The main road through the small village of Kings Newton was described by Nicholas Pevsner as, ‘one of the most attractive main streets in Derbyshire.’ It is a gem of an old English village, with a great variety of well cared for old houses covering a wide age range, that all blend superbly together as a whole. A cottage with three crucks, one of which is visible from the outside, is considered to have been ancient when Elizabeth I came to the throne. Many of the other houses date back to the 18th century and there are a few of recent origin down Trent Lane and a small new development behind the Hardinge Arms.
Set among pleasant rolling countryside in South Derbyshire with its good loamy soil and relatively frost-free north facing slopes, market gardening is an important feature of the area. Kings Newton is contained within the parish of Melbourne, which became a centre for the supply of fruit and vegetables several centuries ago. Increased competition has reduced its importance, but there is still plenty of evidence of its existence in the area.
The Hall is the principal building in the village, but it looks much older than is actually the case. For many years it was owned by the Hardinge family, until on the death of John Hardinge, who died childless in 1729, the hall and grounds then passed to the Melbourne Estate. In 1859, it was gutted by fire, and remained as an empty shell until it was rebuilt in 1910, by Sir Cecil Paget. He had acquired it the previous year, and meticulously restored the house to its former grandeur. As General Superintendent of the old Midland Railway, he had shown the same attention to detail in establishing the railway as reputedly the cleanest, smartest and most efficient in the world.
There are two public houses in the village the Hardinge Arms and the Packhorse Inn. The former is famous as the home of the ‘Newton Wonder’ a rosy red cooking apple that was also sweet enough to eat after being stored for a few months. It was traditionally used in mincemeat and in stuffings for turkey at Christmas. William Taylor, the landlord, developed it at the rear of the pub from a seedling. The Packhorse Inn stands on a route once used by packhorses travelling from London to Derby and beyond. It has the date of 1727 carved above the door and probably succeeds an earlier medieval hostelry.
A short distance from the Packhorse, down Ward’s Lane, is the Holy Well, a spring of pure drinking water where local inhabitants once filled their buckets. In 1985, the local Civic Society restored the well and its surrounds and it was re-dedicated by the Vicar of Melbourne. There is a plaque by the well on which is carved the original inscription.
The village was granted a market in 1231, and the steps of the market cross still remain, surmounted by a modern cross erected to commemorate the accession to the throne of Edward VIII. It represents a very rare commemoration of a King who was never crowned!
Facing the market cross stands Kings Newton House, which was acquired by the Cantrell family in the early 1600s and became their long term home. It remained in the family until the last Cantrell died in 1909. The road at the rear is Jawbone Lane, named after a pair of whale bones that were erected at the back of the house by the Cantrell’s. The bones eventually deteriorated, but replacements have been found and now form an arch a little further down the road.
There is no church in the village, but in the 19th century, Judge Cantrell set up a private church, in what is now called Church House. The vicar of Melbourne performed divine service every Sunday evening. It is unlikely that Chantry House was ever used for the purpose that its name suggests, probably being called after a field belonging to it, called Chantry Close.
Elms Farm, down Trent Lane on the eastern side of Kings Newton was the home of John Joseph Briggs, who wrote a history of Melbourne and various other short articles and poems. A short distance further on, the former Derby to Ashby Railway used to operate. It was opened in 1867, but closed in 1982. During the Second World War, the line was taken over by the War Department and used as a railway training centre. Following the closure, the line has been converted by Sustrans, into a footpath and cycle track.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Melbourne is a fascinating little town. It has a wealth of historic buildings, a famous country house with formal gardens, one of the finest Norman churches in the country, a lovely 20 acre Pool where you can feed the ducks, or just rest awhile and admire the scenery. Melbourne Hall and Gardens, once the home of Victorian Prime Minister, William Lamb, are open to the public on a limited basis during the summer. For more information please ring 01332 862502.
Calke Abbey and Grounds (Tel. 01332 863822) ‘The place where time stood still,’ was the phrase used to describe this property when The National Trust opened it to the public in 1989. One of the most unusual of English country houses with large collections of birds, ornaments, paintings and photographs. For opening details please ring or visit website.
Ferrers Centre for Arts and Crafts, located in the Georgian Stable Block of Staunton Harold Hall, where a wide range of goods can be obtained. The centre is open all year Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays. Teas are available at the centre and also at the adjacent garden centre complex. In the grounds of the hall is the ancient Holy Trinity Church.
The Packhorse Inn (Tel. 01332 862767) stands on a route that was once used by packhorses, travelling from London to Derby and beyond. It has the date of 1727 carved above the door and probably succeeds an earlier medieval hostelry. Open lunchtimes and evenings. Food served lunchtimes and evenings. Real ales.
Melbourne Hall Tea Rooms (Tel. 01332 864224) situated in what used to be the washrooms and bake house of the hall. One of the old baking ovens still remains in these delightful old tea rooms that have built up an enviable reputation for light meals and teas. Open during the summer Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. Reduced winter opening.
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Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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KINGS NEWTON WALK
Three lovely villages set among pleasant rolling countryside in South Derbyshire, parkland and a stroll along former railway line make up this fascinating walk.
In the early stages of the walk a short detour is made to view the Holy Well, which was once an important source of drinking water for Kings Newton. The arch over the top of the well and the surrounds were restored in 1985 by the Civic Society.
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