Parwich & District Local History Society

Newsletter number 13 (May 2003)

Free to members (£1 to non-members)


All Saints Church, Ballidon:

A long history but an uncertain future?

Copyright © 2003 Rob Francis

‘Could we but read it right there’s not a furrow in these time worn walls but has its history.’

This could not be truer than at Ballidon Church. Charles Cox uses this quotation at the start of his ‘Notes on Churches of Derbyshire’, published in 1877 which devotes four detailed pages to the small church at Ballidon. Having stood in its current position for  almost a 1000 years it is easy to overlook this secluded building. It takes a final service (reported in The Ashbourne Telegraph on April 23rd) to alert us to the surprising and delightful piece of history across the valley from Parwich. The reason for this article was a result of reading about the last service that took place on Saturday 18th April with a congregation of over 100 people.

There is no record of when the church was built though it seems to be of Norman origin and there may well have been a wooden church on the site before the stone one was built. What it does imply is that there was a thriving community at this time. There is clear evidence of this today with the house platforms, the holloways and ridge and furrow field patterns that surround the church and extend below it on the far side of the road. Ballidon appears in the Doomsday Book as Belidene but occupation before this is certain as a mid-tenth century charter gives an earlier date of 963, when King Edgar granted five hides at Ballidon to an Ethelferth. It is likely that the community of this date was extensive enough to support a site for Christian worship. Ballidon was designated as a chapel-of-ease, a term used for a place of worship that lay some distance from the parish church and created for the convenience of its inhabitants. During the medieval period many such chapels on the edges of growing towns became established and flourishing parish churches, Ballidon has remained stolidly as it always was, a small chapel-of-ease surrounded by a shrinking village.

The church is first mentioned when Bradbourne was given to Dunstable priory in 1205 and four monks were sent to serve it and the three chapelries of Tissington, Brassington and Ballidon. A close look at the outside walls show that the chapel has been extended, altered, rebuilt and changed a number of times. The west wall is made up almost entirely of faced sandstone whilst other walls are made up of a mixture limestone rubble, sandstone and faced limestone, which in themselves point to rebuilding and renovation at various times. Writing in 1877 Charles Cox says the chapel was extensively rebuilt in 1822 and Nikolaus Pevesner (1953) claims the chapel was much restored in 1882. Further evidence of restoration is the blocked up door in the north wall which is clearly visible from the outside but later internal restoration has left no sign of it inside the church. The closer you look, the less precise the facts and the more intriguing and complex the hints of its past history.

Take the font for example. Pevesner claims that it is perpendicular but a close look suggests to me that the rich but rough carvings are more Norman in character, some carved strangely upside down. There is the face of a bridled animal, a fish, a man holding what looks to be a writing tablet as well as numerous other more abstract tracery and motifs.  One suggestion given for this speculates that perhaps the font started life as the base for a cross that was   subsequently upended and remodelled into a font. It remains relatively undamaged and the question has to be asked how it survived the reformation when most similar local fonts and crosses disappeared. (The Bradbourne cross for example, or Tissington and Alsop fonts).  Charles Cox describes various figures and designs on the font but is unable to make them out clearly because ‘they are much choked up with plaster and whitewash’. Since Cox saw the font it has obviously been extensively renovated as there is no lack of clarity with the carvings. It is possible that during the reformation, instead of physically removing the font or destroying it, the carvings were submerged beneath a thick layer of plaster and whitewash that kept them hidden well into the 19th and possibly 20th century.

On the south wall above the font is a fireplace used by visiting preachers during their overnight stay in the village, suggesting a room installed at a higher level. Cox also mentions the presence of crude pen and ink frescoes which according to one church warden made the chapel look like ‘a bad place’ with the result that they were plastered over. It also seems that until the restoration in 1822 there was an earth floor which was annually strewn with rushes as was the custom of the day in many smaller churches.


