Local resident and Derbyshire Life subscriber Charlotte Cupit waxes lyrical over a town steeped in history and geared for the future.

Even though everyone is welcome in Clay Cross, I’m proud to have grown up here, while my family have lived here for over 60 years.  

It’s also a real honour to have been elected last year as a county councillor to represent our town, particularly as we’re about to see changes through a £24m regeneration Town Deal.  

Whilst change is on the way now, this is a town used to adapting: famous for its mining heritage and for being the home of the political beasts of the Skinners and the 1970s Rent Rebels, Clay Cross was originally developed by the father of the railways, George Stephenson.  

Stephenson discovered coal and iron, which then grew into major industries for the town in the form of the Biwater iron pipe manufacturing centre.  

This brownfield site is now being redeveloped into a new major housing and employment area. Industry is still important in the town though, with businesses such as Worcester Bosch making boilers and Riber Products producing canoes and other leisure accessories.  

The history of Clay Cross is very visible from wherever you are. You’re usually standing on it, as the ‘Mile Long’ railway tunnel runs under the centre of the town and reminds us of its presence via various ventilation shafts on the main streets.  

Even before then, if you’re on the main Derby Road, you’re on the site of the original Roman road of Rykneld Street.  

The town centre is a designated Conservation Area, with historic architecture such as the Italianate style clock tower building, former constabulary house and the stunning spire of the grade II listed St Bartholomew’s Church.  

One of the Victorian buildings on the High Street formerly accommodated an aerated water company - it feels like we’ve come full circle with the sustainable move back to returnable glass bottles!  

The building has now long been home to an award-winning ice cream manufacturer (Smiths Creamland Ices) where you can buy old-fashioned ‘quarters’ of sweets from the hundreds of jars on display.  

The High Street and Market Street form the traditional centre of the town and incorporate other established businesses such as Clay Cross DIY (where you really can buy fork handles or four candles), florists (who have a side line in local honey), traditional butchers and pet shops - as well as beauticians, vintage clothes and an antiques store and a retro shop.  

The town has also recently seen the launch of several new businesses, including 5a botanicals – where you’re guaranteed to come out with a new house plant! 

Last, but definitely not least, there’s the thriving The Hub S45, a local charity and community hub which incorporates a tearoom with delicious offerings; meeting spaces and a few shops, such as Cup and Saucer, producing a variety of hand-blended teas and selling other local foods and products. 

You’re never far away from a pitstop and I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite between Host Coffee, Brew’d or Poppy’s Café. 

Apologies to the others I’ve missed off, but this just highlights why you need to make return visits to the town to discover them all. 

Now, more than ever, it’s important to support our local high streets and businesses, and there really is everything available in the town for your weekly shop, a treat or gift.  

Many of the shops and businesses also take part in the Totally Locally campaign which runs a regular fiver fest of deals, and Gail Hannan (of Cup and Saucer) runs this alongside popular events at The Hub - look out for their Christmas and spring markets too.  

There’s also plenty to remind you that you’re in the Derbyshire countryside. 

Great British Life: The locally-treasured Clay Cross coal tubsThe locally-treasured Clay Cross coal tubs (Image: Charlotte Cupit)

One of the churches hosts a community garden, whilst the High Street is always in bloom with some lovely flower displays, including the locally-treasured Clay Cross coal tubs, which were recently rebuilt by a local business and almost caused a local search party whilst they were gone.  

Surrounding the historic centre of the town, and the newer developments, are some fantastic green spaces to walk off any of the delicious local food or drink you’ve had a little too much of. 

On one side of the town is the popular Kenning Park, which has a woodland and pond area to explore, whilst on the other side is Sharley Park, where you can have a go at activities such as disc golf or simply take a walk around.  

The leisure centre in the middle of Sharley Park is set for redevelopment as part of the Town Deal investment projects, with work due to start on a new leisure and community hub next to the current centre at the start of next year.  

Other projects include the regeneration of the town centre, a new skills and enterprise hub and support for low carbon businesses and spaces.  

Heritage is also key, as something locals and visitors alike value, so there are plans to regenerate some of the historic buildings and improving connections to the town by working on the potential of re-opening a railway station.   

Looking back at photos of the town from previous centuries, it’s amazing how much has changed, so it will be interesting to see what will look different over the next few years.  

I know though that even in five, ten or 15 years’ time, the same community spirit and heart will be easily identifiable whenever you are in Clay Cross – and I hope for all readers that’s very soon indeed! 


Kenning Park 

Named after local businessman George Kenning, who gifted the park to the community in the 1930s, Kenning Park – found to the back of Clay Cross Library – is a beautiful recreation ground that has something for all the family. 

As well as the obligatory children’s play area, woodland, water and wildlife makes for both a revitalising stroll as well as a great way to educate children to the world around them. 

Such is the popularity of Kenning Park, an online group – Kenning Park Community Group – exists which has close to 1,000 members. 

Local landmarks 

If you find yourself in Clay Cross, you’re only 20 minutes or so away from two famed Derbyshire landmarks which are well worth incorporating into your day out. 

Just seven miles away along the A617 and down the M1 you’ll find the National Trust-run Hardwick Hall, whilst Bolsover Castle stands just eight miles north east of the town.