WW1 Day at Crich Tramway Museum


Last Sunday, July 19, we headed off to Derbyshire with our 16-year-old grandson to visit the Crich Tramway Museum (the letter i in Crich is pronounced like the word ‘eye’). The museum is situated in the Crich Tramway Village, close to the town of Matlock and is an hour-and-a-half drive from where we live:

Map of Derbyshire civil parishes, highlighting Matlock Town. Author: Rcsprinter. Commons
Map of Derbyshire civil parishes, highlighting Matlock Town. Author: Rcsprinter. Commons

We specifically picked this weekend because it was a World War One weekend, and the event was attended by a number of people in period costume or WW1 army uniform. A re-enactment group were also in uniform or other Edwardian dress. Shop windows displayed WW1 foods and there were various recruitment posters about:

It’s thirteen years since we last visited Crich, when Kieran was only three. On that occasion, it was a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend, and Kieran was mad about all the different, colourful engines. His love of Thomas and friends dwindled very soon afterwards, when real steam engines took over. His passion for those has never waned. In fact, trams fall a long way short for him, but he enjoyed the day well enough.

The heart of the village is Tramway Street, a cobbled street with a shiny ‘lacework’of metal running along it, flanked by period buildings. Above, the overhead wire has been described as ‘a mad woman’s knitting’. Both the tracks and wires have been retrieved from towns and cities all over the country…

… as have the buildings and street furniture, some of which were moved stone by stone from their original destinations. There is a pub – the Red Lion Pub, a cafe (Rita’s Tearooms) an old-style sweetshop, the Yorkshire Penny Bank and the impressive Derby Assembly Rooms with its grand Georgian frontage (originally built between 1765 and 1774). It now houses the video theatre and other displays about Britain’s tramways. There is a bandstand in a little park area, and a number of old gas lamps and a couple of telephone boxes. The village is also home to the Eagle Press, a small museum dedicated to letterpress printing, including an 1859 Columbian printing press:

The Bowes-Lyon Bridge (seen above) crosses the road. From up there we could watch the trams going underneath us. These pictures give a good view of the ‘mad woman’s knitting’ design of the wires, with the tracks beneath:

There are fifty trams on display at Crich, both single and double-deckers, some from places abroad, including France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, South Africa and the U.S. The idea is to portray each of the significant stages in the evolution of the British tramcar. The gaps have been filled in with tramcars from outside the U.K.

Several trams run through the village and visitors can ride up and down the one-mile track along the edge of the beautiful Derwent Valley.

019 (2)

018 (2)

Visitors can get on and off a variety of trams at different spots to view the sites. These include a lead mine, with the rails for the trolleys, a woodland walk with some unusual wooden sculptures (several of the Green Man) and views of the quarry:

The Derwent Valley was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its historical importance. The valley can rightly be described as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The village of Cromford, only a mile away, was where Richard Arkwright built his new mill in 1771. George Stevenson, the great railway pioneer, had a close connection with Crich and the present tramway follows part of the mineral railway he built to link the quarry with the village of  Ambergate.

On their arrival in Britain in 1860 from the US (where they were developed) trams were welcomed as a means of transport that gave a far smoother ride than previous horse drawn buses. They also provided a far cheaper form of urban transport for the masses. When the electric tram arrived in 1900, it was a wonder of the age. By the 1920s there were 14,000 electric trams in Britain. The trams at Crich mostly ran along the streets of cities in United Kingdom before the 1960s, with some trams rescued and restored (even from other countries) as the systems closed.

Besides the trams constantly rumbling along the streets, there are many inside the exhibition halls to be brought out on different days, and some in the workshop undergoing restoration:

Decline of the trams came after WW1, notably when the internal combustion engine was developed. Vehicles powered that way offered reliability and perceived low cost, and were not restricted to rails. However, it took many years before buses became swifter and carried more passengers than trams. Even when the motor car was developed, public transport still thrived. But few towns invested in new trams and the cheaper buses eventually took over. By the 1950s only a handful of tramway systems were left. Blackpool closed before the 60s and Glasgow Corporation Tramways in 1962.

There has been a recent revival with new networks such as the Croydon Tramlink, Sheffield Supertram, Midland Metro, Edinburgh Trams, Manchester Metrolink, and Nottingham Express Transit being built and extended. Whether or not other cities will follow remains to be seen.

