BONSALL, a parish and town in the hundred of Wirksworth, in the county of Derby, 2 miles S.W. from Matlock, 17 from Derby, and 11 miles N.W. from Cromford railway station. It is situated in a hilly district, abounding in romantic scenery, on the west side of the river Derwent, and contains the hamlet of Slaley. Bonsall was formerly a market town; and a market cross, erected in 1687, consisting of a pillar surmounted by a small ball, is still standing.

Limestone is abundant in the neighbourhood. Lead and zinc are obtained, and many of the inhabitants are employed in working the mines, and in smelting the ore. The manufacture of hosiery and frame-work knitting is carried on, and combs are made here. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Lichfield, of the value of £201, in the patronage of the bishop of the diocese.

The church, which stands on a rock overlooking Bonsall dale, is dedicated to St. James. It is an ancient building, with a tower and handsome spire. In the interior, over the pulpit, is a painting representing Moses and Aaron reading the Commandments.

There are chapels belonging to the Baptists, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists, and a free school for 50 children, founded in 1704 by William Cragge and Robert Ferne, having an income from endowment of about £100 per annum; also parochial schools for girls and infants. There are some other charities of small amount. Some traces of the Roman road to Manchester, which crossed this parish, may still be seen. Bonsall is within the honour of Tutbury, in the duchy of Lancaster."

"SLALEY, a hamlet in the parish of Bonsall, county Derby, 2 miles N.W. of Wirksworth.”

from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868


Archives & Libraries

Bonsall is served by the Mobile Library on route N, which makes a stop at The Fountain in the village every fourth Friday in the mid morning.



Bonsall - A Village and its History. The Bonsall History Project, 2006.

Chapters are on:

  1. Geology of the Bonsall Area;
  2. Archaeology, Prehistory and Early History of Bonsall and its Region;
  3. A Thousand Years of Growth;
  4. Running Bonsall;
  5. Bonsall at School;
  6. Bonsall at Prayer;
  7. Roads and Transport;
  8. Architecture and Building;
  9. Farming;
  10. Lead mining, fluorspar and opencast mining;
  11. Other Extractive Industries;
  12. Working with Renewable Materials;
  13. Food and Drink;
  14. Textiles;
  15. Bonsall at War;
  16. Bonsall at Play;
  17. The Bonsall Factor;
    Index of family names.

This is by far the best of the many village histories I've read. The lists of family names in Chapter 3 - 'A Thousand Years of Growth' are a real treat for any Family Historian, but the accompanying analyses really bring the past to life in a way that no simple lists can. For instance, I was made aware that the 17th century Inventories - the accounts of goods owned by the deceased, which we are so familiar with from our own research - were of real people, and I could well imagine walking into the shop belonging to the ABELL family in the 17th century, and seeing some of the Inventory goods for sale. A bargain for £10 + post and package, but please see the Bonsall History Project website for how to order.

Bonsall - A Portrait of a Village and its Church. The Bonsall History Project, 2000.



Andrew HILL has a photograph of the churchyard on Geo-graph, taken in April, 2012.



  • The parish was in the Brassington sub-district of the Ashbourne Registration District.
  • The Bonsall 1861 census is Online at the Wirksworth site. The 1871 and 1881 census are on this site, also.
  • The table below gives census piece numbers, where known:
Piece No.
1841 H.O. 107 / 197
1851 H.O. 107 / 2146
1861 R.G. 9 / 2524
1891 R.G. 12 / 2756

Church History

  • The Anglican parish church is dedicated to Saint James the Apostle.
  • The church was restored in 1863.
  • The churchyard holds a centuries-old Yew Tree.
  • The church seats 300.
  • There ia a photograph of the church at Flickr.
  • Alan HEARDMAN has a photograph of St James Church on Geo-graph, taken in June, 2008.

