A History of Woodthorpe

Beginnings of a Village

The name Woodthorpe has early origins deriving from the Old English wudu (wood) and the Old Scandinavian thorp (farmstead or hamlet) thus ‘Outlying Hamlet in Woodland’ . The Scandinavian derivation suggests that the community was existing well before William the Bastard invaded in 1066. The existence of extensive woodland in the area is supported by the Parish name – Staveley (from the Old English Staef  and leah (Wood clearing where staves are got). (1086 – Stavelie – Doomsday Book).

A Saxon settlement is thought to have existed at the top of what is the Bridle Road. The Cachelors family are thought to have been resident at Woodthorpe from the 12th. Century.

The remains of a soldier (some think to be Roman) were found when Woodthorpe Road was widened. These remains were reburied in the Chapel graveyard. There are no known Roman settlements at the village and, if Woodthorpe was visited by a Roman army contingent, it is likely to have been a patrol visit. The Roman Road of Rykneld Street ran through Chesterfield on its way from Little Chester (Derby) to Templeborough. At Chesterfield it met Hereward Street which came in from Rocester (near Ashbourne). There was a Roman fort six miles away at Chesterfield from which army groups would patrol the surrounding areas – Woodthorpe being near enough that an overnight stay would not normally be required. It is very probable that Woodthorpe received visits from the soldiers based at the Roman Fort at Chesterfield.

Another theory is that the soldier was a 17th. Century Civil War casualty.

Woodthorpe village started to develop when Sir William de Rhodes moved to the area in the 13th. Century and built Woodthorpe Hall. As with many estates, the hall would need a village where estate workers lived, and there would be a farm to provide food for the hall. The village would then enlarge to include service industries (such as a blacksmith or farrier) and various other trades peoples. Sir William de Rhodes was a branch of the de Rhodes family. Woodthorpe Hall was later to become the family seat.

The Rodes Family (de Rhodes and Rhodes were alternative spellings)

The Rodes family originated in Normandy (the Counts of Armagnach and Rhodes) and the family is said to be of ancient lineage. The family came over with the Earl of Flanders and Tofti to assist William in his claim for the kingdom in 1066. The name Rodes (or Rhodes) comes from a small Cheshire Village. After the invasion the family returned to France before Gerard de Rodes was sent back to England where he started an English branch of the family.

Gerard de Rodes (1154 – 1189), a feudal Baron was the son of Gerbald De Escald.  The seat of his Barony was Horn Castein (Horncastle in Lincolnshire). These lands were  granted by Richard I and  were later lost in the reign of Richard II. King Richard I also granted the Lordships of Langar and Barneston in Nottinghamshire (originally owned by William Peverill – Peverill of the Peaks) whilst during King John’s reign lands at Clifton and Wilford were also acquired.

Richard II  became king as a minor (aged 10) in 1377 and initially ruled with a committee of Regents because of rivalries amongst the possible contenders. After a reign beset by difficulties he was forced to abdicate in 1399.

Gerard de Rodes son was Sir Ralph de Rodes, his grandson was Sir Gerard de Rodes (1216 – 1272), (taking the grandfather’s name).

Gerard de Rodes, was one of the greater barons. He missed  having his name on the Roll of the Manga Charter  (1215) “having been sent by King John, 29th. March in the 9th. year of his reign, (as) ambassador to foreign parts”.

After loosing the Horncastle lands, the De Rodes family seat moved to Clinton, Wilford and Barton (Notts).  Sir Gerard de Rodes had a first-born son, also called Gerard, Lord of Mellor – this branch continued at the family seat in Nottingham. before moving, about 1470, to join a branch of the family at the (by then existing) Woodthorpe Hall.

Sir William de Rodes, a son of Gerard de Rodes founded the Derbyshire branch of the family at Woodthorpe Hall, marrying Emme Cachelors (or Cachehaus), daughter and heiress of John Cachelors of Woodthorpe in 1290. The Cachelors family had been resident at Woodthorpe for some generations. This gives the most reliable date for the building of Woodthorpe Hall. Woodthorpe Hall later became the main seat of the de Rodes family from about 1470

According to the Herald’s Roll (no 401) , Willem de Rodes coat of arms was ‘Azure a lion rampant or overall a bend gules‘ (A shield, blue background, yellow lion rampant with a red stripe diagonally from top left to bottom right).  Also used by some de Rodes family about this time was the same heraldic device but without the red stripe.

Sir William’s son was John Rodes, and his grandson was also called John Rodes. His son, Robert Rodes married Elizabeth Waste. Their son was John Rodes who first wife was Atheline, daughter of Thomas Hewit of Wales village (Yorkshire). Sir Francis Rodes was their son.

Sir Francis Rodes (1530 – 1588) , became an English Judge. He took part in the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, was one of the founders of Netherthorpe School, and later built Barlborough Hall (which then became the family seat during his lifetime although he continued to use Woodthorpe Hall until his death,).

Sir Francis Rhodes was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He entered Gray’s Inn 1549 and was made Sergeant at Law (called to the bar) 21st August 1552. He was Lent Reader at the Inn in 1566 and double reader in 1576. He amassed a considerable fortune from his practice. He became a judge (Justice of the Common Pleas) 29th. June 1585.

