The Ordnance Survey triangulation point at the top of Crich Hill is 286 metres above sea level. The hill's commanding height above the Amber and Derwent Valleys, close to the site of Stone Age settlements which lie just to the North East, is reputed to have been the site of a beacon fire which signalled the sighting of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel in 1588 and where Drake's Victory was celebrated.
During the reign of George III (1760-1820) a wooden structure 'with a platform' was built on the Hill. In 1785, Francis Hurt, whose family owned considerable landholdings in Crich Parish, rebuilt this structure in the form of a stone conical tower with a wooden platform on top from which he an his family could enjoy views across the Amber and Derwent Valleys as well as towards Nottingham and the Trent.
By 1843 the tower was in ruins.
Derbyshire Courier 15 November 1845
The prospect tower, which for nearly a century crowned this summit of Crich Cliff, and from which the view extended into five counties, is now levelled to the ground. It had been for some years in a ruinous state, in consequence of the timber of the interior having been from time to time removed; and last winter a considerable portion of the tower fell; and the part which remained, being highly insecure, was, by order of the proprietor, (T. HURT, Esq, of Alderwasley.) blasted down with gunpowder, a week or two ago. It is, we hear, intended, that the tower shall be rebuilt.
In 1851 Hurt provided £210 to rebuild the tower. This took on the more familiar form of a round tower within which a spiral stairway provided access to a viewing platform and a plaque recording the height of the tower as 955 ft. above sea level. This tower was the site of celebrations to mark the end of the Crimean War (1854-56) when Sergeant Thomas Wetton of the 95th, Derbyshire Regiment, a resident of Crich who had lost a leg at the battle of Alma, was carried to The Stand in a specially adapted chair. This was reported in the Derby Mercury.
Derby Mercury 25 June 1856
The fete on Crich Cliff in commemoration of peace came off on Tuesday, June 17th, with great eclat. The appearance of the morning was anything but auspicious, until about ten o'clock, when the ominous clouds began to disperse, and the sun burst forth in all his glory, shining brightly on the faces of the villagers as they stepped lightly to the sound of the merry bells. Flags were hoisted on the church, the stand, and the village cross; others were seen fluttering in the breeze on the tops of the cottages. From many windows the union jack, tricolour, and crescent, proclaimed the happy alliance of the nation. Garlands were suspended, and triumphal arches erected, with suitable mottoes and devices. At twelve o'clock upwards of 500 sat down to dinner at the several inns of the parish, where a most ample provision had been made, that did credit both to the committee of Management and the different hosts and hostesses. It had been arranged that three processions should be formed, each to be accompanied by a band, to meet in the Market-place, there to be united and proceed to the Cliff. When this union had taken place a Sag signal was given, and a discharge of cannon on the Cliff announced that they were in marching order. A large banner was carried in front bearing the inscriptions, "Peace to all the world" and "God save the Queen." Thos. W. Hall, Esq., the chairman of the committee, rode before the procession, which was headed by the Sutton-in- Ashfield Brass Band. The ancient order of druids was represented by two standard bearers in scarlet robes. The chief attraction was a triumphal car, drawn by forty men, in which rode Serjeant Wetton, of the 95th, (Derbyshire) regiment, who lost a leg at the battle of the Alma. The soldier appeared in his regimentals, and wore the Alma medal; also a medal given for distinguished conduct on the field. The car was tastefully designed and decorated by Mr. L. R. Saxton, Crich. Wetton is a native of this place, and the inhabitants were glad to embrace this opportunity of honouring their townsman. Immediately preceding the chariot was the Derby Juvenile Drum and Fife Band, which created great interest. Hundreds of persons on the cliff were eagerly watching for the first appearance of the procession, which was announced by a second discharge of cannon. The novel sight of so many booths erected, so many flags flying, and above all, so many people assembled on a spot, which is usually as lonely as the desert, was only equalled by the appearance of the procession from the cliff when it first arrived there, its rear not having left the village. This effect was produced by the advantage of the ground, which admitted of every "feature of the procession being seen distinctly. Along the whole line of route banners and flags were waving, and the numbers were swelled by hundreds of spectators. Those who heard the martial notes of the band, the merry peal of bells, and the successive discharges of cannon, will not readily forget the occasion. As the immense numbers continued to arrive on the cliff they dispersed in groups, and on reaching the summit it was evident that many persons gazed on the vast landscape beneath for the first time, from tho feelings of pleasure and astonishment to which they gave expressioAround for miles tho village spires are seen
Tho dusky fallows and the meadows green,
And crowded woods whore sylvan nymphs retreat,
Whose darksome shades exclude tho summer heat
An American writer, Emerson I believe, says that an English landscape appears as if it were laid out with the pencil and not with the plough ; this maybe said of the scenery around Crich Cliff. The view from the eastern side has many objects of interest, some of which we may notice. First, there is Wingfield Manor-house, one of the ruins with which Oliver Cromwell adorned our land, whose time worn turrets peeping above a wooded eminence, carry us back to the time when
" The warriors on tho turrets high
Moving athwart the evening sky,
Seemed forms of giant height."
