Postal History of Wirksworth
Information given has been taken from
"Postal History of Matlock and District" by Harold S Wilson,
published by Derbyshire Postal History Society in 1990.
The earliest mention of postal services is in Baileys British Directory
for 1792 which states "The posts sets out for Derby at seven in the
morning, and to Bakewell at five in the afternoon; arrives from Bakewell
at seven in the morning and from Derby at five in the afternoon".
The sub-postmaster was John Winsor.[ref: 1]
According to the PMG's Minute Book Samuel Taylor was appointed receiver
in December 1792 at salary of £48 Os. Od. This conflicts with the
information in Baileys Directory for 1792 [ref: 2]and also with a list of
postmasters for 1792-1796. The accounts books show John Winson as
postmaster from 1795 to 1810. [ref: 1]These accounts also show the basic
salary increasing from £6 to £32. In addition to this basic sum there
were further payments for Bye Letter and Riding work. In 1832 the
salary is shown as £32 and the revenue from the office as £987.
A change took place in 1794 in the postage rates charged on letters
from Wirksworth as shown in an entry in the PMG's reports dated
3 October 1794, "I have the honor to enclose a Letter from
Mr Western in which he proposes that Bakewell and Wirksworth
new Sub Offices to Derby sh'ld each of them have a London Bag
instead of their Letters being charged on Derby which is liable
to the objections and mistakes Mr Western has pointed out".
These new bags were sent on and from 1 October 1794 and the
salaries of the two offices increased because of the extra work
An entry for 9 October 1800 admonishes the postmaster for failing
to close the box overnight and keeping it open until the morning.
Also in 1800 there were complaints regarding delays in the mail
from Derby, attributed to the state of the roads and weakness of
the horses from poor upkeep. It was agreed to pay an extra 6d
per day for extra feed for the horses.
In 1801 the rider wrote to John Spencer, Garrick's Head, Bow Street,
London, complaining that he had not received the increase and asking
Mr Spencer to approach Mr Freeling (PMG). Also in 1801 the rider
complained that the distance from Derby was in excess of 14 miles
and not 13 miles for which distance he received payment. The PMG
asked the surveyor Thomas Swanwick to take new measurements and
he reported "that the distance from the Town Hall steps, Derby,
to the Town Hall, Wirksworth, by the way of Belper, keeping
to the crown of the road, is, to the best of my measurement and
belief, fourteen miles three furlongs and sixty eight yards".
"And I also make on oath that having measured the road from Wirksworth
to Derby, by way of Kedleston, with a wheel the distance from the
Town Hall, Derby, to the Town Hall, Wirksworth, by way of Kedleston,
keeping to the crown of the road, is, to the best of my measurement,
fourteen miles and two hundred and sixteen yards". An additional
payment was therefore approved of £4 13s. 4d. per annum (the current
rate per mile per annum). The rider in fact travelled via Belper. On
5 April 1806 the rate was increased to £6.10s. Od. per mile per annum.
It was stated that the rider now carried parcels, an unusual practice
at this time.
On 14 May 1810 Mrs Brace was appointed postmistress, at salary of £26,
in place of Mr Winson deceased.[ref: 3]
All sub-postmasters had to "post" a bond as a guarantee before being
appointed and in the case of Mrs Brace this was fixed at £300. As
stated earlier (under Matlock Bath) a Penny Post was established
between Wirksworth, Matlock Bath and Matlock in 1911 and continued
until Matlock Bath was made a Post Town in December 1834.
In June 1912 a temporary new contractor for the ride from Derby
was appointed with a temporary increase of 15/- per mile per annum.
The rate was increased on a permanent basis on 12 May 1818 to
£7 10s. Od. per mile per annum.
In "Derbyshire Miscellany" for June 1966 Cyril Harrison reproduced
William Bamford's Diary for 1826. An entry dated 28 November reads;-
"John Brough, who had rode the Post from Wirksworth to Derby for
a great number of years was taken up and conveyed to Derby Gaol [ref: 4] for
breaking open a letter and stealing therefrom Notes to the value of
£80 which had been sent from Buxton to Northampton.
