Morley Parish Council

Serving the people of Morley Derbyshire

Clerk/RFO: L Storey
P O Box 8108, Derby
Derbyshire DE1 0ZU

Welcome to our new Village History Section

Here you will be able to learn about the history of our Parish. As always we welcome contributions from people who use this website, or those that live in, or once lived in the tranquil village of Morley. If you do wish to contact us, please us the contact details found here. otherwise enjoy our history page as it continues to grow and record events in and around Morley.

Morley on Wikipedia

See our very own wikipedia page here

Morley History – the Prequel

It has become a fashion in modern epic films not only to have sequels, but also to attempt to tell of events before the main story so as to set the scene (hence the term prequel). I thought that a history of Morley should also have a prequel to set the scene. It is not as if history started with William the Conqueror, long before mankind came along the Earth was doing its own thing.

We are tempted by our short life spans to think of the Earth as a solid and static thing, but it is not. The planet Earth has a complex and mobile inner structure with a thin skin of semi-solid crust. While to us this crust may seem solid it is in fact constantly moving and buckling like the skin on a pot of porridge: portions are thrust up from the molten core, form plate like crusts which move across the globe, only to plunge down again when they meet a more solid portion. As two thirds of the surface of the earth is covered by water, much of the workings of these plates have been out of our view.

The rocks we stand on in Morley today did not start out here, between 500 to 200 million years ago they were part of a super continent spanning the equator, (usually referred to today as Pangea - the inhabitants of he time did not call it anything), this was surrounded by a single world ocean (Panthalassa).

The ocean surrounding Pangea is Panthalassa

There are eight major plates and a number of minor plates, making up twenty in all. This was not the first super-continent, there had been at least two before that. As nothing lasts forever, so 200 million years ago this super-continent began to break up. The rocks that formed in the arid deserts of the inland of Pangea, with their red (iron oxide) sandstone formations are still around today. The part we were on, Laurasia, moved off north and would eventually split again to form the Atlantic ocean between what would become North America and Eurasia. This warm period about 135 million years ago corresponds to the start of the Cretaceous period. Those sandstones had been covered by warm shallow seas of the carboniferous period. It was a period of lush vegetation. On dying the plants locked up their carbon in the of mud and shale (which would later yield coal and oil).

In the warm shallow seas semi-microscopic sea creature (formanifra) lived, using the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form their shells. Their bodies rained down in their millions to form beds of chalk, sometimes of considerable depth (think of the White Cliffs of Dover). Some of these beds were later compressed and heat treated by burial to become limestone. Not nice neat flat layers, but folded and buckled layers as the earth continues to move the plates northwards. This was a long hot period we usually equate with reptiles and dinosaurs.

It was only in the 1915 that Alfred Wagener proposed the theory of Continental Drift and this was not accepted as proven until 1950, when evidence of sea floor spreading showed how this was possible.

Up-welling along the mid Atlantic ridge are forcing North America and Europe apart at a rate of about 50 to 100 mm a year by the formation of new crust. This rate does not seem much, but it has been going on for millions of years. So Morley will continue on its slow journey up to the North Pole and around the top of the Eurasian plate, and in the next 250 million years it again becomes a part of the next super-continent. We will not have to worry about it, as most of us, and probably the human race, will have moved on by then.

Least we give the impression that the past was all hot deserts and steaming swamps we have to remember that the earth also suffers periodic cooling. There was one well-documented ice age, probably the most severe of the last billion years, occurring from 850 to 630 million years ago (the Cryogenian period) that may have produced a Snowball Earth in which glacial ice sheets reached the equator from both north and south. We are in an Ice Epoch now which started about 2.8 million years ago (the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation). Over the last 730,000 years our ancestors have had to adapt to an irregular sequence of both warming and cooling, with at least eight major glacial episodes.

The spring of our current ice age began about 15,000 years ago. Morley was under a kilometre thick ice sheet and we still have the boulder clays left by their grinding action as evidence of their irresistible passing. But more to the point the snows had moved a lot of water north and south, leaving the sea level at that time about 120 metres lower than today. This made England part of mainland Europe, with the most fertile lands in between modern England and France (termed Doggerland). The melt water from the glaciers carved out much of today's landscape. About 6,000 years ago the rising sea level caused a breach in this dam across the North Sea to burst, and a giant flood invaded to become the English Channel, washing away much of the prime neolithic landscape.

