Chaddesden Park

The Wilmot Family

The Wilmot family arrived in Chaddesden in the early years of the 17th century, succeeding the Newton family as squires of the village. They married into other local landed families acquiring more wealth and prestige. Edward Wilmot, who had served as physician-in-ordinary to both King George II and King George III, was created a baronet on 15 February 1759.

Most famous was the 5th baronet, Sir Henry Wilmot, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions in India during the Siege of Lucknow on 11 March 1858. In later years he was the Member of Parliament for South Derbyshire. He died in 1901 and is buried in St Mary’s churchyard. His sister Constance was the last of the family to live in the hall until her death in 1916. The title passed to Sir Henry's nephew Ralph who had agreed the sale of the Chaddesden estate, including the hall, before his death in 1918.

Chaddesden Park

When the Wilmot family first moved to Chaddesden, much of what is now Chaddesden Park was ordinary agricultural land.   A road to Spondon once ran alongside the north wall of the churchyard.   After the Wilmot family had succeeded in enlarging the park by buying the land in the vicinity of the hall they closed this old road.   Although the road was more than 20 feet wide, all that remains to mark its course is a narrow footpath running alongside the north wall of the churchyard, and a sunken hollow-way adjacent to the allotment hedge near Parkside Road.

Ultimately Chaddesden Park had an area of 129 acres.  It extended along the north side of Nottingham Road from what is now Chaddesden Park Road in the west to Sunny Grove and Parkside Road in the east.  The garden boundary of Arridge Road and the playing field boundary of St Alban's School follow its northern boundary.

Chaddesden Hall

Chaddesden Hall was by far the largest and grandest property in the village.  It was a three-storey building constructed from brick and grey millstone grit from Horsley Castle quarry and built c 1727 as a replacement for an earlier hall.  Extensions made on several occasions gave the building an asymmetrical appearance.  The hall is described in detail in a separate article on this web site.

After the sale and break-up of the Chaddesden estate, the park to the west of Chaddesden Lane was sold to land speculators, property developers and house builders leaving the smaller park of 75 acres as outlined in red on the map below.   This land and the hall were offered to Derby Town Council for £15,846 including £4,000 for the hall. The council had identified a need for a public park in the Nottingham Road area of the town (the racecourse then being private land and not open to the public).  

Then, as now, local government expenditure was partly under central government control which included the need for permission to take out a loan to buy the park.   The public inquiry held on 16 November 1920 was a one-sided affair with the government-appointed inspector being opposed to the council's request for a loan.   It did not help that the council had no clear idea what use could be made of the hall if they were to buy it.   The outcome of the inquiry was obvious almost from the start - permission was refused and the park remained in private ownership.

In September 1926 the hall and park were bought by Sir Charles Markham of Longford Hall, and related to the Markham family of Chesterfield.   Under his ownership, demolition of the hall began almost immediately.   This advertisement appeared in the Derby Daily Telegraph:  

Concrete Good crushed brick rubble for sale 7s 6d sq yard. Apply Burton, Chaddesden Hall, Derby.

The site of the hall is adjacent to the Age UK building, marked by a slightly raised ground surface and two lines of yew trees which formerly converged on the east face of the hall.

Land fronting Nottingham Road and Chaddesden Lane at the edge of the park was sold for house building.   The first few houses on Chaddesden Lane are roofed with blue clay tiles from the hall outbuildings and it may be that their foundations include brick from the hall.  

In 1928 Sir Charles gave permission for the recently formed Chaddesden Hospital Fund to hold a carnival in the park.   The Chaddesden Hospital Carnival, first held on 8 September 1928, became an annual event, raising hundreds of pounds for local hospitals.   The creation of the National Health Service means that hospitals no longer have to rely on charitable donations but the Chaddesden Carnival, now known as The Big One and nearing its centenary, is still held in Chaddesden Park every summer.

Park Saved by the Town Planning Scheme

Gaps left between the houses on Chaddesden Lane and Nottingham Road, which are now entrances to the park, show where the estate roads would have been if Sir Charles Markham had continued with his house building scheme.   It seemed to be only a matter of time before the eastern part of Chaddesden Park was covered by houses in the same way as the western part.

This development was halted when Derby Corporation produced the Derby and District Town Planning Scheme in 1929 which designated the remainder of the park as open space.   Sir Charles claimed compensation of £33,337 for the loss of value of the park as building land.

Faced with such a large claim, more than twice the prospective purchase price ten years earlier, Derby Corporation decided to schedule a similar area of land nearer Spondon as open space and amend the Town Planning Scheme to allow building on the park.   That, in turn, led to a protest from Nottingham Road and Chaddesden Lane residents whose houses had been built on the edge of the park before the Town Planning Scheme came into force.   Double standards seemed to apply - if the residents objected to building in the remainder of the park, how did they justify their houses being built in the park?   Chaddesden Parish Council, which until then had shown no interest in the park, was kicked into action when they were met by a delegation of local residents demanding to know the parish council's view on the park.   The council had no option other than to side with their residents and oppose the amendment to the Town Planning Scheme.

As the Town Planning Scheme had been made with government approval, another public inquiry was called to consider the proposed amendment and this was held at Derby Guildhall on 27 November 1930.   Several months earlier, Derby Corporation had bought Roe Farm within which they now offered a similar area of open space as an alternative to Chaddesden Park.   Also they had bought Markeaton and Darley Parks and no longer had a need for a park at Chaddesden.

The inspector's decision, announced early in 1931, was that the Planning Scheme should not be amended.   The Borough of Derby might not need a park at Chaddesden but the parish of Chaddesden would benefit if Chaddesden Park was retained as an open space.   Compensation payable to its owner was outside the remit of the inquiry so a separate arbitration hearing was arranged for 23 June 1931.

