The development of Methodism in the Matlock and Wirksworth area is very complex, with chapels belonging to two or even three denominations in some villages.
Until 1812 the Matlock area was in the Belper Wesleyan Circuit. The Cromford Circuit was set up that year. Between 1853 and 1858 the circuit comprised 26 causes, with a very wide geographical spread, and included Cromford, Wirksworth, Matlock and Matlock Bath. It changed its name to Matlock Bath in 1866 and to Matlock in 1874, becoming Trinity Circuit in 1932. In 1940 Trinity Circuit comprised twelve churches, including Trinity itself at the junction of Matlock Bank and Oak Road, Matlock Bath, Cromford and Wirksworth.
Matlock Bank PM Circuit was the Winster and Matlock Circuit until 1883, covering a very wide area of West Derbyshire, and in the Sheffield PM District. By 1949 there were four churches, including Matlock Bank and Matlock Moor. As the name suggests, Matlock Bank church was situated up a very steep road, served at one time by trams conveying patrons to Smedley’s famous Hydro.
The United Methodist strand was known as the Imperial Road UM Circuit, comprising in 1949 ten churches, including Wirksworth.
There was a lot of coming and going between the Matlock and Wirksworth areas, but most circuit churches were in Matlock itself. Even after Methodist Union in1932 identities and allegiance survived. The three circuits eventually came together in 1949 to form a new circuit including sixteen churches from the former circuits, plus Darley Hillside (from the Peak and Bradwell Circuit) and Winster East (from the Wirksworth and Winster Circuit). Five churches had joined the Cromford and Wirksworth Circuit and the three Crich churches moved to the Ripley Circuit.
The Wirksworth and Winster PM Circuit was the successor to the Winster PM Circuit, which spread its boundaries quite widely. At one time this included not only Rowsley near Bakewell, but the hamlet of Gorsey Bank (now part of Wirksworth) famed for the production of the wartime red tape. There was also a Wirksworth United Methodist Circuit.
Between 1949 and 1970 the Wirksworth Circuit (formed from Winster and Wirksworth and parts of the former UM and WM Matlock Circuits) comprised eighteen causes, three of them in Wirksworth itself and two of the Crich chapels. In 1970 the circuit was renamed Wirksworth and Cromford Circuit, but in 1974 reverted to its former name. By 1996 only five causes survived, including Wirksworth and the adjacent hamlet of Bolehill.
In 2006 the Matlock and Wirksworth Circuits combined to form the Derbyshire Dales Circuit.
In Matlock itself the original Wesleyan chapel was built in 1840 on Snitterton Road and was referred to in the records as Matlock Bridge. A new church was built in 1882 at the junction of Bank Road and Oak Road, and was known as Trinity. The PMs built Matlock Bank Road in 1865. In 1965 the three main Methodist churches in Matlock - Trinity (WM), Bank Road (PM) and Imperial (UMC) - amalgamated, using Trinity only. The Imperial Road premises were sold to the Town Council. Bank Road became a Sunday School and caretaker’s residence, before being converted for residential use.
In 1990 the Matlock Methodist Church and the Matlock United Reformed Church united to form a single Church.
Wirksworth had a number of chapels, including one at Gorsey Bank and a UMC preaching house at Folly Corner, now a private house. From 1815 the Primitive Methodists met in a house at the top of The Dale owned by Joseph and Hannah Frost. At that time the circuit church was at Kniveton, but this was transferred to Wirksworth in 1860, by which time a large chapel had been opened at the bottom of The Dale. (It celebrated its centenary in 1959.) The Wesleyans had Ebenezer in Chapel Lane, while the UMC had a larger church in St. John Street, Warmbrook, not far from Folly Corner at the opposite end of town; this became known as Bede Memorial Church.
The three strands eventually came together under one roof in 1960 and settled at The Dale Chapel. When this became too costly to maintain, it was replaced by the refurbished Adam Bede Memorial Chapel, which by 1971 was the only Methodist church in Wirksworth. Ebenezer Chapel was rented out for some years, was badly damaged by fire, and is now a private residence called ‘Ebenezer House'. The Dale Chapel and school were eventually converted into a house and two very stylish maisonettes in 2010. Bolehill also closed in 2010 and the congregation transferred to Wirksworth.