Village Life Then and Now: The Main Road

Bottom of Main Road Pre 1905
The bottom of the Main Road, sometime before 1905

As promised last month, I’ve made a start on assessing the huge database of photographs I got hold of, which document the history of the village I grew up in from the 1900s onwards. Some pictures came with more detail than others, and the quality is highly variable, but it still makes for a fascinating study. We start at the bottom of Main Road, with a picture from before 1905.

The gateway on the left is the beginning of the lane to the old mill (now converted to houses and flats), the origins of which date back to the 1780s (Bamford Mill in this index), although the property has been rebuilt several times since.

Bottom of Main Road 1921
The same spot in 1921

Construction of the houses that run up the left hand side of the road began in 1905 and by 1920, the scene was considerably busier. The main gateposts, trees and telegraph poles are still there, although one gatepost seems to have been lost, and it’s interesting to note that all three vehicles in view are either horse-drawn or steam-powered.


Main Road and Victoria Road 1920
Main Road and Victoria Road in 1920 with shops

Moving up the hill, we reach the junction with Victoria Road. For many years, each corner housed a shop, although this was no longer the case by 1985 – and I’m not certain I remember shops being there much before that either. The telegraph poles changed several times, and had disappeared by 1985 or so (going by the registration of the car pictured), to be replaced by street lighting.



Main Road and Victoria Road 1980s
The same spot, but the car registration dates it to 1985 or later

I also found an estate agent’s brochure for the lower of the corner houses from 1985, when it was priced at £29,000. A similar house now might be worth seven or eight times that amount.





Derwent and Hancocks
The Derwent Hotel and Hancock’s shop

Moving up towards the centre of the village, we turn to look back down the hill between the Derwent Hotel, which I talked about last month, and Hancock’s stores, which has long-since been converted to a dental surgery with flats above. The row of houses down the hill from the hotel is Coronation Villas, built in 1902. On the opposite side a little higher up is a wooden hut that may be the forerunner to the sweet shop I remember from my childhood (site now built over by a private house) and between that and Hancock’s shop, we now have a brick-built bus shelter and (disused) public toilets). Note also that a pavement (sidewalk to you in the US) now runs up both sides of the road in that area.

Silver Jubilee Parade 1935
Parade for the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary
Silver Jubilee Parade 1935 again
Parade for the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary







Main Road Village Green 1916
The Village Green and cobbler’s shop in around 1916

Continuing up the hill a little, we reach the village green, site of the well dressing in summer and the nativity scene at Christmas, as well as a popular vantage point for watching the carnival procession every year. That at least seems to be a long-standing tradition; I found two photographs of a Silver Jubilee parade in 1935 (pictured above), celebrating the 25th year of the reign of George V and Queen Mary. By the green, we also see a cobbler’s shop next to the site where the well dressing and nativity scene are erected annually. That’s no longer there, and the site of a bank branch that subsequently sat a little further back off the road is also now being (slowly) redeveloped.

Shop and Anglers Rest WWI
The shop and the Anglers’ Rest during WWI

Passing the Village Institute, which has changed little on the outside in the 100 years it has stood there, we end this month’s visit at the (now community-owned) Angler’s Rest. The shop across the road has long been a private house, and the whole structure of the building altered to better accommodate the main road and a pavement. Meanwhile the carriage house (or garage) with the Posting sign above it (pictured below) has now been redeveloped into a snug.

Anglers Rest 1917
The Anglers’ Rest with carriage house/garage (now a snug) in 1917


The database contains well over 500 files, some of which contain more than one photograph, so I should have plenty more to share in coming months, not just of the main village but also, I suspect, of the drowned villages of Derwent and Ashopton.


  1. Love these pix and the progression they show. My wee Hamlet in the Cotswold Hills of England dates back to 1600’s and was a pack mule wool route. I would love to find pix such as yours. Loved it!!


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