The Twentieth Century

The link with the Dukes of Devonshire, which had lasted for three hundred years came to an end after the First World War. Mr Bull, who came to the Etchells in 1907 as a tenant of the Duke of Devonshire, bought the farm in 1918. He sold it to an unnamed buyer who turned out to be Mr Mallender, who moved to Barton Blount in 1930.

Mr Mallender told me he had worked at the Hall as a plumber’s mate and determined to own it. It was his ambition to restore all the former lands to the estate, but I don’t think Barton ever encompassed any of Church Broughton, except land towards Sapperton, eg Lees Hall. To fill in on Barton Hall: the Merrys had lived at Sutton Mill, which they owned, after the Civil War. They sold Barton Blount to the Bradshaws in 1803. The last Francis Bradshaw was really the son of Joe Baggely, but changed his name when he inherited from his mother. The Bradshaws had haemophilia, so the daughters refused to have children and pass it on. One married a Sitwell, who thus acquired the estate. Before Mr Mallender came there, Barton Hall, like many other large houses, had been let to tenants and Alec Douglas Hume’s aunt and uncle came for the shooting and hunting at a rental of ?72 a year.

Many things remained unchanged for centuries. Candles and lamps were the means of illumination until 1934, when electricity arrived. Great excitement was caused when the organist’s ostrich feather caught fire from the organ candle! Water was all fetched from the wells until 1957. The Vicarage was built with underground storage for the rainwater off the roof, to be used as soft water for washing. Alfred Auden had had the wells tested and they were found to be contaminated. Toilets were up the garden, except that the Etchells and the Vicarage had indoor ones, for which all the water had to be carried upstairs, so only visitors were offered their use. Gradually some houses had septic tanks that were discretely linked into the rainwater drain that ran round the roads. The nightsoil was collected by cart and spread over the fields by Boggy Lane, until the cart was replaced by a tanker and then the sewer was laid in 1968. The parents of a family down Boggy Lane died of typhoid. Before clean water, good sewerage and drugs to combat infections death in early childhood was common. However many lived into old age. For example during the five years 1888-93, of the 58 who died, 14 were under 2 years, but 23 were over 70.

In 1900 Henry Edwards set up a creamery by the station at Hatton. 15 He was a big cream and milk contractor for London, but he sold the Hatton site to Nestles as their first English factory for condensed milk, in 1901. Some farmers still sent milk to London, but most sold to Nestles. The farms became more specialised and villagers no longer automatically had a pig and a few hens, goats or bees. Now the central farms are gone and we no longer hear the milking pump or see the cows go by ready for milking.

The improvement in road construction is relatively recent. Even during the first war timber was taken down to Tutbury, from Longford, to such an extent that the road was broken into ruts and a government grant allowed it to be mained. It took the steam roller from 1917 to 1921 to lay a proper granite road over those 4 miles. Someone I spoke to remembered grass growing in the middle of the road to Alkmonton and the branches meeting overhead – a bit troublesome for the cart drivers. One carter was killed by an overhanging branch. Another tale is of a coach that fell into the pond at Heath Top. That pond was built to irrigate the lower lying land of the Foston estate.

As far as farming goes, there was a major change when the enclosures changed the size of the holdings and the role of the people who worked on them; and another great change when the milk was sold as milk and not cheese, although cheese continued to be made occasionally until the last war. The changeover from horses to tractors was mixed too. The Etchells was farmed with horses until the Bulls left in 1926. Steve Tunstall said you could plough an acre a day with horses. Another change to the size of farms came after the First World War when the County Council bought Mount Pleasant and Gorsty Fields and split them to make small holdings for returning soldiers. Recently there have been changes to make fewer and larger farms there and with the loss of the Old Hall and the Etchels as farmhouses, the grouping of fields has changed again with more hedges removed. The laying of the sewer transformed the village. Many new houses were built and old cottages improved and enlarged for ‘outsiders’.

The village was never lacking in excitement or information. News of the relief of Mafeking in 1900, was brought into the village by two credible people, so the school had a half holiday. Later, radios were run off batteries and the library bus brought books in 1948. People travelled. Some left for work in the colonies and United States. Men left to fight in the World Wars. The 1939-45 war brought an influx of evacuees to the village and the Model Farm and cottages up Dark Lane were demolished to make an airfield, which housed two thousand airmen. It was the receiving depot for American war dead being sent home. Experiments with the first jet engine for Rolls Royce were conducted there. Wellington bombers were based there. Accidents happened: one plane clipped the chimney of a house near bluebell wood and another came down just below Heath Top, the pilot being revived by the Miss Bradshaws with home made wine. The Fould ammunition dump blew up on 27th November 1944. killing 70 people. The blast rocked the village to the extent that the bedridden Mrs Stephenson, at the Etchells, fell out of bed.

History looks and sounds as if it is fact, but everyone who writes about the past is liable to error: misreading, miscopying, making assumptions, inserting personal impressions, forgetting doubt, filling in gaps. Remember that the evidence is limited. I apologise for any mistakes and would be glad to have further information.