Review of ‘O'er Back and on the Hillock’, by Jack Doxey

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 17th June 2002, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Jack Doxey
Republished by Wirksworth & District Historical Society
ISBN 0-906753-15-5 (2002)

Sub-titled 'Reminiscences of The Dale and Greenhill, Wirksworth' this book has just been re-printed after a lapse of 14 years. It was written by the late Jack Doxey, who was brought to live in this part of Wirksworth shortly after his birth in 1903. He saw publication of his reminiscences in 1989.

That first edition became a 'collector's item' and a great many people have been disappointed at being unable to buy a copy. Naturally it is of immense interest to the people of Wirksworth, as well as to descendants of others who lived there before and during the author's lifetime, for he also passed on stories gleaned from his own elders.

For instance, Jack himself was not old enough to remember many of the earlier business which had passed into local lore - The Recruiting Sergeant pub, the blacksmith and farrier, a coffee house, a gingham manufacturer and his own great-grandfather who was a horseshoe nail maker living in The Dale.

During his own lifetime he saw in one area the disappearance of 11 out of 30 houses and 3 out of 5 shops. He watched lead miners coming home after a hard day at the mines, women setting out in the early morning for work in the tape mills, the quarryman's wife regularly lowering his dinner down to him on a piece of string, and heard the curfew bell ringing every evening at dusk. He knew of men named Abanathan, Moses and Luther - he was the town crier and lamplighter, and saw the massive expansion of a quarry which ate up the land to within a yard of the Methodist chapel.

Ninety years ago the steepest part of Greenhill, with a gradient close to 1 in 3, was used by Rolls Royce for stop and start tests on their cars. Jack could remember a time when there were 170 houses on Greenhill and in The Dale; in 1986 there were less than 80 in the whole area. The loss of this tight-knit and supportive community, with its 'a labyrinth of twitchells connecting all the small houses', was a source of sorrow to Jack Doxey but fortunately he lived long enough to see The Dale and Greenhill come back to life, with the rescue of buildings once thought to be beyond salvation.

Review by Julie Bunting

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