which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell.

A History of Fritchley

Keith Clark

Mrs E Burtt and members of the Wl originally produced the history of Fritchley in 1931. G Dawes and members of the village updated it in 1997; unfortunately they have since passed away. So to prevent this important document being lost to future generations I reproduce it here.

The History of Fritchley.

Fritchley is a hamlet in the parish of Crich with a population (in 1931) of between five and six hundred. It is a typical Derbyshire village of small square stone built houses strewn about on the eastern slopes of the hill, with two or three picturesque farm houses among them. The road down from Crich is very steep. It passes an old primitive Methodist Chapel, and a school, goes down what is known as "Mutton Row", and arrives at the "Green" which is just a patch of grass crossed by some paths, with out trees, or a pond or geese or any of the graces of the villages in the south.

Around the Green are small stone houses with well-kept gardens, a Congregational Chapel and some shops. From the Green there go; Allen Lane leading back to the main road (Bullbridge Hill), Chapel Street, a short street leading past The Friends Meeting House and the Post Office; Front Street which joins it and goes down Bobbin Mill Hill and up the other side of the valley to Barnclose Farm and Wingfield Park; and Bowmer Lane which runs past the allotments.

As to the original name of "Fritchley"; the local belief in 1931 was that the place was called after the de Frecheville family. With there being no proper surnames in the 14th century; ordinary men were known as "son of somebody or other and landed families were called after their estates. During the 14th century Fritchley is mentioned in connection with the sale of land when William de Wakebridge established his chanceries in 1363. This statement is recorded in Cox's Derbyshire churches and may refer to a field on Dimple Lane known as Nun's Field where the story goes a nunnery once existed. The de Frechevilles were mentioned in 1324, some forty years earlier, when Rolf de Frecheville sold the Manor of Crich to Roger Beler. However it is known that in 1309 the de Frenchville's conceded to the Canons of the Abbey (Darley Abbey Cartulary), a portion of land near the house of Geoffrery of Frychisleagh. The entry refers to land where Fritchley Cottage now stands. We also know that the de Frecheville's existed in or around the 1260's when Ralph's grandfather Ankara, married Juliana, the heiress of the last Baron of Crich.

There are some rather quaint place names in Fritchley; Top Hagg and Bottom Hagg are two foot-paths once cart tracks leading down to the canal side. Hagg is old Danish meaning a way. Chadwick Nick speaks for itself when one sees the pass at the top of the hill but who was Chadwick? (Chadwick, so the story goes, or rather Colonel Chadwick, according to Farmer Julian of Bowmer's Rough farm which is close by the Nick, was a Civil War, Parliamentary soldier who had his men cut through Chadwick Nick while they were waiting, camped in the fields above Whatstandwell to attack Wingfield Manor during the conflict).

Corner Pin a group of cottages near the old chapel (now demolished). Mutton Row (since condemned but reprieved because of the second World War and the shortage of houses after; now are sort-after dwellings), which lead down to the Shoulder of Mutton Inn (it closed on the 19th of Jan 1971 and the sign was taken down three days later). Some have suggested that it should be renamed Church Row (now called Church St, the name Mutton Row has dropped out of fashion since the end of the war, but the older villagers take delight in keeping the name of Mutton Row alive); but nobody (in 1931) seemed to want it altered. Bobbin Mill Hill will always remain although the mill as long gone. Bowmer Lane was called after the first owner of the 'Old Farm' on the right not as normally supposed by the recent family of Bowmer's that lived in the farm on the left in the valley (now owned by the Lockwood family).

Although, Fritchley was mentioned in the 14th century its story really relates from the 16th century and the reign of Elizabeth (1st) and its traditional founding as a village belongs to a time after Mary, Queen of Scots was a prisoner at Wingfield (Manor). A large number of retainers were employed to wait on the Queen and about this time one of them bought some land at Fritchley and built a cottage. It is believed that the retainer was a descendent of the de Frechville's who wanted to return to the village named after his ancestors. The house that he built is still standing today; it is the little old cottage opposite the lane by the "Shoulder of Mutton". His name was FRITCHLEY.

About the same time The Old Farm on Bowmer Lane was built and some of the old mullioned windows remain although sadly now bricked up. The walls in places are two feet thick and some of the doors inside are of heavy dark oak with a carving across the upper panel in 16th century pattern. Barn Close Farm was first mentioned during the English Civil War when a Bowmer of that day built the Farmhouse in 1669 and the large Barn in 1671. The large barn was built with "slots for muskets" so if another war broke out the place would be safe. Although the large barn was rebuilt in 1912 "the slots for muskets" from 1671 were retained and built into the present walls as curiosities. Two further cottages (now pulled down in the 1930s to rebuild The Red Lion Inn and the electricity sub station) in the village date to 1688 and they present an extremely aged appearance and are (were) on Front Street.