Sir Francis Rodes married Elizabeth Sandford of Thorpe Salvine (Yorkshire) and, secondly,  Mary Charlton of Appleby in Shropshire. Her sister Elizabeth married John Manners, 4th. Earl of Rutland who appointed Rodes as one of his executors. By his second wife he had a son Godfrey Rodes. Godfrey Rodes was M P for Scotch Boroughs 1656. A second son was Colonel Sir Edward Rodes, a privy councillor and MP for the Shire of Perth. .

Sir Francis Rodes in 1565 ‘was minded to enclose certain of his lands within a Pale’.  This was a parcel of land – de la Halgh – between Woodthorpe and Renishaw which was the subject of a grant involving Christopher Rodes in 1505. One object was to provide a park for the benefit of the Rodes family at Woodthorpe Hall and was situate conveniently for the Hall about half way along what is now called Hague Lane which ran between Woodthorpe Hall and Renishaw (Hague on Burdett’s map 1791). A park in this era was an area for recreation for the Lords of the Manor and would possibly include hunting and falconry as a means of recreation.  The Hagg  (an Elizabethan stone mansion) was built 1630 as a Hunting Seat was (in 1857) occupied by Mrs. Elizabeth Crawshaw and owned by the Duke of Devonshire.

His will (dated 7th June 1587 and proved 28th. April 1591) included a bequest to the newly founded Netherthorpe Grammar School, as well as £4 for the relief of soldiers sent to the wars from the Parishes of Staveley (includes Woodthorpe), Barlborough and Elmton An excerpt from his will is:-

“.. by his Will and Testament in writing, bearing the date the seventh day of June in the 29th. Year of her Majesty’s Reign (1586) did Will and Devise the yearly rent charge of fifteen pounds per annum, which he, the said Francis, had to him and his heirs, essur’d forth of his Manor at Elmeton in the whole pr. annum twenty pounds, to be employed forever for the maintenance of the new erected Grammer School at Staveley Netherthorpe, the finding of two scolarships in St. John’s (college) in Cambridge, and the releif of the poor hurt and maimed soldiers which shall be sent to the Warrs out of the townships of Staveley, Barleborough and Elmeton in the County of Derby, that is eight pounds by the year tow’rds the said School, other eight pounds per Annum for the said Scollarships and four pounds yearly for the Releif and Succour of the said Soldiers”

Sir Francis Rodes in 1589 confirmed revocation of lands at Barlborough to his son, Francis Rodes because of misconduct.

Sir Francis Rodes in 1584 gave the interest of £40 in aid of the assessment of Woodthorpe and Hage Quarters

In 1571 Sir Francis Rodes bought the Manor of Barlborough from George Selioke where he was to build Barlborough Hall. (completed 1585). He created a park just South of Barlborough Hall following which the park along Hague Lane would lose its usefulness. The Manor of Elmton came into the ownership of the Rodes family in the 14th. Century where there was another park  – Elmton Park to the West of Elmton Village bounded by Oxcroft Lane, Spring Lane and Mansfield Road.

It is claimed that his son John Rodes (1562 – 16th. Sept 1639) was a very dissipated person. Married three times – firstly to Ann, daughter of George Benson of Westmorland, secondly to Dorothy, daughter of George Savill of Wakefield, thirdly to Frances Constable (1568-1634),  daughter of Marmaduke Constable of Holderness (Yorkshire), third wife and widow of Henry Cheeke.

He treated his second wife very badly. She died shortly after the birth of her blind son John who was disinherited by his father. The ghosts of the second wife and her blind son are said to haunt Woodthorpe Hall.

John Rodes was appointed High Sheriff for Derbyshire in 1591. John Rodes was knighted 15th. March 1603 at the Tower or London. Sir John had a second son – Francis Rhodes (1585 – 1645) who married Elizabeth Lacelles and died at Barlborough.

John Rodes was involved in a civil case brought by Francis Clifford against Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick), concerning the return of lands at Edsensor acquired by Bess in the 1570’s. The supposition is that Henry Clifford defaulted on a loan from Bess, however a different family member (Sir Ingram Clifford) owned the lands. He died and Francis Clifford was the heir. This action failed in the Court of Common Pleas Easter Term 1595. Francis Clifford appealed to the Star Chamber on the grounds that Bess and her second son, William Cavendish, by her second husband (Sir William Cavendish), had corrupted and bribed the jurors in the case. This practice was apparently common at the time being widely practised.

The jury had been empanelled by John Rodes (who was at the time High Sheriff of Derbyshire).

John Rodes had been indebted to Bess for £500,  £150 was paid by John Rodes to Bess in 1596.  That John Rodes was in financial difficulties is borne out by the sale in 1600 of the Woodthorpe lands to Bess for £2,500. Bess gave John Rodes a list of 24 potential jurors, some of whom were tenants of hers and owed her rent – they were on the jury finding for Bess of Hardwick. An ex-employee John Bamforth was the source of the accusation. Given the extent of Bess’s possessions in Derbyshire there was a high chance of at least some of the jurors being beholden to her or the Cavendish family. Bess is said to have paid the juror’s expenses (£20.00).

The Star Chamber records are lost – however the Cavendishes (now through Chatsworth Estates) own Edensor to this day. Edward Dean acted as a solicitor for Bess (who appears to have been a frequent litigant) and Timothy Pusey was her steward (who is alleged to have handed over the juror’s expenses money).

John Rodes may well have been forced to part with the Woodthorpe lands at a price advantageous to Bess of Hardwick because of debts owed to her which he had difficulty in repaying –  in a similar fashion to Bess’s acquisition of Edensor. Thus most of Woodthorpe village and lands around became owned by the Cavendish family in 1600 (and later passed to Chatsworth Estates).

