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The Derbyshire Village of Bonsall

Updated on August 2, 2017
Cottages in Bonsall
Cottages in Bonsall | Source

History of the Village

Bonsall is an ancient village, and is thought to have been in existence prior to it being mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086.

There is a history of lead mining in the village, probably gong back as far as Roman times. Lead mining was once the main source of employment in the area, but the industry declined during the late 18th century.

Following the decline of the lead mining industry, many people from the village found employment in the textile mills at nearby Cromford. Cromford Mill was the first cotton mill established by Sir Richard Arkwright, who was a major figure in the Industrial Revolution. Due to the opening of Arkwright's factories in the area, Bonsall became a centre for frame knitting, with workers manufacturing items such as hosiery in their homes. A few of the workshop buildings are still present in the village.

Bonsall is still a working village involved in agriculture and heavy goods transport. Prior to Word War II there were more than 20 shops in the village, but now the only shop is a plant nursery which also serves as a village store and post office.

Annual Events

The Barley Mow pub in the village hosts The World Hen Racing Championship each year. There is a thirty foot course which is completed in heats, followed by a grand final. The prizes awarded are bags of grain. Those who want to take part but don't own a hen may be able to borrow one on request! The competition has taken place since 1991, and is normally held on the first Saturday in August.

Bonsall also takes part in the Derbyshire tradition of well dressing. There are several wells in the village, which are usually dressed for a week near the end of July. Well dressings are pictures made with natural materials, such as flowers and seeds, displayed on a clay board. Many other villages in the area take part in this tradition.

Well Dressing in Bonsall from 2015
Well Dressing in Bonsall from 2015 | Source

Chernobyl Children's Lifeline Charity

The village supports the Chernobyl Children's Lifeline charity (CCLL). The Bonsall and Derbyshire Dales link of the charity aims to raise funds to bring children to the UK for recuperative breaks. Families in the area host children for four weeks, during which time the children can spend time in clean air and eat uncontaminated food. The charity also provides financial support for families affected, enabling them to buy food, clothing and medicine.

Claims of UFO Sightings

On 5 October 2000, Sharon Rowlands took a film of a circular object above Bonsall. According to ufologists it resembled an object seen on the STS-75 Colombia Shuttle mission in 1996. However, a NASA engineer has said that the object seen on the mission was an occurrence of debris, as is seen on nearly every video from a shuttle mission.

Several other alleged sightings have been recorded in the area.

The footage taken by Sharon Rowlands was apparently purchased by an American film company.

Village Attractions

This attractive village is a pleasant place to take a stroll, with pretty cottages, a Victorian Gothic fountain and a parish church. There is also an Elizabethan manor house, a Wesleyan Reform Chapel and a village hall.

In addition to the interesting buildings in the village, there is a garden which opens to the public from April to September. The garden originates from the 18th century, and includes a disused lead mine which can be explored.

For those who want to explore the countryside surrounding the village, there are paths climbing the hills offering spectacular views.

There are two pubs in the village where visitors can get refreshments.

Cromford Mill is only a short distance from Bonsall, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a visitor centre with interactive displays, and visitors also have the option to take a guided tour or audio tour.

Also nearby is the town of Matlock, which has attractions including a theme park, gardens and a farm park.

Although Bonsall doesn't have the selection of shops and amenities it once did, the village still attracts plenty of visitors who want to explore the Derbyshire countryside.

Bonsall during Well Dressing week
Bonsall during Well Dressing week | Source
Cottages in Bonsall
Cottages in Bonsall | Source


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    • Glenis Rix profile image


      2 years ago from UK

      My goodness! Well dressing has changed since I visited 60 years ago! Love the Rupert Bear. And you pics are lovely. It's not too far from here and you have inspired me to make the journey again soon.


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