The Norman chapel of ease at Ballidon has been used for worship, baptism and marriage for nearly 1,000 years.  It was not licensed for burials, so it has only a small churchyard


High on the west wall of the nave is a fire-place, this may have been in a room, used to accommodate visiting clergy


Looking east from the font, we see a nineteenth century replacement of the Norman     chancel arch.


The ancient carved font, with a detail shown above right, fortunately survived the Reformation.  One explanation is that it was plastered and painted, hiding the carvings from the ‘reformers’.

Occasional references are to be found of Ballidon in the annals of Dunstable. In 1227 there is reference of the priory receiving the first crops from Ballidon and Tissington.. In 1287 there was a dispute between some parishioners who brought under cultivation part of a meadow held by the priory. Only three sheaves were given as tithes and a dispute ensued which was mediated by a neutral party, William from Atlow, who decided that the sheaves rendered would suffice but that the field in future should be left fallow to avoid further disputes. On 18th September 1547 in the first year of the reign of Edward V1 (and at the height of the reformation when there were careful audits of church belongings) the chapel possessed amongst other things a chalice, hand bell, sacring bell and vestments. By this time it is likely that the village surrounding the chapel had already considerably shrunk and drifted north to where the remaining hamlet can been seen today. It was still, however, inhabited enough to be able to maintain the chapel. Its isolated nature may even have been an advantage. In 1635 a William Alsop, ordained priest, was named as ‘officiant in clandestine marriages’ at Ballidon. Perhaps it was secluded and hidden enough to escape to for couples on the run from disapproving parents - a sort of local Gretna Green. The outcome of this was that William  Alsop was declared ‘a man unfit for the ministry and scandalous’.

Hidden as it continues to be, its future now hangs in the balance, its first real crisis of uncertainty in 1000 years. Discussions are to take place this summer about its possible future uses and now perhaps it silently demands, and may receive, the sort of attention it deserves. There is a lot more than meets the eye in this old chapel-of-ease and perhaps the time has come for us to continue deciphering the writing ‘in these time worn walls’.


Notes of Churches of Derbyshire’ by J.Charles Cox. 1877  (A version of this can be obtained at

‘The Old Parish Churches of Derbyshire’ by Alan Salter   1998

‘Buildings of Derbyshire’ by Nickolas Pevesner  1953


Parwich Unity Club 1910 to 1935

Copyright © 2003 Peter Trewhitt

In the first decade of the twentieth century both the Crown and Wheat Sheaf Inns in Parwich closed down, leaving only the Sycamore.  Presumably this was a significant factor in establishing the Parwich Unity Club, with was first registered on 12th March 1910.  Its object was “to afford its members the means of social intercourse, mutual helpfulness, mental and moral improvement, and rational recreation.”

The signatures that appeared on this initial registration were John Etches, John Edge, William Webster Jun., Frank Gibbs, Thomas Steeples, Harry Blackwell, John Prince and John William Burford (Secretary).  The club was housed in what is now called Hideaway Cottage, behind the shop.  It had a light outside with the name Unity Club on the glass.  Presumably this was one of the carbide lamps powered from the small shed by the Memorial Hall, just across the footpath in front of Hideaway Cottage.

Membership fees were 1/- half yearly, that is 5p in ‘new money’ twice a year.  Opening hours were 9am to 11pm on weekdays and 10am to 2-30pm and 6pm to 9pm on Sundays.  It was licensed to sell intoxicants from 11-30am to 3pm and 5-30 to 10pm on weekdays and from 12 to 2pm and 6 to 9pm on Sundays, Xmas Day and Good Friday.  The number of members was recorded each year:-





























































John William Burford was Secretary of the Club for most of its 25 years, though he was replaced for a short while in 1919 by J H Hudson, when membership hit an all time low.  One wonders what disagreements arose that year.  He was also replaced by Leonard Roberts in 1935, not long before the Club closed down, and again a low point in the number of members.  Mr Burford was for a number of years the local Registrar of births, deaths and marriages and lived in the house now opposite the Parwich British Legion Club.  He and his sons were keen pigeon fanciers and bred birds for racing in pigeon lofts in their garden.  The Burfords moved away from the village in the 1930s.

