Situated just to the north of the busy A52 dual carriageway, and only a short distance from the outskirts of Derby, Ockbrook has managed to retain much of its charm and at least a reasonable level of peace and quiet. There are two distinct parts to the village. The old settlement where Occa, an Anglo Saxon, and his people built their homes in the 6th century on the banks of the brook and from where the village derived its name. Alongside it is the Moravian settlement, a product of the 18th century, with its delightful terrace of red brick Georgian buildings and strikingly attractive church.
In 1739, Isaac Frearson an Ockbrook farmer, heard the Rev Jacob Rogers speak and was so impressed he invited him back to preach at Ockbrook. The offer was quickly accepted and he preached a sermon to the people of the village in Frearson’s barn. Although an Anglican, the Rev Rogers was very much influenced by the Moravian way of life.
The Moravian Church was founded in 1457, in Bohemia, and was based on simplicity in life and worship.
Persecution followed and became so severe that in 1722 many followers of the religion fled from Bohemia and Moravia and moved to Tuscany, where they established the Moravian Church. From this base they sent out missionaries and consequently some made contacts in England, including John Wesley the famous preacher.
In 1750, a Congregation of the Moravian Church was established in the village and after over coming many obstacles, mainly due to local opposition, two years later a church was opened on land bought from Isaac Frearson. During the latter part of the 18th century, Ockbrook was the centre of the Moravian Church in England. The Moravians were hard working, highly disciplined people with strict rules. They attended to the basic medical needs of the community, built schools and opened a shop as well as administering to the spiritual needs of the community.
The Moravians celebrated their 250th anniversary at the beginning of the new century, when any person associated with the church, by request had their name embroidered on a leaf, which formed part of a tree tapestry. It now hangs proudly on the wall of the church.
As one would expect with such a disciplined community their buildings are set out in a formalised pattern. The path known as ‘Bishop’s Walk,’ is a collection of flagstones brought from Dale Abbey. Whitehurst of Derby made the church clock. Across the road, the bottom house at the end of another row of fine buildings, ‘The Houses on the Hill’, is where the first houses of The Settlement were built when the Moravians moved to Ockbrook. The Manse and the Moravian Church are both Grade II listed buildings and the centre of the village is a designated Conservation Area.
The arrival of the Moravians led to a considerable improvement in living standards in the village and more affluent people moved to Ockbrook; new trades were introduced including silk glove, shoe and straw bonnet manufacture.
Textile manufacture was very important and the framework knitting industry was carried on in cottages in the village. The Cross Keys fulfilled the joint function of a public house and silk stocking manufacture; Queen Victoria’s wedding stockings were made on the premises! The knitters’ window designed to provide the maximum light can still be seen today. However, during the second half of the 19th century,
competition from mechanisation slowly ended the cottage industry.
The Royal Oak is the oldest licensed premises in the village and dates back to the early 1700s, a stone slab near the font of the premises cover a well from where water was once drawn to make beer. Behind the Queen’s Head is the local cricket club that has achieved a considerable amount of success in recent years. One local character who certainly enjoyed playing for the club was Whackie Harrison who played for 42 years from 1891.
All Saint’s Church became the parish church around 1600, having previously served as a chapelry of Elvaston. The tower was built in the 12th century, the spire added later. The Norman font was restored in 1963 and returned to its rightful place, after being thrown out by a previous generation for use in the rectory garden. At the rear of the church is Church Farm, a delightful timber-framed farmhouse dating back to the 17th century.
The Old Post Office, now a private house, was once the Moravian Congregation Shop, where ‘best quality goods at reasonable prices’ were offered by the brethren. Shopstones Cottages were built as family houses and visitors to the Settlement usually stayed at the New Inn (now Greenside) which began business in 1792. The extension on the western side was used as a Sunday School and during the First World War as a hospital for servicemen.
The Reverend William Mallalieu, a cousin of Reverend James Mallalieu, Principal of the Moravian Boys School, who had married into a wealthy family, had the ‘Swallows Rest’ (now The Grange) built for him as a retirement home, but died before he could take up residence. It was said that he owned half the village at one time.
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A popular and enjoyable walk on the edge of Derby, along quiet country lanes, through fields and woodlands, with a well preserved Hermit’s Cave and views of the Cat and Fiddle Windmill to add variety.
Initially the walk follows Far Lane, until it disintegrates into a track. Here an Archaeological Project Information Board, on land at Little Hay Grange, provides details of the excavation.
The walk continues across fields and through Ockbrook Wood to Dale Abbey and enters Hermitage Wood. Abundant wildlife exists in this ancient woodland. a
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