Adapted from “A Guide to Ripley’s Heritage” Part One : East” by Frank Mansey, pages 24-31.
From the junction of Steam Mill Lane and the A610, look towards the Industrial Estate across the road and to your right and beyond. Until about 1890 Forty Horse Pit lay in the fields behind the present estate, and it is suggested, without proof, that the colliery and today’s Fortyhorse Fields got their name from the fact that forty horses were used in the mine. That being so, it must have been something special that so many horses were in use, so the colliery must have been quite renowned!
The lower end of the estate, near Codnor Gate corner, was the site of another colliery, High Holborn, which closed in 1909 due to flooding.
Back to the main road! It was part of the Cromford to Langley Mill Turnpike for which the Trust was formed in 1776. There was a tollgate near to the Gate Inn, hence the name Codnor Gate for that locality , and the gate into Ripley is shown on contemporary maps immediately above the end of Steam Mill Lane.
Looking up Nottingham Road, the railway line from Ripley Pit to Butterley crossed the road a few yards up from the end of Steam Mill Lane. It was on a bridge, one pillar of which was where there is now an entrance to a little private drive, and the other was just above the car sales business across the road. The bridge was of plain steel girder construction painted with red lead, and was commonly known as the “Iron Bridge”. The line fell out of use when the Colliery closed, and the bridge was demolished in 1969 to facilitate road improvements.
Our route takes you up the hill towards Ripley, and on the brow is the Moss Cottage public house where George Woolley, one of the renowned Codnor family, is recorded as living in 1895. It is not known whether the name is just one given to a pub or whether, as is suggested, it may earlier have been the home of a Mr. Moss. There is a census record of someone who lived at the Moss Cottage, with no mention of it being an inn.
Next to the pub were, until around 1970, the nursery gardens of Mr. Rawlings, and across the road were the larger market gardens of Mr. Peake.
A little further along the road is Brickyard Lane, at the far end of which are some steps to higher ground. The wall to the right of the steps was the boundary of the brickyard that bordered, on the far side, the Porterhouse land, and at its north end ran to the top of today’s Dannah Street. It closed in the early part of the 20th century but is shown on maps back to 1835. There is however, a “memorandum” in the records of Codnor, that in 1756 ” William Smith of Loscoe paid a shilling (1Op) for getting sods on the said (Codnor) Common, and carrying them to his brick kiln near Ripley.” The location is not identified, but it seems likely to have been the same brickyard because other yards recorded were on the other side of the town.
Onwards now, passing the entrance to Prospect Court, businesses which were formerly a furniture factory situated in the premises of what was Prospect House, to a point just before you reach Greenwich Corner (Sainsbury’s). A short lane between the houses on your left leads to cottages set well back from the road. This is Fletchers’ Row, built indeed by the Fletcher family, of whom there is more shortly. On turning left across the front of the cottages it used to be possible to walk back to Prospect House, from which the path continued again to join Brickyard Lane at the point where it meets Porterhouse Road. The house was once owned by Mr. W.H. Fletcher but the death there of a John Fletcher was reported in 1903. After the Fletchers the house became the residence and builder’s yard of Mr. H. Hunt, and then of his son.
At the comer, Bridle Lane and the Coach Road converged. The latter was masked by the new A610 Bypass in 1984, but it can still be found behind the hedge at the entrance to Sainsbury’s. Between the tops of the Lane and the Coach Road, which was privately owned, was a bungalow that was the lodge at the toll gate of the Coach Road, and on the other side of the road was a lattice-windowed house where the hostler at Butterley Hall lived. This top end of Bridle Lane still has the old cottages, but they have been modernised, those “privies” and coal houses remaining on the other side of the Lane now being store sheds and garages. They illustrate very well how it was necessary in the 19th century, to go “across the road” to the toilet.
Walking on, the last house before the alleyway on your left, that has a take-away shop on the other side of it, was Melbourne’s general store and off-license. John Melbourne bought a parcel of land that had belonged until 1802 to Joseph Outram, father of the famous Benjamin, and over a number of years bought various other pieces of land adjacent. His son John ran the business until 1951 when he sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Bourne. The alley leads to a few houses known locally until about the 1970s as ‘Seldom Seen”.
Almost opposite is Leamington Street. The local, and 1881 census’ erroneous, name for which was “Pudding Bag Lane”, but it is shown on a 19th century plan as John Street. As you approach Dannah Street on your left, there is a shop with a yard at the side of it. Here was the bakery of Beach and Loades, the latter being Herbert who was mentioned in connection with the Triumph Match factory. He and his brother-in-law took over Mr. Leslie Kay’s bakery in 1918 and the business was run by the family until the 1970s.
Across the road is Fletcher Street and then a lane that goes round the back of the adjoining land. Between the entrances to the Street and the lane there is a post, the Tollgate stoop, on which had hung the tollgate to the town centre. It was knocked down by a lorry in March 2003, but it is on the list of County Treasures and so it was repaired and reinstated two months later.
Now you reach the land and premises of Zycomm Electronics Ltd. They have developed what had originally been Greenwich House, built for Mr. W.H. Fletcher, surgeon and head of the brewery which existed at Cromford Road until 1888.
Shortly before the tum of the century Smedleys opened a family business in the buildings around the back of the House producing soft drinks until around 1912. In 1920, having stood empty for some time, Greenwich House and the cottage round the back were used by Ripley Urban District Council to house their tenants and the other rear buildings became the Council’s stables.