In 1922 Albert Beresford, Owen Twigge, Robert Ward, and John William Burford signed an amendment to the rules of the Club.

In 1926 the club moved to larger premises in the Fold (see Newsletter no. 8).  They set up an outdoor skittle alley in the garden made from old railway sleepers.  The new premises proved to be too expensive.  Abel Shipley was told that in the last years of the Club, the administration had become very lax, and finally it only had two members.  Abel’s father had left several years previously because he was unhappy with the way it was going.  Abel’s informant, one of the two remaining paid up members, reported that they were refused registration and forced to disband the Club.  The Club had been registered in 1935 with 95 members, but does not appear in the 1936 Register.  After everything was sorted there was a balance of £30, which was divided between the two members.  The Fold was sold to Col. Crompton-Inglefield for £630.  Mr Burford had been replaced as Secretary in 1935, presumably this was when the Burfords moved away and the collapse of the Club reflected in part the fact that no one was willing to put in the work he had.

The closure of the Unity Club left a gap in the village, but the advent of the Second World War delayed any replacement.  After the War local fund raising enabled the opening of the Parwich British Legion Club in 1951.  The Legion Club had similar hours and similar objectives, which were: “To carry on the business of a club by providing for the use of its members the means of social intercourse, mutual improvement, rational recreation and the advantages of a club.  Also further to advance that companionship which sprang up whilst serving their Country.”  The first Secretary of the Legion Club was Albert Beresford, who had been an active member of the Unity Club.

If any one has any further information on the Unity Club or any photographs we would be very interested to hear from you.

Sources and references

Information given by Abel Shipley based on his own memories and what others had told him.

Ashbourne Petty Sessions Register of Clubs

Vol. Jan 1903 – Feb 1939

Vol. Feb 1939 – Feb 1958

(Held in Derbyshire County Records Office, Matlock)

Rules of the Parwich Unity Club 1910 (copy in the Petty Sessions Register of Clubs)

Rules of Parwich British Legion Club 1951 (copy in the Petty Sessions Register of Clubs)

Peter Trewhitt (2002) “The Fold” P&DLHS Newsletter no. 8 (Feb. 2002) pp. 4-8




Copyright © 2003 David Webster

Thanks to the Parwich History web site and the Census details going back to 1841 I have been able to trace my family back to that date.  It starts back in 1841 with the family of William Webster (49) and his wife Lucy (50) who were my great great grandparents. They are recorded as living at The Mount, and William’s occupation was a butcher.  William and Lucy at that time had six children living at home, the eldest of whom, was James (26).  In the Census the letters ‘JI’ are recorded in the column for his occupation but the meaning of this entry is not known.  James was my great grandfather and he married a local Parwich woman, Ann Alsop.  In the 1851 census James and Ann are shown as living at The Mount with four of their children.  My grandfather is not shown as he was not born until 1858.  James followed in his father’s footsteps and was a butcher.  Unfortunately James died when he was still only forty-two years old but to date I don’t know the cause of his death.  I do know that prior to his death he and his wife Ann had built a cottage on The Green.  Which one it is I don’t know but I think it must still have been incomplete at the time of his death, as I have been told that it still had earth floors.  Ann was left with five children to bring up.  Ann was the village mid-wife.  Whether that was something she took up after her husband’s death to support her own family or whether she had been a mid-wife before that occurred I don’t know.  By the time of the 1861 census Ann was widowed.  It does not record where she and her four children were living but I think they would be at The Green.  My grandfather was then 3 years old so he would not really have known his father.  The 1871 census does record the family as living at The Green but then in 1881, when James is the only one left at home with his mother, again no address is given but I would suspect that they were still at The Green.  By this time James is also a Cattle Dealer.  By the 1891 census James had married and moved with his wife to Blanch Meadow.  James had married Mary Clews.  Mary was also from a farming family who farmed land at ‘Broad Close’, Tissington.  This is a farm that stands just back from the Ashbourne to Buxton Road past Tissington Lane end.  Mary was the youngest of six children.  By the time she married both her parents had died and her eldest brother farmed the land.  In the 1901 census my grandparents are shown as living at Dam Side Farm, Parwich and my grandfather is described as being a farmer (on his own account) and butcher.  At that time they had seven children living at home with them.  That was not the full extent of their family though.  Their first child,    Arthur, had gone to live with my grandmother’s sister Florence.  Florence had married her second cousin Samuel Clews and they farmed land at Elms Farm, Littleover near Derby.  They had no children of their own and, as I think it was quite common in those days, they helped out by bringing up and educating a relative’s child from a large family.  I am told that one son, John, had been killed in a sledging accident whilst still quite young.  The youngest daughter, Thirza, was yet to be born.  So James and Mary Webster had ten children in all.  They were Arthur, Florence, James, Samuel, Leonard, Lucy, Mary, George (my father), Thirza and John who had died.