Church Records

  • The Anglican parish register dates from 1587 and is in good condition.
  • We have a pop-up window of a handful of Parish Register marriages in a text file for your review. Your additions are welcomed.
  • A CD containing a transcription of The Parish Registers of St James's Church is available for purchase from Valerie NEAL.
  • The parish was in the rural deanery of Wirksworth.
  • The Wesleyan Reformer Methodists had a chapel built here in 1852.
  • Alan HEARDMAN has a photograph of Ebenezer Wesleyan Reform Chapel on Geo-graph, taken in June, 2008.
  • The Primitive Methodists built a chapel here in 1852 but abandoned it by 1891. At that time it was a Temperance Hall.
  • The Baptists built a chapel here in 1824.
  • Peter BARR has a photograph of The Assemblies of God Church on Geo-graph, taken in April, 2009. I have no history on this church building.

Civil Registration

  • Civil Registration began in July, 1837.
  • The parish was in the Brassington sub-district of the Ashbourne Registration District.

Description & Travel

"BONSALL is a parish, containing a village which was once a market town, and the market cross, consisting of a pillar, bearing the date of 1687, resting on a base formed by an ascent of fifteen steps, still remains. The houses which form the village are scattered over a considerable plot of ground, the centre of which is between three and four miles N.W. from Wirksworth, and about one mile and a half from Cromford; the approach to it from the latter place being by the Via Gellia, a singularly romantic ravine."

[Description from Pigot and Co's Commercial Directory for Derbyshire, 1835]

Upper Town and Slaley are hamlets in the parish.

You can see pictures of Bonsall which are provided by:






Historical Geography

You can see the administrative areas in which Bonsall has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.





You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SK279583 (Lat/Lon: 53.121149, -1.584564), Bonsall which are provided by:


Military History


Military Records

  • There is a gray stone plinth War Memorial for World War I. The names are listed at Bonsall War Memorial.


Malcolm HUTTON advised that the Derby Mercury for 29 September 1749 has an advertisement with the name George RENSHAW of "Bonshall" in it.

Jane TAYLOR in Redcar has this announcement from the Derby Mercury of 20 September, 1804: "MARRIED: A few days ago, at Bonsall, in this county, Mr J. WIGLEY, to Miss E. BRODITT; both of Bonsall aforesaid."

Michael SPENCER tells us that the Derby Mercury for 26 Feb 1813 reports: "Absconded from Bonsall and left his wife and 4 children chargeable to the parish James WIGLEY, framework knitter, he is about 37 years of age, near sighted, dark hair and stammers in his speech, had on when he went away black coat, blue waistcoat and brown breaches. Two guineas reward for information and secure him in any of his Majesty's Gaols."


Politics & Government

  • This place was an ancient parish in Derby county and became a modern Civil Parish when those were established.
  • This parish was in the ancient Wirksworth Hundred (or Wapentake).
  • This parish formed an Urban District Council under the 1894 Local Government Act.
  • Rose KELLAND offers this notice from the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald of Wednesday, 18 November 1903: "Mr. D. G. HENY has agreed to retain his clerkship of Bonsall Urban District Council till the end of his year of office, which is in May next."
  • You may contact the local Bonsall Parish Council regarding civic or political matters, but they are NOT funded to help you with family history searches.
  • The parish is a member of the Derbyshire Dales District Council.

Poor Houses, Poor Law

  • Bastardy cases would be heard at the Matlock petty session hearings every other Wednesday.
  • There is an index of over 30 Bonsall Bastardy Papers held at the DRO on the Yesterdays Journey website. Select "Bastardy Papers" on the left side, then "Bonsall" from the list of parishes displayed.
  • As a result of the Poorlaw Amendment Act reforms of 1834, this parish became a member of the Ashbourne Poorlaw Union.

Probate Records

In his 1862 Will, John SHELDON of Slaley, Bonsall, farmer, mentions:

  1. wife Catherine SHELDON
  2. land at Blakelow
  3. son John SHELDON
  4. son William SHELDON
  5. son Mark SHELDON
  6. dau Grace Fanny
  7. dau Hannah
  8. Robert BAMFORD witness
  9. Thomas HENSTOCK jnr witness
  10. Francis HENSTOCK witness


A Public Elementary School for girls and infants was built here (no date given, but prior to 1891) to hold 220 children.

An Endowed school for 110 boys was founded here in 1717, enlarged in 1859 and remodeled in 1898.