Ockbrook in old picture postcards

Ockbrook in old picture postcards

:   J.Lec. Smith
:   Derbyshire
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2983-1
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Ockbrook in old picture postcards'

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The parish of Ockbrook and Borrowash comprises a roughly rectangular piece of land some three miles by one, set north and south and gent1y deseending from high ground overlooking Dale Abbey all the way down to the mid-stream line of the river Derwent. It encompasses the whole watershed and val1ey of the Ock Brook, which trickles down its spine, and which was a coveted trout stream in Victorian times. In those days the parish was alrnost wholly farmland, with wheat, oats and pasture, apart from a few smal1 manufacturies in the Borrowash area at the southern end. The venerable village of Ockbrook was then, as now, a place litt1e known outside its immediate surroundings, yet since it is situated in the centre of the parish, and since the parish is as near as maybe in the centre of England, and since England was then, if not now, at the centre of the world, then it follows that, without knowing it, the Victorian world surely rotated about Ockbrook. lts name is probably of Saxon origin and has something to do with salrnon, though some like to think it derives from its last Saxon overlord, one Occa. Strangely enough, and unlike most other old English placenames, it seems to be unique.

In addition to the river Derwent, an ancient road built by the Romans from their fort at Derventio to the Trent crossing at Sawley runs across its southem parts, and between the two, later entrepreneurs first cut a canal and then 1aid a railway. Not one of these fluent lines of communication was found to adequately conneet post-war Derby with post-war Nottingham, however, so that there is now a monstrous east-west motorway in addition. This does what none of the other four did; it effectively cuts the parish in two.

Way back in 1837, Robert Chevin celebrated the royal occasion of that year by giving his hoste1ry at the bottom of Bakehouse Lane a new name. He pontificated perhaps that while its old name was bearable and even appropriate while

her recently deceased uncles were on the throne, it was not in keeping with the accession of the bright young queen. So the 'Horse and Jockey' became one of the first of so many 'Queen's Head's'. At that time a hundred Ockbrook eyes were turned on London, not only to note the goings on at the Palace, but more importantly in the Houses of Parliament and in the City. This was because it was not a one-man, big-house village, nor had been for 250 years, and in 1837 th ere were no less than seven Lords of the Manor plus twenty-five other major landowners. Not only that, but just five years earlier the names of thirty odd well-to-do rentpayers had been added to the Electoral Roll.

By this time the rest of the people of Ockbrook had come to accept the fact that apart from these gentlemen and a handful of tradesmen, there was only one other c1ass in the village, that was the poor, and they were it. Yet many of them had grandparents who could reeall the very different years of their youth, when in general the po or were looked down on as spendthrifts, half-wits or vagrants, while they and their like had formed an alrnost self-sufficient middle group, each with his own little bits of unenclosed land, and rights on the common. But those halcyon days were now long past; they were landless, and for those who lacked the dexterity, desire or eyesight to work the infernal knitting machines, poor relief was the order of the day. Many of the younger and more adventurous of course tore up their shallow roots and went west to Derby or east to Nottingham, settling where work could be found, but with the opening of the local Borrowash station of the new Midland Counties Railway in 1839, new possibilities arose. It was slowly realised that it was no longer necessary for your p1ace of employment to be within walking distance of your home, and eventually a new solid middle group grew up in the village to rep1ace the small 1andowners lost a century before.

The first to commute however were not the villagers employed in the towns, but prosperous townies who saw it as a pleasant place to live in the country, and they built several fine houses here in the later Victorian years,

The railway itself provided some work for Ockbrook folk, just as the canal and the turnpike road had done, but the greater providers were the water mills powered by the roaring river Derwent. In Victorian times these drove machinery for cotton doub!ing and iron slitting, in addition to corn grinding, and it is strange that this !ittle area between the road and the river, which was then the noisiest, most pushing place in the parish, is now one of the most peaceful. Tall trees and a tangle of undergrowth cover the ground where the mills stood and the canal ran, and only the stately Riverside House remains. This house, built in about 1825 as the on-site residence of John Towle, the new proprietor of the cotton doubling mill, has lost all its surrounding industry and has become a quiet country retreat, while the complicated waterways, which were devised to maximise the power of the Derwent, are now an anglers' paradise.