James and Mary Webster of Blanche Meadow

Four brothers went to the Great War and the family had the good fortune that all returned

By the time the Great War started in 1914 Arthur was still farming at Littleover, and Samuel was serving in the Police at Sheffield.  They volunteered for the army, as likewise did Leonard and George when they were old enough.  Samuel was a Corporal in the Military Police and my father served in the Royal Horse Artillery.  I think Leonard was also in the R.H.A. but I’m not sure about Arthur.  During that war so many thousands of soldiers were killed that I think it must be something of a record that all the brothers returned from the war unscathed.  James was the only brother not to go to the war and he was farming on his own account.  He farmed at the ‘Cherry Orchard’ in Fenny Bentley.  That is the farm that stands next to the Coach & Horses public house and looks rather like an old castle.  This land is still farmed by his relatives.After the war Samuel returned to serve with the Sheffield City Police and eventually retired in the rank of Chief Inspector. He married and had two daughters.  Leonard married and had one daughter.  He started farming at the farm at Bradbourne Mill, which is the farm that stands on the main road opposite to Tissington Ford.  Eventually the farm at Broad Close, Tissington became available and he and his family moved there and he continued to farm that land for the rest of his life.  The farm then passed on to his daughter and her family.  Arthur returned to Elms Farm at Littleover with his aunt and uncle.  He then took over a market garden called “The Vineries” at Littleover and made a success of that.  He lived and worked there for the rest of his life.  He married and was survived by a son and three daughters.  The land he worked was later sold and was built on many years ago.  That just leaves my father, George.  After the war he worked for his father for a time, then he went to work for his brother Leonard at Bradbourne Mill.  When Arthur took over his market garden George moved to Littleover to work at Elms Farm.  It was while he was there that he met my mother who was in service at “The Lawns” across the road from the farm.  When my father and mother married they moved to Burton from where my mother originated.  Work was very difficult to come by and they were badly affected by the depression in the 1920’s.  For a time they moved back to Parwich where they were supported by my grandparents until my father gained employment with a Derby firm where he stayed for nearly the whole of his working life.  My parents had a daughter and three sons of whom I am the eldest son.

Only one of my father’s siblings stayed in Parwich.  That was Florence (Auntie Flo) and she married George Wayne.  George was employed at “The Hall” and the family lived in a tied cottage at “School View”.  None of their direct family now lives in the village, but Dolly Wayne the wife of their son Arthur, now deceased, still lives in Parwich.

As a child I had several holidays staying with my grandfather and Aunt Thirza in Parwich.  My grandfather still had his slaughterhouse where the Royal British Legion now stands and I have watched him slaughtering pigs there.  At that time he and Thirza lived in a small cottage, which was the last in a small row just past the slaughterhouse, going towards Alsop-en-le Dale, and built close to sheer rocks at the back of the cottage.  That cottage still stands today.

I have a great affection for Parwich and when in the area still like to go back and re-live old memories.

