A Taste of the
Peak District, Derbyshire village of Wensley, B&B, self catering holiday cottage accommodation, hotels, tourist attractions, walking, climbing, mountain biking history, geology, mining, local information, Derbyshire businesses and much more …
The Hamlet of Wensley can be found high on the hillside above Darley Dale on the northern lip of Derbyshire's Wensley Dale. There isn't much of Wensley Dale but what there is, is quality. The hamlet itself is built on either side of the B5057 which runs westwards from the traffic lights at Darley Dale. As you come up into Wnsley from Darley Bridge, at the entrance to the village, you are greeted by the sight of a garden full of stone mushrooms. These are in fact for sale and could make you a very unusual souvenir of your visit to the Peak District!
The village takes its name from Woden and there has proably been a settlement here or herabouts before Anglo-Saxon times. This 'Clearing dedicated to Wodan' (http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Wensley) is described in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Wodnesleie'.The current name originated during the Middle ages.
Nearby Oaker Hill is immortalised in a sonnet by Wordsworth, 'A Tradition Of Oker Hill In Darley Dale, Derbyshire' (http://www.poetrycat.com/william-wordsworth/a-tradition-of-oker-hill-in-darley-dale-derbyshire). The reason for this is probably the presence of Will Shore's Tree, a prominent sycamore. Local legend has it that a couple of brothers went up onto the hill one day, each planted a tree and went their own ways in life. One tree flourished and the other died, alledgedly because one brother was a success in life and the other was a failure. A further indication that the brother was successful is the fact that there is also a Will Shore's lane in Oker so to have a tree and a road named after him he must have been fairly well known and respected locally. I haven't found the name of the brother but it seems that he may have drowned whilst in search of fame and fortune. Will Shore's tree is one of the oldest in Derbyshire and a £45,000 lottery grant won by Derbyshire Wildlife trust helps to monitor and look after it.
Wensley, along with Snitterton, Cross Green, Darley Bridge and Oker form the Parish of South Darley served by the Parish church of St Mary the Virgin, built in 1840 at Darley Bridge in a neo-Norman style. In Wensley itself, opposite the reading room, there is a former Wesleyan Chapel, which was in fact built earlier than the parish church. Oaker Chapel is in private ownership and has been converted into a dwelling.
Wensleydale curves round and lying at its junction with the Derwent Valley is the Grade II listed building Snitterton Hall which, according to Derbyshire writer and outhor Ton Bates, Pevsner called 'A gem of an Elizabethan Manor House'. It was constructed during the 1600s and was a former home of the Bagshawe Family. In Wensley itself, Wensley Hall is the oldest building in the village. Prior to the tudor building, there existed a medieval hall. This too is a Grade II listed building and originates from the late 16th century with an 18th century wing.
Tom Bates has researched the history of the Hall ..."In 1591 the de Wednesleys sold Wensley Hall to Ralph Blackwall, who in turn sold it in 1603 to Richard Senior. The hall was extensively reduced in size between 1603 and 1664, when it was sold to John Wall. The present block, with its unusual flat roof which constitutes the main body of the hall, was built between 1687 and 1715 by Anthony Wall. The east wing burned down in a fire in 1962 and was removed completely, but a new east wing has recently been completed (1997) by the current owner and goes some way to restoring the hall's former glory. Next to the hall stands Thorntree House, another fine example of 17th century local architecture."
It was lead mining and the Nottingham to Newhaven turnpike road (opened in 1759) that brought general prosperity to Wensley and the surrounding areas. The village became a popular roadside halt for travellers on the turnpike road and there were a number of small hostelries, such as Trogues Farm where the Victorian wayfarer could buy a pint of ale and find a lodging for the night. The Crown, an old coaching inn which stood just off The Square finally closed its doors in the late 1980s, much to the regret of its regular visitors who claimed that its public bar had the finest views of any pub in Derbyshire - a fine excuse for a pint indeed!
Millclose mine was the largest producer of lead ore in Europe in its hey-day, and until it finally closed in 1939 it provided employment for most of the area's male population for over two centuries. Thanks to the mining entrepreneur Edward Miller Wass, during the mid 19th century, Millclose Mine became the largest in the Peak District and in 1886 the engineering company Davis of Derby brought electricity into the mine. Why is that so notable? It was only the second successful attempt in the UK (not being a mining buff, sorry I can't tell you what the first mine to use electricity was). One of the pastimes of the lead miners was the rather barbaric 'sport' of Bull Baiting. The bull ring is now buried under the tarmac that forms the main square of Wensley.
I will let Tom Bates describe the famed Wensley Wakes Week ... "this was an annual attraction and always began on the 4th Sunday in August and ended a week later on 'Hospital Sunday'. This was a major event when absent Wensley folk returned to their families for the day and everyone assembled at The Crown and marched behind the Oddfellows banner, embroidered with the royal arms and the words 'Wensley Jubilee Friendly Society, established January 1st 1763'. Birchover Band always led the procession and a collection was held en route for local hospitals. The annual march left The Crown and went through The Square and up the hill to the Red Lion, from whence it wound its way back down the hill and took the gated road around Oaker Hill to the Square & Compass at Darley Bridge. From there it marched to the Three Stags Heads before making the steep climb to St.Mary's Church for an annual service, and finally, back to The Square where an evenings entertainment took place with 'much merrymaking'! But Wensley Wakes Week was traditionally noted for more than just its marching bands, and an old rhyme tells the tale of local 'Wakes Weeks' thus:- At Winster Wakes there's ale and cakes, At Elton Wakes there's 'quenchers', At Bircher Wakes there's knives and forks, At Wensley Wakes there's wenches!" Great, thanks Tom!
Accommodation in the nearby area.
New Bath Hotel, B&B, Hotel, Matlock Bath - SE of the Peak District
Church View, Self-Catering, Bonsall - SE of the Peak District sleeps 2,3,4,5,6,7,8
Total number of accommodation listings: 2