Steam Mill Lane

Adapted from Frank Mansey’s Guide to Ripley’s Heritage Part Two : South

From the roundabout with Derby Road, turn right to enter Pease Hill. About 200 metres along on the right you will find a footpath. Although it is signposted at the time of writing, as a footpath to Waingroves, this is the Ropewalk, where from the mid19th to early 20th centuries Mr. James Roberts and then Mr. Thomas Roberts made ropes, using posts along the side of the path to hang them on, and a windlass at the far end to spin them. The 1821 Tithe Map however shows it as Lace Lane with Lace Closes either side of it.

Pease Hill Road was called Coppice Lane in the early days, then became Peasy Lane, possibly from the crops of pease that were grown along there. With the coming of the railway the name changed to Station Road, and then when the station was moved, it reverted to Pease Hill Road, leading to Pease Hill.

As you approach Greenhill Avenue on your left, stop for a moment. On your right where there are two new houses opposite the garage, was the site until October 1988 of Greenhill House, number 80. Apparently years ago it also occupied the land where the four houses next door were built. There were tennis courts and big lawns where peacocks strutted. It is sometimes wrongly said that a Sir Joseph Slack lived here. The first mention of a Slack family living on this road is in 1861 when Thomas, a brickmaker aged 58, and his family lived there. In 1881 Thomas was retired, with an income from his houses, lands and shares. His son John, professionally a solicitor aged 23 and with a B.A. from Oxford, was also a local Methodist preacher. He later practiced in London, and became a Q.C. He was knighted, and it is said that when he was coming home at weekends, he would phone the coachman, who then took the coach to the station to meet him. The grave of Sir John Bamford Slack Kt. Q.C; B.A. can be found in Ripley Cemetery. By 1891 Thomas’s widow was the head of the family, and in 1904 she sold the house to the Rev Eric Todd who as Principal in 1905, advertised his Collegiate School for Boys there.

The next owner in the 1920s, was a Dutchman Mr. J.S. van Crayanord, and it was he who had the little coach house built that stands on the roadside, and which for some years was used spasmodically as a shop.

Mr. Deakin, a builder next lived there. He is reputed to have kept Arabian horses, and during the 1939 war several evacuees stayed there.

Finally came Mr. Meakin who took in Mr. D. Morley as a lodger. The latter gentleman one day found his landlord in the barn, shot dead by his own hand, and from then the house stood empty until it was demolished. Just below the coach house mentioned above, there is a footpath, the Greenway ; this was the access to the first Ripley Station.

Now to the left hand side of the road. Just below Greenhill Avenue is Anchor Supplies which until just after the millennium was renowned for the unusual sight of an aeroplane and an army tank in the same yard. The tank was sold first, and then the plane. They attracted much interest from visitors. The Ripley Gas Works occupied this site from 1864 until supplies were nationalized and came from the national grid. The town’s gas was produced here by the Ripley Gas Light and Coke Company whose offices were at the Public Hall in 1895. The gas was stored in ‘gasometers’, huge cylindrical tanks that expanded vertically. The Gasworks closed in 1940 and it became a civil engineering plant contractor’s yard before Anchor Supplies took over. All that is left of the gasworks is the Retort House, where coal was carbonized before being burnt, which is now one of Anchor’s stores.

Ripley gasworks. Note the gasholders

On the other side of the building that stands in the lower front corner of Anchor Supplies’ yard, is where the railway line crossed the road on its way to Ripley Pit.

Now look onto the hill on the right in front of you, and you will see Coppice Farm. It dates back to before 1700 when Jonathan Woolley lived there; he left in 1726, but George Woolley was living there in 1860.

Further up the hill, just beyond the junction with Waingroves Road, was the Steam Mill, for which the road is now named, and the windmill. The Steam Mill was a saw mill, built around 1700 and demolished around 1900, the bricks being used to build Severn’s shop on Codnor Market Place.

The Steam Mill

The windmill, which was further down the road towards Nottingham Road, was sold on the death in 1892 of Thomas Steeples, whose family had milled there for 100 years. It continued to operate for a few years, but was eventually bought by Mr Gee and demolished in the 1920s, the stone being used as foundation for Gee Street, later Broadway.

The windmill

Behind Peasehill stood the two Ripley pits (see separate article) and at the Nottingham Road end was the Triumph Match factory founded by Herbert and Albert Loades. It closed after a fire in 1930.