The Council bought part of the land beside the House to build their first housing estate in I920-21, comprising Fletcher Street, Stanley Avenue, and Walker and Redfern Avenues.
In 1923 the local miners bought the house to be the Ripley Miners’ Welfare Institute, and later added a dancehall to the side of it. The original tennis courts then accommodated a successful tennis club.
When the mining fraternity decreased with the closure of local collieries the Welfare Club was no longer viable, the premises were sold in 1977 to Mr. Harry Greatorex of the Regal Ballroom, to be used as a nightclub and entertainment centre called Sunset Boulevard. After a few years he encountered problems and sold the premises to Zycomm in 1983. Part of the old house still exists, but it was masked in the process of enlarging the premises.
Carr House was built by W.H.Fletcher on land owned by Joseph Bowmer and William Walker in 1872. Later occupants of the house include James Crossley, owner of the Wellington Street factory, J. Harry Ogle of the agricultural implement manufacturing works, Mr. Percy Elliott of Butterley Company, Dr. Williams, and the Doctors P. and M. Bedford who also had their surgeries there. The pavement in front of the properties was added in 1965.
Moving on, Broadway is on your left. The building of houses there started in 1925 and it was initially called Gee Street because the land was part of the properties of Mr. Samuel Gee who founded Gee, Walker and Slater Ltd. (See Southern Walk). Rubble from the Peasehill windmill was used in the construction of the road.
Next to Broadway is Broadway Court accommodation for the elderly. This is the site of two earlier pieces of Ripley history. A group of local businessmen formed a syndicate to build a large and magnificent concert hall and ballroom that could accommodate a thousand people on the floor with a further one hundred and thirty on the balcony. Called the Victory Hall it also had a large and impressive foyer. It was opened in 1920 and the more affluent of the neighbourhood were entertained by top names including the likes of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Unfortunately the scheme proved too ambitious for its time and it failed.
The premises were bought by the Ripley Cooperative Society to become their bakehouse, with the huge stage area housing the ovens. The foyer and vestibule became a dancehall and cafe.
In 1928 a central dairy was added alongside and that was how it stayed until 1973 when it was all closed down and the buildings became derelict in the ensuing years. The site was bought by the Council in 1974 and i t was later cleared to prepare it for its present use.
Across the road again are two large semi-detached houses. These were built in the 1800s as one large house and private school known as “The College”, at the side of which was a sizeable piece of open ground. The Headmaster in 1884 is recorded as Mr. Benjamin Hackett.
Argyll Road, the upper half of which was developed in 1905, cuts through part of that land now and when it was first opened it was a private road. Bollards in the middle of the road prevented the passage of traffic. Consequently, when buildings near the junction with Outram Street caught fire, the Butterley Fire Brigade turned their fire engine round and demolished the bollards. The road has remained open ever since.
At the town side of the road was the Primitive Methodists (Prims) Mount Tabor Chapel built in 1892. It closed in 1989 due to the dwindling size of its congregation and stood empty for many years before being used commercially. It has recently been refurbished for use by Derwent Sash Windows.
Opposite here was Clowers’ stock yard. Early in the century this was the yard of Mr. Rodgers the wheelwright, and a feature of this was the platform on which a man could stand holding in his hands one end of a long saw. The other end of it was held by another man standing in a pit below the platform, and this was how they cut long lengths of timber. It is now the site of Newlands Close.
That brings you to the disused railway cutting, now the Ripley Greenway. This is the site of Ripley’s Station that closed to passengers in June 1930 and closed completely on 1st April 1963. It became the venue for all sorts of social events; whist drives, wedding receptions, meetings, jumble sales, fur and feather shows – it all happened there! It was those premises which all that time ago sowed the seed of longing for a Ripley Museum, but it was not to be.
Across the road where the tyre service workshop is on your right, was the builders ‘ supplies business started by Mr. William Clower, inherited by his son John, his grandson J. Frederick and then by his great grandson John. Mr. Clower eventually used the station buildings for storage and a few years later, in 1985 when the original timber- sheds were becoming ready for refurbishing Mr. Clower bought the station buildings, demolished them and moved his business across the road. They have since been demolished and rebuilt, and recently sold to Frank Key Builders Merchants.
Next to Clowers’ warehouse were their showrooms. Here stood, in the 1800s, Ivy House and a shop. A Mr. Davies, photographer, lived at the bottom of Alfred Street when the navvies were building the railway, and he moved to Ivy House when his home became a Mission House for them. He ran his business from the shop. Then in 1897 and again in 1906 Mr. C. Bell is recorded as living there. Later Mr. Birkin lived there. During all this time there was a piece of ground with hoardings on it between the shop and Beighton Street, and at Fair time the land behind the hoarding was used for sale-cattle. Then Fodens moved their confectionery business into the shop and later took over the garage as well as the shop. The shop was last occupied by Bagguleys, confectioners.
In 1936 the Post Office bought the garage site for a new Post Office, but the plan was abandoned because of the war.
Early 19th century maps show a tavern called the .Jessop Arms in this site. Named, of course, after William Jessop of Butterley, it became the Midland Hotel. A large stone inscribed “Midland Brewery 1874” was found during restoration work, so it seems certain that the name Midland refers to the owners rather than any connection with the coming of the Midland Railway. It has been modernised several times and for some obscure reason named the “Sandpiper”, then the “Griffin” and then in 2002 back to its original name.