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Clay Cross

Clay Cross

Clocktower and adult education centre

Clay Cross parish highlighted within Derbyshire
Population 9,222 (civil parish, 2011)[1]
OS grid reference
Civil parish Clay Cross
District North East Derbyshire
Shire county Derbyshire
Region East Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district S45
Dialling code 01246
Police Derbyshire
Fire Derbyshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament North East Derbyshire
List of places

Clay Cross is a former industrial mining town and civil parish in the North East Derbyshire district of Derbyshire, England, about six miles south of Chesterfield. It is directly on the A61, the former Roman road Ryknield Street. Surrounding settlements include North Wingfield, Tupton, Pilsley and Ashover.


  • History 1
    • Industrial Architecture 1.1
    • Religion 1.2
    • Parkhouse 1.3
    • Co-Operative 1.4
  • Housing Finance Act dispute 2
  • Local economy and transport 3
  • Education 4
  • Sport 5
    • Chess 5.1
    • Football 5.2
  • Local attractions 6
  • Notable residents 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • External links 11


The High Street was built over a pre-dating roman road, that may have been called Rykneild street, where a Tollhouse (1786-1876) was situated. The discovery of coal in the area, introduced the village to the industrial revolution. Packhorses at first transported the 'blackgold' over the Peaks on a Turnpike road opened in 1756 between the iron foundries of Derby and Sheffield.[2] Until the early nineteenth century, Clay Cross was a small village known as Clay Lane, but increasing demand for coal and other minerals trebled the population by 1840 , the oldest building being the George and Dragon Inn. While driving the George Stephenson discovered both coal and iron, which together with the demand for limestone, caused him to move into Tapton Hall, near Chesterfield, and set up business as George Stephenson and Co.

A map of 1833 showed Thanet Street and Clay Lane. The railway 'mania' of 1840s witnessed expansion northwards facilitated by the Clay Cross tunnel dug in 1837-8. Whilst tunnelling over a mile underground they discovered vast quantities of commercial grade coal. Clay Cross became a boom town. The 'Liverpool Party' of Stephenson engineers formed The Clay Cross Company in 1839 which they funded from their considerable resources. As well as sinking a number of shafts with colliery support, there were Coke oven works, brickworks, limeworks, irons furnaces and foundry. The ductile pipe was developed into an internationally sold product, making Clay Cross renowned for its iron and coal industry worldwide. Although the company had been formed to mine coal and manufacture coke from the railway, the supplies from Robert, took over, leaving the company in 1852 when it became formally known by the name of the Clay Cross Company. In 1871 the Jackson family acquired 100% of the stocks and shares. They continued as owners until 1974. For many years, the company was the town's major employer. In 1985 Biwater took it over. In December 2000 Biwater sold the site to French company, Saint-Gobain. Some months later, it was closed down with the loss of around 750 jobs.Demolition of the vast Biwater site began in late 2008, and new houses and shops are appearing in the town.[3]

In 1925 the Ashover Light Railway was opened to transport from the quarries at Ashover Butts. The passenger services on the narrow gauge was closed in 1936, but in 1952 was reincarnated on the bowling green site as a coach, whenceforward was relocated Ashover ephemera.

Industrial Architecture

In 1840 the Stephensons built Eldon Hall as its office headquarters, which latterly was converted into a private dwelling-house. The Stephensons also built more than 400 miners cottages. In addition they set up elementary schools, and consecrated new churches. The Company provided the town with almost all its energy needs in gas and electricity. The largest house Clay Cross Hall was built in 1845 for the Company's General Manager Charles Binns. Stephenson's workers' houses were of high quality for their time, having four rooms compared to the normal two. By 1850 there were three chapels, a church and an institute - but no constable. On such construction of 1847 was the Wesleyan Chapel in use at least until 1900 on Holmgate Road. They also provided a company bowling green with a clubhouse. A Mechanics Institute was opened which was handed over to the Clay Lane Urban Districts School Board in 1893. The Board's Senior School for Boys was opened in 1884, converted to a junior school in 1930s and still teaches in 2015. During the Late Victorian era middle-class villa style houses were also built in a new part of the town.