The lands are said to have then passed to the Earl of Newcastle from whom it descended to the Duke of Portland however reverted to the Duke of Devonshire (by 1857).

The barony became extinct by the death of a descendant, Sir John Rodes, unmarried, in 1743.

The family probably  acquired Scottish property, given that two of the Rodes family members were MPs for Scottish constituencies. Sir Walter Scott recalls the following from Old Ballads:

“The Gordon then has bugle blew

            and said ‘Awa, awa,

            The house of Rhodes is all on fire

            I hold it time to ga.”

The Frecheville Family

The Frecheville family came to England with William the Conqueror. About 1200 they married into the Mussard family who at that time owned most of the Staveley lands. Sir Ralph Frescheville (Baron) was summoned to parliament (29 Edward 1).

Margaret was the wife of Peter Frecheville, mother of a son – also Peter Frecheville (died 1619) – and grandmother of Lord John Frecheville, Baron of Staveley. She was the daughter of Arther Key of Almondbury, Yorkshire, her first husband being Francis Woodrove.

The line became extinct with Lord John Frecheville (Baron Frescheville of Staveley created 1632) – a Royalist active in the Civil War – in 1682.

The Village Grows

Under the patronage of the Rodes family, Woodthorpe village rose to some prominence.

Woodthorpe was at this time on a comprehensive road system including the main road East from Staveley (the Bridle Road) which continued through the village and to the East, links to Sutton cum Duckmanton (Old Peverel Road), to Poolsbrook and to Bolsover, a road system which still exists today but mainly as footpaths/bridle paths.

There is a reference in 1356 to a road called Tychwaye at Staveley – this may well have been the Road from Chesterfield running to the East through Woodthorpe. The records of the Derbyshire County Sessions suggest that the packhorse bridge over the Doe Lea was a County Bridge (one that the County had to pay to maintain). The 1530 Statute of Bridges gave Justices of the Peace the power to levy a County Rate and appoint surveyors. A Salterwelsick (place name) recorded 1604 near to the Staveley Bridge is evidence that the route Eastwards through Woodthorpe originally continued to Worksop and was a continuation of the Salt pack-horse route from Cheshire  This was the route which came into Chesterfield via the road known as Saltergate.

A Mill (Woodthorpe Mill) was built in the dip between what is now Woodthorpe Hall Farm and Mill Lane. The Mill stood at the side of Hawks Brook near to the boundaries of the Parishes of Staveley, Clowne, Barlborough and Duckmanton. Massive undressed beams carried some of the machinery. The mill was for grinding corn. The Mill pools were used until the 20th. Century for swimming and recreation by local children. The site was eventually obliterated with the building of the M1 motorway. A descendant of the millers of Woodthorpe Mill still lives in the village and has a painting of Woodthorpe Mill by local resident and amateur artist Sam Warmsley.

A Millstone near Woodthorpe

 The village acquired a chapel – St. Peter’s Church) – founded 1632 (later to be rebuilt in 1848) and a School – Netherthorpe Grammar School.

Netherthorpe Grammar School was founded in 1558 and built in 1572 at Netherthorpe. Its  founders were William Rhodes (Woodthorpe), Robert Sitwell (Netherthorpe) and Margaret Frecheville (Staveley) who also endowed the school. It was built to serve Woodthorpe, Netherthorpe and Staveley and was conveniently placed for all three communities. Woodthorpe quarries (at Woodthorpe near the Doe Lea river) provided the stone – the type being coal measure sandstone.

The word Grammar in the title refers to Latin. Latin was taught free of charge but other subjects had to be paid for until the end of the 19th. Century. The school was available to all, however children from poor families were set to work at an early age and would miss out on education until the advent of the various education acts.

Sir Francis Rhodes’ building of a new family seat at Barlborough caused the demise of Woodthorpe Hall which was sold in 1600 along with adjacent lands to Elizabeth Countess of Shewsbury (Bess of Hardwick) for £2,500. Bess of Hardwick demolished the Hall in the early 1600’s and used the stone to rebuild Bolsover Castle. Bess of Hardwick’s second son was William Cavendish (1st  Earl of Devonshire) – the family name of the Dukes of Devonshire of Chatsworth House. Only one arch of the original building is said to exist, incorporated into the cellar of the Woodthorpe Hall Farm which was built about 1700.

Alms Houses

1632 saw the erection of a ‘hospital’ for 4 poor women and 4 poor men, all to be unmarried and chosen from the parishes of Staveley and Barlborough. The hospital was divided into 8 tenements consisting of a ground floor room and an upstairs room. There was a ‘garden’ which would have been intended for growing vegetables.

The benefactor was Sir. Peter Frecheville by his will 16th. March 1632 proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The building was erected at the South side of the chapel ‘on the waste and common land belonging to his Manor of Woodthorpe, Staveley’. Sir Peter Frecheville  provided £4.00 per person for their maintenance and £4.00 for a deacon to say prayers morning and evening (paid quarterly). The deacon had free lodging at the West end of the almshouses and was expected to administer the almshouses. Later the deacon was housed in the vicarage opposite the church.

It is likely that this development was prompted by the Poor Law Act 1601 which made it obligatory for parishes to look after those sick, infirm and elderly.

