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Village Industry

Industry in Aston on Trent has been small-scale and of local significance with the exception of gypsus (also called alabaster of plaster) quarrying and mining. There was a stocking framework knitter in Aston on Trent 1766, called John Whyman; in 1789, there were three stocking frames in the parish (then including Shardlow and Wilne) and forty years later there were a few stocking frames and two lace machines. The evidence for brick making is as sparse; a brick-kiln Close is marked on a map of 1795, north of the village and beside the London Road, two brick makers were named in Bagshaw’s directory of 1857, a brick and a tile maker in White’s directory of 1857, and the Brickyard Plantation, one of the properties sold at the break up of the old Holden estate in 1924. However, by 1932 the Derby Brick Company was mentioned in Kelly’s Directory and was still in Aston on Trent in 1941. 

There is evidence of some plaster quarrying in the 17th century by John Hunt, (with reference to a plaister delfe) on 1630, and in the early 18th century, when no doubt the gypsum was used locally for white washing and flooring, but it was only at the end of the 18th century that it seems to have been quarried in commercial quantities. Richard Brown and sons in 1796 announced the opening of an alabaster quarry near Shardlow, probably the pits shown on the Holden estate map of 1795. Humphrey Moore, a Shardlow merchant, was paying a rent on the pits in 1809 and he built a railway from the plaster pits on Aston Hill to the canal near Hicken’s bridge. Charles Holden spent £500 building it for Moore acting on Holden’s behalf. The railway was ‘now making’ in 1811 and was probably completed and opened in 1812. Farey records that Samual Storey was working the pits in 1811 and he was probably the first leaser of the railway. John Brookhouse of Derby ‘plasterer’ and Joseph Johnson, coal dealer, leased both pits and tramway in 1818, but by 1825, the closed line was being offered for sale. It seems to have been revived and extended to other pits nearer Aston, and finally closed sometime before the First World War. In its later days, trucks were horse drawn along the line to a small cottage near the Shardlow Road called the ‘Whey house’ where the trucks were weighed before continuing to the Wharf. There the gypsum was transferred to the canal and travelled to the plaster mill at Kings Mills. Meanwhile, other pits were opened near Chellaston and are shown on the 1835 one-inch ordnance survey map. In 1857 Pegg Harper and Co. of Derby and Robert Meakin of Chellaston and its offices, engine houses, shafts etc., together with land and mines, were leased by Winterbottom to the Derby Plaster Co. in 1919 and sold as the Glebe or California mine to the Gotham Co Ltd, in 1924, together with the plaster mill, its engine of dynamo rooms, stone dressing sheds, head to mine shaft, winding house, kiln house with four large plaster and cement kilns and several other rooms. A pre-cast concrete works has now succeeded the plaster works on the site. 

The Village Community 

In the 19th and early 20th century, Aston on Trent was a self-sufficient community. The ancient church in the 1820 at least, was well attended and from 1929, there was a Wesleyan Methodist Church (replaced in 1967). In 1823–4 there was a subscription day school for fifty boys and a Sunday school for fifty boys and fifty girls. Perhaps as in 1829, the Rector provided the schoolhouse, but in the 1830’s and until 1844, a Joseph Botham owned a room used as a schoolroom. In the following years, contributions aided by a grant of £54 from the National School Society; it had a boy’s room of 80 and a girl’s room for fifty according to one source, but others say it could accommodate 160. Only about 40 boys and 30 girls attended at first, but numbers rose to an average attendance of 150 in 1904, by which time it had become a Public Elementary school. A music teacher lived at Aston on Trent in 1846 and there was a mistress in addition to the National School master and mistress in 1857 but the only real evidence of private schooling is of a private school at the White House in 1895. From 1870, there were eight almshouses (four built and two purchased) whilst by 1924 there was a village hall.