Colliery owner Thomas Houldsworth, also a churchwarden for 25 years, built Alma House which stood in extensive parklands. The house was surrounded by railings and flat roof of indeterminate date. He was responsible developer of Clay Cross pits until 1850, and then the Alma Colliery in North Wingfield, after the Crimean War.

Springfield House was built by the for engineer William Howe by the Company. He was the resident from 1866 until his death in 1872. An even earlier event was Hill House built by 1833 it was purchased by the North Midland Railway Company in 1837 as an office for resident engineer Frederick Swanwick. When the tunnel was completed, Swanwick left town, but the house was passed to engineers James Campbell and William Howe, and by the 1860s, Dr Wilson, the local medical practitioner was in residence.

The North Midland Railway tunnel sank nine ventilator shafts through which smoke wafted across the Peaks. Clay Cross is situated at the highest point on the line 110 m above sea level, when it opened in 1840. A narrow gauge line transported coal up the incline to the works. Another mile north along the 'Black Path' was Clay Cross station, between the halts at Tupton and Hepthorne Lane.


The Anglican church of St Bartholomew had been built and consecrated in 1851. Six years later a spire was added. Rev Joseph Oldham and his wife, Emma were the first conscientious incumbents. Her brother was radical designer and founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris. Morris was commissioned to install a saintly stained glass window.


The Parkhouse Colliery Memorial stands today as testament to a disaster. In November 1882 an underground explosion brought the collapse of the pit shaft causing the death of 45 men and boys. Many of their families lived in company housing at Pleasant Row, Chapel Row, and Cellar Row, and Gaffers Row. Also known as Egstow Terrace, this latter street was built in 1846, was considered of better average quality housing.


The Clay Cross Pioneer Industrial Co-Operative Society's first shop was opened on the corner of the High Street and Market Street. It was an early member of the Co-Operative movement founded in Rochdale by John Bright that spread rapidly across the north of England.

Housing Finance Act dispute

The town was an urban district until 1974, when it was merged into the North East Derbyshire district under the Local Government Act 1972. In the 1970s the council achieved brief notoriety due to its refusal to implement the Housing Finance Act 1972 in increasing the rents of council housing: by law the rents should have increased by £1 a week from October 1972. The council was one of several to show defiance against the Act and of three to be ordered to comply by the Department of the Environment in November 1972 (the others being Eccles and Halstead). Clay Cross UDC was threatened with an audit in December 1972.[4] The constituency Labour party barred the eleven councillors from its list of approved candidates.[5] The District Auditor ordered the eleven Labour Party councillors to pay a surcharge of £635 each in January 1973, finding them "guilty of negligence and misconduct".[6] Conisbrough UDC faced a similar audit on 19 January 1973.[7]

The UDC made an appeal in the case to the High Court.[8][9] Clydebank and Cumbernauld abandoned similar actions in March 1973. The surcharge was upheld by the High Court on 30 July 1973, which also added a further £2,000 legal costs to their bill, as well as barring them from public office for five years.[10] The council further defied authority (the Pay Board) in August, when they decided to increase council workers' earnings.[11] This provoked a further dispute with NALGO. Ultimately, the dispute became moot with the replacement of Clay Cross Urban District Council with the North East Derbyshire District Council from 1 April 1974.[12][13] The councillors were made bankrupt in 1975.[14]

A book on the dispute between the council and the government, The Story of Clay Cross, was written by one of the councillors, David Skinner, and the journalist Julia Langdon. The book was published by Spokesman Books in 1974.[15]

