Project 1 – The Clearance Areas (2001/02)

In the 1950s and ’60s, whole swathes of Melbourne were cleared for redevelopment by the former South East Derbyshire Rural District Council including:

  • ‘New York’ – a late Georgian speculative housing development;
  • Areas adjacent to ‘New York’, including the birthplace of travel pioneer, Thomas Cook (1808-92);
  • ‘The Puzzle’, an haphazard complex of factories and houses.

For posterity, academic and nostalgic interest, the strong identity and character of each of these areas has been recorded by the Group from people’s memories, in addition to surviving documentary and illustrative material.

Project 2 – Market Gardeners (2001/02)

In the 1750s, the Robinson family were growing quicksetts (hawthorn) and the overlap between Nurserymen and Market Gardeners persisted into the 19th century. The Group’s investigations cover:

The early Industry and its peak in the 1850s;
The families involved, their home and working life. How did they help to shape the character of Melbourne? Who were Snockles, Spratty, Winkie, Necky, Nocky, Nutty, Tippy, Clutch and Bingy?
The Market Gardening Landscape;
New Inventions;
Packaging, Transport and the Market;
Market Gardeners, Politics and Religion;
The decline of the Industry in the 1960s and ’70s.

Project 3 – Pubs and Clubs (2002/03)

Melbourne’s population doubled in size during the 19th century, as it became a small manufacturing town. Its growth was mirrored by a plentiful supply of pubs and a brewery (1851-1954) as most people drank beer.

The Research Group’s 2002/3 project was to trace the history of all the individual pubs both past and present, and their roles in society as club headquarters, venues for manor courts and public meetings, accommodation for travellers, or simply as places for relaxation and entertainment.

The names themselves have stories behind them. The Melbourne Arms, Hardinge Arms, Crewe and Harpur Arms, Sir Francis Burdett and Marquis of Hastings all commemorate local landowners. The Ring of Bells (closed c1816) possibly refers to packhorses, where the front horse had a collar of bells.

Some of the publicans were colourful characters. One example was Thomas Dugmore (c1739-1820), who wrote a pamphlet criticising the local aristocracy’s high-handed actions during the Parliamentary Enclosure of Melbourne (1787-1791).

Project 4 – Before the Reservoir (2003/04)

The reservoir drowned an area both of natural beauty and considerable historic interest.

Among the casualties were Furnace Farm with the remains of the 18th century blast furnace, Calke Mill and the farm house belonging to it, Sir Henry Crewe’s gothick bridge c1816 and the lower pond in Calke Park. The Common also included several good stone quarries, brickyards, a coppice and a rabbit warren.

The enclosure of the Common in 1787-1791 changed the face of Melbourne forever, and the construction of the reservoir between c1957 and 1964 split the Common right down the middle.

Project 5 – The Melbourne Diary of John Joseph Briggs (2004/05)

John Joseph Briggs (1819-1876), of King’s Newton in the parish of Melbourne, is remembered in Derbyshire as an historian, poet and naturalist, but his work relating to his home territory is the most valuable of it all. Briggs was born into a farming family, but was disinclined to follow his father’s footsteps, and a short apprenticeship in the printing trade failed to agree with him either. As luck would have it, Briggs’ father remained active to a ripe old age, and Briggs himself was left free to indulge in his favourite leisure pastime of writing. A batchelor until the age of 49, Briggs then married and had four children before dying at the age of 57.

In 2004-5, the Melbourne Historical Research Group prepared and presented an exhibition on Briggs’ life and work, accompanied by a lot of work behind the scenes on transcribing and editing Brigg’s unpublished Melbourne Diary, written between the 1840s and 1870s. The project culminated in the publication of the diary in April 2005, generously assisted by the District and County Councils.

Read more about The Melbourne Diary of John Joseph Briggs.

Project 6 – Houses and History (2007/08)

Our project for 2007-8 was “Houses and History”, which tells the story of the houses, both grand and humble, that grace the streets of Melbourne and King’s Newton today, including some that no longer exist. Among many others, they include:

Melbourne Hall, once the home of Victorian Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (1779-1848);
Pennfield House, home of William Haimes (1773-1854), silk glove and shawl manufacturer;
Exchange House, built by stone merchant and quarryman John Chambers (died 1795);
Club Row – eight humble cottages built by the Melbourne Sick Club in 1795;
The “White Swan” Inn, built by William Martin of Melbourne, clothworker, and his wife Ellen, in the same year that he died (1682);
The Stone House, built by Walter Chamberlain in 1673, housing a forge in its basement where ironsmith Robert Bakewell worked from 1706-1711;
King’s Newton Hall, rebuilt by Sir Cecil Paget in 1910 after lying in ruins for fifty years following a catastrophic fire;
The “Packhorse Inn”, rebuilt by William and Mary Cartwright in 1727, on a site encroached out of the public road.

The Group has exhibited the project at the 2007 Melbourne Fete & Carnival and Melbourne Festival Art & Architecture Trail weekends, among other venues.

This collection continues.