Like the rest of the country, Ockbrook suffered the extraordinary population explosion of the early nineteenth century, and in the census four years after Victoria ascended the throne, from an eighteenth century figure of about 850, 1,765 persons were recorded, 795 males and 970 females. Thereafter a shift to the towns caused the number to fall for a while, but towards the end of the century Ockbrook's dorrnitory role was being weil estab!ished and by 1920 the population had settled at about 3,000. It grew again post-war and while in 1800 there were two acres of ground per person, in 1850 there was one, in 1900 threequarters, and now there is but one quarter.

In spite of this increase in the parish population, with its inevitable pockets of post-war urbanisation, and in spite of its

proximity to a spreading Derby and the intrusion of the bleak by-pass road, the village of Ockbrook has been spared the worst excesses of modernisation and improvement. This is partly because it does not lie on a thoroughfare, and partly because its natural beauty of hills and tall trees inspire preservation, but mainly through sheer good fortune. The calm unchanging face of the Moravian Settlement has long set a standard of good taste, and is one of the most important parts of that good fortune. And while the by-pass road has cruelly severed the village of Ockbrook from the village of Borrowash, it has in a way done both a good turn, emphasising the seclusion of the one and re-establishing the identity of the other. In the mid-Victorian days Borrowash was all a-bustle, with its own green heart in the famous Barron nurseries, its muscle in the Towles' mills, and its soul in the Methodist chapels and Swindells' Manor House, but later, when these enterprises ran out of steam, it became a rather featureless rib bon of mixed enterprises, with vistas which did little to inspire the producers of picture postcards. They were not all that enthusiastic about the village of Ockbrook either, for that matter, concentrating their limited efforts rather on All Saints Church and the Settlement frontage, but if you will join us for a clockwise stroll we will do our best with what we have to bring to life this unpretentious parish as it was round about the turn of the century.


My special thanks to those who have allowed me to use their postcards, in particular Barbara Armstead, Edna Plant, John Allen, Stanley Clifford, Alan MacGibbon and the Derby Central Library.

1. While this aerial view of the village of Ockbrook was photographed in recent years, it depiets the same layout of roads which would have fallen on the eye of a lark soaring over Red Hills in the year 1900. The broad Green Lane on the left, with its curving Moor Lane continuation disappearing north; the Moravian diamond below, delineated by The Settlement, Bare Lane, Bakehouse Lane and Flood Street; the serpentine meanderings of The Ridings and Church Street on the right, passing out of the village to the south as Cole Lane; then, on the left again, Victoria Avenue heading for Borrowash. In the centre the two links, New Street and Collier Lane, and on the fringes the five access tracks, one going north to The Fields, three to the east, that is Far Lane to Little Londen, Near Lane to HopweIl, and Mill Lane to the windmill, and one to the west, Muddy Lane, heading towards Borrow Wood but not quite getting there.


./i." Seint's C3hurch Oc/<brook

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2. Unlike many parish churches hereabouts, which are perched on peaks, All Saints stands close to the braak, on the lowest piece of land in the village, sa th at its setting does nothing to aggrandize its already squat spire, nor to lift its nave above the surrounding tall trees. The structural enlargements all seem to have been done on the cheap, and it now presents an unashamed mis-match of rough stone, hewn blocks, hand-made bricks and some of recent manufacture. The freely swinging weathercock is unorientated, and only the local weatherwise know that chili sear winds in spring mean he is facing east, warm rain in summer, south, rough gusts in autumn, west, and lifeless cold in winter, north, The unobtrusiveness, frugality and lack of direction of its little church, somehow typifies Ockbrook and its history over the centuries.