The new configuration is what we think of today as 'normal'. By 1000AD the Norse had settled Greenland, and the England of 1100 to 1258 was considered the Medieval Warm Period, but a major tropical volcanic eruption in 1258 pushed vast quantities of ash and dust into the upper atmosphere causing a cold snap. In 1300 the Little Ice Age began. This Little Ice Age was far from a simple deep freeze. It was more of an irregular see-saw of rapid climate shifts, driven by a complex interaction of both sea and atmosphere.

The years 1315 to 1319 were known as the Great Hunger and by 1350 the Norse had abandoned Greenland as no longer habitable. It continued to get cooler up to 1600 when Huangaputina erupted in Peru. However the Great Fire of London took place in 1666 after a long dry period. The coldest phase (termed the Maunder Minimum) occurred between 1645 and 1710. There was the Great Storm of 1704 which was recorded by Daniel Defoe. The uneasy Earth was still throwing up eruptions with Tambara in 1816 and Krakatau in 1883. Somewhere about 1850 the Little Ice Age ended.

Around 1900 we experienced a warming period, only to cool again (remember the winters of 1947 and 1963). Since then it has continued to warm, not helped by the fact that over the last 150 years we have dug up and burned about half of that fossilised coal and oil trapped within the earth for the last 300 million years. This has pushed the atmospheric CO2 levels to the highest they have been in the last 800,000 years. We appear to have prevented a swing back into a glacial default situation. The worry is have we, without being aware, pushed the system into a hot house period similar to the Jurassic.

As we have seen, in history there is no such thing as a stable situation, and we probably can't get the genie back into the bottle either. We will have to do what all species have had to do, adapt or move over for one that can. One good thing, in Morley we are above the high-water mark – at present.

Jim Parish as co-ordinator of the Morley History Project.

Morley History – In the beginning

Continuing from the Prequal, Jim takes us and Morley from 10,000 years ago until the 1800s.

In a previous article Morley The Prequal we took an overview of the last 200 million years. Only 10,000 year ago we were under a kilometre of ice. We left Morley as an unnamed area of a piece of land (later to be know as Great Britain) recently cut off from the mainland a mere 6,000 years ago. The carboniferous period had left deep seems of coal to the west of us, but these had been pushed up by the underlying sandstone, and by the time we arrived they had been sheared off by the movement of the ice-sheet, leaving us with the sandstone and clay. The melt water had carved out the Derwent valley and the flood had washed our coal away in the gravels of Derby and Leicestershire. This was to affect us significantly as we remained perched just 4 miles north of the future location of the city of Derby, sitting just 50 metres above it and looking down on the river valley below from our plateau 137 metres above sea level.

By the time of the Norman Conquest (1066 and all that) the new King found Derbyshire well established under Scandinavian rule, with a total population of Derbyshire given as 2,868. It was one of the few counties to be recorded as having a distinctive industry: that of lead mining. The greater part of the county was agricultural. The lands of Edwin the late Earl of the shire were forfeited to William as King. The King granted large portions of his new lands to his supporters in the conquest. Henry de Ferrers obtained the manor of Morley, along with 113 other manors in the county. His chief castle was at Tutbury just outside the county boundary.

In a later battle against the Scots at Northallerton (22 August 1138) Henry's son Robert de Ferrers was rewarded by being granted the title of Earl of Derby. The county has long links to the de Ferrers. King John visited Derbyshire castles several times including the rebuild of the nearby Horsley castle. But when the then Earl Ferrers took up arms against King Henry III and lost, all his lands were confiscated (1266) and all the local possessions conferred on the king's son Edmund (known as Crouchback), then Duke of Lancaster and some remain in the Duchy of Lancaster until this day.

The earliest identifiable tenant of the manor of Morley appears to be a certain Edmund 'Lord of Morley', he had a son Walter. There is quite a long and complicated pedigree (a story for another day) leading up to Goditha, who married Ralph Statham. Goditha is said to have died c.1418 and Ralph c. 1380. Both are mentioned in the Parish Church of St. Matthews which was partly built by Ralph Statham and was completed by his widow Goditha. The church and its history is worthy of an article all of its own as it the most well documented historical feature of the Parish.

