Little Eaton Local History Society

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Land Ownership in Little Eaton: 1800-1850

The concept of private ownership of land or buildings is a relatively recent one. In Saxon and Norman times, land was ruled by a king who was powerful enough to subdue the people who lived there and to ward off foreign invaders.  Some land was left in the hands of the Church.  The rest was passed to Barons appointed by the king to administer it. The land was split into “Manors” and allocated to local people in return for tithes, usually in the form of produce or labour. The families allocated land were given a copy of the authorisation and became “copyholders”.  They could pass their copyholder authorisation to a number of following generations.


Before the Norman invasion, King Edward the Confessor had gifted some of the land in Little Eaton to St Alkmund’s Church in Derby to support the clergy there. Later, King Henry I gave the whole of the Manor of Little Chester (Little Eaton, Quarndon and part of Derby) to the Dean of Lincoln who became “Lord of the Manor”. The Manor was leased to local people, including the Curzons (later Lord Scarsdale) of Kedleston, the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth and the Degge family. These people took on the role of Lord of the Manor.


Over the centuries, “copyholding” land had acquired a monetary value and copyholds were no longer all held by the people who farmed the land, but often by wealthy outsiders who paid rent to the Lord of the Manor. Although they could not trade land without the approval of the Manor Court, they were now being referred to as “proprietors”.  Other land was sold to “freeholders” who no longer had to pay rents or tithes.


The map below shows the land ownership at around 1800-1820.  The fields marked red belonged to the Woollatts, yellow to the Radfords, and blue to the Dean of Lincoln.  


The Owners

The Dean of Lincoln (marked blue).

In the reign of King Richard I, the Dean of Lincoln enclosed a swathe of land to the north of the parish of Little Eaton as a hunting park and that land later became the “Dean’s farme”. This was an area of about a hundred acres with some buildings which were originally built as a dairy, or “dayhouse”. This land remained in the ownership of the Dean but from the sixteenth century was leased out to a number of tenants. In 1789 there were many tenants, including the Tempests, Radfords, Woollatts and others but by the early nineteenth century it had been consolidated into a single holding leased to the Tempest family (see below).


In addition to the “farme”, The Dean retained direct ownership of a Mill (The Bleach Mill) and some quarries. This land was then let to others – notably the Radford and Tempest families (see below). All this land was transferred to the Church Commissioners in 1845.

The Radford family (marked yellow)

The Radfords acquired their land through marriage to the Hieron family. The Reverend John Hieron, ejected as Prior of Breadsall Priory in 1662 for refusing to use the authorised book of common prayer, took up residence in Little Eaton. His son, Joseph, and grandson, John, built up an estate based around Elms Farm. John junior produced no sons but his daughter Elizabeth married Francis Radford in 1740 and a second daughter, Rachel, married John Radford in 1741. A third daughter, Ann, married Samuel Rowland in 1762. Each of them inherited a share of the land.


Francis and Elizabeth Radford passed the estate on to their sons Francis and John.  Francis married Martha Radford (possibly a cousin) whose sister Catherine was the wife of G B Strutt (grandson of Jedediah). Francis and Martha left the estate, in 1833, to their only surviving daughter Mary who died in 1844, and she left it to her cousin Jedediah Strutt. In 1789, John Radford sold some of his part of the estate to William Woollatt (see below). There seems to have been disputes about ownership in the 1790s and the Manor Court decided in 1792 that most of John Radford’s and Samuel Rowland’s share should go to Francis junior.


The Tempests

Michael Tempest, a farmer from Burley, leased some land and the farm from the Dean of Lincoln in 1760.  He passed that land to his eldest son John. John’s grand-daughter, Juda was given the occupancy of Park Farm. She and her husband, Thomas Brown, gradually took over the whole of the 100 acres still owned by the Dean of Lincoln, together with more land owned by others, to create the largest farm in the Parish. Meanwhile, Michael’s third son, another Michael, had two sons who married daughters from the Hawkins family.  The Hawkins were copyholders of a substantial estate, including a corn mill at Peckwash. Grandson Thomas converted the corn mill into a successful paper mill, bought more land and opened another mill in the village.


The Woollatts (marked red)

William Woollatt was a weaver who lived with his wife Rebecca in Findern.  They had two children and a lodger. Their daughter Elizabeth married the lodger, an apprentice wheelwright called Jedediah Strutt.  Their son, another William, was a hosier who bought the patent to a stocking making machine. He worked on this with Jedediah to perfect it and the two of them went on to build mills in Belper and Millford, and with Richard Arkwright of Cromford, became the driving forces of the industrial revolution in England.


William Woollatt junior married Susannah Lalouel. The Lalouels were weavers from Duffield who had land in Little Eaton. William inherited Susannah’s share of this and bought out the shares of her two sisters to become a major proprietor of land in the Parish.  He also bought land from the Radfords and others. They built a house on part of the land, The Outwoods. Dorothy married John Trowell who died in 1802. Dorothy Trowell moved to Markeaton but continued as a major landowner in the village for many years. When she died the estate was passed on to her only daughter, Elizabeth.


Later Developments

By the late nineteenth century, most of the land of both the Woollatt and Radford families ended up in the hands of the Strutt family. Jedediah Strutt junior, grandson of the original Jedediah, inherited much of the estate when his cousin Mary Radford died. Dorothy Trowell sold some of the Woollatt property (notably The Outwoods) to J E Carr (married to Jedediah’s granddaughter, Ellen Evans). Elizabeth Trowell had no children and left most of the rest of the estate to Edward Strutt.


Meanwhile the Tempests had prospered and bought some land in the village on which they built another paper mill.  They also bought the Bleach Mill and Church Farm in the village and more land around Peckwash. William Brown (son of Juda, nee Tempest) bought some land from his employer, Elizabeth Trowell.


The Church Commissioners retained Park Farm and the surrounding land until 1921 when it was sold to the Thums family.

Philip and Ruth Hunter


1.We are grateful to Steve Brind for his advice and access to his extensive array of papers and maps

2.The map of ownership is drawn from:

a.The Award Map of 1789 (original in Derbyshire records Office)

b.A map of Mrs Radford’s estate drawn up in 1821 (Derbyshire Records office)

c.A map and list of the Dean of Lincoln’ holdings compiled by Benjamin Curry, secretary to the Duke of Devonshire while he was acting as the Lord of the Manor. The map and list were made in 1863 but were Curry’s attempts to summarise the position of 1812 (original in the Lincolnshire Records Office)

d.The Court Rolls for the Manor of Little Chester (original in the Lincolnshire Records Office).

e.The Tithe Map of 1850 (original in Derbyshire Records Office)

f.The list of Land taxes levied from 1796 to 1830, held in the Derbyshire records Office

g.Newspaper reports from the nineteenth century