PARWICH CENSUS 1841 – 1901

1841 CENSUS: Living at The Mount, Parwich

William Webster 49yrs. Butcher.  My great great grandfather


Lucy Webster 50 yrs.  My great great grandmother


James Webster 26 yrs  (JI?)  My great grandfather


Ann Webster 24 yrs


Joseph Webster 18 yrs


Sarah Webster 12 yrs


George Webster 10 yrs


Charity Webster 8 yrs

1851 CENSUS: Living at The Mount, Parwich

James Webster 36yrs Butcher.  My great grandfather


Ann Webster 30 yrs.  My great grandmother


William Webster 7 yrs


Mary Webster 5 yrs


Joseph Webster 3 yrs


Lucy Webster 7 mths

1861 CENSUS: Not recorded where living – possibly The Green, Parwich

Ann Webster 39yrs. Widow and Midwife.  My great grandmother


William Webster 17 yrs


Joseph Webster 12 yrs


Hannah Webster 7 yrs


James Webster 3 yrs.  My grandfather

1871 CENSUS: Living at The Green, Parwich

Ann Webster 50 yrs Widow.  My great grandmother


Mary Webster 25 yrs


Joseph Webster 23 yrs


Hannah Webster 7 yrs


James Webster 13 yrs.  My grandfather

1881 CENSUS: Not recorded where living

Ann Webster 60 yrs Widow.  My great grandmother


James Webster 23yrs Cattle Dealer.  My grandfather

1891 CENSUS: Living at Blanch Meadow, Parwich

James Webster 33 yrs Farmer & Cattle Dealer.  My grandfather


Mary Webster 33 yrs?  My grandmother


Arthur Webster 3 yrs


Florence Webster 2 yrs


James Webster 1 yr

1901 CENSUS: Living at Dam Side Farm, Parwich

James Webster 43 yrs Farmer & Cattle Dealer.  My grandfather


Mary Webster 38 yrs.  My grandmother


Florence Webster 12 yrs


James Webster 11 yrs


Samuel Webster 7 yrs


Leonard Webster 6 yrs


Lucy Webster 5 yrs


Mary E. Webster 3 yrs

Also in the 1901 CENSUS: Living at Nether Green, Parwich


Ann Webster 80 yrs Widow & Midwife.  My great grandmother



Here is some information from Jack & Anne Cooper that is worth sharing in the Newsletter


Knob Hall: some notes

Copyright © 2003 Anne Cooper

(Editor’s note: Anne Cooper is well known to many of you so needs no extensive introduction.  She was born Anne Slater and raised at Littlewood Farm.  Her first husband was Doug Lyons, who died in 1986. She married the Rev. Jack Cooper in 1991, he was then vicar of Parwich.)


Knob Hall is said to have been built in the 1690s.  The Peak Park Authority in the listing of the building describe it as a “typical Yeoman farmhouse of the late seventeenth century”.  Mr. Wright, a retired head teacher from Sheffield, who lived at the Square and had undertaken a lot of research into local history, pointed out that it was referred to as ‘Old Hall’ on some old maps. (Editor’s note: does anyone know what happened to his research.  Over the years there seem to have been a number of people interested in Parwich’s history: Mr. Collinette at the Fold in the 1920s; Helena Birkentall daughter of the Fletcher Hampson; and Mr. Wright at the Square.  Unfortunately, apart from Mrs. Birkentall’s series in the Parish Magazine in the 1950s we have little of their findings.)

I remember the two Miss Evans who lived at Orchard Farm when I was young.  They told me that they lived at Knob Hall, when they were young in the late nineteenth century.  It was still a working farm then.  (Editor’s note: It was vacant on the 1901 Census)  It was made into a creamery (cheese factory) in the early twentieth century, when it was owned by Gerald Lewis.  They made cheese, preserves, etc.  My mother remembered buying jam there as a child.  Also locals told me they had worked there.  I found a printer’s plate depicting the creamery in the garden.  This was much to the amusement of my family as it was about the only time I did any digging in the garden.  A metal churn label from the creamery was found at Hawkslow Farm, when people from the village were potato picking.

