This website is accessible to all versions of every browser. However, you are seeing this message because your browser does not support basic Web standards, and does not properly display the site's design details. Please consider upgrading to a more modern browser. (Learn More).

Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
You are here: home > places


Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

e-mail E-mail this page   print Printer-friendly page

Wessington - (1086 `Wistanetune')

The village of Wessington straddles the main A615 Matlock to Alfreton road, and along with it’s near neighbour Brackenfield, a mile away to the north, is noted for possessing one of the largest village greens in England.

`the main road through the village dissects The Green'

The main road through the village dissects the green, which owing to 400 years of complicated ownership, has been retained as `commons’ land.

Though the village’s history is obscure and largely unrecorded, it was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086/7 as `Wistanetune’, the name probably deriving from the original Saxon `Wistan’s (or Wigstun’s) Tun’.

The early Anglo-Saxon settlers would have been attracted to the area by the abundance of natural springs, and indeed, during the Middle Ages three wells were sunk on The Green, providing the village with an ample water supply. These three wells, named Moses Well, Tea Well and Jubilee Well provided the inhabitants with water for hundreds of years until the advent of piped water to the village in the early years of the twentieth century.

Prior to the Norman Conquest the settlement, lying two and a half miles north west of Alfreton and three and a half miles south east of Matlock, was almost certainly covered in dense forest, and the current large green or common probably marks the site of the original clearing in the forest where Wistan (or Wigstun) first built his farm.

Following the Conquest, the Manor of Wessington was divided between two Norman Lords, Walter de Aincort (Deincourt) and Ralph Fitzhubert.

The manor passed into the control of Darley Abbey around 1250, and the Abbots retained possession for almost three hundred years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111 in 1536. Historian Roy Christian claims that Darley Abbey is said to have had a `token presence’ at Wessington, with “a grange with an attached chapel, probably on the site of a modern house called Friday Yard”.

Further evidence of this is provided by the ancient Grange Farm which stands on the corner of Cross Lane just to the east of the village, and an item from Kelly’s Directory of May 1891 which reads; “at the back of the church are remains of monastic buildings, now converted into cottages, but some of the windows and carved figures remain, and appear to be of the 14th century in design”.

After the Dissolution the manor passed to Thomas Babington, and in turn to his infamous son, Anthony, who was executed for his involvement in the catholic plot against Queen Elizabeth 1st in 1586. The manor then became the property of the Earl of Shrewsbury and passed in turn to his daughters, but since 1657 it has been an `open’ village with no resident lord of the manor. Since the turn of the eighteenth century the major landowners here have included the Wraggs, the Turbutts of Ogston Hall, the Hurt Family, the Halls and the Goodwins, and until the early nineteenth century this was predominantly a farming community.

Modern Wessington has a Methodist Chapel built in 1902, and the small and elegant Parish church of Christ Church, erected in the early English Perpendicular style - complete with it’s splendid bell-tower - which was built and consecrated in 1858.

The church was completely renovated in 1884, and in the roadside churchyard stands a fine war memorial to the thirteen men of Wessington who perished in the Great War of 1914 – 18. The notice board announces that the current incumbent also has charge of the churches at Brackenfield and Ashover.

In 1846 there were 112 houses and 525 inhabitants, with agriculture and stocking making the main occupations of the villagers. Access to the village had been improved a century earlier when the main road through became the turnpiked Nottingham to Newhaven road.

Two hundred years ago the villagers smashed a turnpike on a feeder lane to the turnpike road, and won a court action brought against them by the Nottingham – Newhaven Turnpike Trust, giving the village a local reputation as militants!

Industry came to Wessington during the nineteenth century when the new Oakerthorpe Colliery shaft was sunk nearby, providing employment for the men of the village who also worked at the surrounding collieries of South Wingfield, Shirland, Morton and Clay Cross. During a colliery `lock-out’ in the 1890’s, and true to their `militant’ tag, the men of the village sank a number of `unofficial’ shafts on the `commons’ which provided sufficient coal for the village.

Once part of the vast parish of Crich, the new ecclesiastical parish of Wessington was formed on March 8th 1859, and according to Kelly’s Directory of 1891, the National School, erected in 1841 had an attendance of 75 pupils, and the village population, owing to the influx of miners had risen to an all-time high of over 600.

Much has changed in Wessington over the last century. The coal miners have vanished with the demise of the coal industry, and the smoke-blackened settlement of a hundred years ago has been transformed into a very pleasant rural parish with an abundance of desirable properties. Agriculture too has almost vanished and many of the remaining farmers have been forced into diversifying, and now provide accommodation for a growing number paying guests, and rent summer holiday cottages as a means of supplementing farm incomes. Crich Lane Farm is a typical example; providing B & B recommended by the English Tourist Board, also a registered site of the Caravan Club and very popular with tourists.

Rounding a bend near the Plough Inn, modern travellers along the former turnpike road from Matlock are suddenly greeted by stunning views to the south and east as a wonderful panorama of hedgerows and rolling meadows comes into view. On the eastern horizon, the industrial chimneys and smokestacks of the former Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border coal-fields can be seen, whilst the familiar landmark of Crich Stand can be clearly seen standing proudly on the southern horizon.

The popular Wessington Garden Centre on Matlock Road is at the west end of the village and includes the `Honeycomb Restaurant’ which boasts that it serves home-made food all the year round, but which unfortunately was closed on the Saturday lunch-time in January when I called!

Across the road stands the Horse & Jockey, an ancient hostelry which has a full restaurant service and serves excellent food and cask conditioned ales.

The village’s only other pub, the equally ancient Three Horse Shoes, stands two hundred yards away to the east, almost opposite the Wessington Primary School, which these days has 50 pupils on it’s roll. On the green opposite stands a tree planted in memory of a former headmaster, and a commemorative placque `In Memory of Leslie Battison Amos, Headmaster of Wessington School from 1923 – 1957’. Close by stands an obelisk containing a time-capsule, erected on the initiative of the villagers to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, and which is to be opened and added too every fifty years!

Behind the school there is a large recreation area, complete with football pitch and some splendid new building at The Greendale complex, notably `Millennium House’ standing resplendently in its own lanscaped grounds.

Wessington also has it’s own `Wessington Fish Bar’ on Back Lane next to the Methodist Chapel, and fish & chip lovers travel from miles around to sample the excellent fare! The Hillcrest Motor Company provides garage services from premises further along Back Lane, which leads to Higham & Shirland, and in this area there are numerous building plots for sale, and a number of new dwellings have sprung up in recent years, swelling Wessington’s population to the 500 mark.

From obscure and relatively undocumented beginnings, Wessington has grown over almost two millennia to become a very pleasant and desirable residential Derbyshire village.

e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page

Weather Forecasts | Weather Maps | Weather Radar

Latest articles in Places
Over Haddon
Celebrating Dovedale with Tom Bates!
Ashbourne - The `Gateway to Dovedale'
Eyam - The famously heroic `Plague' Village
Mappleton - in the Dove Valley
Holloway - Home of Florence Nightingale.
Hognaston Village
Chatsworth House
The Peak District

Please visit About Derbyshire - my main web site

contact Tom