Bretby is one of the most southerly villages in Derbyshire, reachable only by narrow leafy lanes. The Parish population in 1991 was 783. It was first mentioned in Domesday as an agricultural settlement around a green, and this remains the core of the village but there is a secondary settlement called Stanhope Bretby, for a long time the site of Bretby Colliery. Mining was a feature of life here for about 100 years but the only connection now is with the British Coal's research Establishment at the Bretby Business Park.
In a field called Castle Field, a series of pronounched ridges and ditches can be seen, the only reminder of Bretby Castle, built in the 13th Century, a large fortified manor house surrounded by a moat. The Castle was demolished in the reign of James the 1st when permission was granted for a mansion to be built in a newly enclosed park of 600 acres. The ornamental gardens created there by the 2nd Earl of Chesterfield were reputed to have been second only to Versailles. Only the Hall and lakes remain. One of the owners of the estate was Lord Carnarvon the Egyptologist, who sold the property to finace the famous expedition in search of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy king. The present Hall was purchased in 1926 by the Derbyshire County Council for use as a hospital and remained an orthopaedic hospital till the 1990's, the hall and grounds then being sold to developers to provide private residential units.
The 5th Earl of Chesterfield rebuilt the farmhouses and cottages in the early part of the 19th century, and they are still in the village today, some bearing the dates between 1805 - 1815. Behind the green, a path leads past a well worn set of stocks to St Wystan's Church which contains a small brass plate to Benjamin Disraeli, once a regular visitor of the Chesterfields.
Places to visit include Bretby Nurseries and The Walled Garden Nursery, which are both located on the outskirts of the village and Bretby Golf Club, which can be found in Stanhope Bretby.
Please also visit Derbyshire Photographs for larger photos of Bretby Hall