Edwalton by Denise Amos

This entry is dedicated to the memory of David Bewley, who wrote a considerable amount on Edwalton, both for his MA in Local and Regional History as well as for the Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project. Much of this entry is based on his work and the two books produced by the Edwalton Local History Society.

Edwalton in 1938.Edwalton in 1938 (Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland).

Edwalton is an unremarkable village; until less than a century ago its population had not exceeded 300. It was until its post-1945 development a very ordinary, very small South Nottinghamshire village. It is situated immediately to the east of the main Nottingham to Melton Mowbray road (A606), some 3.5 miles south-south-east of Nottingham. Until the 1880s it was a simple linear settlement, its buildings grouped on either side of the street (now called Village street but formerly known as Edwalton Lane) which runs for 500 metres from the Nottingham-Melton road to the parish church of the Holy Rood.

Today on entering Edwalton from the north, east or west it is difficult to know where Edwalton begins and West Bridgford ends. It is only from the south, along the A606 from Melton can the boundary be clearly seen. The undulating hills of the Nottinghamshire wolds begin their downward slope across the parish as they descend to the River Trent flood plain.

Edwalton’s known history begins with the Anglo-Saxons, the evidence for this is gathered from the areas surrounding Edwalton, such as Flawforth and Gamston. It appears the Angles came over and pushed inland from the Wash and settled in the fertile valleys; Edwalton’s clay soil is mixed with drifts of sand which is reflected in some of the old field names such as Big Sand Hill, Red Marsh and Mudding Ditch. The village is named after one of these Angles, Eadweald, who settled in the locality which bears his name, “Eadweald’s ton” (ton meaning homestead or settlement); Edwalton. The site chosen for the settlement was almost certainly the area around Village Street close to the church, protected in former times from the east by marshland, with a steep downward incline to the north for drainage and with spring water readily available.

Very little is known about Edwalton in the following few centuries including the occupation of the area by the Danes but the parish boundaries had been established by eleventh century; Landmere Lane (Landmere derives from the Anglo-Saxon word gemaere meaning a boundary).

The Domesday records show that Stepi’s manor in Edwalton had been granted to Roger de Poitou and that of Countess Gode to Hugh de Grentemeisnel; both of these Norman Lords had manors elsewhere in the area. In the Domesday records Edwalton is now ‘Edwoltone’. It is believed that between 200-300 acres were under the plough for arable farming and that it was still a small hamlet with possibly 30 to 40 inhabitants.

As has already been speculated the population of the hamlet was low but during the Black Death, around 1348, it is estimated that between one-quarter and one-half were lost. The population of England took a long time to recover and only began to rise after 1520 and the village population may have totalled only between 35 or 40. By 1603 the population had increased to 95; 62 adults and 33 children. This amounts to over 80% of Edwalton’s population right up to the 1870s. The inhabitants of the village all continued to live along the village street. Even by 1637 the population was still only about 90.

The population of Edwalton for many years remained fairly static around the 100-200 mark. In the 1831 census there were 26 families, all engaged in farming with 130 inhabitants; the population in 1851 census shows 118 people divided between 29 families; the 1881 census shows there were 23 households in the village with a similar number of inhabitants; although farming was still the predominant occupation, a station master, dairy manager, 4 railway porters were also listed. By 1911 the village had grown to over 200 people. The village really began to grow after the Second World War when more houses were built on the fields in and around the village.

Until the 1880s, the recorded village population never exceeded 130 nor the housing 27. For many years the chief occupation of the village was farming and those who were not farmers were labourers or servants. There were three farms of note in the village during the nineteenth century; Firs Farm , also known as Burrows Farm, after the owners name (situated at the top of Wellin Lane), Hill Farm (situated off Melton Road just south of Village Street) and Lodge Farm which lay to the west of the railway and station which belonged to Edwalton Lodge. Hollies Farm was situated around where the golf club is today.

