HISTORY and industry sit side by side in the ancient parish of Darley Dale.
The town is made up of several smaller settlements and remains forever associated with the pioneering engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth.
Whitworth was responsible for much of Darley’s development including the Victorian Whitworth Centre which underwent an ambitious £1.7million revamp last year.
The community facility houses a range of clubs, the town council office, indoor and outdoor sports facilities, meeting rooms, a ballroom and children’s play area in ten acres of landscaped grounds.
Over 40 groups regularly take advantage of its facilities and one club which uses the Whitworth Park is the popular Darley Dale Junior Football Club.
The club formed in the 1970s but three years ago committee members decided to change its future and put the Juniors firmly back on the map.
Saturday soccer school was launched and now over 100 youngsters take part in the weekly sessions.
Matt Bayes who coaches the Darley Dynamos Under sevens team said: “The kids love it, they can’t get enough of it.
“I think quite a few of the kids wouldn’t be playing football if Darley Dale Juniors hadn’t set up all these teams.”
He added: “It is really down to all the time and effort the people who started it up again have put in to the club that makes it a success.”
There’s plenty to keep youngsters occupied in Darley Dale and the town also has a thriving Cubs and Beavers group.
However Wendy Winter who has been running the youth movement with her husband Nigel for over 12 years is set to retire next July and is appealing for new leaders to keep the group going.
They meet at the Scout hut opposite Churchtown School on Monday evening (Beavers) and Wednesday evening (Cubs).
She said: “We don’t have a Scout group because there aren’t enough leaders so children have to go to Matlock.
“I’ve been involved in it from when my children were in the Cubs. They sent out a desperate appeal for helpers and I’ve been there ever since.
“You do get a lot out of it and the children enjoy it too. They never seem to want to leave us and there is always a waiting list. I hope someone will be willing to get involved.”
The town is well served by many groups and organisations including a horticultural society, several sports teams and a brass band that was originally formed in 1890.
The band folded in 1965 but reformed in 1984 going from strength to strength and competing at the Regional Brass Band Championships, claiming first prize in 1989.
Unfortunately numbers have dwindled again and euphonium player Keith Sheldon, who has been a member of the band for 65 years, is making a last-ditch plea for members to ensure his beloved band survives.
Currently only eight regular members come to the meetings on Mondays at 7.30pm in South Darley Village Hall.
Mr Sheldon, who joined the band in 1947, when he was seven-years-old, said: “It is a pride to play music in the town. I’m very fond of the band and don’t want to see it finish.”
Modern Darley Dale owes its status to the road and rail links developed early in the nineteenth century, with the A6 trunk road being driven through in 1824, and the railway 25 years later.
The once railway village was home to the Mill Close Mine – the last major lead mine in the Peak District which closed in 1939.
A four mile section of the former Midland Railway line has been reconstructed between Rowsley and Matlock Station by heritage attraction Peak Rail.
Darley Dale’s picturesque station includes a museum and a variety of nostalgic photographs, artefacts, posters and memorabilia from the archive collection of the Peak Railway Association.
Business is also central to the town with a range of sectors, from manufacturing to retail and service industries.
Forging factory Firth Rixson employs over 160 people and many residents work at Enthovens, the South Darley lead smelting works. The town is also the home of the well known D.F.S furniture store.
Shoppers are well catered for with the busy hub of independent businesses on Broadwalk, while green-fingered customers can enjoy the town’s large garden centres and dozens of retail outlets along the six mile stretch of the ribbon development.
The oldest building in the parish is St Helen’s Church, in Churchtown.
The church was founded in 1086 and the current building dates mainly from the 14th century with evidence of earlier and later additions to the structure.
Directly opposite the main entrance stands the famous Darley Yew, a tree reputed to be 2,000 years old – and with an enormous girth of 33 feet around it’s ancient trunk. A plaque on the tree tells of the Saxon settlers who built their huts just yards to the west of the church.
Darley Dale mayor Ingrid Pasteur said: “Darley Dale is a unique collection of hamlets thrown together.
“It is a whole lot of little communities and one thing I’m particularly keen to do is to bring them together and get them working together a bit more as Darley Dale.”
She added: “People are happy to live here and are keen to keep Darley Dale as it is. Residents are anxious not to see any more of our green fields built on and want to see it stay a unique and interesting place.”