Visitors have long been attracted to the Crich area and tourism has been a feature of our mixed industry since the 1800s.
In The Derbyshire Tourist, published in 1824, E. Rhodes describes the population of Crich in the midst of a festival. He arrived as a procession was taking place. Villagers, carrying wands with ribbons tied to the top, were accompanied by a band playing music. ‘The people of Crich seemed delighted with the bustle, and all was frolic and hilarity,’ he tells us.
Dr Stephen T. Hall, author of Days in Derbyshire, written in 1863, tells of his exhilarating makeshift rollercoaster ride from Crich Cliff down to the lime kilns at Ambergate on top of a stone wagon. Whether this experience was generally available to the public remains unclear, but it obviously left a lasting impression on Dr Hall. He describes the carriages as travelling at ‘something less than the speed of a Thunderbolt’ and the experience as being ‘not unlike that of flying, eagle-fashion’.
Dr Hall also makes much of the breath-taking views from the road up to Crich from Whatstandwell train station. He describes how the history of England from primeval hunter-gatherer communities to the canals and railways of the Industrial Revolution via Roman roads can be read in the landscape. The family home of Florence Nightingale at Lea Hurst is also mentioned as a worthy attraction.
The recently rebuilt round tower of Crich Stand is described as of interest not just for the far-reaching views across several counties, but also for the geology of the hill on which it stands. A telescope could be hired for a penny and on clear days Lincoln Cathedral could be made out in the far distance. The Stand was a centre for celebration, with crowds gathering to see beacons lit and hear music, speeches and amusements laid on for special occasions such as the end of the war with Russia.
Illustrated guides were published from around 1914 to 1932. The last edition tells us that arrivals into Whatstandwell or Ambergate stations could be greeted by motor car or ‘horse and tub’. Gervase Taylor’s business ran from the Mansion House and offered services ranging from a charabanc for large parties to the transportation of luggage or equipment. Accommodation was available in several guest houses in Crich, such as Mrs Lee’s at Coast Hill Farm who offered board or apartments. There were plenty of businesses and shops for villagers and visitors alike, ranging from bakers, butchers, grocers and confectioners to milliners, drapers, stationers and carpenters. It’s fair to say that no visitor to Crich need ever go thirsty. Several public houses are listed, including the Jovial Dutchman, The Rising Sun, The Bull’s Head, the Black Swan and the Cliff Inn at Crich. The Shoulder of Mutton and Red Lion are listed for Fritchley. The main attraction was, once again, the Stand, which had by this time become a war memorial to the Sherwood Foresters.
The other prominent landmark to be noted as an attraction in many tourist guides is St Mary’s Church. Arthur B. Done’s History of the Church, available on the Crich Parish website, is well worth a read. It tells the history of St Mary’s from the time of the Domesday Book until the late 1800s and describes many of the interesting features of the church as well as colourful characters associated with the place. The Crich area has much to offer visitors and villagers. Although much has changed in our area, much abides for us to revel in and enjoy for many years to come, just as was the case in years gone by.