He was tried at Derby Assizes March 1827 before Judge Best, and
sentenced to be hanged, this sentence was afterwards commuted to
"Transportation for Life". He was sent off, Thursday May 24 1827
(A marginal note entered later says "Reported to have died on his
Pigots 1828 shows "Wirksworth (Cromford, Lea, Crich, Brassington) PO
in Coldwell Street P.Mistress Mrs Brace. Letters to Derby by horse post
at 6.30 an, 1.30 pm. To Bakewell at 1.30 pm, arrive at 6.30 am".
After a number of complaints from Wirksworth, Buxton, etc for a
speedier mail service it was arranged for a new mall coach to run
from Derby to Manchester via Belper. The coach, the "Derby Dilly"
began in December 1834. In order to give Wirksworth a good service
it was arranged for a Mail Cart to run from Belper at £50 per annum
and a foot post from Matlock at £27 6s. Od. per annum.
On 14 July 1835 it was decided to abolish the ride from Belper. and
also the foot post from Matlock and replace them by a Horse Post from
Cromford at £41 12s. 0d. per annum. This would give an earlier delivery
of letters from the north and an annual saving in cost of £35 14s. Od.
On 14 April 1810 Mary Jane Brace was appointed postmistress in place
of her mother who died on 3 April. [ref: 3]By 1852 mail was again arriving from
Belper and presumably this arrangement dates from the opening of the
railway station at Belper. The mail arrived at 7 am and departed at 6.15 pm.
A directory for 1855 shows the mail arriving by mail cart at 7 am
(delivered 7.45 am) and departling at 7.30 pm. A Rural Post left at
7.30 am for Middleton, Hopton, Carsington, Brassington and Bradbourne;
another for Alton, Kirk Ireton, Blackwall, Idridehay and Ireton Wood
and another for Bole Hill, Wigwell and Ashlehay; and returned at 6 pm.
An entry in the PMG's Minute Book for 12 January 1857 stated that
J Boden Jnr had been dismissed as messenger to Kirk Ireton and
Idridgehay. [ref: 5]He was replaced on 1 July by
Charles Cooper at 11/- per week.[ref: 6]
A directory for 1876 shows George Allen as postmaster [ref: 7]with the mail
arriving at 5.45 am (delivered 7 am) and departing at 7 pm. The rural
posts departed at 6.30 am and returned at 11.30 am. The box closed at
6.15 pm and at 6.45 pm with an extra one penny stamp. The office was
open on Sundays from 8 - 10 am. By 1881 there were two arrivals
(6 am and 5 pm) and two departures (1 pm and 7 pm) with deliveries at
7 am and 5.30 pm. The first arrival was by mail cart from Derby and
the evening mail came by rail. Alderwasley had been added to
the route of the rural postman. By 1891 wall boxes had been erected
at St John Street, Cromford Road, Steeple Grange and Bole Hill.
Letters from Derby arrived at 6 am by mail cart and at 5 pm by rail.
Deliveries started at 6.45 am and at 5.30 pm. Rural postmen left at
6.45 am for Middleton, Hopton, Carsington, Brassington, Alton,
Kirk Ireton, Blackwell, Biggin, Bole Hill, Wigwell, Ashleyhay and
Alderwasley. The box closed at 12.30 pm for the midday despatch
(1/2d extra until 12.45 pm) and at 6.15 pm for the evening despatch
(1/2d extra until 6.55 pm). The only despatch on Sunday was in the evening.
A directory for 1895 shows Mrs Hannah Allen as postmistress [ref: 8]with the
mail coming via Matlock Bath at 5.30 am, 1 and 5 pm and deliveries at
6.10 am and 5.30 pm. The box is shown closing at 8.20 am, 12.30 pm
(12.45 pm with extra 1/2d) and 7.20 pm (7.40 pm with extra 1/2d).
An additional wall box had been erected at West End.
A directory for 1908 shows Daniel Wright in office [ref: 9]and additional wall
boxes had been erected at The Moor and Millers Green. Directories for
1916-1925 show Mrs Alice Bassett, in office. There was now a Sunday
delivery at 8 am in the town area only. Mrs Bassett remained in office
until 1937 when Mr Sutton took over. He was succeeded in 1957 by
Mr Chalmer and the present sub-postmaster, Mr W Marples, took over in 1967.
The present post office was originally the vicarage (1764) and later
became the first bank in Wirksworth (Crompton and Evans). The counter
is that used when the building was the bank. Mail is still handstamped.