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Tale of Crich

A History of Our Parish

by Geoffrey Dawes

Chapter 1    Crich Parish - The Beginnings

Crich Parish, in mid-Derbyshire contains not only the village of Crich, but also Fritchley (and Bullbridge), Thurlow Booth, Whatstandwell, Crich Carr, Robin Hood, Coddington, Wakebridge, Shuckstone, Wheatcroft, Plaistow, Parkhead and Culland. It is bounded by the Derwent Valley to the w  est, the Amber Valley to the east and by their confluence to the south. To the north lie the commons of Dethick and the moors of Tansley and Beeley. Crich rests on one of the southeastern foothills of the Pennine range and its name, which has been spelt in many ways, simply means "Hill".

Crich can be thought of as beginning many thousands of years ago when the limestones and sandstones were being deposited on the seabed. With time the strata were raised and folded - the folds being filled underneath with a volcanic rock, locally called "toadstone". At this time the fissures in the folding limestone strata were flooded with the hot mineralising fluids from the deep earth. They cooled there and settled as veins and pipes of ore and the area around what is now Crich Hill and particularly between Wakebridge and Plaistow was crossed by rakes and veins of lead. Eventually, as the glaciers of the ice ages eroded the surface of the land, the limestone dome that formed Crich Hill and underlies much of the old village was scoured of the overlying shales and gritstones and exposed. The edges of gritstone strata can readily be seen along the Tors, at Edge Moor where Ashover grit appears along the shales, and near Robin Hood and Coddington where the Chatsworth Grit - a finer stone - forms the exposed dome above Benthill.

The Dimple Valley, which drains the uplands above Benthill and to the east of Crich Hill down towards the river Amber, is filled with the boulder-clay formed in glacial times and in the Quarries at the side of the Dimple - particularly in the "Old Quarry" great lumps of Cumberland granite carried down from the north by the glaciers have been found. Two such egg-shaped boulders in the Old Quarry weighed more than a ton each.

Early men avoided both marshy valleys and too-exposed high places and one of the earliest traces of men in the parish is in Lindway-Spring Wood to the North East of Crich Hill at a height above sea-level of between 500 and 600 feet. Here are to be found the remains of stone-lined pits in which stone-age men of 4000-2000 B.C. made their homes. There are two rows of pits of circular form - called the Pitsteads. One row contained twenty-five - the other twenty-eight, extending two hundred and fifty yards in length: most of them were about fifteen feet in diameter and six feet in depth.

At a later time, from about 1800 B.C. to 500 B.C. (during the Bronze Age) the ridges parallel to the Derwent Valley - and especially those near Crich where "The Hill" provided a useful landmark - attracted travellers making their way north and south. A main "high-ground" route was established and this highway, with its successors, had a strong influence on the later life of the Parish.

The route north out of Crich passed by Shuckstone - places separately identified in the Domesday Survey. Here, at a  junction coming up from Robin Hood and Wakebridge was to be found Shuckstone Cross where, in 1788, an earthen pot of copper Roman coins was found. (A Shuk was a robber and a murderer and this lonely place would be a hunting ground for such!). It is known, following the discovery of six pigs of lead near Brough on the Humber and of four others at Pullborough in Sussex marked with the inscription LUT (for Lutadorum - a place not identified with any precision but thought to be near Matlock), that the Romans were engaged from about A.D. 117 to the third century in exploiting local lead deposits. Evidence of the presence of the Romans in the parish (presumably they came to exploit the Crich lead ores) has come from the discovery of hoards of Roman coins and other artefacts. Apart from the earthen pot at Shuckstone a collection of Roman "copper" coins was found in the foundation of a small building on Crich Cliff in 1761 - as well as some tiles. The coins had been struck in the reigns of Domitian, Hadrian and Diocletian.

Then in 1778 a find of silver coins (denarii) from the reign of Hadrian, Diocletian and Constantine was made at Culland. Another find of coins was also made on Edge Moor. Around 1900 a great number of pieces of broken Roman pottery was found on Crich Hill - a little below the position of the old Stand.

The finds at Culland and Edge Moor were on routes away from the ore-field and towards the Roman fort on Castle Hill between Pentrich and Oakerthorpe and on Ryknild Street - the Roman road running from "Little Chester" in Derby up to Chesterfield and on to Templeborough - from whence there is easy access to the Humber and so to the sea and so to Rome.

Although there are these early indications of human activity in Crich, it is not until Norman times that enough evidence becomes available on which to base a reasonably reliable story. When the Normans settled in Derbyshire, Crich was in the Duffield Frith - a largely wooded area put under the control of Earl Ferrars of Duffield Castle.

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