When the factory closed in the 1920s, it was taken over by the Rathborne Trust who owned the Parwich Hospital (the Care Centre). (Editor’s note: presumably they bought it to secure the Hospital water supply that was then from the pump shed by the road.)  They leased it to Wilfred Mosely, one of the Derbyshire Moselys, who was an architect in Slough.  He did extensive internal work.  He raised the ceilings, which did away with the attic rooms, and put in extra internal walls.  This gave the house a 1920s look.  He let it to various people during the 1930s and the War years.  Mr & Mrs Webb (she was a Parwich Webster) leased it until her death in the late 1950s.  They had previously lived at Hallcliffe.  During their time, they sublet part of the house – first to Mr & Mrs Abel Shipley, and then to Mr & Mrs  Albert Wilson.  In the 1960s the freehold was bought by Douglas and me.  At the back of the house was a large water storage tank.  This took several days to drain when we converted it into a garage.  The small building on the road was a pump shed, and housed the equipment to draw water from a bore hole and pump it up to the hospital.

When I remarried I moved to the Vicarage and for a short period it was a holiday home.  In 1995 it was sold to the present owners.


Notes on alterations to Parwich & Alsop Churches Etc. 1988-1994

Copyright © 2003  Rev. J. Cooper


St. Peter’s Church, Parwich


Moved Altar to west facing.


Vicar’s stall moved into the Nave from the Chancel.




The space created by the moving of the organ, provided an area for use as mid-week meetings room, Lady Chapel, Sunday School room, extra vestry room for weddings, etc.  (Including display area in the recent History Society Exhibition.  )


New heating system installed.


Discovery of ancient wooden parish chest.


Renovation of the Tympanum, supervised by Hon. Hugh Gibson.


Installation of the stained glass window in the north aisle, depicting St. Francis, as a memorial to Sir. John and Lady Crompton-Inglefield.


Parish recipe book produced.


Church News sheet distributed quarterly.


External flood lighting installed for extra security.




St. Michael’s, Alsop en le Dale


Moved Altar to west facing.


New heating system installed


Tower foundations dug out and stabilised.


Vestry floor replaced


Filming in Church Yard by “Peak Practice” in 1992


Book Review


Dr. Isobel Combes (2003) “The Spirit of Parwich: the 20th Century in Photographs” Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne.

Copyright © 2003 Martin Compton


Price £19.95, available from the Sycamore Inn, and Parwich Shop.

Landmark web-site:

We should be grateful to our enterprising local publishing house, Landmark Publishing of Ashbourne, for promoting this photographic guide to Parwich, in their series, ‘the Spirit of …’.  Lindsay Porter, their founder, started Landmark in 1996, having already been publishing locally as the Moorland Press. Since then, Landmark have gone from strength to strength, promoting amongst other titles, a whole series on local history. Lindsay, a keen local historian himself, is keen to provide an archive of photographic records of the local area. He told me that as a historian he often refers to books that were published over 200 years ago, and he would like to feel that his books will provide future generations with a record of our recent times. I'm sure that he will have achieved that with this book.

Isobel Combes is herself a trained historian, having undertaken a doctorate at Cambridge University on the history of the Early Church after studying Philosophy and Classics. So when she contacted Landmark Publishing as a potential author, they thought of her as a natural choice to research into the history of Parwich. She started collating information about the village some 2 years ago, (with our own Historical Society members providing help), and it took her a whole year to assemble enough photographs for the book; sometimes it took more than half a year of patient contact with some local people to obtain any photos at all! In the end she told  me that she had over double the number of photos that have appeared in the book (375 photographs for you to enjoy states the book's cover), and she then had the hard task of deciding which photos to leave out. "I decided to include all the old photographs, but then had to cut back the number of alternative pictures of local people, as well as the more   recent photos - it was a difficult task " said Isobel. "I tried to think of this book as a book for the people of the village. Being a newcomer to the village, people would not want to read my opinions about Parwich, so I tried to just give the historical facts".

