The Outwoods was built in or around 1781 and became one of the most distinctive houses in Little Eaton for over 100 years. Situated to the north of the village, the Outwoods is mentioned in social history books and personal recollections of villagers as a place they visited for special occasions. This article explores the history of the Outwoods land and estate, its owners and residents, and the fate of the original house.
Outwoods Common, 1789
A large part of the Dean of Lincoln’s Estate in Little Eaton was about 90 acres of common land called Outwoods Common. Some of this land was divided into strips worked by tenants. After the Enclosure Act of 1789 this common land was awarded to various people as indicated on an “Award Map”.
William Woollatt and Dorothy Trowell
William Woollatt was the copyholder of some of this land and property before 1789. As part of the 1789 Enclosure Act, he was awarded the land, about 25 acres in all, some of which had been part of the Estate of John Heiron (died 1767) including “the Broad Closes and the messuage, house (lately erected) and standing upon or near to aforesaid Closes”. (Court rolls 1781). This is the first reference to the house on Outwoods Common so we can assume it was built in the late 1770s or early 1780s.
William Woollatt as Proprietor of the land paid a total of about £3 in Land Taxes. He had three Occupiers, Joshua Reeve, John Aldred and Elizabeth Longman. Two sisters, Sarah and Mary Ward are recorded as tenants of Edgecroft (now called Edgehill), now a large house and land neighbouring the Outwoods.
William Woollatt’s sole heir was his daughter Dorothy Webster Trowell, who had married John Trowell in 1792. She lived with her husband in the house that had been erected earlier, which was by now named The Outwoods. A marriage settlement had been set up with trustees William Strutt (1756-1830), a cousin of Dorothy, Walter Evans (the husband of her cousin Elizabeth), and William Jeffery Lockett. Dorothy and John had a daughter, Elizabeth, who was born at The Outwoods in 1798.
William Woollatt gave the estate to his daughter Dorothy in 1802, probably on the death of her husband. William Woollatt then died in 1804 leaving Dorothy the rest of his land and property.
After Mr Woollatt’s death in 1804, Mrs Trowell paid the land tax, and by 1803 claimed “Herself” as Occupier of High Closes and Edgecroft. She rented out her Little Eaton fields to Thomas Brown. He took over the tenancy of various fields (Ox Close, Little Meadows, the Near Leys, Far Leys and Ley Close), in all about 20 acres.
Tenants 1806 to 1844
In 1806, Mrs Trowell and her daughter Elizabeth moved away from The Outwoods, first to Offcote Grove near Ashbourne, then into Thornhill in Markeaton, Mackworth. This was an impressive villa, commissioned by her husband, built by the Derby architect Richard Leaper, but not finished until some years after Mr Trowell’s death in 1802.
Mrs Trowell let The Outwoods to tenants for many years. It is possible that she had some difficulty letting the property as at least 10 adverts appeared in local papers over the next 20 or 30 years.
The first of these adverts read:-
“To be let: A pleasant Villa “The Outwoods”, late in the occupation of Mrs Trowell + 38 acres of pasture. Tithe free.”(Derby Mercury 15th and 24th Dec 1806)
The same advertisement appeared in January 1807, and by the 6th and 13th September 1807:-
“Mrs Trowell authorised Ward and Lockett of Derby to let the Outwoods, described as:
“On an eminence in the township of Little Eaton. Late in the occupation of Mrs Trowell with a Coach House, Stables for 5 horses, Cowhouse for 6 cows. Also 38 acres of pasture and arable land. Tithe free. Buildings newly erected: House - Cottage style, contains breakfast room, dining room, drawing room, kitchen, Servants’ Hall, Pantry, Dairy and Brewhouse, 7 bedchambers and a dressing room.
The House,Outbuildings and about 7 acres (exclusive of the Garden and Pleasure Grounds) can be entered into immediately and the remainder on Ladyday next.” (Derby Mercury 1807.)
From 1810 to 1814, Nathaniel Birkinshaw was resident at the Outwoods. He was a Surveyor and timber merchant, but not a very good one as he went bankrupt in 1814 and was required to surrender the house.
In 1830, an advertisement appeared: “Lodgings to be let at The Outwoods. Apply Mr Brown.”
Thomas Brown and his wife Juda were the occupiers of much of Mrs Trowell’s land. They were by this time living at Park Farm. Juda (nee Judith Tempest ) was a relation of Mrs Trowell. They and several of their children were in close contact in Little Eaton and at Thornhill for all their lives. It is possible that Mr Brown was Mrs Trowell’s Bailiff and dealt with most of the lettings of The Outwoods for her. The Browns were tenants of Park Farm. Its address was probably “The Parks Farm, Outwoods. Little Eaton.” or may also have been known as Outwoods Farm. In 1831 the newspaper announced the marriage of Elizabeth (born 1801), eldest daughter of Thomas Brown of The Outwoods to Mr John Steer of Belper at St Werburg’s Church.