The next we hear of Fritchley is in the 1730s when the story goes that "Dick Turpin" rode up Chadwick Nick on his way to Tansley Moor. He watered his horse at the brook, which is now near the gate of Pine Lodge. Chadwick Nick at that time was still a packhorse track; and the group of cottages on the brow before Pine Lodge was then an Inn of the humbler sort. The row of stone troughs were the pack horses used to be watered, can still be traced in the field opposite the Lodge, although they are nearly buried in the earth. There were twelve of them altogether; Pack horses carried heavy loads and needed space between each other so they could not jostle and disturb the packs, hence the long line of troughs. Many shoes from these horses have been found on the "Nick" over the years.

Around the same time 1740-1760 stone was being provided from Fritchley Quarry- The Rue Cliff (on Church Street,) for Shipley Park. In 1911, when stone was again needed for the Suffragette Wall and two lodges at Shipley Park, Fritchley stone was used. In between times the Primitive Methodist Chapel had been built on the edge of the site and in the 1920s two semi-detached houses were erected at the foot of the quarry face (No 1 Church Street). Before then the steep road down from Fritchley Lane down to the junction of Church Street and Amber View Road had been made across the bed of the quarry. The original road left Fritchley Lane between where Pello and Cherry Houses now stand and continued to a level above the quarry to meet Amber View some 100 yards above it's present junction with Church Street.

The Corn mills of Fritchley were started in the 1760s when Enoch Harrison built a mill just below Mill green – the shell that can still be seen. So can the remains of the wall, which formed the dam and at that time provided power for the grinding machinery.

Photo courtesy Geoff Dawes archive

Harrison's Mill

In 1839, a descendent, Isaac Harrison, owned both the Mill and the two cottages at Mill Green. One of these was a house and a stocking shop; the other a house and a beer shop called "Nunfield Cottage" Bowmer's Corn Mill was built between 1810 and 1820. The mill is still standing (it was partially pulled down in the 1970s and used as a barn or store when David Bowmer lived there.) to this day and although it is no longer used, the pond, which originally supplied water to power the mill, is one of the features of the property.

The third "Corn mill" and the largest dam still in the Dimple Valley lies between Dimple Lane and Kirkham Lane. The "Corn mill" was originally built in 1790 and one of the millstones could still be seen as late as 1954. However a cotton mill was erected in the same area somewhat later. A sale of property in 1805 included a newly erected four story building built as a Cotton Spinning factory (I believe this to be Towlsons Mill at Wingfield Park.) During the period 1815-1820 a small factory was built in the field behind Fernside on Bobbin Mill Hill and woodturning was begun there, in 1839, Bobbin Mill as it was then known was run by the Wightman family employing some "40 men and boys". In 1863 the Bobbin Mill was taken over by a Quaker, John Sargent. In the early 1880s the Bobbin Mill was taken over by another Quaker, Edward Watkins who built "Chestnut Bank" as his residence. In 1885 the mill was burned down in what was a disastrous fire. Edward Watkins was not insured and although he tried to revive the business at a small mill at the bottom of Bullbridge Hill it was not a success.

With the dawn of the 19th century we enter what might be regarded as the historical period of the village! The time which went before seems almost prehistoric, when the historian tries to penetrate its darkness. It is perhaps owing to the industrial revolution, which,besides destroying the old village songs and dances, as we know it did also covered the remembrance of the past with a veil of its own black smoke.

Around 1800 the expansion of the straw hat was at its greatest, the Italian supplies were cut off due to war, and the straw bonnet was exceedingly popular. In the event, in1801, Thomas Kidder came to Crich and formed a partnership with William Downall named as a "Hat Manufacturer of Crich Parish" On February 11th 1801 they purchased land on Dimple Lane and commenced work on building "The Hat Factory" However, before the building was complete, Downall did not keep his side of the agreement and all the property was transferred to Kidder. On the 10th of September 1802 Kidder sold the freehold of the factory to James and John Turton, who on the 3rd December 1803 sold the premises to William Lister. In 1810 the Butterley Company bought the buildings and converted them into tenements for workers employed in the Old Quarry. Originally there were two buildings comparable in size, however, in the 1930s one of the buildings was pulled down.

A map of 1824 shows that Fritchley had increased considerably during the first part of the century. The road from Bullbridge to Crich was now a Turnpike and the cottage at the top of Bullbridge Hill was where the Toll Bar was. This map also showed the Butterley Company tramway from Crich Quarry which passes through Fritchley. A village legend (correctly) says that the first engine on this line had legs instead of wheels! Perhaps it worked on cogs. The windmill on Thorpe Hill is also marked on the map as a going concern. The story goes that the miller was concerned in the Pentrich Revolution, but this has not been verified. The revolutionaries are said to have called at Barn Close Farm, but there is no evidence left to substantiate the fact that any inhabitant of Fritchley joining the revolution. Another story more likely, is that the miller was the last man to be transported, which would make the destruction of the mill a much later affair. It was already a ruin by 1865.