Yet I find that the 2 pages of introduction to her book is both beautifully written, and full of atmosphere about the village, and it made me wish that Isobel had written more about Parwich. I am an even more recent newcomer to this part of Derbyshire, and the Spirit of  Parwich helped me to connect up many of the various strands of village life that I have learnt about in the last two years.

The book is divided up into 13 chapters, covering various aspects of Parwich, such as the School, the Church, the Hospital, and the Local Economy, as well as modes of transport, village activities and farming. The last chapter is devoted to Alsop-en-le-Dale, with its hall, church, and local farmers. What struck me about Isobel's choice of photographic material is how well she had sourced her photos. I was involved with the assembly of the Historical  Society's exhibition of Parwich last summer, and remember many of those pictures, and yet Isobel has found even more new photos, often from past residents of Parwich who have long since moved. She has tried to identify the people on many of the photos – "it was not always easy, as when I showed a draft of the book to various villagers, there was often disagreement about the names. It was surprisingly harder to identify all the villagers on the more recent photos than those of many years ago; I suppose this is a reflection on the transitory nature of modern life; whereas in past times people stayed in one place for all their life, now we move on constantly in our lives".

This is certainly true for Isobel; she told me that her six years in Parwich are the longest stay of anywhere in her life. Her childhood was spent travelling the globe, and I can understand her wish to trace the roots of this little village and its inhabitants. "We look at the older photographs now, and wonder how village people lived without running water in those days, but maybe in a hundred years time, people will look at us in this village, and wonder how us villagers managed to live without the Broadband internet connections that the town dwellers now enjoy”.

£20 might seem a high price to pay for this book (that's about 5p a picture!) especially as we have had some very modestly priced publications from the Historical Society in the last year (with more to come next year), but the book is well produced and durable, with a hardback cover and clear printing on quality paper. I showed a copy to the builders working presently on our house, both local lads who grew up in Parwich. They enjoyed it, and immediately went out and bought their own copies, a good recommendation! 

TICKNALL WARE: A talk by Janet Spavold and Sue Brown on Tuesday 25th March 2003

Copyright © 2003 Gill Radcliffe

Janet Spavold and Sue Brown, in a most interesting talk, shared the fruits of their research into Ticknall Ware in South Derbyshire and beyond. From the 1400s to 1880 Ticknall, which lies between Melbourne and Swadlincote, was the centre of a pottery industry of major significance. Up to the 1500s it was more significant than Stoke on Trent. The ware was basic and coarse, using two types of clay, a light body (called white, though with the addition of a clear lead glaze it looks yellow) and a dark red clay, covered in a dark iron and lead glaze. Early work has greater sophistication than later utilitarian ware, being decorated with lugs in the form of tiny heads, flowers (pads of clay impressed with stamps) or sophisticated slip decoration in the form of stylised fishes and dogs. The ware was mostly thrown, with the addition of some slip ware. The industry was helped by the sandy, clay soil of the area, and flourished where there were thin seams of coal near to the surface, and a supply of spring water nearby.

There are no business records available for Ticknall ware, so research has been carried on primarily through probate inventories. The historian Philip Kinder mentions Ticknall ware. Pottery has been found in the Austin Friars¹ archaeological dig in a layer dating from 1450-1480. Other evidence comes from the earliest taxation information proving the ware dates from before 1450. The British Museum claims that finely potted Ticknall Ware is the earliest known decorated ware in this country. A Calke Abbey potter produced a very early figurine.

Pottery sites are located by field walking. A collection of fragments is all that remains of the ware, which has been largely ploughed out. Janet and Sue are alerted by local farmers at ploughing time, and are particularly anxious to know of any areas where the plough seems to catch, because that may indicate a find. They have located twenty five sites so far. Not all of these sites would have been working at the same time. They have come across waste tips, and streaks of scorched orange earth indicating where a kiln has been fired.

