Memories of Rolleston

Another in our occasional series of personal reflections on the village. This time, not from a Rollestonian but from a” Rollestonophile”, David Barker of Romsey, who spells it “Rollestone”

In the mid 1860s a branch of my family moved to west Derbyshire from Alsager in Cheshire. They already had children and added to the family after the move. Eventually they had 11 children,

Amongst these children were William (1857 – 1946), Julia (1852 – 1945) and Ralph (1872 – 1942). All are buried at Rolleston.

Shortly after the Great War they must have decided to give up farming at Eaton Park at Doveridge and retire.

In 1920 they bought a house – The Gables- on Tutbury Road (former name of Church Road) in the Parish of Rolleston. The sale particulars of the house, part of the Rolleston Hall estate, described it as having an electricity supply from Rolleston Hall. This was presumably for minimal lighting from a bank of batteries which would have been charged on a regular basis. From another similar installation on a relation’s farm at Weston on Trent the voltage was probably about 25 volts.

I recall visits to the Gables in the late 1930s with my parents until the beginning of the 1939 war when they had to cease with petrol rationing. For Father it was a smart suit and bowler hat, Mother, a smart costume or dress and for me a good scrub, well polished shoes, best clothes and a lecture that little boys are only to be seen not heard! This was very much the type of home I would have expected to find in the late Victorian era. I only remember two or three visits.

During the war years my father was able to visit his friend Wilf Spalton who owned the Derbyshire Farmers Dairy business in Burton and was permitted to travel between Derby and Burton in his Bradford Jowett van. The diversion via Rolleston was not on the route but was a risk worth taking. Dad took eggs, cream, possibly a ham and other perishable foodstuffs. Pigs on our farm did seem to die every now and again which was not a problem as the local PC and his sergeant – unknown to each other benefited! I cannot recall seeing a telephone in the house at Rolleston.

On a journey back to Derby on 28th April 1947 father and Wilf Spalton were returning to Derby when they saw a man in RAF uniform walking away from a car at Clay Mills. They knew the time from a simple calculation from when Wilf left his brother’s house. The next day it was announced that a Birmingham taxi driver, a George Tyler had been found shot in his taxi at Clay Mills. Dad wanted to help the police with the information that he had but was concerned that they should not have been in that place at that time. He spoke to his son-in law, a sergeant in the Derby Borough Police Force, who spoke to officers in the case who gave a guarantee that the question as to why he was at Clay Mills at the time would not be asked or recorded. They both made statements. The murder remains unsolved despite the questioning of over 1000 RAF men.

Although I lived and worked in Burton upon Trent for a number of years I never revisited the house until earlier this year when the present owners kindly allowed me to take some photographs of the exterior.

Bryan Jennings who farmed at Cross Farm from 1968 to 1980 and then moved to Australia wrote to say "From what my Dad told me the police came across our fields looking for him and found the gun in the roots of an Elm tree that used to be at the end of Cross Lane. I understood it was a US airman/soldier and he was heading for Fauld dump. There used to be a cart track from near the Stretton end of Bitham Lane to the back of our fields and he had followed that." – March 2018.

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Last updated: 25 March 2018