The Almshouses were rebuilt during the 19th. Century following which they were only available for women. The buildings were sold in 1979, the proceeds being used for the ‘Woodthorpe relief in need of Charity fund.’ The site was cleared and three detached houses erected.

By an indenture 25th. June 1752 and enrolled in Chancery  between William, Duke of Devonshire (the first part), The Rev. Francis Gisborne (Staveley) (the second part) that Richard Robinson by his will 17th May 1777 gave to Woodthorpe Hospital a sum sufficient to purchase land of the yearly value of £18 in order to advance the pay of those entitled to the benefit of the said hospital from £4 to £6 per annum. From Richard Robinson’s Estate was paid to the Duke of Devonshire £400 in consideration for the Duke paying £18 per annum from a yearly rent charge for a farm then in the occupation of Thomas Slagg ‘for the better relief of poor people’ placed in the almshouses. Additionally a Gisborne family member made a gift of £18 per annum.

In 1850 Jane Foxlowe bequeathed £100 to this charity.

Education in Woodthorpe is believed to date back to the mid 1700’s. A Miss White (died 1721) left £50 the interest from which was to be used for ‘the teaching of poor children to read’ (White’s Gazette 1857). Lady Cavendish made a similar bequest of £100 in 1734.

In 1846 Marta Haslam is recorded as running an Academy at Woodthorpe. This was in a single-roomed stone building situate where the playground of the current Woodthorpe School is. Miss Haslam was succeeded by Miss Anderton who lived at Thompson’s Farm (originally Elderberry Cottage). An extensive Orchard and the village well lay between the school and the farm. This Academy was superseded by the current Woodthorpe C of E School.

The Industrial Revolution

Woodthorpe found itself at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution with the opening of the Chesterfield – Worksop Turnpike Road and the Chesterfield Canal Norbriggs Branch – both in the 18th. Century.

A turnpike (literally) was a defensive frame of pikes which could be turned to allow the passage of horses – the word was then used to describe the gates found at Toll Houses and, of course, turnpike roads were those roads with ‘turnpike’ gates and tolls.

Turnpikes roads were created following a succession of Acts of Parliament mainly in the 18th. Century (the first Act was in 1696 for a turnpike from Reigate to Crawley). The Acts set out the tolls that could be charged. The Chesterfield – Worksop Turnpike Road Act was passed in 1738. The road was required to be open 24 hours every day. The gate was kept closed against the road and only opened when the toll was paid, which – if at 2.30 am. – meant the toll keeper getting out of bed to allow passage. With the creation of the Royal Mail  nationwide mail express coaches were introduced. Running at about 10 mph, to a fixed schedule, and with regular changes of horses, they had special arrangements with the toll road owners and were not expected to stop and pay a toll at the gates. A horn would be blown about half a mile from the toll gate so that the toll gate keeper could have the gate open thus ensuring an uninterrupted passage.

In 1857 the local post office was at Wm. Hibberts’ (Staveley). Letters arrived from Chesterfield at 7.00 am and were despatched at 6.30pm. Money orders granted and paid 9 am to 5 pm. The 1d. Post was introduced 10th. January 1840 and the U. K. was the first country to issue prepaid postage stamps – hence the country name does not appear on our postage stamps.

Owners of turnpike roads required toll keepers to be married. The reason (as stated by the Iron Bridge Museum) was that this ensured that the keeper was a virtuous and trustworthy person (an official road-owners statement). The real reason is likely to be that the toll house had to be manned 24 hours per day and they could not find any individuals who could do without sleep, so they needed the wife (unpaid) to cover for those hours that the toll keeper needed to sleep.

The Old Toll House now dismantled

The Old Toll House now Dismantled


Females could be employed as toll keepers, a female relative of a Woodthorpe resident was toll keeper at the toll house (now demolished) on the Rowsley turnpike near Gladwin’s Mark at Beeley Moor. Her husband worked locally and had also to assist (unpaid) outside work hours with the toll house.

The Toll Gate House was erected at Norbriggs (a corruption of North Bridge) to the East of  where a new bridge was built over the Doe Lea River. The Toll House was a rectangular building with a central entrance door and a chimney on the right-hand side of the building. The tolls paid for maintenance of the bridge and the road through Norbriggs (and provided profit for the owners)  At Norbriggs there was a spur (not a toll road – now called Norbriggs Road)  to Woodthorpe. Mail coaches ran each morning between Chesterfield and Worksop until 1842. Tolls were abolished in 1878 following General Acts of Parliament 1873 to 1878. This Toll Gate House was demolished in the later 20th. Century..

A post office was established at Norbriggs at the bottom of Norbriggs Road opposite Norbriggs House near the junction with the Worksop Road which was in existence until the early 20th. Century. Norbriggs Road was, until the 20th. Century known as Post Lane.

Under the Highways Act of 1878 all ex-turnpike roads became main roads as did some other roads. The Local Government Act of 1888 transferred the responsibility for maintaining the highways to the County Councils.

. The existence of this new toll road led to the downgrading of the roads though Woodthorpe where the bridle way bridge over the Doe Lea was only wide enough for a pack horse and could not accommodate vehicles. The Bridle way became a bridle path at the Netherthorpe end with the roads to Sutton Cum Duckmanton becoming firstly farm tracks and latterly bridle paths or footpaths.

A Coal Mine – later called the Norbriggs Coal Quarry – was established North of Woodthorpe and not far from Norbriggs to exploit the St. John’s No. 2 seam which comes to the surface here. Bell mines have been found in the vicinity. Although the main mine seems to have been a drift mine this was likely a later development after the bell mines had depleted the near-surface coal. Iron stone was also mined in this vicinity for a while up until about 1820.

