating, well illustrated, non-technical and with a social angle throughout. I bought mine via with a decent discount off the shop price (sorry, I don't know if they are still doing the discount). 

The brook also powered a corn mill, a joinery mill, a mill where Blue John stone was shaped and polished, and a colour mill at the bottom of the Clatterway. These mill industries are long since gone but the Via Gellia Mill which gave its name to the famous Viyella brand of textiles produced there was converted and refurbished in 1986 and now provides a working environment for a number of small businesses.

Another major feature of Bonsall architecture is the Parish Church of St. James whose battlemented tower rises proudly on the hillside high above Yeoman Street. Built originally about 1230, it was extensively restored by Ewan Christian in 1863. From the yew tree guarded terraced churchyard there are magnificent views of the surrounding hills, and down into the village where directly below can be seen the Victorian Gothic Fountain, dedicated to Henry Ford of Manchester and restored by the Parish Council in 1993. A further religious connection is that John Wesley preached from atop the thirteen circular steps of the stone cross in the Market Place, and his followers quenched their thirst in the King’s Head close by where they would have seen the initials of the first landlord, Anthony Abell alongside the date 1677 carved above the entrance. The oldest dwelling, we believe, is the charming Elizabethan Manor House in High Street, whilst perhaps the most imposing and mysterious is the high-walled Rectory standing beyond St. James’ and at the upper end of Church Street, where the old road to Cromford is now just a rough track. Opposite the churchyard entrance Ember Lane with its row of typical Derbyshire limestone cottages begins its journey over Masson to join Salter Lane on its way to Matlock.

There are a number of wells in and around the village and these are dressed annually during the Wakes festivities when a village carnival marks the Feast of St. James, usually on the Saturday before the first Monday in August.

Just before the second World War there were 26 shops in Bonsall and you could buy anything from a bag of fish & chips to a new bicycle. Sadly they have all gone, butchers, bakers, and candle makers, along with the two tea-rooms and several grocer’s shops, however Bonsall remains a vibrant and interesting Derbyshire Peak District village, best explored on foot.

Accommodation in or near to Bonsall

Thumbnail: Church View, farm self catering for family groups, Bonsall, Derbyshire.

Church View, Self-Catering, Bonsall - SE of the Peak District sleeps 2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Family accommodation in expertly converted farm buildings in Bonsall, Derbyshire ... More information or visit Church View web site..

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