Here’s a smile inducing piece of information to end with, complete with illustration, from inside the Discovery Centre:

37 thoughts on “WW1 Day at Crich Tramway Museum

    1. Thank you, Bekki. It’s another great place to visit. We’re going to the WW2 Event there in August, but I doubt I’ll be doing a post about that as well. I’m really back into my historical posts now – probably because it’s summer (at least I think it is. After this afternoon’s weather, I’m beginning to doubt it). We’ve had several trips out lately, and the posts I want to do are just building up! 🙂

      1. That’s intriguing me, why does summer encourage historical posts? Or am I reading that wrong?

      2. I wasn’t meaning historical posts in general, Bekki. I could do those at any time. I meant posts about places I’m visiting this summer. There are a lot of historical events going on over through July to September, and we’ve planned to visit a few of them. I went to one on Saturday about King John at Newark Castle, so will be posting about that when I get time! I already have a couple to do before I get to that one. There’s a great joust coming up soon, too… The list goes on. You don’t get many of these events in winter. (Now that was a very long-winded explanation. Hope it made sense. 🙂

      3. Ah, I see. A joust sounds interesting – never been to one of those. Look forward to your posts 🙂

    1. Thank you! Perhaps the poster appeals to you because it’s in a similar style to your work – other than the colour? I’m gald you like it, anyway. Best wishes to you, too.

  1. Beautiful post! I love learning little bits of history. Such a glorious countryside. Love the wooden sculptures. I absolutely drool over that sort of artistry. (Love your tagline my friend. Brilliant!)

    1. Hi again, Belinda. Thank you for your nice comments about my post. 🙂 It’s funny you should notice the tagline. It’s been there since I started my blog last July! I didn’t realise it was called a tagline (this is a ‘Me Dimbo’ moment!). When I mentioned to my daughter (who also had a WP blog) that I’d like to use the tagline you had suggested she hooted. ‘You’ve already got one’! was the general gist of her merriment. My very first post had the same title. 😀

      1. Ha! Love it! Aren’t we a right pair! I can’t even remember how that all started now?! This one came up in the WordPress reader but I don’t think it was on your website?!? lol! 🙂

      2. I don’t believe for one moment that you are as ‘technically challenged’ as me! Louise (afairymind at thestorytellersabode) constantly tuts and shakes her head in exasperation! 😀

      3. Ha! Love it. I think being technically challenged means you are closer to enlightenment. It’s not a bad thing at all 🙂

  2. Lovely pictures with some history. I particularly loved the pictures of the woods and green men. And for some odd reason the pictures with all the cables on display was interesting don’t know why.

    1. The Woodland Walk is fun, especially if you have children. It’s a little task they set to find all the different sculptures. Riding on the different trams is fun, too. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Jack, We had a great day out there. I let Kieran loose with the camera so I could read more of the information boards. I surprised myself by finding trams interesting. 🙂 The village is presented beautifully, which I really liked. Talk again soon…

      1. Thank you again! We have so many places to visit this summer, but the weather is awful at the moment. We seem to have nothing but rain and wind this year. I’ll be up at Hadrian’s Wall in a week’s time – just for a few days. It’s another of my favourite places. Hope all is now well with you …

  3. What a historical place to visit! The photos you captured are amazing! ❤ Those wooden sculptures are very unusual compared to those we usually see, but I find them interesting. Hope you had an amazing time with your grandson! 😉

    1. I can imagine how different those sculptures are to those in HK. Scuptures, like any art, reflect a country’s culture and are wonderful for that. You have some awesome ones out there. Many of those in this woodland walk were of the Green Man, a character well known in English (pagan) folklore. They pop up all over the country, in the oddest places. 🙂
      We had a lovely day out, thank you, Khloe, and it was Kieran who took the photos as we went round. ❤

      1. Oh yes you are totally right. Sculptures are definitely a form of art which well reflect a country’s cultture😉 Very interesting to know about a famous character Green Man.

        Glad you all enjoyed the day out! Nothing is more amazing than spending a great time with family! ❤️ Wow, Kieran has great eyes for wonderful photos 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

      2. If I tell Kieran that, it will go to his head. 🙂 But he’s a good lad, and does love taking photos. He’s very photogenic himself, too.

      3. Haha maybe you keep it first then tell him when you know it won’t go to his head😝 Such a great kid he is 😉 What a handsome grandson you have😊😊😊

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