Shortly before the hearing Sir Charles Markham reduced his claim to 21,145 based on a valuation of 300 an acre for the park as building land.   The valuer acting for Derby Corporation used a slightly lower valuation per acre but pointed out that much of the park was unsuitable for house building because it was periodically flooded by the brook.   The compensation eventually awarded was £4,396.

Chaddesden Park in the early 1930s was not the public park that it is now.   House building along Chaddesden Lane and Nottingham Road hid the park from view.   The opening of the Chaddesden Park Hotel in December 1931 preserved the name but there was no benefit from the open space of the town planning scheme.   The cricket and tennis clubs had their own grounds elsewhere in Chaddesden but there was nowhere at all to play football.

It is likely that the grass in the park was allowed to grow long and then cut by a local farmer to make hay.   The park was open for one day a year after hay-making for the Hospital Carnival in July.   There was probably unofficial access at other times, especially after Parkside Road and Valley Road were built, the park then being surrounded by houses on three sides with local residents taking short cuts across the park to avoid a long walk around.

The photo below, taken in 1933-35, shows "Nottingham Tudor" style houses which are the work of Stapleford builder, Harry Wormald Moult.   The land on the left hand side of the road had been part of the park just a few years earlier.   The numerous poles are "traction poles" that carried the overhead line for the trolleybuses to Spondon.   The park is fenced off but there appears to be a line in the grass as though people have been climbing over the fence to gain access.   Point to the photo to view the same location on 28 February 2021 with the crocuses that delight passers-by every spring.

Change came after the park was bought by Quinton Estates Ltd of Birmingham in mid-1935.   Chaddesden Athletic Cricket Club began playing their matches in the park from the beginning of the 1936 season.   On 3 July 1936, it was announced that Chaddesden Parish Council had leased the park from the new owners for 99 years at £250 per year and it was immediately opened to the public.   Apart from removing the fences and mowing the grass, what to do with a 60 acre open space?

The parish council engaged the services of Mr F S Antliff, an architect with previous experience of designing public parks.   An extract from his plan appears below but it did not please all of the residents.   A few wanted the sports provision to include a nine-hole golf course.   A larger, more vociferous group objected to the £3,000 cost of the park which would be met by an increase to the parish rate.   All that had been achieved by coronation day, 12 May 1937, was the erection of a wooden shelter to commemorate the event which was celebrated by organised games in the park.

King George's Field

The King George's Fields are public open spaces dedicated to the memory of King George V who died on 20 January 1936.   At the suggestion of Mr L Ramsbottom, the secretary of the Derbyshire Rural Community Council, the parish council applied to the King George V Trust Fund for a grant.

1938 came and went, then in February 1939 it was announced that a grant of £1,250 had been awarded.   There are 471 King George's Fields in the UK, Chaddesden Park being one of eight in Derbyshire.   It is still possible to make out the name on the gateposts at the entrance opposite Richmond Road.   The stone panel on the left hand post depicts a lion with
George V
AD 1910-1936
underneath. The right hand post has a unicorn with
King George's Field
underneath.

A month later, a contract was awarded to Messrs C H Reedman Ltd for construction of the park.   Although the scheme included a bridge over the Chaddesden Brook, the development was entirely to the west of the brook as there was initially no access from Parkside Road / Valley Road due to intervening private land.

The paddling pool, built on the site of fishponds that once supplied fresh fish for Chaddesden Hall, was in use by the beginning of July 1939, and the children's play centre shortly afterwards.   The outbreak of war in September 1939 halted construction, most obviously of the path from the main entrance which remained just a stub until completed by a new path on a different route in 2016.


The original paddling pool, possibly photographed in wartime, but more likely immediately postwar.

Due to the outbreak of war Chaddesden Park never had a formal opening.   Credit should be given to William Guy, chairman of the council at the time, councillors Edward Bennett, John Burnett, Herbert Garratt (Parks Committee) and the Parish Clerk, Edward Llewellyn for the success of this, the most ambitious project of the former Chaddesden Parish Council that resulted in the park we know today.   It is one of the largest parks in Derby, with only Allestree and Markeaton Parks, Racecourse Playing Fields, Alvaston, Darley and Sinfin Moor Parks being larger in area.

When Chaddesden was absorbed into the Borough of Derby in 1968 and the Parish Council abolished, the lease was renewed by Derby County Borough for 99 years.   Later, Derby City Council acquired the freehold for £11,000.

When Derby acquired the park, the brook was a major problem as it flooded the park regularly.   The brook was deepened and straightened in the 1970s with the removal of many mature trees to improve the flow and new bridges were built.   The children's play area, paddling pool and bowling greens were renewed, and a slide castle, sports pavilion, cafe and new toilets built.

 


The paddling pool in 1980.

Conifers grow best in sandy soil and are rarely seen in Chaddesden's heavy clay.  Here is a group of pine trees in Mosey Yard Plantation close to Chaddesden Brook.  Mosey Yard Plantation was planted toward the end of the 19th century so it is likely that some of the trees are 130-140 years old.

The remains of an old hedge next to the footpath between the two bridges in the park.  There used to be fish ponds in the level ground between the hedge and the brook.

Although the area has not been cultivated for over 200 years, it is still possible to make out the ridge and furrow of the medieval open field, Spondon Field, between the brook and Parkside Road.

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following members of the Chaddesden Historical Group for their contributions to this page: Peter Barnes, Audrey Bennett, Tony Bowler and Peter Cholerton. Most of the photographs are from the Chaddesden Historical Group collection.

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