Considerably farther in the distance, for Wingfield is only two miles from Crich, may be seen Hardwicke Hall; both these places are interesting as having been the prison houses of the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. Stilt farther in the distance appears Bolsover Castle, which is the extreme point of view this way. The most extensive view is in a south-easterly direction, where, on a clear day, the dim outlines of hills may be observed at the distance of about fifty miles. Looking southward, the town of Derby, which is 13 miles off, appears comparatively near, when the immense view beyond is taken into consideration. But for the most romantic scenery we must turn to the north-west, where
" Successive hills majestically rise,
And deep below a lovely valley lies,
'Where through the flowery meads a river glides,
And often in tho woods its waters hides."
It is an agreeable change for the eye to turn from the vast plain we have attempted to describe, to the majestic hills of the Teak as they rise in grand succession, until their blue heads are nearly lost in the distance. About one mile and a half from the Stand in this direction may be seen the home of Florence Nightingale, situated in a lovely valley and sheltered by rising woodlands:
"Far down below in you romantic vale
Appears the home of Florence Nightingale;
That maid heroic whose immortal name
Has been recorded in the hook of fame;
She left these rural scenes, these sylvan bowers,
And meadows now adorned with summer flowers,
Where rosy health in native beauty blooms
To breathe the air of pestilential rooms;
To smooth the pillow of the dying brave,
And stand between our heroes and the grave."
Persons on this occasion had the advantage of seeing objects through a powerful telescope, by the payment of one penny; it is said that the exact time could be seen on the illuminated dial of the Town-hall clock, Derby. The Sutton-in-Ashfield glee singers and brass band (distinguished as the Brick and Tile band) contributed greatly to the pleasure of the day, who executed several airs and glees with great taste. This band played an air on the top of the Stand, which was very effective. After the singers had given a glee, Dr. Spencer Hall (who was present) was requested to address the crowd. He spoke very feelingly of the extent and magnificence of the scenery around, and told them that a gentleman, a Pole, who accompanied him, and who had travelled through many countries in Europe, pronounced it unequalled by anything he had seen, except once, and that was a view in Switzerland. The Dr. spoke briefly but powerfully on the advantages of peace, and the glorious possibility of a universal brotherhood among the nations of the earth. Frequently during his speech, and especially at the conclusion, these sentiments were warmly applauded. The Derby drum and flfe band were indefatigable in their labours: they played polkas, waltzes, quadrilles, and country dances, which gave the lovers of dancing an opportunity of indulging in their favourite exercise. Several quadrille bands were in attendance at the different booths, where every refreshment could be obtained at a reasonable charge. About ten o'clock the large beacon was lit, and another fire in a very large tar copper. It may be said that the monster fire ended in smoke, for the dense black volumes of smoke driven by the wind from the tar copper almost prevented it being seen very far distant, especially southward. It would be observed best in an easterly direction, as the fire was made on the eastern side of the Cliff on account of the wind; reports having already been sent thai it was seen for very many miles in Nottinghamshire. The flames illuminated the features of the hundreds of people assembled on this lofty mountain. The bands continued to play, and the guns that had been fired at intervals during the day were now discharged in quick succession, rockets were sent from the Stand, and the scene altogether had an air of wildness and romance. At eleven o'clock the band played the National Anthem and then proceeded to the village, followed by the bulk of the people, who expressed themselves highly satisfied with the day's pleasure. It is impossible to say how many persons visited the Cliff on this occasion, but it is supposed that upwards of 4,000 were there at one time.
