Middleton-by-Wirksworth is an upland village lying approximately one mile NNW of Wirksworth, Derbyshire, formerly known for its lead mines and high quality limestone quarries, including the remarkable underground quarry site at Middleton Mine.

The former Cromford and High Peak Railway passes close by the village. The local quarries were linked to this line by a short branch spur, Killer's Branch, part of which now forms the track bed of the Steeple Grange Light Railway. The branch line was operational until the late 1960s.

In the 1970s, the disused track bed of the Cromford and High Peak Railway and some surrounding land were purchased in by Derbyshire County Council and the Peak Park Planning Board, who then worked collaboratively to turn the former railway into the 17-mile High Peak Trail for walkers and cyclists. There is a car park and visitor centre at Middleton Top, where cycles may be hired.

Middleton Top Engine House houses a preserved steam engine formerly used to haul trains up the 700-yard long 1-in-8 (12.5%) gradient of Middleton Incline. The engine, built by the Butterley Company of Ripley in 1829, still runs for demonstration purposes and is occasionally open to the public.

Literary connection

In 1918-19, D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda rented Mountain Cottage, which stands below the B5023 road on the NW side of village as the road descends towards the Via Gellia. Lawrence also reputedly spent time at Woodland Cottage on the opposite side of New Road. While living in Middleton during the bitter winter of 1918-19, Lawrence wrote the short story A Wintry Peacock (published in 1921), which is set in the immediate locality.


^ D. H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile, 1912-1922 by Mark Kinkead-Weekes (1996, CUP, Cambridge, England). ISBN 0521254205

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