Running east from what is now the Nottingham to Melton Road a linear settlement grew, close to the homestead of Aedwald, the Anglo-Saxon whose name Edwalton bears and for many years the village consisted of three streets, Edwalton Lane, which ran off Melton Road, now known as Village Street; Wellin Lane which ran off Village Street and Hallfields. Edwalton Hall and Edwalton Manor were either side of Village Street, nearest to Melton Road. At the furthest end was the church and fields. The Tithe map, 1846, shows how the land was divided in mid-century. The village remained much the same during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth and only began to expand after the Second World War. Wellin Lane remained a farm track until after the Second World War, with cattle being driven down it twice daily.

Walking down from Village Street along Wellin Lane several bungalows and houses were built prior to 1945 but it was the later development of council housing at the back of Wellin Lane along what is now known as Earlswood Drive when the appearance of the village began to change. In the 1950s detached houses were built on the opposite side of Wellin Lane past Edwald Road. Number 39 Wellin Lane was known as Nillew Enal. About the same time six Police Houses were built next to the houses bringing the building line up to Edwald road. Further houses were built in the village off Wellin Lane in 1970s on land which had been occupied by Edwalton Manor. Several shops were built on the corner of Earlswood Drive and Wellin Lane in late 1950s.

There have been three Post Offices in the village since 1891. The village had been deemed to warrant its own Post Office with the increase in mail for the growing number of large households. The first Post Office was a Country Sub Office with its own Edwalton date stamp and run by one Thomas Cook! He carried out the work from his cottage now known as the Old Post Office on Village Street. In 1910 he was succeeded by his daughter, who was the postmistress for 30 years. At the end of the war in 1945 Marian Taylor took over at 7 Hallfields, where she too worked for 30 years. She retired in 1975 and the position was taken over by a retired Policeman until 1984. The new and third Post Office opened in the shops on Earlswood Drive and is still there, serving the community for over 120 years.

Edwalton had a small school with a Headmistress, Ruth Pycroft. There were about 20 pupils. The school was held in the Village Hall on Village Street next to what is now Village Close and was connected to the church and was called a Church of England School. The school subsequently closed and the village hall was eventually to demolished to make way for more housing in the 1970s. The children went instead to the newly built Edwalton County Primary School circa 1950s, which was at the very bottom of Wellin Lane, Miss Davies was the Headmistress.

No church is mentioned in Domesday, though its tiny population may have had a chapel-of-ease to the principal church of Flawford (or Flawforth) 1½ miles to the south. Flawforth Church, the mother church of the villages of Edwalton, Plumtree, Keyworth and Ruddington, stood on a high site which had previously housed an Iron Age camp, a Roman villa, and a Saxon church.  However, sometime in the mid-twelfth century, a small one was built of local grey waterstone, with a nave of just ten metres in length and a small square chancel, the entrance at the west of the nave. The church was probably the only substantial building in the village and would have been used for not only services but for social meetings. There was no resident priest in Edwalton; the Rector of Flawforth being ordered to celebrate divine service four times weekly at Edwalton chapel in return for an endowment of land and a toft by the lord of the manor. The church was enlarged in the 14th century with the addition of a clerestory to the nave and of a stone tower at the west end of the church. The tower was built of waterstone mixed with limestone, probably from a Leen Valley quarry. A door was also pierced in the north wall, possibly for processions, and now blocked. The building of the clerestory, with its square-headed windows, entailed the rebuilding of the nave arcade and re-roofing of the church. The earlier, steeper-pitched, roof was pushing the side-walls out of upright due to their inadequate buttressing, as the east window of the south aisle makes plain. ). The church had been extended to include an aisle on the south side. The font described as a curious trough-like shape and designed in a rude fashion probably dates from the thirteenth century. It is dedicated to the Holy Rood (dedication given in Ecton’s ‘Thesaurus’ in 1763) but in early sixteenth century Edwalton wills refer to the church as the church of St Laurence.