In 1832 the Electoral Rolls took over as records of land ownership.
Other advertisements appeared in 1832, 1835 and 1837 either for lodgings or apartments at The Outwoods, so it is likely that the large house had by then been converted to a number of smaller residences.
It is also probable that during this time, other buildings were erected that became what is now Home Farm.
By 1842, a Miss Evans, who may have been a relative of Dorothy Webster Trowell, was living at the Outwoods and an advert to sell named the Outwoods as her property. The reason given was that she was “changing her residence”.
Meanwhile, in 1845, a sale relating to the Farm appeared:
“ At the Outwoods: To be sold by auction by Mr Hopkins on the premises of Mr Mansfield who is leaving the farm. Furniture, farming equipment etc.”
Another resident was a Rev Richard Mellor Hope and his wife Anne Christina and family. They appear to have been briefly resident at The Outwoods before the Reverend became Vicar of St. Michael’s in Derby in 1850. They had 5 children (including twins), baptised at St Paul’s in Little Eaton before moving to Wilne and Derby.
Mrs Trowell sells up: Rev Carr 1844 to 1880
Dorothy Trowell finally sold the house in 1844, and she died in 1852. The house was sold to the Rev. John Edmund Carr for £2,999. His wife Ellen (nee Evans), born 1791, was the daughter of Dorothy Webster Trowell’s cousin.
The property was listed as “Tenements, messuages, Buildings, closes, pieces of land ie. 4 Closes called Broad Closes, + Stables, Coachhouse and other outbuildings. 8 acres and Barn Close and rickyard.
The sale also included Acts Croft (which had also been known as Edgecroft or Age Croft and is now Edgehill) and 13 acres.
The Rev. John Edmund Carr was the Perpetual Curate at Darley Abbey. The Carrs were at Outwoods until Rev Carr died in 1872. His two eldest sons were left the property but had sold it by the early 1880s.
1880 to 1899: Colonel Edward Andrew Noel.
Colonel Edward Andrew Noel had served with the 31st Regiment throughout the Indian campaign and fought in several battles during the campaign. He later served in the Royal Bodyguard Corps. He bought The Outwoods from the Carrs, and he and his family lived there until about 1899.
The house had clearly been converted back into one large property and was possibly extended, as at this time there were 8 live-in servants.
Colonel Noel was a magistrate and Chairman of the Little Eaton School Board in the 1880s, with John Hastie from Park Farm as his Vice Chairman. George Tomlinson Thums and others were also on the School Board.
When Colonel Noel’s daughter, Matilda Catherine was married in 1893 flags, bunting and arches marked the way from The Outwoods to the church “All Saints” Duffield, put in place by the gardeners at The Outwoods. When Colonel Noel died in 1899 the gardeners decorated the route to his grave with evergreens and flowers.
Charles Catt buys the Outwoods
The 1901 Census gives Charles William Catt aged 46, living on own means at The Outwoods. Charles Catt, his wife, Constance and 4 of their 6 children lived at the Outwoods with up to 10 servants, including a Governess, a Butler, a Nurse, Coachman, Children’s maid as well as parlourmaids, housemaids, kitchen maids, a scullery maid etc. All the servants were living in, which gives some indication of how big the house was. A later description (see 1936 below) gives at least 12 bedrooms and other rooms for servants.
There was also a Bailiff, a Head Gardener and several under gardeners, probably accommodated in cottages and outbuildings on the estate.
Sometime in the 1890s the tenant at Park Farm, Mr John Hastie, incurred Mr Catt’s displeasure for trespassing on his land. Mr Hastie was farming about 100 acres, some of which bordered Mr Catt’s land, but it is also more than likely that Mr Hastie was on one of the public footpaths which crossed his and Mr Catt’s fields.
In about 1900 Mr Catt objected to smoke from the chimney at Peckwash Mill blowing over his property. He obtained an injunction prohibiting its use. This led to the Firm of Tempest and Company eventually going into liquidation in 1906 and closing in 1908 with the loss of many jobs in the village.
Mr Harvey (or Tempest-Harvey), overseer at the Mill, his father, mother,aunt, sister and father-in-law were seen picnicing on the top of the disputed chimney in an act of defiance against Mr Catt. To no avail.
In 1904, 1905 and 1906, three of the Catt daughters, Evelyn, Cecily and Constance were married.
Marriage of Evelyn, 2nd daughter of Mr and Mrs Charles Catt of The Outwoods to Norman Hugh Swingler of Edgehill, Duffield. St Paul’s Church, Little Eaton. Jan. 1905
1915 saw the marriage of the Catts’ youngest son, Eric, and, in December the death of their eldest son, Charles Bernard, aged 33.
