The village of Rolleston is put firmly into the spotlight
(Mail Remembers by Tim Fletcher - 11 February 2013)

Tranquil... the peace and quiet of homes by the Alderbrook in Brookside are among the attractions in Rolleston

Preserving long-cherished historical character while fashioning a new role in the 20th century was the challenge facing a village near Burton four decades ago.

Rolleston on Dove was the latest recipient of a visit by journalist Robert Smith, who looked at the community's past and present in the latest of the Burton Observer and Chronicle series Our Rural Heritage, published in November 1971.

"Rolleston is an ancient village, 'prob-ably of greater antiquity than we know'," wrote Smith, quoting a book on the subject by Charles Underhill. "But the village's 'antiquity' could quickly disappear under a wave of building development unless the greatest care is taken in future planning. "Historically interesting villages like Rolleston have encountered an entirely new phenomenon - national character.

Several hundred years ago, this was only in its embryonic stages and, there-fore, there seemed no point in either preservation schemes or planned development, because they didn't seem important. "Nowadays, national emblems are not just the flags that fly over Government buildings but the nature of the people - the kind of food they eat, the music like and the houses they build.

"It is not unreasonable to say, then, that people need something which is an anchor - something with which they can identify. And Rolleston - a microcosm of a situation that prevails in many parts of the kingdom - is trying to reconcile its past with its present and future. "It is, in new short, trying to find a new identity while, at the same time, keeping some of the past which has made the present, just as the present will form the future. The problem and, paradoxically, the answer, is one of continuity."

Rolleston dates back to at least 800AD, as it was in the ninth century that the Church of St Mary was built, its presence denoting that some importance was attached to the village, built on fertile land alongside the River Dove, in quite early times.

The original name of the village was believed to have been Hrothwulf's tun (town) after its original, Saxon settler, later morphing through common usage into Rothulfston, Rolfeston, Rolvestune and finally Rolleston. After passing through a succession of nobles, the manor of Rolleston was passed from Henry de Ferrers to the Rolleston family, who took their name from the village, in the early 1100s, the family in later centuries running into financial problems which forced them to sell the manor to the family which is still most associated with the village - the Mosleys.

In 1784, Rolleston Hall was modernised and became the permanent seat of the Mosleys, whose most notorious off-spring was notorious 1930s fascist politician and agitator Sir Oswald Mosley until it was sold in 1928 and demolished.

Mr Edward Grimley, of The Lawns, remembered the 'swansong' of the old clan, and in particular the time of the highly-regarded grandfather of that ill-remembered figure, who shared the same name but was known by the nickČname 'John Bull'.

"Old Bull Mosley - Mosley One, we used to call him, was the last of the real lords of the manor," Mr Grimley told the Observer and Chronicle. "His son sold the estate and his grandson was the politician in the 1930s, but I remember John Bull riding 'four in hand' with his sister. They used to wear those straw hats, done up with scarfing, that was very popular in King Edward's time.

"The village was very much smaller in those days, of course, and there was no transport, except horses and carts. It was a regular sight seeing grain waggons passing through the village and there were hundreds of geese in the Alderbrook."

Two's Company... two sisters, the misses Kathleen and Freda Shelly, of The Hollies, in Chapel Lane. Below, Mr and Mrs Douglas Bentley at their home in Beacon Road.

Mr Douglas Bentley, of Beacon Road, added: "When John Bull was alive there was a strong sense of village life - a feeling of belonging. We were fiercely patriotic. They had the bunting out in 1902 when Edward VII was crowned and there was a huge tea laid on. "The first motor car came in 1904 - it belonged to Sir Oswald too. I think it was a Minerva. I well remember he and his two sisters, Sophia and Constance, being chauffered around. "It was quite a thing in those days. There was no driving test and chauffeurs were usually coach drivers - I supposed it was a bit hit and miss in some wealthy families."

Somebody At The Door... Mrs Nicholson and her daughter, Mrs Milton, in the doorway of their half-timbered house in Chapel Lane.

The 'nobless oblige' - that traditional sense that the nobility should act nobly - was, suggested Smith, encapsulated in the annual 'treat' offered by the Mosleys to villagers. This entailed the clearing out of the coach houses at Rolleston Hall, which were then laid out with tables for a tea to which the children of the village were invited, before being given drives around the adjoining park.

The manager of the Spread Eagle, Mr A T Howels, with barmaid Julie Cox in the lounge bar.

Mrs Bentley, of Chapel Lane, recalled the dusty little roads in the village before Tarmac came. "They were managed by the farmers at one time, until they were taken over by the county council," she said. "They were simply covered with sludge, and the mess the first cars made - if it was wet, you couldn't even tell what colour the body was painted." Meanwhile, Mr Bentley, of Beacon Road, recalled fondly the time of Rolleston's old railway station, one-time stopping point of the famed Tutbury Jinnie, which gave the village its 'on Dove' suffix to differentiate it from other Rollestons on the railway network. He said: "The adult fare from Rolleston was 3d - penny ha'penny for children. Of course, if you walked into Horninglow you could take a tram to the centre of Burton for a penny."

Mr Bentley also recalled the days when Rolleston boasted village shops such as Oliver's, where one could buy Woodbine's cigarettes at 1d for five and a good pair of lace-up boots for 2s 7 l/2d. "Life was much slower and easier - I supposed that's only natural when the population was barely 500," he said.

At Your Service ... Mr I Morgan in the general store section of the post office at the corner of Station Road and Burnside.

When the Mosley estate was sold in 1919 and the hall pulled down in 1928, the unifying agent in village life had gone and a commuter boom which began when Burtonians began to buy up homes near the station had grown exponentially in recent years, resulting in Rolleston's population doubling to 4,000 in a decade. The growth had brought with it more shops, such as Barker's, the butcher, Morgan, the Post Office general stores and Austen's, a shop where 'practically every wish of the do-it-yourself addict could be satisfied'.

Newcomers, wrote Smith, would certainly say that expansion had been good for them, while older residents, fearful of more development and disdainful of a recent spate of vandalism blamed on younger members of the community, might not agree.

The new Rollestonians resented the way in which the old 'harped on about Sir Oswald' as 'those days are long gone, however nice they might have been at the time', while older people felt the young showed too scant a respect for the village's past.

But unity was the key to Rolleston's long-term future, according to long-standing resident Mr Bentley, to whom was given the last word.

"If the village is not to lose its identity, then we must stop thinking of ourselves as being in two camps - old and new," he said. "We must think of ourselves as Rollestonians - we've got everything going for us."

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Last updated: 13 December 2016