The bungalow behind the Post Office was built in 1812; certainly the first bungalow in Fritchley (and rumoured to be the first built in Derbyshire and possibly Great Britain.) The Primitive Methodists built the Chapel at the top end of Church Street in 1829; (it ceased being a chapel in the 1980s. It was converted to a dwelling by a Mr Ragsdale of Heage) and judging by some of the old stones of that time they came to a primitive people. In spite of this Fritchley was a prosperous little place; many cottagers owned their own little houses and plots of land. There are three cottages opposite the Post Office which have gardens back and front. The front was once a bit of common land then some young men came along and started building a wall along the front, they were told to stop by the surveyors but later, seeing that they were cultivating it they were told they could keep it.

In 1840 the Congregational Chapel was built. It was the outcome of a sincere concern for the spiritual and moral condition of the village. At the same time came the railway and the old times had really passed away. No more packhorses to drink at the troughs on the Nick. Despite the railway, walking was still the only means of transport the villagers of Fritchley could afford and some of the distances they walked are astonishing to hear of. An old woman of Fritchley, who lived to be 90, used to walk to Nottingham when she was young to get there for 6 a.m. carrying the completed stockings and to bring back more cotton for the stockingers in the village. Many walked daily to and from Heanor carrying bundles both ways.

Fritchley in 1860 was a very different place the houses on the Common opposite the hawthorn tree; which is supposed to be the middle of England were a stocking warehouse, a shop and a Inn used to be. The house on the other side of Fritchley Lane was a stonemasons where they made tombstones. The last row of cottages on the right was a Wheelwrights, Henry Shells (George Chell) house; opposite the Primitive Chapel was his shop. There was a butcher "Old Butcher Taylor" at Corner Pin.

Where the two houses stand on Allen Lane opposite Plum tree Tree Cottage was a stockyard where wheat was thrashed. The corner cottage just below was a bake house, and the house across Allen Lane was a bakers shop. Where "the shop" now stands was a joiners. There was a shoemakers at the house opposite the door to the Congregational schoolroom, where the villagers went to be measured for boots. You had one pair of boots a year – Very strong – and thick with nailed soles.

There were no Church schools; they were not built till 1869, an old Dame named Mrs or Miss Higgett, taught a few children in one of those dark little cottages up behind the Primitive Chapel. The fee was 1 p a week. The story goes that one lady who worked for the writer in 1911, could not read or write. She said that her mother had paid 1p a week to have her elder brother learn reading and writing and then he had runaway to sea, so the mother decided not to waste any more money on education because "that was what it led to" There was another School in Fritchley of superior quality known as "The Crich Academy" kept by an old man in one of the houses that stands back from the road on the Common on the other side of Dial Farm. His schoolroom still remains.

Many of the stocking shops of former days can still be seen. They are easily known by their long windows with small square panes. Some super fine work has gone out of little Fritchley. Henry Sulley, who was born in 1820 and died on 18™ December 1886, was a very famous stockinger. One of his works is often exhibited as a masterpiece of the old method. It is a white cotton stocking with 80 courses to the inch, with a lacework representation of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and some lettering so fine that one needs a glass to read it. He nearly ruined his sight over it. He made cashmere stockings for Queen Victoria, so fine a pair would pass the through a wedding ring. He was a good and pious man as well as a first class craftsman; and the tablet to his memory, erected by his fellow worshippers, is in the Primitive Chapel.

There are some odd little sheds to be seen, one is in Front Street near the Red Lion it is known as "the Donkey House" In the old days there were many Donkey's in the village. They carried coal around to the houses. Some of the owners of the donkeys were quaint characters. There was one - old Betty Marchant. She brought coal in panniers on her donkey from Oakerthorpe and Hartsay pits, each pannier held ½ cwt and each donkey carried two panniers. The donkey shed was against her chimney wall so she used to bank up her fire to keep the donkeys warm. The ruins of her little house are in the cross lane near Plum Tree Cottage another old donkey owner was Betty Vallance who used to walk along knitting whilst the animals carried the coal. She also had a pot on her head in which she used to collect scraps for her pigs. Old Joe Bland also kept donkeys and lived in one of the ancient cottages, which used to be across from the Red Lion. He was turned out of his home for owing rent so he took up his abode in a stocking shop on the Common. He lived to be 100.

The Quakers of Fritchley.