On 17th. August 1776 the Chesterfield Canal opened from Stockwith (on the River Trent) to  Norbriggs on the Chesterfield – Worksop turnpike road. This was not the intended ultimate destination of the canal – that was Chesterfield – however, the canal having been completed as far as the 6 mile post (from Chesterfield) and the Norbriggs arm in water, this was an opportunity to commence trading. Chesterfield goods were transported to or from the canal by the turnpike road. The Duke of Portland (through whose lands in Nottinghamshire much of the canal passed) was a leading backer of the canal company and was said to own the mine at Norbriggs..

The Norbriggs arm served two purposes, firstly it was part of a water feeder (supply) route from the  Doe Lea (which the Chesterfield Canal crossed by aqueduct near to milestone 6) and secondly the part from the turnpike road was made to canal dimensions to accommodate boats thus serving Norbriggs wharf. The feeder needed to come from the Doe Lea  (at a point opposite to Markham Colliery) on the level. It snaked around the hillside just to the West of Woodthorpe so that  it could maintain the same altitude level as the Canal.

As soon as the canal was open the proprietors saw the possibilities of trade from the coal mine near Woodthorpe and constructed a horse-drawn tramway to take coal from the mine to boats on the canal for onward shipment.

John Fairey in his book  A General View of the Agriculture of Derbyshire states the length of the line to be about ‘half a mile distant’. The Chesterfield Canal Company Minutes (1798) describe the tramway as a ‘Newcastle Raile Way’  suggesting that it was similar to contemporary to those tramways in the Newcastle and Durham coal fields familiar to George Stephenson (of Stockton and Darlington Railway fame) who latterly resided until his death at Tapton House, Chesterfield

Up until the 1790’s tramways were usually of wood. ‘Fir’ rails  – typically six feet long – were fastened down to oak sleepers (often by pegs) and has beech rails (known as false rails) laid upon them and fastened down to them. The butt ends were often secured by iron bands. Thin plates of wrought iron were used at ‘high friction’ places such as bends and significant gradients. These tramways were often later upgraded by the use of iron strips being laid on the wooden ‘rails’ and some ‘wooden’ tramways survived well into the 19th Century an example being recorded in 1837 near Maryport. ‘Plate’ rails (wooded rails reinforced by iron were used by John Curr (a native of Tanfield, near Newcastle) in 1776 at the Duke of Norfolk’s Colliery near Sheffield.  Flanged wagon wheels were in use in 1765 in the Newcastle area although other contemporary systems used ‘L’ shaped rails which kept the coal tubs (which did not have flanges) on the ‘track’.

 A wagon from circa 1776A wagon way typical of 1776

 It is worth remembering that the development of the steam locomotive was hindered not by the technical knowledge of producing such a locomotive but by the technical demands of the track on which it ran – early steam locomotives by Richard Trevithick seriously damaged the track on which they were tested.

A fore-runner was the Tindale Fell Railway in 1808 (near Brampton, East of Carlisle) where experiments with malleable iron rails were made. These experiments were known to Robert Stephenson C. E. (grandfather of the novelist Robert Louis Stephenson) who passed a copy of his report prepared 1818 (for the Edinburgh Railway) to another Stephenson – George Stephenson – then at Killingworth Co. Durham who would have been familiar with the system used at Norbriggs..

The mine was leased initially by the canal company from 1777 to 1797 thus ensuring that all coal output went by boat.  An account for the year of 1837 has 1,524 tons of coal from Norbriggs Wharf being sent to Stockwith (for onward transportation over the River Trent Navigation – this would be in addition to Norbriggs-Wharf coal used locally in the Staveley/Chesterfield area and Worksop etc. also on the Chesterfield Canal (Duke of Devonshire’s Hardwick Estate Company’s office records)

One customer of the canal was to be Mr. T. Barrow of Barrow Hill furnaces – once the canal was open to Chesterfield. A descendant, Richard Barrow, became the proprietor in 1840, making the manufacture of pipes the principal industry. Later in 1863 the concern was incorporated as the Staveley Coal & Iron Company Ltd.

The canal’s demise came about because of subsidence at the Norwood tunnel – the roof sinking and making the passage of boats impossible. The last through boat was thought to be 1920 following which only the Eastern end of the canal from Kiveton to Stockwith remained active, although a dwindling amount of purely local traffic remained around Staveley for a few years. The Canal was now owned by the Great Central Railway Company who had bought the company out – early schemes would have seen a railway built on the canal bed to Chesterfield. The Great Central Railway was merged into the London North Eastern Railway Company in 1922  following the passing of The Ministry of Transport Bill which became an Act of Parliament 13th. April 1919, amalgamating almost all railways into four large companies.  The LNER effectively closed the section East of Worksop although the whole canal passed to British Waterways on nationalisation (1st. January 1948) of both the railways and canals.. The Western end of the canal from Chesterfield to Staveley had to be maintained as it was a water-supply canal to local industry and maintenance boats could be found on the canal for many years afterwards.

The Canal is now being restored, at the Eastern end it is now back through to Kiveton near to the Norwood tunnel, and at the Western end restoration has reached Staveley from Chesterfield.

The Norbriggs branch was sold to the Cuckoo Society who are supporting the restoration of the canal throughout.

