The village probably started out as a pre-historic settlement near to the fertile river plain. As tribes settled down and became farmers rather than nomadic hunter/gatherers, the settlement may have moved to higher ground and by the sixth century the Saxon village of ‘Acetum’ was established.
Farming has historically been the dominant way of life. Between the 11th and 17th Centuries large tracts of land were owned by the Lords of the Manor with villagers renting strips for the growing of produce. An area of local common pasture land was known as Aston on Trent Moor.
In the eighteenth century the Acts of Enclosure were introduced which effectively brought an end to the practice of strip farming. Open fields were divided into smaller units and fenced, giving landowners the opportunity to develop and profit from a more efficient method of farming.
From 1648 much of the land around Aston on Trent was owned by the Holden family. Despite areas of poor soil Aston on Trent earned a reputation as ‘the bread basket of Derbyshire’ on account of its prolific production from the surrounding wheat fields known as Ash, Alderslad, Grass and Hether. Today farmland still surrounds the village with a mixture of arable crops, sheep, dairy and stock cattle.
Aston on Trent was home to a small stocking framework knitting industry in 1766 when John Whyman set up his business. By 1789 there were three stocking machines in the parish.
To the north of the village, brick making developed as a cottage industry from 1795 before expanding to the Brickyard Plantation in the early 1900s. In 1930 The Derby Brick Company Ltd opened up a new works at the northern outskirts of the village. The industry continued until the 1960s when larger companies forced its closure. Bricks stamped with ‘Aston’ continue to be dug up in the vicinity.
There is evidence of some plaster quarrying in the 17th century by John Hunt and in the early 18th century but it was only at the end of the 18th century that it seems to have been quarried in commercial quantities. A railway, costing £500 in1812, ran from the plaster pits on Aston on Trent Hill to the canal near Hicken’s bridge. It extended to other pits nearer Aston, and finally closed sometime before the First World War.
The census of 1851 (249 persons) reveals the following breakdown of occupations:
Domestic Service 23%
Plaster Pits 3%
The census of 1901 (246 persons) revealed little change other than an upsurge of employment in the plaster pits – up to 13% of the population. The high level of domestic service was accounted for by employment at Aston on Trent Hall, Aston on Trent Lodge and the Rectory.
During the Second World War Frank Worrall and Jimmy Lowther set up NOTSA Engineering Co. Ltd. (precision engineering components) in the grounds of what had been Aston on Trent Lodge and is now Lodge Mews. NOTSA is Aston spelt in reverse. After the war a new factory was built to supply machining for the Derby-based Rolls Royce Company. NOTSA was bought out by Vickers Engineering in 1982 who sold it to Ferranti Measuring Systems in 1984. The following year production was moved away. No trace of the factory complex remains.
Two pubs continue to contribute to the social life of Aston: The White Hart and The Malt Shovel.
The Malt Shovel can be traced back to 1857. 1870 the licensee was John Holbrook though prior to this he was listed in the Derby Gazetteer in 1860 as a beer retailer and in 1837 as keeping a beer house.
The White Hart can be traced back to 1771. Christopher Wright the Elder transferred the ownership of the pub, by Deed of Gift, to his son William for the sum of five shillings. On his death Sarah, probably a sister of William, re-inherited the pub and upon her death in 1857, ownership was transferred to her daughters Maria and Elizabeth by a Deed of Agreement made in 1843. The pub remained in the family until sold by a Deed of Settlement by Elizabeth and Maria Wright to Edward Holden in 1866 for £900.
A further pub, The Coach and Horses, operated in premises on Derby Road and can be traced back to 1804 though trading appears to have ceased sometime between 1870 and 1881.
There are references to three ale-houses operating in 1577.
Other Village Businesses
George Bull – Coal merchant at the turn of the Twentieth Century
Archie Elliott Moss – Horse dealer 1916 -1925 supplying to the military
Wells Coaches – William & Frederick started the first village bus service in 1924
Porter’s Blacksmithy operated as a family business from 1895 to the 1950s
G.H. Berresford – Grocer and Provisions shop late 1930s, sold to Peter Kelton (Butcher)1960s, sold to the Goodacres in 1970s. It is now a private house.
Joseph (Alec) Worrall’s – Licensed general store 1970s in what is now the Post Office. It was previously a bakers & grocers run by father and son Arthur Swann
The Post Office has been continually open for business since 1871 though in different premises. Originally in a cottage front room it was re-sited in the old village hall (now demolished) and run by Bill Greatorex
Clulow’s greengrocers and general store. A family business since the mid-1930s
Ken Newbold’s garage opposite The Green was originally a Maltings house for the White Hart. It became a garage in the 1930s, requisitioned by the Royal Engineers in the war then owned by George Bagguley until taken over by Ken in 1970.