which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell

The Village of Crich

by Joan E. Wragg

Taken from the WEA booklet written to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.


"WELCOME TO CRICH." With these few words we greet you as so many of our forebears have extended greetings in similar manner over many centuries since the establishment of Crich as a settlement, village and community.

Every place has a history, indeed the happenings of today are tomorrow's history, but we in Crich can claim to have an extremely long, fascinating and continuous record of habitation, industrial activity and social development.

"CRICH" - is an old Celtic word and is found in records spelt in a variety of ways - CRUC, CROUCH, CRUCH, CRUCHE, CRYCH – but it has one simple and plain definition meaning "HILL". The significance of the vicinity having a name applied to it at such an early time (Celtic period approx. 500 BC-600 AD) is indicative of some form of community being settled here within that period on the hill top.

These early settlers probably having viewed the advantages of the area when travelling along the old "Ridgeway." that ancient way of the Bronze Age Period (approx. 1800 BC – 500 BC) which came right through Crich from the direction of Heage Firs, Ridgeway Village, Bull Bridge, Fritchley and Dimple Lane. Crich veering North to the extremity of our village and on to Shuckstone, Beeley Moor and further to Eastmoor and South Yorkshire. This then was the earliest known route by which settlers and visitors alike traversed to and from Crich.

Moving on in time to the period of Roman Occupation, we cannot claim to have any vestiges of this period remaining in Crich other than the finding in the second half of the eighteenth century of several hoards of Roman coins in the vicinities of Crich Cliff, Culland, Fritchley and Edge Moor shows that the Romans were here.

The Roman road Rykneld Street passed some three to four miles distant in an easterly direction in the Pentrich/Oakerthorpe area, so we were not in direct sight of the marching legions of Roman soldiers, but they did leave behind some visual reminders of their remuneration for duties, in the coinage of the day.

The Norman occupation of Crich leaves us with some written account in the Domesday Survey of 1086 AD and further records of occupation in the area of successive Norman Barons of the "Manor of Crich." Within our Church we have tangible remains of the Norman period in the North aisle arcade of arches and substantial stone pillars, also the font dates from this particular time.

The Medieval style of building in stout oak timber frames and thatch roofing called "CRUCK" frame building has. until fairly recent years remained a buried historical treasure. The advent of a majority of local people owning their own homes and a distinctive quest for uncovering successive layers of plaster, paper and paint to help determine the age of the property, has revealed in several cases evidence of this type of home which graced our village.

Additional "Cruck Frame" buildings are recorded as having been found during demolition of domestic properties and several barns within the Parish have revealed the timber frame structure. This indeed is evidence in itself of the sturdy building and lasting properties of good old "English Oak and stout hearted men of the land."

We have little to show as a reminder of the first Elizabethan period. Our only building typifying this time is the "Mansion House" built at a slightly later date (possibly early eighteenth century) but in the Elizabethan style of architecture. One wonders whether our Cruck Frame" buildings were not considered quite satisfactory to house the villagers who were fortunate enough to be sheltered by a permanent dwelling.

Several of our village properties bear seventeenth century dates. Cottages and Non-conformist Meeting Houses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries bear witness to successive buildings being erected and used in various ways.

The nineteenth century brought with it a humble yet more sturdy type of stone cottage building and this century was a busy one for Crich on the industrial scene, with two narrow gauge mineral railways being engineered to carry limestone from Crich quarries to kilns at Bull Bridge and Ambergate respectively. Framework knitting in cottage rooms and added workshops on an extra upper storey or out-building on ground level heightened the industrial tempo.

Other industries which have been a great importance to Crich in both village and Parish are lead mining, grit­stone quarrying and a pottery which produced some fine salt glaze works of art, indeed one such piece – a Montieth dated 1^04 has been recorded as unique. The lead workings are now dormant, but in earlier centuries were some of the most productive within a wide area.

We have no written account of the Romans working the mineral, but they were well aware of this valuable source which, within their time was workable from the surface and not at the depth which successive extraction of centuries of working necessitated.

Our geological outlay has given Crich a valuable outcrop of gritstone too, which has been quarried and worked in both village and Parish, particularly in the Whatstandwell area, and on the agricultural scene our green fields give evidence of good pasture for cattle and healthy crop growing soil.

Crich Parish in its wider sphere embraces Fritchley, Crich Carr, Whatstandwell and the Wheatcroft areas, each playing a supporting role to Crich as a whole. Their industrial activity has been of a similar nature to that of the village, but with more accent on farming and home produce.

So we have moved on into this present century and now our "special" year 1977 "Jubilee Year," a far cry from the "Jubilee" year of Elizabeth the first. Development has come to Crich in large terms as being a choice place to build a home, not "Cruck" frame style, but ranging from modern to ultra-modern. What now of its industries?

Apart from some curtailed limestone quarrying, a small wire spring factory, local printing works and a couple of studio potteries, the busy more self contained village has almost given place to a "dormitory" for commuter inhabitants. Modern transport has enabled people to live in Crich and work in the larger industrial towns nearby, and we are within easy reach of all the locations we can view from our famous landmark -"CRICH STAND."

During the past century we were fortunate in that a village lady, Mrs. Ann Perry, wrote a series of poems on various aspects of Crich and one glimpses colourful scenes in the mid-nineteenth century through the medium of her pen, here are a few lines included towards the end of one such poem entitled "Lines on the Village of Crich":

"Now a hundred years hence who will stand in my place,
To view this dear landscape with wonder to trace
All its objects of beauty so rare.
t will be when I'm .gone from these scenes where I weep
And my head will be pillowed to take a long sleep,
In the bosom of nature so fair."

We are the ones who stand in her place, as either villager or visitor, whichever applies to the reader, we trust that you, along with Mrs. Perry and ourselves will feel that Crich is indeed held "In the bosom of nature so fair." It is our hope that as you read the successive articles following this section it will stimulate you, if you be a village occupant to further interest in our locality, or, alternatively as a visitor, to return to our hill top village in the future.

Joan E. Wragg - a villager of Crich all her life. Researcher and lecturer in local history. She is secretary to several societies within the community and has been secretary to Crich Branch of the Workers Educational Association since its inauguration.

drawing of Crich Stand
Drawing by Frank Priestly

Home| History Index