A means of transportation, a water supply and coal nearby prompted the opening of a tool-making factory at Norbriggs (often called a shovel factory), owned by Dudley & Son. This was at approximately the site of the current Willows Nursing Home and had a large boiler house supplying steam to power the belts etc. which powered the machine tools. J Chester had a malt house at Norbriggs.

1855 saw work start on the Staveley Coal and Iron Company’s Seymour Colliery – named after one of the directors of the company – just to the South of the village. Production is said to have started 1858 producing 700 tons daily of lucrative locomotive coal during the 1860’s

Staveley Coal and Iron Company Ltd. built four parallel rows of houses near to the colliery for their employees of brick construction consisting of 104 houses each, each house having two bedrooms and one main room downstairs. A further three houses were built at the bottom to house the officials known as ‘gaffers’  row’.  Each house had its outbuildings, an earth midden, and allotment gardens. The houses were divided into three blocks, between each block there being a ‘Ginnel’. There was a pathway between the ends of the rows and the allotments was known as the ‘Bottom Ends’, that at the other end between the rows and the fields being the ‘Top Ends’, this being wider allowing for traffic access between the rows.

Downstairs was one room with large red tiles or flag stones. The fireplace was an open cast iron fireplace with an oven on one side of the grate and a boiler on the other, water being put in by bucket. It was ‘black leaded’ usually in Fridays (painting with a solution of graphite and water then polishing when dry). An old-type stone sink was provided. Lighting was by paraffin lamps.

In 1914 Mr W J Hands H M I (school inspector) made a reference 11th. June in the school log about Seymour.  He vigorously and unhesitatingly denounced it as being, absolutely, the most disreputable, squalid and filthy-looking piece of property he had ever seen during the whole of his inspectorial experiences. The over-laden ash middens, the exposed character of the earth closets and the foetid atmosphere being a revelation to him. He expressed surprise that the Chesterfield Rural District Council had allowed such a state of things to exist for so long.

There was a small chapel to the right of the terraces at the side of the road.

There was a surface tub track to the North East of the colliery and over the Woodthorpe Road to a second shaft about the site of the old Norbriggs colliery. Here was to be erected a pump (the building being called the Pump House) used for pumping water out of the pit. The pump was of the beam type which led to it being called ‘The Nodding Donkey’ – a popular nickname for pumps of this type.

Seymour Colliery mined the ‘Top Hard’ seam said to be 6ft. 1in  thick  523 men were employed underground and 85 on the surface in 1896.

The Victoria Era in the Village

With the impact of employment in the area the village prospered with merchants and shops operating in the village.

In 1857 the village included the following trades people/managers:-

Thomas Gibson – manager iron department

Benjamin Haslam

James Jervis

George Johnson

John Lee

James Ollivant

John Pattison

Ralph Renshaw

Samuel Renshaw

Nag’s Head (Tavern)   Robert Watkin

Thomas Anderton       –           shopkeeper

William Brightinore     –           shopkeeper

George Johnson          –           Blacksmith

Charles Smith              –           Boot and shoemaker

James Fidler                –           Corn Miller and Farmer( successor to the Beardmore  Family                                                           at Woodthorpe Mill).

Thomas Anderson       –           Farmer

Mary Brightmore        –           Farmer

Robert Crawshaw       –           Farmer (The Hagg)

Jas. Siddall (carrier) ran to Chesterfield (Wednesday and Saturday) and to Sheffield         (Saturday) from the Staveley Parish area.

John Broadhead (carrier) ran to Sheffield (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) from the       Staveley Parish Area.

In the 1862  the village acquired a school (now Woodthorpe C of E Primary School) were reportedly built by the then Duke of Devonshire during 1861-1862 although the Staveley Iron Coal Company as owners of the Seymour Collier were also involved in its establishment. The new school was necessary because of the establishment of Seymour Colliery with its adjacent village. Both the Duke of Devonshire and the Staveley Iron & Coal Company provided annual subscriptions of £70 to support the school.

The first Headmistress of Woodthorpe Church of England School was Miss Lucy Blunden who was headmistress from 17th. February 1862 until 7th April 1878. The intended school role was to be 258 children aged 5yrs to 13 yrs.  This compares with a much more recent school role of 87. The cost of running the school was £196.19s 5d for the year ended 1877.

Mr. Blandford (school inspector) reported in 1876 that there should be a master in charge of the school which must be very materially increased in size. He also said that ‘the present teaching by a woman (Miss Blunden) is not satisfactory’. In 1872 Miss Blunden had married Mr. Jerrsion Frith who took over the running of the school in 1878.

By 1878 it was clear that enlargement was necessary however there were squabbles between the Duke of Devonshire who did not want to use any more of his own money and Mr C T Markham of the Staveley Iron and Coal Company.  Mr Markham suggested that an extension would cost £600, running costs rising by £60 per annum with additional interest on capital of £30 per annum.

The Duke of Devonshire insisted that ‘others’ should bear the burden however agreed to provide his ‘fair share’. Mr. Markham offered £30 per annum extra on behalf of the Staveley company towards running costs. Later the Duke of Devonshire agreed to match Mr. Markham’s offer.

Staffing in 1887 was as follows:-

Mr.      Frith  (headmaster)                  (2nd. Class teaching certificate)

Mrs.     Frith (nee Blunden)                (1st   Class teaching certificate)

Miss Amelia Jane Kersley                   (assistant teacher under article 52 of the 1870 Education Act)

Miss Sarah Anne Paynton                   (assistant teacher under article 52 of the 1870 Education Act)

Mrs. Frith retired 1905 (according to the age clause in the 1902 Act) and died March 1931 aged 90.

