Newlands Inn, Golden Valley – from Listed Building to gutted ruin
Tags: 'Carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building is a criminal offence', 'coach road', 'navvies', 1880s, 19th century country inn, 20th century extensions, 25th May 1988, 2966 yards, 6th August 2011, Alfreton, arson has not been ruled out, Belgian racing pigeons, Belgium, blaze at the Newlands Inn, boarded up, bowling alley, Britain, Building ID: 79099, Butterley, Butterley Company, Butterley Tunnel, canal workers, clear the site, coal mines closed, Codnor, Codnor Park, colliers, Cromford, Cromford canal, Derbyshire, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, Derbyshire Police, destroyed by fire, England, English Heritage, family history, fell into disrepair, forge, games of skittles, Golden Valley, Grade II, Great Britain, great-grandfather, gruelling race, hamlet, harsh winter conditions, home lofts, homing pigeons, inserted into a 'time clock', Ironville, King Leopold II of Belgium, labourers who constructed the canal, listed building, my uncles bred fast birds, Newlands Inn, officials of the local 'Homing Club', old photographs on the walls of the Public Bar, opened in 1794, passing trade, pigeon lofts, Planning Authority, Planning Charter from English Heritage, Public Bar, Queen Victoria, Riddings, Ripley, suffered roof damage, the Inn closed in 2007, tonic water, Uncle Jack, UNcle Sam, winning international races
Golden Valley, Derbyshire plays a big part in my family history. My mother’s family had lived in this tiny Derbyshire hamlet – between Codnor and Riddings – for generations. Indeed, my great-grandfather had worked on the Cromford Canal, on whose banks the little community had grown up. The Cromford Canal was carried in the famous Butterley Tunnel, which when opened in 1794 was the longest in Britain at 2,966 yards, and had one of its terminals at Golden Valley; it is said that the thirst of the labourers who constructed the canal – the ‘navvies’ – caused the Newlands Inn to be built.
The ‘Newlands’ didn’t just cater for canal workers, however. Like many in Golden Valley, some of my family worked at Butterley Company’s forge at nearby Codnor Park, but most were colliers. Both of these occupations generated a fair thirst, too. Given that the Inn also stood near a crossroads between a ‘coach road’ which ran from Ripley to Ironville and the Codnor to Alfreton road, it had sufficient passing trade to thrive. There was an old-fashioned bowling alley close to the canal, where hard-fought games of skittles were played, but the most intense ‘sporting’ activity which took place at the Inn involved homing pigeons, an activity which became popular in Britain in the 1880s, after King Leopold II of Belgium gave Queen Victoria some high-class Belgian racing pigeons! There were quite a number of pigeon lofts in and around Golden Valley, and when the individual birds returned to their home lofts at the end of a gruelling race (they were all released simultaneously at some distant point) a special ring was removed from their leg and inserted into a ‘time clock’, which recorded each arrival. These clocks were taken by the loft owners to the Inn, where officials of the local ‘Homing Club’ would adjudicate which bird was the fastest. My uncles bred fast birds, even winning international races over hundreds of miles.
The Newlands Inn was a good example of a 19th century country inn (admittedly, with 20th century extensions), so good, in fact, that on 25th May, 1988, English Heritage declared it a Listed Building, Grade II (Building ID: 79099). Unfortunately, as the local employment situation worsened – the coal mines closed, as did other industries – the hamlet lost much of its population, and the Inn closed in 2007. It quickly fell into disrepair after being boarded up, and suffered roof damage (possibly during the harsh winter conditions).
Around 7.40pm on the 6th August this year, the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to attend a blaze at the Newlands Inn. It was so severe that the main road through Golden Valley had to be closed. Although the Derbyshire Police will not speculate, arson has not been ruled out, and a joint investigation with the Fire Service is in progress. A point of interest is the fact that the owner of ANY Listed Building is not allowed to demolish it unless consent is given through the relevant Planning Authority (the Planning Charter from English Heritage is used as a guide). Similarly, any substantial changes (interior or exterior) must be given appropriate consent. To quote English Heritage, ‘Carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building is a criminal offence and perpetrators can be prosecuted’. Obviously, if the building has been destroyed by fire – or other means – the owner (either individual or corporation) is allowed to clear the site and use it for something else. I am not going to speculate (just as the Derbyshire Police did not), but the circumstances regarding the loss of this Listed Building are worthy of investigation.
I shall miss the Newlands Inn. Prior to 2007, I had always called in during my trips back to the U.K. and ordered a tonic water or two (don’t drink and drive, folks!) and examined the many old photographs on the walls of the Public Bar. These included photographs of two of my uncles, Sam and Jack, plus many other people I knew. A sad loss.
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