Wirksworth Heritage Centre Event 03-06-2023

Wirksworth Heritage Centre – 03/06/2023

The heritage centre is located inside a very old building in the centre of Wirksworth, which was bequeathed to the museum. As far as anyone is aware, this was the first time that the location has been investigated.

During our initial walk around, the presence of military figure and several people commented that the room full of masks (the temporary exhibit) had a heavy, possibly bad feeling. 

Session 1

Gift Shop – Group Vigil

We began the investigation in what is currently the gift shop, and is in of the oldest part of the building. The room looks to have been the original entrance.

We ran the spirit box, several phones with spirit talker and the board.

After a brief wait, we got our first spirit on the board. A male, not connected to the building or any of the guests, but with a connection to the quarry. However, as soon as we questioned him on the quarry, the glass went straight to goodbye. This was our first indication that something bad had happened there.

Another spirit joined us. This time a female named Rachel who had worked at the quarry indirectly. It was common that the families of miners would work in the industry usually in the processing of mined materials.

Again, as soon as we questioned the spirit on the quarry, the glass attempted to move to goodbye, further raising suspicions. We got the sense that none of the spirits were allowed to talk about what happened. We managed to convince Rachel to stay, on the condition that we did not question her about the quarry directly.

Through a bit of questioning, it was revealed that her husband had been killed in the quarry, on a day that he should not have been there, possibly by falling rock. Unfortunately, she would not give us any names. It was suggested that a few local children had been playing in the quarry and when her husband went to find them, he was caught up in a rock slide. However, she was adamant that the rock fall had been caused by a deliberate explosion, one that had been covered up by management.

Rachel’s departure was followed by a number of spirits on the board in quick succession, almost as if they were fighting to be heard. Unfortunately, we struggled to get any coherent answers out of them.

Eventually we did get a spirit called Harry, although it was not clear how and when he passed. He may have worked in the quarry offices and claimed that the explosion was in fact deliberate and he knew in advance it had been planned. He was questioned after the incident but did not tell the truth as the management had sent people to threaten his family to ensure his silence. He regrets his actions and wishes he had stopped it.

He gave us the name of his boss, a Mr Pattison whom he feared and hated greatly, wishing that he had been caught in the explosion. We got the date 1739 but it is unclear if this is the date of the explosion of Harry’s passing. Up to this point the mine was known to be unstable but management refused to spend money on needed repairs.

We then got another spirit on the board, accompanied with a change in the room. All we got was obscenities and a refusal to answer any questions. As we had been at it for a while by this point and were not getting anywhere with this spirit, we decided to call it a day.

After a small break, we continued with the board in the shop. We got the spirit of George who passed when he was 28 in 1936. He did not pass near to the museum but is still tied to the area. He may have been an industrial worker. He has a coat in the museum which was left to him by his good friend in his will. His friend Henry Cartwright passed at 19 in 1927 possibly due to injuries sustained in WW1, this may have been the military figure that was felt earlier.

George had a head injury, a rock or stone fell on him. He had been doing something at the church. It seems that he was sleeping rough there, unable to find work due to a disability in his left arm. He said that one of the guests reminded him of Mr Pattison who was here as a spirit, trying to control the room.

We asked if he was prepared to play a game with us which he was. One of the guests turned his back to those on the board and held up a number of fingers. We then asked George to tell us the number, which he did correctly.

Unfortunately, we did not get much further with George as he was replaced by a spirit, Francis Robert Smithe who had died in 1639 (or possibly 1630) on 29th September. Who apparently fought for the royalists during the English civil war, however, this did not begin until 1643, which casts some doubt on the legitimacy of the facts.

Julie picked up on a small boy in a flat cap in scruffy clothes looking in through the window, he was approx. 8 yes old called Jonny or John.

Rob picked up on World War 1 soldiers walking past and also an old woman.

During this first session, a couple of guests mentioned a spirit with an injury to the side of his face – which Josie and Scooby had also picked up on during their walk round prior to the start of the night.


During a quick interval, it was noticed that several guests who had spirit talker running were getting a large number of Latin words. Something I have not seen before. This may have been a reference to Wirksworth’s Roman past and to the lost settlement of Lutudarum which is believed to have been somewhere in the area. Lead mining has been going on in the hills for at least 2000 years and was one of the most important and affluent lead mines in Roman and Medieval Europe.


After the break we split into two groups

Session 2

Room 1 top floor – Group 1

Josie picked up on suicide.

Emma picked up on a slave on a ship.

The word burning came through on spirit talker.

Josie picked up on 2 names John Sutton and Jake or Jacob.


Room 2 top floor – Group 1

Josie picked up on the name Joseph Knapper.

Pendulum – Group 1

Ex-soldier committed suicide by hanging himself in a shaft after murdering his partner in crime. He and partner found jewels and necklace, possibly from civil war era, who killed his partner by hitting them with a rock to the skull. He is buried near water or possibly the treasure was found by them near water. His body has never been found. Still protecting the treasures hiding place by appearing in front of people and scaring them.

 Room 1 top floor – Group 1

 Josie picked up on a children’s creche and the name Florence.


Store Room – Group 2

Our next session began in the store room, again situated in the oldest part of the museum.

Again, there was reference made to someone with a burn on the side of their face.

The presence of two children  in the door way aged 7-8, were felt by Scooby – a blond-haired boy and girl, poorly dressed and impoverished. The names Dylan and Charlotte came through on spirit talker in quick succession. Scooby felt the boy may have got into trouble for skimming or throwing stones one of which had smashed a window.