I feel I must mention the Quakers of Fritchley as they are only alluded to in passing in the above article. In the past there was a strong band of these gentle people living in the village. The Davidsons kept the Grocers shop on the Green for many years and it has already been said that Quaker Watkins had the Bobbin Mill and he led the Quakers in the village and he also travelled all over the world keeping in contact with other Quaker groups. Chestnut Bank was his residence and I believe it was also a Quaker school. Quaker Henry Smith was the leader in living memory, remembered as a gentle old man, known for his stand against the 1st World War when he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector. On the Common, The Briers was a Quaker Retreat; and in modern parlance was also a Health Farm, and was strictly Vegetarian. It was very successful during the early part of the 20th century and lasted till the 1960s when it became a Catholic Church retreat; in keeping with its first ethos. The Quaker Chapel is kept going by a small band of dedicated Quakers who meet once a month to worship in their own manner and long may they continue.

Tales from the past

The corner to the left of the Red Lion was always known to Les Rollinson as Clammas Corner, because it was believed that the building there (Later a butchers shop) was where calves were clammed to produce veal.
Eland Hunt used to tell about a man who lived on Hill Top before the Second World War during the great strike of the 1920s He and some of the villagers (who were miners) unofficially, dug coal out of the fields behind Mutton Row. When this man became really old his family found him in the outside toilet using the old white five-pound notes for toilet paper! (Eland didn't put it quiet like that).
It was well known that a farmer who was 80 plus years old and lived in one of the farms in the village. Many years ago, used to wander around Fritchley Green with his backside hanging out of his britches and no laces in his boots while at home in the farmhouse, he had a room papered with five-pound notes. He was known to be a very rich man that kept all his money at his home and his relatives told him he was likely to be robbed and to put his cash in the bank. So it is believed that he bagged up all his money and put it in a wheelbarrow and set out walking to the bank in Wirksworth. Why he chose Wirksworth isn't known to this day? When he arrived they would not let him enter the bank believing him to be a tramp and would not have done so had he not produced a sack of money. Then they could not get him in fast enough. It is said that he was there all day, while they were counting the money. His two sisters who went everywhere together survived him and they inherited property in the village. Jack and Jenny White rented a cottage by the canal from them and when Jenny went to pay the rent, she knocked at the door and after a while two voices in unison asked "Who is it ?" and she used to answer "Jenny White, with the rent" then the voices used to say "Wait a minute" and the door was unbolted revealing a very dark interior, a stub of a candle was produced and lit. Jenny handed over the rent and the rent book, two sets of eyes checked the money was correct, and then candle was extinguished. The sisters then took the rent book away to sign it and when they returned the candle was again lit to allow Jenny to check the rent book was correct. When this was done the candle was blown out, the darkness returned and the door was slammed and bolted shut.

Stevenson's Dye Works

Stevenson's was a major employer in the village in the past, at times families worked side by side in the factory and today as I write this (Saturday - St Valentines day - the 14th of February 2009) they are tearing the heart out of Stevenson's old factory down Bullbridge Hill, as they raise it to the ground.
Stevenson's played an important part in this village, they owned the beautiful Hagg Wood and preserved it as you see it today, for the village to enjoy the blue bells and the many birds and rabbits etc that it contained as they strolled freely along the many paths. The whole area of the Hagg holds many happy memories for Fritchley people and this is thanks mainly to Stevenson's'. The original Stevenson's family were benefactors to this village they held parties for the employees children at Christmas time and encouraged them to go on works outings.
After the Second World War Malcolm Stevenson thought the factory was becoming a little too much for him to run and sold out to a larger firm, Nottingham Hosiery and took a directorship in this firm; things were never the same again. The large firm, although they paid good wages and by and large were decent employers, they were more impersonal and the factory grew under their care. They recruited from many towns around and the workers lost the family feel they had formerly enjoyed. Malcolm Stevenson retired and that broke the ties with the original family.
In later years much of the textile business moved abroad and Stevenson's changed hands several times in the attempt to keep going, but soon it came to the end and the factory closed down at Christmas 2006, to the sad loss to the general area and Fritchley in particular. In fairness I must say that many of the village workers had by now reached retirement age and had left the factory before it closed.
Now a new chapter has been revealed for the site, new housing and amenities are proposed and we shall see if they will be any benefit to our village, it is a pity the houses will be just outside the boundary and not in it and it is also a pity we do not have the amenities to attracted them to us, as we do not want our village to stagnate in the future.
Other Employers in the local area that have now closed down. Johnson's Wire Works, at Ambergate. 2000.The Brick works, at Riversdale.1970s. The Lime Works, at Ambergate (Geo Stephenson's) 1960's. The Refactory Works at Sawmills, 1980s. (now it is Lockwood's Food Processing Factory) and the Spring Factory at Crich. 1990s.

Little Hagg Wood, formerly it belonged to Stevenson's Ltd, now it belongs to the Bowler family.

See Keith Clark's photo album of Frichley.

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