3. This picture was taken in about 1895 shortly before the old box pews were replaced by the present pine, which were the gift of Edward Elsey of HopweIl Hall. At the same time the present pretty pulpit, which changed sides in 1919 to make room for the War Memorial tablet, replaced the austere octagonal one shown. The brass chandelier has gone, and so have the barbarous spikes on the chancel screen, the top section of which has been taken down and fashioned into a new communion rail, displacing the brass bedstead type used previously. This screen, which dates from about 1520, and the sixteenth century stained glass window which depiets the four evangelists, were brought to Ockbrook from a chapel in Leicester by Thomas Pares in 1810. Over the years both the stone mullions and the glass assem blies of the window got into a very bad state of repair, and they were eventually displaced in 1967, when the old stained glass was presented to Leicester museum.

4. The Reverend Melville Scott came up fr om Buckingham in 1851 to assurne his appointment as curate at All Saints. The vicar, the much admired Samuel Hey, who himself came here in a similar roie sorne thirty-seven years earlier, died in 1854. Ta his surprise, Melville was invited by the patron Thomas Pares to succeed, and with the help of Samuel's daughter Mary as his wife, he played a paramount part in village life for nearly two decades. He left in 1872 to become the first vicar of Derby's new St. Andrews Church, which was designed by his brother George Gilbert of Albert Memorial fame, and in his book 'The Force Of Love' he describes in affectionate detail bis 'twenty-one years of ministry in dear, dear Ockbrook'.

5. Until 1866 All Saints vicarage lay alongside the church. It was a substantial building with three reception rooms and six bedrooms, but had become rather decrepid and damp, so that after the sad death of bis little son there, the Reverend Melville Scott decided that it was a dangerous place to live, and he took his family into temporary accommodation on the Settlement while new premises were being built on Victoria Avenue, halfway between All Saints at Ockbrook and St. Stephens at Borrowash. The old building was demolished, its stone being durnped in the marshy hollow on the other side of Cole Lane, which thereafter became a usefullocal 'quarry'.

6. This picture shows the much-needed extension to the church-yard which was made possible by the removal of the old vicarage. The gable end of Church Farm can be seen on the right and slightly left a glimpse of Pear Tree House, then sporting the two chimney stacks which soar high above the roof line. There lived for many years Edward Glover, manufacturer and churchwarden. This house was without road frontage, the main entrance being served by a footpath which carne to be known as Glovers Twitchell. The house was built in 1825 by J ohn Pares, who preceded Thomas as patron of the church, as a retirement home for the HopweIl housekeeper, Mrs. Mary Freer.

7. Opposite the old vicarage lay Church House, which belonged to the vicar, The main part, which stood gable-end on to Church Street, contained just four large rooms, two on each floor, and it was said to be the oldest house in Ockbrook, with the date 1642 over the door. A secret passage running under Church Street allegedly connected its cellars with those of the vicarage. The single story extension, which stretched all the way down to Collier Lane, included the vicar's coach-house and stable, but its upper end was a huge kitchen joined to the rnain dwelling. Great was the consternatien in the village when the vicar of the day had the whole place pulled down to accommodate a small modern house which he had built on the site. The tenant ju st before the First World War was LJ. Byatt, an All Saints stalwart. who carried the cross in church and put on 1 d. picture shows in the house in aid of the Missionary Society.

8. The White Swan stands opposite the church, and was favoured with the patronage of at least one of Ockbrook's vicars. In 1885 the Reverend Lewis Lewis, a bachelor gay with a slight impediment in his speech, rather overdid it, which made bis sermon even more difficult to foilow than usual. The affronted congregation were led out of the church by patron Pares of Hopweil Hall, and the Reverend was banished to the backwoods. There, however, he stiffened his self-eontrol by taking himself a stern wife, and in 1897 returned to his Ockbrook duties, and died here, weil respected, in 1916. In those days Ockbrook's last cruck cottage still stood where now is the car park entrance, but in this picture the cruck cottage has gone, likewise Church Row which came next, and on the far plot, Church House has been usurped by the later vicar's new abode.

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