Pentrich, The village with a place in history

Pentrich and its surrounding Parish were, until the revolution of 1817, of great significance to the local area. There is evidence that Pentrich was already settled when the Romans came through on their way to Chesterfield and the north in 200AD. A Roman encampment at what is now Coney Grey Farm was named after the village; place name specialists believe that the name "Pentrich" may be of Celtic origin. Various suggestions are that the name means "Boar's Hill", "the end of the ridge" or "behind the pound".

The Parish of Pentrich was an important centre, more important than nearby Ripley. The Church of St. Matthew was built in c.1150, close to the site of a Saxon cross, which stood in what is now the junction of Asher Lane and Main Road. Carved Saxon stones can still be seen in the church.

Until 1540 the village belonged to Darley Abbey but then passed through the hands of the Zouch family before coming into the Cavendish family, later Dukes of Devonshire, in 1634. Pentrich remained part of the Chatsworth Estate for over 400 years.

The Black Death visited Pentrich in 1349, when three vicars died in one year. This was still very much a rural, agricultural community. The medieval field system changed little over the years - approaching Pentrich from Derby on the A38 it is still possible to see the parallel hedges, which show where the "messuages" or crofts would have been. Some Pentrich houses still stand exactly where medieval cottages were shown in maps of the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1662 nonconformism came to Pentrich. The old Congregational Chapel, passed during the shorter version of our trail, was built then by the Reverend Porter, a former Vicar of Pentrich whom had been ejected, due to his beliefs. The Church was used from 1700 onwards, most recently by the United Free Church Methodists. It was pulled down in 1971.

Another Methodist chapel at Buckland Hollow (close to plaque 4) was built as a house by a man named Wheatcroft - a carrier on the canals. It was used as a chapel until it was pulled down in the 1960's. From Buckland Hollow, incidentally, a daily service carrying goods by water to Nottingham was offered.

The Industrial Revolution began to change Pentrich very early on. The Milestone at plaque 5 was made by J. Haywood Jnr., marking the arrival of the Turnpike road which came through late in the 18th century; from which Pentrich residents could collect income. At about the same time (1790) Butterley Engineering Ltd was founded as Benjamin Outram & Company, to develop the coal and iron deposits in the Butterley area. The first blast furnace and foundry were built on the present site. The original partners were Benjamin Outram, William Jessop Snr., John Wright and Francis Beresford. Outram and Jessop were prominent engineers, noted particularly for the construction of canals and the development of railways and docks in the UK and overseas. The name was changed to the Butterley Company in 1807, the gatehouse (at plaque 3) was probably built at that time, shortly after the construction of the Derby to Alfreton turnpike. The company's famous contracts included structure of St. Pancras Station in London for the Midland Railway Company in 1868.

Today Butterley Engineering continues in the same tradition of mechanical and structural engineers for major projects world-wide.

The Industrial Revolution brought the Cromford canal to Pentrich in 1790, dividing Pentrich from Ripley. The trail takes walkers along half a mile of the towpath. The Butterley Company used this section of the canal until it was closed for safety reasons in the early 1900's.

Even before the canal and the iron works, Pentrich Colliery was employing the men of the village from 1750. The walk takes you past the former colliery site at Geeson's scrap yard, which still uses one or two of the colliery buildings. Mining could have taken place here in medieval times, as evidence of bell pits was found when the land was being reclaimed in the 1980's.

Coal mining continued in Pentrich for centuries, the pits only being closed in 1946 when the rest of the industry was nationalised. Pentrich was a comparatively safe colliery and one where innovation took place - a pumping engine from Pentrich Colliery was formerly on display at the Science Museum in London; Pentrich was one of the earliest pits to stop the use of pit ponies.

One of the village's other employers can still be seen at the old red brick building on Asher Lane (just as our trail turns left towards Butterley). Now Pentos Office Furniture Ltd, this was formerly the cotton-spinners Messrs J. Towlson & Co., who manufactured lace threads. Arthur John Towlson lived at Victoria Cottage, near the Dog Inn; his company, which had another mill at Wingfield Park, were important local employers. The site was taken over by Stevensons Dyers in the 1940's. Local dye-working had been important since before the 1830's, when the Pentrich damson trees were originally grown as a crop for dying; before chemical dyes were available. The trees are still enjoyed by villagers for their fruit.

Study the list of revolutionaries involved in the rising of 1817, we can see that many of those involved men, were ironworkers (at Butterley), colliers and miners at Pentrich mine, labourers, framework knitters and farmers. This was a busy and thriving village in the process of change from agricultural to industrial lifestyles. It was against this backdrop that the Revolution was played out.