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Riddings in Derbyshire

Riddings, situated on the eastern border of Derbyshire was first recorded in the 12th century. It's ancient name was Ryddynges, meaning a clearing in the grove. This was the grove of Alfreton, part of woodland which swept down to the river Erewash, a mile away, and over the boundary to Nottinghamshire, where it became part of the great forest of Sherwood.

A manor house once stood here, to the west of the Moulder's Arms pub until just after the sale of the manorial lands of the Rolleston family in 1808. There was also a chapel of ease dedicated to St Mary Magdalen, built to save the villagers the trip to Alfreton for worship.

Coal and ironstone had been mined in the area in a small way for centuries before the opening up of the Cromford canal and it's Pinxton branch in 1793 made large scale mining and the establishment of an ironworks feasibly worthwhile. The original works belonged to 3 Derby ironsmiths trading as Thomas Salelbye & Co in the late 18th century but was bought out by James Oakes in 1818.

For the next hundred years the Oakes family dominated the village owning not only the ironworks but several local collieries. They collaborated with the Butterley Company in establishing the Riddings and District Gas Company in 1888 and founded other companies which manufactured coal by products such as tar and sulphuric acid. They also used the clays in the local coal measures to make bricks and spun pipes. James Oakes was one of the instigators of the railway built along the erewash valley to supercede the canal.

The Oakes family legacy has left a substancial estate village. They contributed to the establishment of the parish church of St James in 1833 and the National School, now junior school of 1845. The Oakes family built and lived at Riddings House which was surrounded by a substancial park and contained a model farm.

The chemist W.R.Bunsen is said to have worked at the ironworks, anlysing the chemical behavoir of coke fired blast furnaces and oil was discovered in the mid part of the 19th century and developed into a paraffin industry by a scotsman called James Young.

The heavy industries have now gone but employment is now provided on a modern estate by lighter industries. There are adequate shopping facilities and modern housing developments have extended on all sides of the village. The Guiness trust has modernised the old village cottages and built new ones in keeping with their original character. The Moulder' Arms, locally known as the Thack, retains it's thatched roof and across the road the Seven Stars built in 1702 on the site of the old St Mary Magdalen chapel , has changed very little. Riddings House is now a residential home for the elderly, the model Farm has been tastefully converted into charming mews cottages and the park is in regular use for various recreational activities.

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