In 1919 Mr Catt and his Bailiff, Walter Coley, were summoned for failing to dip 10 sheep. Mr Catt blamed his Bailiff. Mr Coley expressed regret. He had been on his first holiday for 6 years at the time. He was fined 5/- Mr Catt was ordered to pay costs.
Soon after this the Catts left The Outwoods and moved to Surrey where Mr Catt died in 1938, leaving £7,886 in his Will. The house was listed as unoccupied in 1924 but many servants and farm workers remained in outbuildings and cottages.
Muriel Catt, the youngest daughter, held a sale of Antique furniture at The Outwoods in 1935.
The Catts sell The Outwoods 1936
On Thursday 7th May 1936, The Outwoods was offered for sale by auction at Harrods Estate Sale Rooms in London. The house was described as having “Lounge Hall, 4 Reception and Billiard Rooms, 4 Bathrooms, 22 Bedrooms and Dressing rooms, 4 Bathrooms and usual Domestic Offices” ( ie. Kitchen, Scullery, Butler’s Sitting Room, Servants’ Hall and Separate Sitting Room, Larders, Pantries etc etc.) The 22 bedrooms comprised 7 main ones, often with Dressing Rooms, and the rest were probably servants’ rooms off the back stairs.
The Outwoods, as listed in the Harrods sale details, 1936.
Prospective buyers were asked to pick up the key from Mrs Coley at the Gardeners Cottage. James H Coley (1880-1957) was the Head Gardener. He was the son of Walter Coley who had been Head Gardener under Mr. Catt.
James Coley lived in the Gardener’s Cottage with his wife from at least 1911 and was still there when the house was put up for sale (1936) though he had been served with a notice to quit. He was however still there in 1939. He was frequently a Judge at flower and produce shows, a position his son Lawrence took over by 1938. They were known as local market gardeners.
In 1935 Garford Lilley and his brother wound up J. Lilley and Sons Ltd. in Derby. Garford Lilley bought The Outwoods and all the land and what is now Home Farm at the Harrods Auction in 1936.
He may have retained the tenant farmers who were working the land before the sale. They were William Henry Redfern, and Joseph Ward, both Dairy farmers. Garford Lilley increased the size of his estate in 1937 by buying Park Farm from Henry Thums and running that farm with the Outwoods land.
Mr Lilley put tenants into the house at Park Farm - first the Kinder brothers and then, in 1947, the Essex family. In 1952, he sold 40 acres and the house at Park Farm to Albert Redfern.
The Outwoods burns down
Between 1936 and 1939, something must have happened to the large house because in April 1939, there was a newspaper report which reported that Garford Lilley was building a new house:
Garford Lilley and his wife were living in a caravan which was destroyed by fire on the Outwoods Estate. They were living in a caravan, because the house which is being built is not yet ready. Fortunately they were absent during the fire.”
It is possible that the big house at the Outwoods burnt down just before or just after Mr Lilley bought it, which explains why the Lilleys were living in a caravan while a new house was being built. The late 19th Century Jacobean style canted bay from the demolished house was rescued and erected at Elms Farm in 1936.
Garford Lilley made regular appearances in the local newspapers, mostly for numerous traffic offences between 1936 and 1947 for which he was fined anything between 5/- and £1. His wife also was guilty of speeding, driving without lights.
Mr Lilley also came into conflict with the inhabitants and Parish Council of Little Eaton in what became known as the “Battle of the Footpaths” in 1947.
Mr Lilley had put up barbed wire and other barriers across the public footpath between Little Eaton and Blue Mountains, a traditional right of way for at least 70 years. The Parish Council politely asked him to remove it. When he didn’t, Parish Council members and 21 villagers went by night with wire cutters and removed the obstruction.
On 20th May 1947 the Derby Evening Telegraph recorded a further stage in the “Battle of the Footpaths”:
“Landowner builds a defence”
“Mr Lilley had the pathway blocked off again with branches and thorns. A land army girl was on duty at the stile most of the day to prevent people using it”
This was “a further stage in the Battle of the Footpaths…...following action on May 1st.”
Finally, in the Derby Daily Telegraph of July 1947, it was reported that “Mr Lilley has undertaken, when materials are available he will have proper stiles erected at both entrances of the footpath”.
Later it was reported that “villagers still found a stile blocked with thorns”.
In the following years, the stables at the Outwoods were divided into a farmhouse (now Home Farm), and several mews cottages.
Garford Lilley died in 1988.
The Outwoods House today is an extensive property which was previously the servants’ quarters for the original house. When the original house was demolished, the servants’ quarters and outbuildings were converted into a residential property standing in about 12 acres.
Significant work was also carried out in the 1980s.
The Outwoods, 2019
Author - Ruth Hunter
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