After the 16th century, the potters concentrated on cheap, useful wares, catering to the dairy industry, as well as home use. Large butter pots were made to hold 20-30lbs of butter. The “white” ware was the nearest potters could get to white until Wedgewood developed creamware from imported Devon ball clay.

Ticknall ware was so popular it had “brand recognition” and was distributed widely throughout ten Midlands counties, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Oxfordshire. Ticknall was at the height of its powers between 1630-39 and was expanding up to 1709, but was superseded by the innovations of the skilled Stoke potters, who also had access to cheap coal and water, and imported finer and whiter ball clay from Devon.

Pottery was distributed through markets, usually seven miles apart, with some overlapping of markets. Stockport, situated on the London to Kendall road, was an exceptionally big market. There were potteries all up the valley of the Trent. Cheshire, a dairying county, had lots of potteries to provide ware for the industry, and Wirksworth was suitable because of the availability of lead for glazes. The same applied to Bakewell. In the 1630s, the key decade for Ticknall, there were lots of potteries in Leicestershire at places like Long Clawson and Loughborough, where cheese was made. After the 1670s and 80s, they remained in operation while potteries in other areas declined.

In the 15th century a potter would sell his own wares, and would probably be involved in farming. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, potters would have become more specialised. Prices remained stable between 1450 and 1720, and pots were low in value. By the 1680s there was something of a glut. A kiln might produce 1000 pots of little value in a single firing.

In Leicestershire there were villages of pot carriers and also pot sellers, some of whom sold directly, door to door, while others might sell through drapers and so on. The pots were packed in crates, and panniers were made for donkeys to transport them. The animals were cheap to feed, living on thistles and so on.

The horse and cart came in with the turnpikes and, in the eighteenth century, coal was transported to the potteries by pack horse. Carriers brought salt from Cheshire to Nantwich and took back Ticknall wares. In the nineteenth century, pots were taken by wheelbarrow to the station and shipped to the seaside. Sir George Crewe of Norfolk, coming across a cart laden with earthenware, gave one shilling to a poor woman who wanted a large earthenware dish she could not otherwise have afforded!  Fairs had been important since the Middle Ages, and Sturbridge fair was a good one for pottery. Rowlandson pictures pots spread out on the ground for sale.

The period between 1790 and 1851 saw Ticknall ware overtaken by the growth of potteries in the Coleorton area. Coleorton pot carriers were to be found selling their wares all over the country, as far away as Edinburgh. There are still pot carriers operating today. Potters were gaining control over firing and were creating more fashionable designs. Wedgewood was experimenting with different clay bodies and glazes; and improvements in transport by    turnpike and canal meant producers could reach a wider market, leading to the growth of large scale, factory production.


Duffield Frith a talk by Brian Rich, Barry Crisp, Sue Wall and Mary Wiltshire on Wednesday 16th April 2003

Copyright © 2003 Peter Trewhitt


Permission has not been granted by the copyright holder to publish this report on the website.  A hardcopy of this report may be obtained by emailing the website editor.


The Derbyshire Country House: a talk with slides by Maxwell Craven on Wednesday 14th May 2003

Copyright © 2003 Peter Trewhitt

Permission has not been granted by the copyright holder to publish this report on the website.  A hardcopy of this report may be obtained by emailing the website editor.


Request for Information

A Drying Green in Parwich?

Mary Whitechurch, daughter of Gerald Lewis who owned the Creamery and the Market Garden and lived in Hallcliffe, recently visited me. She says her mother, Ethel (née Hopkinson) told her that there was a ‘Drying Green’ in Parwich where clothes were put to dry over bushes. This was a specially designated area where, presumably, clothes would have been safe to leave. Does anyone know anything about this, or know where one might have been situated? Would someone have watched over it? According to Mary’s mother, drying greens were common in villages.

Gill Radcliffe

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