Edwalton church before the chancel was built in 1894.Edwalton church before the chancel was built in 1894.

The collapse of the church in the late 16th century may have been preceded by the replacement of the medieval tower by the present brick tower on the old stone foundations, if the tradition that it was built in Queen Mary’s reign (1552-1558), supported by some architectural evidence, is correct. The brickwork is in English bond, partly diapered. By 1772 the church fabric had deteriorated to a dangerous degree. In 1794 a south porch was added to the church and 200 years later the chancel was rebuilt in brick on its original foundations. Between the Wars, electric lighting was installed in the church in 1928, and in 1932 an oak lychgate erected at the churchyard entrance. The tower was strengthened, church bells increased in number to six (dedicated in February 1995) and, in 1999, a fine clock installed on the exterior of the new extension to remind parishioners of the time, just as the mass dials had done 700 years earlier.

Over the last 800 years Holy Rood, Edwalton, has survived many vicissitudes and dangers, from near collapse to wholesale Victorian restoration. It remains, in Henry Thorold’s words, a well-furnished, much loved, little building.

Two families which have featured greatly in Edwalton are the Chaworth and the Musters, now known as the Chaworth-Musters. The Chaworths, family seat was at Wiverton Hall and later Annesley Hall. The Chaworths and the Byrons of Newstead Abbey were joined by marriage. The Chaworths had acquired land by means of favourable marriages, including the marriage of George Chaworth to Alice, heiress of John Annesley, bringing the Annesley estate into the family. The Musters family had made their money through trade in Tudor times and bought Colwick Hall in 1648 as well as having West Bridgford Hall built. A descendent, Jack Musters married Mary Ann Chaworth in 1805 and when they parted company Mary lived in Edwalton Manor. Jack’s grandson, John married Caroline Sherbrook in 1859 and the marriage settlement included Edwalton. The family name was change in 1888 by royal licence to Chaworth-Musters.  Edwalton was one of the villages known as a closed village because most of the land was in the hands of one or two people who kept close control over the village.

There seems to have been a high concentration of large, grand houses within Edwalton, many built at the height of a huge Victorian building boom in the West Bridgford area. The Chaworth-Musters sold land in the 1890s on Melton Road for prestigious houses. During the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century they housed some of Nottingham’s well-known people. Edwalton Hall was built by the Wright family in 1899; Charles Wright was a Cambridge cricket blue and a Nottinghamshire County cricketer. The property was sold in 1904 to Jesse Hind for the princely sum of £6,000. Jesse Hind was a senior partner in Wells and Hind Solicitors and was the first Clerk to the new Nottinghamshire County Council. The Hind family lived in the hall for the next 50 years. Probably the most well-known of Jesse Hind’s three sons was Oliver Hind, well known for his tireless work in setting up Boys’ Clubs in Nottingham. The Hall was modern for its day with 12 bedrooms and several bathrooms and indoor water closets; electricity had been installed in the house in 1909. The valuation of the property the year after was £7320, by far the most valuable property in the village. The interior of the Hall was of Victorian opulence with an oak panelled entrance; carved lions’ heads on the oak balustrades; stained glass windows with a wicket window on the south elevation; barrel vaulted ceilings and a vast servant’s quarter. Outside it sat in two and half acres once containing a tennis court, a sunken croquet lawn, a kitchen garden as well as ornamental areas.

In 1954 the hall was sold to the Home Brewery Company and it was converted into licensed premises known as Edwalton Hall Hotel. In 1978 the brewery sold off part of the land for a dozen houses and a decade later Scottish and Newcastle Brewery acquired the property and sold off more of the land. In 2002 the property was bought by a development company and re-developed into apartments and penthouses. It is now a Grade II listed building.

