Etwall is situated to the south-west of Derby, and has grown enormously since the end of the Second World War, but still retains an attractive village centre. St Helen's Church and the Sir John Port Almshouses set on slightly rising ground are particularly appealing. The fine wrought-iron gates by Robert Bakewell, that hang outside the almshouses, restored in the 1980s, add an extra touch of quality.
In the Domesday Book, the village was known as ‘Etewelle,’ meaning Eatta’s water. Eatta was a Saxon headman, who settled in the village in the seventh century. He is believed to have built his manor where the church and almshouses are now to be found.
Etwall remained a fairly small rural village until the 20th century. However, gradual improvement in communications and people prepared to travel further to work, meant Etwall became an attractive place to live. During the period from 1951 to 1981, the population trebled. This put the local schools under severe strain.
In 1952, the Derbyshire County Council bought Etwall Hall from Reg Parnell, the famous racing car driver, who bred pigs and kept a pedigree dairy herd at Findern. The hall had been used during the Second World War by the Army, first as a petrol depot and later as an equipment supply centre and been left in a somewhat dilapidated state. A secondary modern and a secondary grammar school were built on the site. In 1959, they were amalgamated to form the John Port School.
The name of the Port family, who lived at the hall, has been associated with Etwall since the 15th century. The family’s most famous son, Sir John Port, was the founder of Repton School and the Etwall Almshouses. It therefore seems entirely appropriate that the new school was named after him. The school now has in the region of 2,000 students, who travel in from a wide catchment area.
The original almshouses lasted over 100 years before they were replaced in 1681 with a building to accommodate twelve men. In 1986, an extensive modernization programme took place to provide eight two-storey units and two flats, but with the external appearance left unaltered. The ‘Bakewell Gates’ that once graced the entrance to Etwall Hall, but had for many years lain untouched in the cellar of the school, were returned to their former glory and re-hung at the entrance to the almshouses.
Standing in front of the almshouses, St Helen’s Parish Church is believed to date back to a small stone-built church by the Saxons. Arthur Milton, the son of the founder of the famous Stoke-on-Trent pottery firm, built the Methodist Chapel in 1837.
It is over 35 years since the first wells were dressed at Etwall, when the Etwall Primary School's Parent-Teachers Association dressed a site near the old school well as part of its centenary celebrations. At the same time, Etwall Women's Institute dressed the Town Well on the village green near the church. The money raised was used to help defray the costs of the school's new learner swimming pool.
Although a comparative newcomer to the ancient tradition of well dressing, Etwall is now up there with the best, not only for the actual dressing, but also for the entertainment provided and the promotion of the event. Visitor donations, plus a percentage of the profits made on the various stalls and sideshows, have produced thousands of pounds for charities and deserving village causes.
In May 1989, Councillor Frank Wickham cut the first sod in the construction of the village hall. Like his father before him, he had campaigned tirelessly to improve the facilities in the village. Sadly, he died three months later. In recognition of his 37 years service, the new village hall was named after him. He had been involved in helping to provide recreational facilities for children with the opening of the King George V Field, the building of a library, a second playing field on Sandypits Lane, a bowling green and a sports pavilion.
A public house stood on the site of the Spread Eagle as far back as 1577. It has been frequently used as a meeting place for village organizations over the years. The Hawk and Buckle public house takes its name from the buckled hawk on the crest of the Cotton family, a well-known local family whose name the pub once carried. The deeds of Blenheim House go back to 1715, when Blenheim Palace was being built. It is now a well-established restaurant.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Highfields Happy Hens, Heage Lane, Etwall (Tel. 01283 730980) a very special place offering a loving, working environment to young people with special needs whilst producing real free range eggs and other environmentally friendly produce. Farm Shop, open Monday – Saturday. Visitors welcome to look around. Telephone for details of open days.
Sudbury Hall and Museum of Childhood: (Tel. 01283 585305) the hall includes superb plasterwork ceilings and Grinling Gibbons carvings. Please telephone for opening details or visit website.
Derby Cathedral (01332 341201) dominates the skyline with its impressive Perpendicular Tower, the second highest in England to the Boston Stump. Light and spacious inside, the iron screen by Robert Bakewell is an inspirational masterpiece in this proud and beautiful building. Concerts and special events take place throughout the year. Open daily.
Etwall Post Office Tea Rooms (Tel. 01283 732399) situated in the heart of the village, at the front of the Post Office. The premises are light and airy. Hot and cold drinks are provided with a choice of pastries and filled rolls and cobs. Hot snacks are also available in cold weather. Open Monday to Saturday.
World Peace Cafe, which is located within the grounds of Ashe Hall. Both Ashe Hall and the World Peace Cafe may be places of interest to people visiting the local area. Click here for more information.
Hawk and Buckle (Tel. 01283 733471), in Etwall, is a popular village pub offering a good range of meals. When the circus used to visit Etwall, the elephant was accommodated in the stable yard at the rear, now humans relax there with a pint. Open all day. Meals served at lunch times Monday to Saturday (on Sunday - roast only). Evening meals served from Monday to Friday.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features on towns and villages with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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A very satisfying walk, a little longer than usual for this series, but easy level walking through fields, along the bed of a former railway line and beside the road through Mickleover.
After leaving Etwall you soon join the former Great Northern Railway Line that linked Derby’s Friargate Station to other lines at Egginton Junction. The line was closed for regular passenger service in 1939 and 25 years later for goods traffic, although it remained open for a further four years for testing purposes. The track-bed has now been resurfaced for public use.
The pretty village of Burnaston is visited briefly on the return journey, before you set off again across the fields. The huge Toyota development, located where Derby Airfield once had its home, comes into sight before Etwall is reached.
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which is located within the grounds of Ashe Hall. Both Ashe Hall and the World