A Brief History of Rolleston on Dove
A Village of Antiquity and Beauty
|Rolleston, first documented in King Edmund’s Charter of A.D. 942 (further details about the place name can be found here), remained one of a number of small agricultural communities along the Dove Valley for over a thousand years and continued as such until recent times despite the coming of the railway to the village in 1894. Apart from small-scale cottage industries such as brickmaking, basket-weaving, malting and smithing, there has never been any real industrial development in the village.From early times the village and its people seem to have enjoyed great affection from the Lords of the Manor, the Rollestons and later the Mosleys. The Spread Eagle Hotel, just by the main bridge, perpetuates the memory of the Mosley family, who came here in 1614, and whose heraldic arms incorporate a spread eagle as the main device. The eagle appears again on the bridge over the Alder Brook and by kind permission of Lady Diana Mosley has been used in a Badge of Office for the Chairman of the Parish Council.
In 1848 the North Staffordshire Railway opened their connection to Burton via Tutbury and Marston Junction to gain access to the growing brewery trade, but it was not until 1894 that the village station opened to passenger traffic. The first Chairman of the Railway Company was Sir Tonman Mosley, later Lord Anslow, and he decreed that the railway should not pass within one mile of Rolleston Hall, hence the location of the former station at what is now the entrance to the Jinny Nature Trail, named after the Tutbury Jinny Train. The station was given the name of Rolleston on Dove to distinguish it from Rolleston in Nottinghamshire where a station already existed.
The railway provided a much needed means of transport to those villagers who travelled to Burton for their livelihood or their shopping. Footpaths gave access to the station from Beacon Road and Craythorne Road and the principal access Meadow Lane, was renamed Station Road. The newly opened station became a catalyst for a Victorian/Edwardian building programme when houses were built adjacent to the station in Dovecliff Road, South Hill and Station Road, establishing a second site of habitation separated by fields from the old village which became officially known as Rolleston on Dove. Meanwhile Rolleston itself remained largely unchanged with relatively few new properties being built.
Following the 1914/18 War, Rolleston was still a small community and its village farms were still active. However, the sale of the Mosley estate in the mid 1920’s and the demolition of the larger part of Rolleston Hall released new land for building, but also marked the end of an era.
Some of the trees planted as part of the Estate however have survived and the Wellingtonias by the Water Tower are reputed to be the furthest identifiable skyline objects from Thorpe Cloud in Dovedale.
The spire of St. Mary’s Parish Church is a local landmark and though the present church building dates from the 13th century, there are records of a church on the same site between AD 900 and AD 1000. The present church was built during the reign of Henry III (1216-1272).
There are some interesting features in the church and churchyard. One is the alabaster ledger stone memorial to John Rolleston (who died in 1485) and his wife Margaret. The ancient Anglican Cross standing at the foot of the tower was placed there by Sir Oswald Mosley in June, 1897. At one end of the churchyard is what used to be ‘The Rolleston Free Grammar School’. In 1999 Ian Whitehead was appointed Rector to replace the Reverend Malcolm Birt who had charge of St Mary’s, Rolleston since the early 1970’s.
The 1930’s saw housing development along Beacon Road and Knowles Hill and to a lesser extent on Anslow Lane. It was after the Second World War that the village trebled in population beginning with the building of a council estate in Elizabeth Avenue, followed by the Walford Road and The Lawns/Hall Road estates in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Smaller developments followed. The new developments finally joined the two halves of the village together creating one and a half miles of continuous housing stretching from Dovecliff Road to Hall Road. The combined villages then took the name Rolleston on Dove which now has a population in excess of 3,500.
Community spirit in the village is maintained through a large number of organisations, including the Anglican and Methodist Churches, the Civic Trust, two Women’s Institutes, The British Legion, a Cricket Club, Golf Club, Football Club, Music Circle and Choral Society, an Allotments Society, Scouts and Guides, and the Rolleston Club which has its own bowling green.
The closure of the Forest of Needwood High School in 1985 (the site was later adopted by Burton College for a Rolleston Campus), was a major loss to the village community not only in educational terms but also in its recreational value. The large hall and other adjacent rooms were the home of the largest Youth Club in the County, the Rolleston Festival of Music and the Arts and a thriving Evening Institute for adult education.