Mr. Frith retired April 1910

In Victorian times  a ‘payment by results’ system operated and much use was made of the monitor system whereby older children taught the younger ones. During the 1880’s and 1890’s the school inspectors issued warnings that should school examination results not improve it would lead to the reduction of teachers salaries by the withholding of government grants.

Miss Harriet Newman (born 13.12.1869) was a 3rd year pupil teacher who, after gaining her certificate, became a teacher at the school in 1892 remaining in full time employment until her death in 1927 after 35 years’ unbroken service.

The spiritual needs of the village were not overlooked and the Duke of Devonshire built Woodthorpe Church (on the site of the earlier chapel) in 1848 at a cost of £1,400. The chapel’s name was the Chapel of Ease. The bell came from a ship, was dated 1636 and was brought to Woodthorpe by the Frecheville family for the earlier chapel, then installed in the new chapel.

The Deacon, who lived in the vicarage built in the 17th. Century positioned across from the Albert Inn, rang the bell twice every day to call the villagers to prayer.

The Albert Inn was built 1887 in part sponsored by the Staveley Iron & Coal Company; previously the Nag’s Head had catered for the refreshment of villagers. Nearby was also the Elm Tree Inn (named after an adjacent Elm Tree) and a blacksmith’s forge.

The Victorian times were a prosperous period for the village which had shops, two butchers and merchants operating in the village.

Mrs. Windle’s ‘beer off’ and general store dominated the top end of Norbriggs Road. A tap outside provided water for local cottages, the house next to the shop had its own well.

Coal was mined at Woodthorpe Footrill in the late 19th. And early 20th. Century. This colliery known as ‘Wang’em Main’ or ‘Wagon Main’ was approximately at the present junction of Spencer Avenue and Norbriggs Road and was in operation in 1900. The colliery manager’s house (demolished 1982) was a few yards below on the Norbriggs Road. Included in the miners were Arthur Lawson, Fred Hobson and Elijah Rush.

The colliery was a small operation employing probably about twelve in all and operated semi-unofficially.

The railway came near to the village when the Midland Railway opened a branch from Barrow Hill to Cresswell, with a further branch leaving at Seymour Junction and going to Bolsover and Mansfield,  these lines also including a branch to the Seymour Colliery. The nearest Station (Staveley Town, Midland Railway) was at Netherthorpe at the junction of Fan Road with the A619 accessed by the Bridle Road and a footbridge at Netherthorpe. The London Gazette 29th. November 1864 carried a notice of the Bill to be placed before Parliament stating that the railway served  “.….Barlborough, Staveley, Woodthorpe, Netherthorpe, Sutton cum Duckmanton ……..”

Passenger Trains commenced from Barrow Hill station (then called Staveley) through Staveley Town (then called Netherthorpe) to Clown (original spelling) and Mansfield in 1888, the line having opened throughout for goods and minerals in 1875.

Mineral trains commenced from Seymour Junction to Doe Lea August 1866. and to Glapwell for goods and minerals 10th. November 1884. Colliery workmen’s services commenced to Glapwell 1st. September 1886 with through passenger services commencing from Barrow Hill through Staveley Town Station to Mansfield on 1st. September 1990.

Later, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (which became the Great Central Railway) extended its Chesterfield branch to London giving express services from the Staveley Central Station at Lowgates.  Passenger services commenced 1st.June 1892 from Sheffield to Staveley (goods services to Staveley Works having begun 1st.December 1891).  Services to the South at Annesley Junction (where the line met the Great Northern Railway Leen Valley branch to Nottingham) commenced 2nd. January 1893 with the Southern part of the Chesterfield loop opening  3rd July 1893. Passenger services through to London commenced Wednesday 15th. March 1899 with the first passenger trains leaving Manchester at 2.15 am and London Marylebone 5.15 am.

Before the advent of bus services travellers from Woodthorpe would walk to these stations which together provided an extensive and comprehensive travel network.

Prior to the formation of the East Midlands Motor Services Company a bus firm called Underwood’s commenced some services on the Chesterfield – Staveley – Clowne road through Norbriggs. At one time a Friday evening service to Staveley Market was operated from Seymour Village.

The First World War (1914 – 1918)

The local area sent a number of its young men to serve in the Army and Navy. In commemoration of this a war memorial was erected in the church grounds to the brave men who died in the conflict.

Industrial Decline

Following the First World War the industry in and about Woodthorpe went into decline.

Seymour Colliery closed 1919, the remaining employees being transferred to Ireland Colliery at Staveley (which mined coal under Woodthorpe Village), as well as Oxcroft Colliery, Hartington Colliery and Markham Colliery. It is said that the mine was worked out although some have alleged that it flooded. The site became a coal transportation depot for R. J. Budge mining but closed towards the end of the 20th. Century..

The Seymour Colliery houses did not last much longer than the colliery being condemned as unfit for human habitation in 1929 and demolished 15th. April 1932.

The closure of the Seymour Colliery also saw the closure of the pumping station at Norbriggs about 1920. This was demolished and a house called the pump house remains in its place.

Dudley and Son’s tool-making company closed and was demolished, a property known as the Willows being built on the site in 1922. This was itself to be demolished about 1990.

