South Normanton is a large, busy industrial village situated 2 miles east of Alfreton. Normanton, meaning the farm of the north men or 'Northwegans' was a small holding belonging to William Peveril at the time of Domesday. It was a purely agricultural settlement but added tanning as a secondary industry during medieval times, using the bark of the oak and birch, both plentiful in the area. The hamlets of Upper and lower Birchwood are South Normanton's southerly neighbours today.
In the 18th and 19th century there was a middle class consisting of farmers, the rector and the Squire, and 2 groups of manual workers, framework knitters and miners. Each of the groups had its own traditions and culture, mixing rarely with the other group and even less with the farmers. The knitters, or shiners as they were known from the state of their trouser seats after a 14 hour day sitting at their machines, tended to live in certain areas,'around the Dog Pool, along Water Lane and particularly up the narrow alleys around the Old Market place.
South Normanton took on it's existing character after the opening of 'A Winning' colliery in 1871 and 'B Winning' in 1875, by the Blackwell Colliery Company. By the 1881's 'A Winning' had the largest output of coal in Derbyshire and employed around 500 men. Streets of terraced houses were built to accommodate the growing population which saw an increase from 1812 in 1871 to 3205 in 1881 and this trent continued until the 1930's.
It was the Blackwell Colliery Company's paternalistic gestures that guaranteed a steadily expanding workforce for the pits. A colliery institute was built with a reading room, library, tennis courts and playing fields were established along with a cottage hospital. Many people came to South Normanton from depressed agricultural areas and this migration was helped by the Erewash Valley railway extension which reached Alfreton in 1865.
Almost every adult male worked in the pits, the boys sent to the mines as soon as they were of age. Women generally stayed at home as wages wre relatively quite high in the new collieries. A family centered environment was created infused with the ethics of Nonconformist chapels and institutions like the Co-ops, friendly societies and the pubs. Mining was dangerous work. Apart from the life expectancy of a miner being shorter than in other occupations, men were killed in in mines. Five died in an explosion in A Winning in 1895 and 8 were killed by another explosion in 1937 at South Normanton Colliery. South Normanton Colliery closed in 1952, B Winning in 1964 and A Winning in 1969.
St Michaels Church dates from around the 13th century but most of the present building is from the 19th. It contains a monument to a Robert Ravel who lived at the nearby Carnfield Hall, an early 17th century stone mansion built by the Revell family. The Ravells died out in 1797 and of their successors, the Radfords, who were in occupation in the last quarter of the 19th and first quarter of the 20th , seem to be remembered with affection in the village and at Carnfield because they introduced mains water in 1913. At one period since WW2, the Hall was used for training engineering apprentices but is now in private hands again and is listed Grade11*.
Despite it's present population of around 8000, South Normanton is still a village but it has cleaned up it's act since the early part of the 20th century when it was known as the dirtiest village in Derbyshire. The old linear shape of the village has been lost over the years. Its former centre, around the old market place has moved to a new market area and a mass of housing covers the site of Jedediah Strutt's birthplace next to the Shoulder of Mutton pub. Despite the unemployment caused by the closing of the coal mines, life continues and so does the old community spirit, helped by the recent building of a magnificent new village hall.