Despite strong protests, in early 2002 ESBC Planning Applications Committee gave permission for Westbury Homes to build housing on the Burton College Rolleston Campus.
The Jinny Nature Trail
The Jinny Nature trail, which follows the track of the former railway, has an inviting entrance off Station Road, with a simple stile and discreet but effective signposting. There is a good balance between the ‘wild’ and ‘managed’ aspects of the trail. Remnants of Victorian railway brickwork adds interest to the former station area and to the junction with the footpath which ruins behind Walford Road.
The embankments of the old railway cutting provide an invaluable habitat for wildlife with a good mixture of deciduous trees, birch scrub, hawthorn, brambles and wild roses. Grazing by rabbits maintains clear areas where wild flowers can flourish, this attracts a very wide variety of birds and butterflies. The Rolleston section of the Jinny Trail is one of the sites used for a national butterfly mapping scheme.
North from the Jinnie Trail
An article that appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of the Rollestonian can be read here.
Rolleston is fortunate in having several areas which are especially attractive to wildlife including Brook Hollows in the centre, where the clearing of the old fishponds and sympathetic management of surrounding woodland has been very successful, Craythorne Wood and the Jinny Nature Trail on the eastern edge. The Old Dove in Marston Fields is listed as a site of special scientific interest.
Brookside and Burnside with the Alderbrook are without doubt the outstanding features of the village. Although the area has changed following the Flood Prevention Scheme carried out by the former River Authority, the statement that ‘the brook provides Rolleston with a riverscape that probably no other Town or Village in Staffordshire can rival’ made in the County Planning Conservation Area No 19 (February 1970) Document, still rings true.
Rolleston shops are small and few in number but what they lack in size is amply made up by the excellent service they provide. A full range of meals to suit all tastes is available at the Brookhouse, the Spread Eagle, the Jinny Inn and The Craythorne.
Strenuous efforts have been made in recent years to improve the village and examples of this are the purchase of Brook Hollows and its improvement, largely by voluntary labour, and the purchase of The Croft which is being maintained by the Parish Council as an open amenity for the enjoyment of parishioners. The purchase of The Croft was financed by a reprint of the History of Tutbury and Rolleston undertaken by the Parish Council by kind permission of the author, the late Mr. Charles Hayward Underhill. The Village Design Statement Group have prepared a design statement to try and ensure future changes do not spoil the village.
(© Based on an article in East Staffordshire News containing information provided by Mr Alan Woodbine).
This page is a very brief and general outline about the history of the village as the webmaster hasn’t the time to undertake detailed research. By using the site primarily to record current affairs it will hopefully provide a useful historical archive for future generations.
Fortunately two authors Idris Bowen (of Rolleston) and Ken Rolston (a direct descendant of the Rolleston family who came over with the Normans c1100) have been researching the history of Rolleston from its settlement sometime in the 7th Century to the early 20th Century for a number of years. Together with others they have produced a number of publications. Sadly Mr Bowen died in December 2004 but his work will be a reminder of his valuable contribution.
The Staffordshire Places web site features selected archive sources relating to a variety of places throughout Staffordshire including Rolleston. Featured sources include census returns, trade directories, tithe maps and wills and inventories. A related site is Staffordshire Past Track – Local History Online.
Josie Shercliff’s Treehouse
In September 2017 Michael Wardell set up a closed Facebook group called Rolleston on Dove History, where people interested in the history of the village can share memories and images from the past. It has quickly attracted over 200 members (Feb 2018) with topics ranging from games played in childhood to monuments in the church. Lots of pictures have been uploaded including the draining of Brook Hollows and the Alder Brook, school photos and trips from the 1950s onwards and village events from the same time as well as really old pictures of the village and lots more. Why not think about asking to join?
If you use the Internet but don’t use Facebook you might like to read his online blog about the history of the village and its people at https://rollestonondovehistory.wordpress.com/. It provides a good set of articles and related links and is well worth taking a look if you have the opportunity.
Read more about Josie Shercliff’s treehouse (Featured in Chapter 4 of Treehouses By Anthony Aikman). Once a local landmark and the subject of this village postcard. The spiral staircase had been accepted in lieu of the payment of a debt. Josie’s father found a very practical use for it.