Local economy and transport

Clay Cross has a large modern business park called Coney Green Business Park and is located between Egstow and Danesmoor. There is the Sharley Park Leisure Centre on the A6175 Market Street towards North Wingfield. Next door is the community hospital. The Danesmoor Industrial Estate is on the site of the Parkhouse Colliery (correction - the colliery was situated on the eastern side of the railway lines; the industrial estate is situated on the western side) and is home to a Worcester BOSCH site. The towns library is on Holmgate Road. Clay Cross town centre is currently undergoing a £22m redevelopment which has so far included a new supermarket, new bus station and new relief road. The second phase of this is due to start which will see a new parade of shops plus a new medical centre. Eventually the site of the former Junior and Infant schools which is located in the town centre will be redeveloped. M1 junction 29 is 5 miles away. Nearest rail stations are Chesterfield (6 miles) and Alfreton (Clay Cross railway station closed under the Beeching Axe). A passenger rail line runs in a tunnel under the town without stopping. In 2009 ATOC (Train Operators) announced proposals for reopening a station on the edge of town, to be called 'Clay Cross and North Wingfield'.


Tupton Hall School is in Tupton and located about one mile to the north of Clay Cross.[16] Previously Clay Cross had a secondary school located in Market Street, and a Junior School located off- High Street. The Junior school and infant school were merged and relocated to a new purpose built complex on Pilsley road and renamed Sharley Park Primary School. The site of the former schools has been cleared and is awaiting development. The secondary school was closed in the early 1970s, and transferred to Tupton Hall as part of the Government's drive to comprehensive education, it is now one of the largest with around 2000 pupils, including a Sixth Form Centre. Clay Cross Secondary School was converted to an Adult Education Centre.

Clay Cross cricket ground



Clay Cross Chess Club has thrived in the town since 1977. It holds weekly club nights and is a constituent member of both Sheffield & District Chess Association and Derbyshire Chess Association, entering teams in the leagues of both. New members - beginners and grandmasters alike - are welcome.


Four football clubs from the town, all now extinct, have competed in the FA Cup over the years -

The town's senior football team today is also called Clay Cross Town F.C. (playing in the Central Midlands Football League), but is not a continuation of the old club.

Local attractions

The area has many local attractions and places of special interest. In addition to the stunning peak district scenery other places people enjoy visiting include Hardwick Hall, Bolsover Castle, Chatsworth House, and The National Tramway Museum at Crich.[17]

Notable residents

  • Dennis Skinner was born and grew up in the town, and went to Tupton Hall Grammar School. He first worked at Parkhouse Colliery (known as Catty Pit) in 1949, a mile to the east of Clay Cross. The pit closed in 1962. He was a Clay Cross councillor from 1960–70, directly before becoming an MP in 1970.
  • Eddie Shimwell, FA Cup winner, licensee of the Royal Volunteer in Clay Cross.
  • Arthur Henderson, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1934, when he was MP for Clay Cross

See also


  1. ^ "Neighbourhood Statistics".  
  2. ^ the present day Rykneild Street, that is on the A61.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Rebel council gets audit put off till New Year. The Times. 8 December 1972.
  5. ^ Appeal to Labour executive by rent rebels. The Times. 15 December 1972.
  6. ^ 11 councillors surcharged £6,985 over rent refusal. The Times. 19 January 1973.
  7. ^ Councillors' pledge 'means more than Act'. The Times. 20 January 1973.
  8. ^ Council may go to court over surchage. The Times. 24 January 1973.
  9. ^ Councillors' appeal. The Times. 28 February 1973.
  10. ^ 'Rebel' Labour men face a bill of £8,985
  11. ^ Clay Cross defies pay ban. The Times. 10 August 1973.
  12. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (9 May 1996). 'Hansard'', 1996"'". 
  13. ^ 'Socialist Review'', Issue 194, February 1996"'". 
  14. ^ Clay Cross men get bankruptcy discharge. 10 May 1980. The Times.
  15. ^ "Book Details". 
  16. ^ Tupton Hall School
  17. ^ Local Attractions, Retrieved 20 September 2007


  • Heritage Clay Cross Trail leaflet, Derbyshire County Council (2015)
  • Victoria County History, North Derbyshire

External links

  • Clay Cross Parish Council
  • Discover Derbyshire
  • Clay Cross Genealogy and Local History
  • Clay Cross RT - Road Racing Cycling Team
  • Clay Cross Chess Club

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