Edwalton Manor, on the opposite side of Village street was built earlier in the eighteenth century but enlarged in nineteenth century as part of the Chaworth-Musters estate and stood in 8-acres of land. Once again, the property was owned by several well-known Nottinghamshire families, including Harvey Haddon, hosiery manufacturer and Sir Thomas (Tommy) Shipstone of the brewing family of Nottingham. The last owners were the Machin family, colliery owners in Linby. William Machin and his spinster daughter Elizabeth came to live in the Manor in about 1900. After her father died, she continued to live there until the age of 103 years in 1975 and became a well-loved figure in Edwalton.

The Manor was demolished in 1976 for housing development on Manor Close. As a way of saying thank you to the village Miss Machin transferred ownership of the field next to the Manor, in 1970, to the West Bridgford Urban District Council asking for it be preserved in perpetuity after her death. The field endures today and for many years there was an air-raid shelter near to the road.

Other large houses in Edwalton included Edwalton House where James Bell, bookseller of Pelham Street lived with his large family. Edwalton Lodge, on Melton Road, was designed and built by Arthur William Brewill, an up and coming architect. He was very interested in restoring the Church of the Holy Rood in Edwalton and other churches in Nottingham and the surrounds. He designed Edwalton Hall for Charles Wright in 1890s.

Another property which is easily recognisable is Great Musters – originally called Oxholme, built on land owned by William Turner of the Nottingham bakery founded in 1852. The house is on the corner of Boundary Road and Melton Road is classed now as West Brigford. William’s son Laurence is commemorated in the east Window in the Parish Church of the Holy Rood.

The Old House on Village Street (Edwalton Lane) was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century and the occupier was Robert Leeson, a tenant farmer. Other tenant farmers lived there until the mid -1800s when it became empty. It later became the Vicarage and remained so until the early 1950s, when a new vicarage was built near the church. Over the years it has been extended and restored and is currently occupied.

There are two Almshouses on Village Street which were built by Oliver Hind in memory of his parents and also his brother Lawrence who was killed in the First World War in 1916 and his cousin, Jesse William’s son, killed in action in 1917.

Edwalton station, c.1900.
Edwalton station, c.1900.

With the influx of wealthy business families wanting to travel into and out of Nottingham, as well as travelling to London, Edwalton was in need of a railway station. In 1872 The Midland Railway Company obtained permission to construct a railway line from Nottingham to Melton Mowbray but it was for goods materials only. Nowhere along the 17 miles route was there any passenger stations. However, in 1878 plans were submitted for stations to be situated at Edwalton, Plumtree, Keyworth and Upper Broughton. The station was opened on 1 November 1879 and three months later it was opened to passenger traffic; there were between 20 and 23 passenger trains stopping daily at Edwalton. All went well until after the First World War when bus companies, mainly Barton Transport started to poach train passengers and numbers began to fall significantly. In 1949 the station was closed to passengers but remained open for goods operations until 1965. Over the years the buildings fell into disrepair and eventually it was demolished and is now a residential housing development.

Edwalton was quite unique with its no 21 bus service run by West Bridgford Urban District Council and was a distinct brown and cream colour as opposed to the City Transport green buses. The bus service began in 1914 and ran to Trent Bridge where passengers could get on the tram into Nottingham. The route was later extended by City Transport, to go into Nottingham via Greyfriars Gate and in the 1950s it began on Wellin Lane.

On 15 December 1974 a residential home for the elderly run by the Nottinghamshire County Council, and situated at the bottom of Wellin Lane with its junction with Alford Road, was destroyed by fire with the loss of 18 residents. A House of Commons Committee of Enquiry found that the fire had been an accident started by a cigarette but that there were errors made by the Nottinghamshire County Council in the smoke detectors and the Clasp construction of the building. All those involved in rescuing residents were praised.

Edwalton is now home to several thousand people and growing all the while with new housing developments on fields which had remained agriculture for centuries, and it is difficult to distinguish where Edwalton finishes and West Bridgford begins.