With the population dwindling as a result of the Seymour housing closure and industry declining the shops and merchants in the village closed down ultimately leaving only a Post Office which survived almost until the end of the 20th. century. Woodthorpe settled down to being a dormitory village with the population working outside of the village.

The Midland Railway became the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) following the 1922 grouping.  The LMS rail route from the Staveley Town station to Bolsover and Mansfield via Glapwell closed 28th. July 1930 ending regular passenger trains South of Seymour Junction. To compensate, the East Midlands Motor Services Ltd. (which was owned by the LMS) commenced a bus service which covered the Barrow Hill – Staveley – Woodthorpe – Bolsover – Glapwell section of  of this rail route. This was later to be numbered route 8, and, with route 4 which ran along the A619 Worksop Road to Worksop was an early East Midland service acquired from Underwood’s This latter service, running via Clowne, was to cause a reduction to one train per day on the Barrow Hill – Clowne – Elmton & Cresswell service during the 1940’s.

The Post Second World War Village

Following the Second World War Woodthorpe continued as dormitory village but still with a strong village identity.

Staveley Town station closed completely 5th. August 1952 with the passenger service over this line from Elmton & Cresswell via Clowne and Barlborough station  to Barrow Hill ceasing 5th. July 1954. Latterly there was one train on Mondays to Fridays only from Chesterfield at 8.17 am. running to Elmton & Cresswell – although the train continued to Shirebrook (unadvertised to the general public) on school days for the benefit of school children. This train returned from Elmton & Cresswell at 4.21 pm (Clowne & Barlborough 4.29 pm) (advertised) and on school days at 4.10 pm from Shirebrook, again for the benefit of school children (unadvertised).

Additionally a holiday train ran on summer Saturdays at 8.41 am from Clowne and Barlborough. This train originated at Radford and ran via Mansfield Town station and Elmton & Cresswell to Blackpool North station – there was a return service leaving Blackpool at 10.50  am. School trains still brought students to Staveley Town station from Clowne for a while up to this date.

The Blackpool service was one of the very few scheduled services to use the Staveley North curve (and its 15 mph speed restriction), most trains continuing to Barrow Hill Station. This holiday train survived calling at Clowne and Elmton Station until the 28th August 1954 Northbound with the final return service 4th. September 1954 back from Blackpool North.

Public transport had been replaced since 1930 by buses with route 8 (which ran Doe Lea Village – Bolsover – Woodthorpe – Staveley – New Whittington –  (later) West Handley) and, after the second world war,  route 27 (which ran Chesterfield – Woodthorpe – High Moor – Clowne) operated by East Midland Motor Services Ltd..

Staveley Central on the old Great Central line closed 4th. March 1963 finally severing all passenger rail links in the area.

The surviving roads through the village – Woodthorpe Road  and Bolsover Road – were straightened and lost their quaintness as a result.

By the 1990’s Woodthorpe had become a car-essential society with residents working far away from Woodthorpe, and, generally speaking, working and shopping outside of the Borough of Chesterfield.

Bus services had deteriorated, the direct Chesterfield service from Clowne and Killamarsh disappearing apart from some evening services and the Bolsover Road service becoming a little-used service on a constantly changing route, latterly  Bolsover- Woodthorpe – Staveley – Markham Vale. Being uneconomic the route is supported by Derbyshire County Council, and the operator has changed several times. A survey by the Woodthorpe Village Community Group in 2011 suggests that the current route is not popular.

There is some commerce in Woodthorpe with the Willows Nursing Home opening in about 1990, a haulage firm continuing in the village and a limousine-hire firm operating as well as local farms including Woodthorpe Hall farm. The Albert Inn provides a welcome haven for locals.

1992 saw the closure of Woodthorpe Church, the Church authorities seeking to sell the property as a dwelling house. The removal of the war memorial from the church grounds for ‘safekeeping’ caused resentment in the village and the villagers banded together to ensure its restitution. Following correspondence with the Diocese of Litchfield/Staveley Parish, the memorial was found and re-erected at the junction of Norbriggs Road, Woodthorpe Road and the Bridle. A local Staveley firm provided the ironwork (a Woodthorpe-based director of the company facilitating this and one of the company’s Woodthorpe employees doing the work). The local authority provided the site and arranged its re-erection.

A service is held each Remembrance Day, Woodthorpe residents joining with Mastin Moor villagers to commemorate those armed services personnel fallen from both communities in the many conflicts including now the Falklands Campaign, Iraq and Iran as well as the two World Wars.

2000 onwards

This century continues with Woodthorpe remaining a traditional Derbyshire Village with a traditional; Derbyshire Village atmosphere. At the centre of the village is the friendly Albert Inn where Russ and June welcome all villagers and visitors.

Woodthorpe is currently a thriving village with low unemployment and hard-working and friendly villagers.

The track on the rail line from Seymour Junction to Clowne was lifted during February 2012, although there are plans to use the line to Seymour Junction to service a new landfill site proposed for the area near Duckmanton and longer term plans for a passenger service. Chesterfield Borough Council say that they are ‘preserving the course of the line’.

What will the future hold?

The future is very uncertain. The Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Trustees through their agents Capita Symonds have published  proposals which, combined with policy changes recommended by the planning officers of Chesterfield Borough Council could see the village substantially altered and very much enlarged from its current population (Woodthorpe and Norbriggs conbined) of 550 residents.

 Copyright Roger Davenport ©

 January 2012