About this image
Photograph copied from old album in January 1993, re-copied from print 2008.
Willersley Castle (now a Grade II listed building) stands on the south side of a commanding eminence, that forms the eastern boundary of the Derwent in its course through Matlock Dale: the river flowing at the foot of the hill, in a grand sweep eastward.
The castle consists of an oblong, square building, with a circular tower rising from the centre of the roof, and a semicircular tower projecting from the front on each side of the entrance; and two wings, with a round tower at each angle: the whole structure is embattled, and the exterior walls are of white freestone.
It was built in 1789/90 for Sir Richard Arkwright, who had purchased the Manor of Willersley in 1782. He was the cotton manufacturing entrepreneur, who had built his first cotton mills at Cromford about 1770. His work for the British cotton industry earned him a personal fortune and a Knighthood in 1786. He employed the Welshman, William Thomas, as his Architect, who designed a picturesque house in classical style to suit the grandeur of its commanding position on the hills overlooking the River Derwent.
While it was still being built, and the Arkwrights were living at the Rock House across the river at Cromford, the new house was completely gutted by fire on the night of 8th August 1791, and Sir Richard died a year later before he had ever lived in it. However, it was rebuilt (to designs by Thomas Gardner and the locally-born Edward Blore) and enjoyed by his eldest son, another Richard Arkwright, and then by his third son Peter and his descendants. However, Peter Arkwright's great-grandson did not wish to live there, and it was sold in 1928 to the Wesley Guild. It opened to the public in 1929 and in 1991, was run as a conference and holiday centre, still by the Wesley Guild although then trading under the name Christian Guild Holidays.
Above text taken from information at www.wirksworth.org.uk