'Amazing first year' for popular Wirksworth Heritage Centre

WirksworthHeritage Centre in the picturesque setting of itsnew home on St Johns Street in the town.
WirksworthHeritage Centre in the picturesque setting of itsnew home on St Johns Street in the town.

An award-winning tourist attraction is celebrating a successful first year at its new home.

Wirksworth Heritage Centre, on St John’s Street in the town, has been welcomed with open arms by locals and visitors alike.

It has been “an amazing year”, according to tourism chiefs, with the icing on the cake being two prestigious accolades.

The centre has scooped an excellence award from the Local Authority Building Control organisation for best educational building, and also a Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust Award for re-use of an historic building.

“The awards are hard-earned recognition for the team here and all our volunteers," said Sally Barkley-Smith, chair of the trustees.

“We’re more than a conventional museum. There is a very hands-on feel to everything, and we’re beginning to attract more visits from schools and families now.

“The centre is also a great base for exploring our wonderful, historic town centre.”

The project to turn the St John’s Street site into the heritage centre was a four-year labour of love for a team led by Sally

The team worked with Lathams Architects, of Derby, Bonsers restoration services, of Kirklington, and Headland Design Associates, of Chester.

Financial backing from the National Lottery Heritage Fund also helped bring together the centre, which comprises ‘The Story Of Wirksworth’ museum, a visitor information point, Webster’s cafe and a multi-use studio space, all under one roof.

When he opened the centre last April, celebrity writer and former MP Matthew Parris described it as “an incredible, Tardis-like building”.

The centre’s main focal point, its museum, brings to life the stories of Wirksworth, illustrating the fascinating market town’s long history, its quirky qualities, famous characters, industries and long-established rural customs and celebrations.

However, the centre, which is open every day, is also well known for its vibrant programme of events, workshops and activities.

Highlights for 2020 will include a Tartan evening, a new portraits group, opportunities to explore the centre's historic collections, detective trails and the ever-popular Wirksworth ghost walks.