A writer in the 1950s described Newton Solney as ‘A village planted out in a garden, and half its population seem to be gardeners.’ Although the village has grown in size since then, a better-kept village is hard to find. Immaculate, colourful gardens, well maintained verges and rarely any sign of litter. It is not surprising to find that so many awards have been won in the Best Kept Village and the Britain in Bloom contests. In 1999, Newton Solney gained second place in the medium sized village section of the National Finals, for the Britain in Bloom awards.
Few people who drive through Newton Solney regularly realise that, hidden away on the riverside of the village, is a sizeable estate of houses. These were built sometime after the land had been sold off, following the death of Percy Ratcliff who owned most of the land in the village and lived at Newton Park. Like the rest of the village all the properties and their gardens have the same neat and tidy appearance. Even fewer people are aware of the small attractive estate built up round the lake at Newton Park on the other side of the main road.
Despite the fact that the River Trent flows close to the northern end of the village, it remains largely unseen. Three lanes lead off the main street, but Trent Lane alone leads to the river and then it only comes into view at the last minute. Blacksmith’s Lane takes its name from the charming Forge Cottage at the top, which leads to the housing estate. The view of the river from Church Lane is blocked by the Church of St Mary and Rock House, which some believe to be built on the site of the old Manor House.
Newton Solney is one of Derbyshire’s oldest villages. An Anglian settlement existed in the 6th century, strategically placed just to the west of the confluence of the Trent and the Dove, and a ford across the Trent.
After the Norman Conquest, Newton as it was then called, eventually came into the hands of the Soligny family. They held it from about 1120 to 1390, when the last Soligny died childless, but the manor remained in the family through the female line. The village by this time was called Newton Solney.
The estate changed hands several times, but it was Abraham Hoskins, an attorney and land speculator from Burton, who made the greatest impact. He built a house there in the 1790s, the core of the present Newton Park Hotel. However, he did not stop there; he built Bladon Castle, a folly, with no other purpose than to improve the view from his house. The local people were aghast at the extravagance but he, and later his son, converted it into an even more extravagant house. Bladon House, now a school, stands nearby.
Ruined by extravagance, the younger Hoskins was forced to sell the estate in 1876 to Lord Chesterfield, who let Newton Park to William Wortington, the Burton brewer. After Worthington’s death, it remained empty for a number of years before the Ratcliff family acquired it in 1879, together with the majority of Hoskins’ former property. Money was lavished on modernising and extending the house and revitalising the gardens, and it became one of the first country houses to be lit by electricity.
The Ratcliff family were generous benefactors to the village. They contributed substantially to the church restoration and built the village club. Percy Ratcliff built Sunnyside Cottages in 1950 for the elderly, as a memorial to the Second World War. They are located on the corner of Church Lane, alongside the row of almshouses given to the village by John Higgot, a local farmer.
On the death of Peter Ratcliff in 1955, Newton Park was sold. His widow moving into The Cedars and eleven years later Newton Park opened as a hotel. The tenants bought most of the property in the village. Land was released for building and The Hollies Estate was built, bringing more young families into the village. This relieved the pressure on the village school, previously in danger of closing because of lack of numbers.
There are two public houses in Newton Solney: the Unicorn, formerly a farmhouse and the Brickmaker’s Arms, which stands in front of what was the site of a brick-making works. The most unusual property in the village is almost certainly Beehive Cottage, probably built as a lodge to Rock House.
Apart from all the usual events that you would find at a busy church hall, with its well-maintained bowling green, an annual Christmas Shoot is not what you would expect. A rifle range was presented to the village at the back of the church hall by Colonel Ratcliff when he lived in Newton Solney. There is also an annual mid-summer flower festival at the church, which is very popular with both visitors and local people alike.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Coors Visitor Centre, (Tel. 01283 511000) formerly the Bass Museum of Brewing, including the Coors Shires. Excellent restaurant facilities. Open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day from 10am - 5pm.
Tutbury Castle (Tel. 01283 812129) is picturesque with stunning views, once the prison-home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Full programme of events. For full opening details please ring or visit website.
Sharpe’s Pottery Visitor Centre (Tel. 01283 222600) has exhibits that tell the story of the South Derbyshire pottery industry from the 16th to the 21st century. Interactive technology. Coffee Shop, conference suite and range of goods on sale. Open Monday to Saturday 10-5pm (Winter closing 3.30pm).
The Brickmakers' Arms (Tel. 01283 702330) is an attractive pub at any time of the year. In the summer, its extensive display of hanging baskets and tubs along the wide frontage is particularly impressive. Open all day Monday to Saturday; lunchtime and evening on Sundays. Meals are served lunchtime and evening every day. Some outside seating.
Bothy Tea Rooms and Restaurant (Tel. 01283 703355) located at the popular Bretby Garden Centre. The Tea Rooms are particularly spacious and offer good food at very competitive prices. There is also seating outside on the patio. Apart from meeting the needs of most gardeners, there is an excellent gift shop and aquatics centre on site.
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.
The site is expanding to include many other features of interest to the local person and visitor alike. Why not bookmark this site for future reference.
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A special new sub-section has been added to this website, based on the Discover Derby Supplement, published by the Derby Evening Telegraph during March 2005. The most recent additions are:
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NEWTON SOLNEY WALK
A short but rewarding walk over good agricultural land to the edge of Burton, with impressive wide ranging views over the surrounding countryside.
The walk past the grounds of Newton Park Hotel provides the opportunity to see a small, well-concealed estate of executive houses, and if you are lucky, a sighting of a group of Shetland ponies pasturing in the vicinity.
Winshill was one of the oldest manors given by Wulfric Spott to the Abbey in 1004; it is now an attractive suburb of Burton. The old corn mills there, which were part of Wulfric’s gift to the Abbey, ground most of the corn for the Abbey tenants. The mills date from Saxon days and probably earlier.
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