Derbyshire Times 2 July 1881
Derbyshire Times 18 March 1882
The next chapter in the history of The Stand was disastrous and could have been terminal. Rendered unsafe by landslides and struck by lighting in 1908 access to The Stand was denied on safety grounds.
Derbyshire Courier 6 June 1911
The rebuilding of the stand, has been the subject of controversy ever since it was decided to close up the entrance and so prevent people reaching the top of the tower. The door was built up about nine years ago, and the evergreen topic with visitors and natives alike is “When is the Stand to be rebuilt.” This appears a matter which rests between the Clay Cross Co Ltd the owners of the quarries, and the Crich Parish Council, and although particulars have occasionally been published regarding settlements arrived at between these two parties, no definite arrangement has apparently been made as yet. The public however, have been long suffering and patient and are still living in hopes that soon a new stand will be built and that Crich will regain its former prestige of which it was robbed through the closing of the Stand.
Only once since it was shut up has it been climbed, and that on the occasion of the Coronation of the late King Edward VII, when it was opened in order that a flag staff could be erected for the Union Jack to fly from.
About nine years ago the stand was struck by lightning and damaged, several of the copings being struck off the top, while the sides were also damaged considerably. Previous to that several young men had narrow escapes of being struck by lightning when inside, and in one case two Crich youths were actually stunned by lightning.
The Stand was originally built in the year 1788, by Mr Francis HURT, of Alderwasley Hall, and it was rebuilt in the year 1851. A Mr LINACRE, of Ambergate, was the builder of the present Stand, and of the first erection only one stone can now be seen. It bears the dates of the old and new. The original Stand was built of limestone, and was not of the same compact form as the present rebuilt one, which is a gritstone, procured from a little disused quarry in a field the possessional of Mr CRITCHLOW, at Sodom. This is a little-known fact, and only the very oldest residents will remember this. The late Miss HURT of the Chase Cliffe, laid the stone for the present stand.
Various festivities have taken place around the base of this noted erection, perhaps the most eventful being that of the peace rejoicings at the end of the Russian war in 1856. At that time a huge bullock was roasted, and all the people were invited to take a knife and fork and cut a slice off, a performance which caused no little merriment. A huge bonfire was also made. It is said that a drinking booth, temporarily erected, and was inundated with customers, and the beer had to be poured into pancheons as the taps ran too slowly. A noteworthy figure in those scenes was a Crich hero of war, a colour sergeant named Thomas WETTON (elder brother of the late Mr J WETTON, Sexton), who had his leg taken off on the heights of Alma. He was pulled up in a carriage.
Three years afterwards (in 1859), a Mr Ralph SMITH, of Crich, held three days gala on the Cliff, and there were celebrations on March 10th 1863, the date of King Edward’s marriage. In 1887 the Jubilee celebration bonfire was held on the Cliff, and again in 1897 the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated, and it is on this historical spot that the coming Coronation bonfire will be lighted.
The land on which The Stand was built was sold with the condition that a new tower would be built on the site.
Photo David Bull
So it was that the current Crich Stand was build, safely, further back from the cliff edge. It was built as a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters, a regiment in which many of Crich Parish served during both World Wars.
Sherwood Foresters Memorial Tower was opened on the 6th. August 1923. It is still the site of an annual commemoration by the Sherwood Foresters.
Photo Beryl Calladine
Crich Memorial Tower was opened on Moday 6th August 1923 at 4 p.m. by General Sir Horace L. Smith-Dorrien, Colonel of The Sherwood Foresters.
Click on the link to view the official Order of Service for the opening – Programme
In 1934 a 750,000 candlepower beacon was installed with a luminous range of 38 miles. However, in 1988 this had to be replaced by a much less powerful light for navigational reasons associated with the developing East Midlands Airport.
For the Queen’s Jubilee, Crich Parish Council with the collaboration of the Sherwood Foresters built a smaller beacon on the site which, fired by propane gas took part in the 'Fires over England' celebrations. The wheel had turned full circle. Crich Hill has a beacon again.
Crich Stand is a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters. It has names of soldiers who have died enscribed on various memorial plaques
around the site. See the photo album