There are a number of web sites and books on the history of Clay Cross.
For web sites see Links, for books visit Scarthin Books. These books
include Cliff William’s excellent books on ‘Driving the Clay Cross
Tunnel’, ‘Clay Cross and the Clay Cross Company’, ‘Clay Cross Community
and Company’ and ‘Clay Cross The Third Selection’ and Terry Judge ‘The
Clay Cross Calamities’.
The following section is reproduce with the permission of John Mills,
which appeared on his Ashover site.
In 1846 Samuel Bagshaw
published a gazetteer and directory of Derbyshire in which we have a
description of Clay Cross or Clay Lane, as it was then known, in the
parish of North Wingfield.
With the centre of the town some 400 feet above sea level, Clay Cross is
a prominent landmark on the A61 road. It is practically midway between
Derby and Sheffield, both being about 20 miles in distance. Sections of
the A61 in Derbyshire trace the same route as the old Roman road,
Rykneld Street. This applies to Clay Cross and some years ago Roman
coins and other relics were found on Stretton Road.
It was at the crossroads where Stretton Road now meets High Street and
joins with Clay Lane and Thanet Street, that stood the cross from which
it is said the town derived its name. Early Christians are thought to
have erected it on a pilgrimage.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Clay Cross was mainly a rural
area, but George Stephenson the railway pioneer changed that. Driving a
tunnel under Clay Cross hill for his main line from Derby to Leeds, he
found coal and iron. Very soon afterwards Stephenson founded the Clay
Cross Company. Ironworks flourished and several colliery shafts were
sunk. Parkhouse Colliery was the scene of a disaster in 1882 when 34
lives were lost, and in the local cemetery a memorial was erected to the
victims of that tragic disaster.
Clay Cross Parish Church was founded in 1851, although the ancient
font dates back to the thirteenth century, but the churchyard was closed
for new graves in 1878 so heavy was the death rate.
Clay Cross can claim to be among the pioneers of universal education,
for as far back as 1854 Clay Cross Company built a block of school
buildings out of the first profits made by the firm, and it was claimed
that they were the first to provide nearly free education for local
children. Workmen of the Company paid twopence per week no matter how
many children they had at the school, which was open to other children
in the area at a slightly higher fee.
Another long established business is that of the Kenning Motor Group
which was founded in the town by Mr. Frank Kenning, JP., who opened a
hardware business. Under the chairmanship of the late Sir George
Kenning, the main activities of the company were guided into
distribution and maintenance of motor transport.