At this point we all heard what sounded like the noise of a stone hitting the floor. When we investigated a small pebble was found, with no obvious way in which it had got there. Dropping the stone on the table produced the same noise we had heard.

Sam thought at one point that he had seen a butterfly and several guests reported seeing shadows out of the corner of their eyes.

This is a bit of a jump but “the house of butterflies” was the name given to the leaded gasoline production plant at Dupont, where workers were seen to be swatting butterflies out of their field of vision. This was found to be signs of lead poisoning which was said to cause tremors, insanity and eventual death. Though children did not work in the mines directly, they were usually involved in processing the lead ore. This could actually be more dangerous than the mining itself as they would have been subject to harmful levels of lead dust. It is possible that these children died as a result of lead poisoning and the shadows that we were seeing were a manifestation of what they had seen.

We also had a significant amount of K2 activity. We found one point in the room where we were able to max 6 K2s at once, but only in this one specific point. Moving as little as 50mm away from this point lost all activity.


Session 3


Middle floor – Group 1

Ouija board 

George Babington 26 years old born 1648 and died on this land. He had problems with his teeth and he was murdered here over money. Parents house was on this site. His parents were wealthy and owned land. George was murdered or hung (possibly hung at Derby Gaol).

He killed a woman called Bessie as he was jealous/angry with her. They were to be wed but Bessie changed her mind and broke off the engagement, so George killed her. George and Bessie are both here. 

6 spirits in total 4 were children who are no relation to George. The kids annoy George and he won’t let them speak. The kids were killed in or by accident.

Top Room – Group 2

Our final session took place in the temporary exhibits room situated at the top of the building. We began with a board but unfortunately found we got very little activity.

The following came through on spirit talker close together:

He killed me


A man here


Can you feel us?


We moved into the adjacent room to do a pendulum. Here we found a lot of activity. We were visited by the spirit of Mr Pattison.

He admitted that he oversaw the quarry, knew about and even orchestrated the explosion as a way to cover up his activities. He had been extorting the local residents for a long time, loaning them money, hiking prices and taking deeds to their properties in return. Those who could not pay he had taken from them in other ways, the evidence of which was located in a cavern below the quarry.

When he believed that he was going to be caught, he collapsed the quarry killing several. He showed no remorse for this and was (as far he was concerned) justified in his actions. Several of us around the circle felt a great hatred for this individual as if other spirits, harmed by his actions, were projected their hatred through us.


Injury to face

Whilst reading through some articles and memoirs Sam came across a passage that referred to the hijinks of some local lads. They had built a cannon out of an old pipe and blasting powder which they had “found” around the quarry. They took this device to an old lead mine and whilst loading it, dropped the tin of powder. As they were picking it up, another lad lit a match, the burning end of which dropped in the powder.

No one was killed, but the memories reference several injuries, including facial burns, and one boy who cooled is face in a stream which turned out to be contaminated, resulting in a “shocking infection”. The writer is said to have had to wear a mask for several days and though his eyesight returned the mask took his skin off when it was removed, leaving him with a noticeable facial injury.

They were not prosecuted for “finding” the gunpowder as it was found that the quarrymen had not bothered to take their excess powder back to the store as per regulations, instead hiding it around the site. One of the workers grandsons happened to know these hiding spots. The cannon was thrown down an old mine shaft.

Mine Workings

Though mining/quarry evidence dominates the surface of the surrounding are, early history of mining/quarrying (pre 1800s) is sometimes difficult to find. Many of the workings were economical into the 20th century and therefore early evidence is often destroyed during later extractions. This leaves written records, but these to, are unreliable. Many of the works were small, family run affairs and when these ceased production or were absorbed by larger companies, what little records may have existed were often lost. Even more so, if a cover up did take place, it was evidently successful.

A study “Metal Mines Through Time:” makes these points clear, stating that “…unless a particular machine was particularly expensive and had to be purchased. Often such things such as gin engines went unrecorded”. An “Archaeology of Mining and Quarrying in England” states that “often it is archival material and not field evidence, that provides the best chronological data for a given site, but even that must be applied with caution on account of the frequent practice of sites being re-opened and closed, often over centuries and usually without record”.

Collapses, cave-ins, explosions etc were not uncommon in the early days of mining and many incidents went unreported. It is very possible this is the case with the information we found.



Derbyshire records office holds several references to a John, Stephen and Thomas Pattison who appear to be involved in a number of property transactions from the late 1600s to the mid 1750s. One entry shows the following:

  1. Mar. 27 1738 Lease for a year from John Pattison and others to John Copeland, butler to Sir F. Rodes, of 2 cottages at the west end of Barlebrough.
  2. Mar. 28 1738 as 4. Release.
  3. Easter 1738 Fine from Pattison etc. to Copeland of property as above.

This appears to show Pattison leasing land, releasing them from the lease to be followed by a subsequent undisclosed fine.


By 1901, Wirksworth had a population of 4726 people living in 910 with at least 5% of the households described as overcrowded. By 1913 the situation was such that: an upper middle class could expect to pay 1/8 of their yearly wage on rent, a middle-class family could expect to pay 1/6 of theirs and a lower-class family would expect to pay as much as 1/3 of the yearly income on rent, and the situation was not improving.

It is not surprising therefore that an ex-serviceman with a work-restricting disability would find themselves homeless even in this small town.