Developments in Local Transport

Our village occupies a site of ancient habitation, and its proximity to the Roman road "Rykneld Street" and to the Portway may have enabled early settlers to gain access to the rich arable lands of the area. It was not, however, until the early 18th century that an expansion in local trade became possible with the opening of the river Trent to navigation as far upstream as Burton. This was followed some 50 years later with the construction of the Trent and Mersey canal, and by 1777 Burton was linked to the ports of Liverpool, Bristol and Hull. This facilitated a further expansion in trade particularly in raw materials, unsuited to transport by horse and wagon over unmade roads.

Road transport began to improve with the opening of the Ashby-de-la-Zouch/Tutbury turnpike in 1753. This was the route of the "Red Rover" London to Liverpool night coach service which passed along Portway (A511 Tutbury Road) reaching the Dog and Partridge at 4.0am. Rollestonians abed may have heard the sound of the post horn echoing across the fields in the still night air as the coach proceeded on its way. There are written accounts of the journey from the Three Queens, Burton, to Leicester over the then heathland via Ashby Wolds. The discomfort of the passengers obliged to ride outside the coach on cold winter nights can be imagined. Death due to exposure was not unknown. The Red Rover service lasted until the coming of the railways in the 1840’s.

The Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway opened in August 1839, linking Burton with London. The effect was immediate and dramatic, reducing freight charges and time in transit substantially. This was a key factor in the rapid expansion of the local brewing industry. The railway line between Stoke-on-Trent and Derby was built a few years later by the North Staffordshire Railway Co., and the link from Tutbury to Burton via Marston junction was completed in September 1848. This was essentially a freight line to gain access to the lucrative beer trade. The chairman of the North Staffordshire Railway Co. at that time was Sir Tonman Mosley and he decreed that the line should not pass within one mile of Rolleston Hall, hence the circuitous route the line took around the village. It was some time before Rolleston Station was built, being completed in November 1894. It was located on an embankment with a brick bridge over Dovecliff Road. Stretton and Claymills station did not open until 1901. The Tutbury Jinnie service, as it became known, comprised 8 trains in each direction on weekdays and 2 on Sundays. The 7.10 and 8.0am departures for Burton enabled villagers to travel to employment, school or shopping. An occasional London service, originating in Buxton would stop at Rolleston for the benefit of the Mosley family and continued via Burton and Nuneaton to London, Euston.

Prior to the railway station being built, travelling to Burton, particularly on Market Day, may have been by an organised farm cart, or alternatively a walk to Horninglow from where a horse drawn bus service operated to and from the Market Place. The gentry would have had their carriages, and there would have been a number of houses with stables for a horse and carriage or pony and trap.

The horse-drawn tram was replaced in 1903 by the Burton Corporation Tramways which provided a cheap and reliable means of transport through the town. When in 1906 the Burton and Ashby light railway became operational it gave easy access to Swadlincote and South Derbyshire. The tram service was withdrawn in 1929 and was replaced by a Corporation bus service, the nearest terminus to Rolleston being Beam Hill on Tutbury Road. In the 1930’s and 40’s two independent bus services were also on the scene. The Stevenson service between Uttoxeter and Burton would stop by request at the junction of Anslow Lane and Tutbury Road, and the ‘Blue Bus’ service from Burton to Derby via Stretton could be reached by walking to Clay Mills.

Cycling became increasingly popular in the 1930’s when a bicycle became affordable to the average person. It was a cheap and convenient means of travelling to work, but was also widely used for recreation. When petrol was virtually unobtainable during the war years and rationed immediately thereafter cycling became even more popular and it was the early 1950’s before there was a noticeable increase in the number of cars on the road.

The railways , however, continued to offer economic travel and excursions were particularly popular. Burton Station would advertise trips to Alton Towers, Blackpool Illuminations (2s-6d), evening excursions to Belle-Vue, Manchester (2s-3d) and via the Great Northern Line through Egginton Junction there were day trips to Mablethorpe and Skegness at affordable prices.

The Tutbury Jinny service was withdrawn in 1963, the last train leaving Tutbury on Saturday 11th June. The occasion is described in Denis Stuart’s book, "The History of Burton upon Trent" where the engine driver’s account is given as follows:-

"On the last journey back to Burton there were 500 people on board and one chap blew his bugle the whole journey. Hundreds of people lined the sides of the track. There was a large crowd on Burton Station as we drew in and an inner sadness, because something that had been part of our lives had passed away."

The service had lasted almost 112 years, but with the popularity of motoring growing apace people soon became reconciled to the loss of the railway passenger service. the complete closure of the line came in 1966 and thereafter it was dismantled.

The bus service to the village remained inadequate for many years, the Trent being the first to run a service through the village. It is only in comparatively recent times, from the 1970’s onward, that the village has had an acceptable service to Burton, South Derbyshire and Derby.

So what does the future hold? Will electrical power replace the internal combustion engine? Will there be a re-introduction of a ‘tramway system’? One thing is certain, the 21st century will see as many changes as the 20th.

Alan Partington

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© This site was created by Richard Bush

Last updated: 5 April 2000