The Ancient Parish of Morley we have mentioned so far occupied 3,264 acres and contained the two townships of Morley and Smalley (and Kidsley within Smalley) and in 1563 they boasted between them 61 dwellings. The township of Morley (the southern part of the parish) was only 1491 acres and had a mere 25 dwellings. At the time of the Enclosure Act (1786 and worthy of more discussion) the larger parish was still one, but after 1834 and the second Poor Law which required each parish to look after its own poor, the parish was split into two Civil Parishes (Morley and Smalley). By 1843, the Tithe Map shows Morley as a separate managed entity. The scene is now set to explore some of this history in more detail; but not now as any more would makes your brain hurt. We will be back with more later.

Jim Parish as co-ordinator of the Morley History Project

Morley History – The Rectors Tale

In previous articles we have looked at the evolution of the geology (The Prequal) of our island and the founding of the civil Parish of Morley (in the beginning).

Perhaps we should actually listen to someone who lived there and was in a position to be able to observe and leave us his thoughts on events. This time I've selected the Reverend Robert Wilmot who was Rector of the Church of St Matthew, Morley from 1777 to 1803.

A transcription to the Parish Registers exists in the Derbyshire Studies library at Matlock if you want to read them first hand. The Registers give the records of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in the Parish, but the Reverend Robert Wilmot went further. At the end of each year he wrote a summary of events of that year. Some of these relate to the Parish itself, but he also felt compelled to comment on the state of the weather, the impact on food and the political climate at home and abroad. Below are a few extracts from his commentaries.

The year was remarkably healthy throughout the Parish as appears from there being only one inhabitant buried & that at the great age of 84 years.

This year the smallpox and measles are very prevalent in the Parish only one person died of the former and she was lost for want of proper care. This year was remarkable for the drought which was general through Europe from the beginning of the year till September; in many places water was purchased at £9 -£10 per ton but the latter end of the year was remarkably fair. Inside the Parish of Morley nothing remarkable happened but the enclosure of the Common, unless we notice that of the 12 baptisms, 10 were females. (Interesting how he saw the Enclosures as insignificant. We will come back to them at another time – JP)

In the last year nothing worth notice has happened in the Parish. The year has been in general very healthy. Provisions reasonable and the present winter hitherto remarkably mild and open. The nation appears in a flourishing state and recovery from its late depression by the excellent conduct of the very young but wonderfully able statesman William Pitt.

In the last year an intermittent fever was very prevalent, in many places it proved fatal to those who had it. The faculty agreed that it was the most troublesome complaint they had to deal with for some years, people were so subject to relapses of the summer and cold damp airs. The hay-harvest was very bad, the corn harvest rather better. Crops of every kind were abundant, yet provisions continued very dear; meat 4d for half a pound, wheat 6s.6d and upwards 4 strike. Horses immoderately high, cattle & sheep the same in consequence of the exporting them, which made a scarcity for home consumption. Fine time for prudent farmers.

The year was an extraordinary Epoch in the national History. The King, George the Third, was seized with insanity.

Of the Parish events I have little to record this year.

I do not recollect any event in the Parish worthy of record.


The year has been very healthy till October the weather has been generally good a severe frost then set in & has continued to this time (year end) with little interruption.

In the year no Parish events of significance to be recorded (but) great improvements take place daily in the Agricultural concerns of the Parish and Highways are nearly all put in good repair, when I came to be Rector in the year 1777 the bye roads were almost all of them impassable in winter for carts or wagons, now there is not in the whole township more than 200 yards of road that a chaise cannot pass on any time of year.

The present state of Europe engages the attention of every man. A short time will in all probability witness a material change in the new fangled French Constitution of Government. Not withstanding the anarchy prevailing in that country, there are many persons in the Kingdom desirous of seeing the same confusion here by attempting to subvert the present Government & convert it to a Republic. In no part have they disaffected persons than in the town and neighbourhood of Derby. From whence they have actually sent two persons to the National Convention of France to invite the French over to this country to create the same anarchy here which is there triumphant. The seditions books & papers which are now published & industriously circulated among the lower orders of the people for the purpose of raising dissatisfactions and preparing them for rebellion are innumerable & unless very effectual steps are taken by the well disposed to prevent it, the nation must very soon be involved in a civil war.

He continues to follow these events in later years. We can return to him in a later article, or you could read it for yourself in Matlock.

Jim Parish as co-ordinator of the Morley History Project

A History of the Parish of Morley Derbyshire

by the Morley Village History Committee
ISBN 0 86971 033 5
Copyright 1977, Morley Village History Committee

Now out of print but presented on our website for all to enjoy:


We began this history of Morley in 1963 after two of Morley's Women's Institute members had attended a meeting on 'Derbyshire Place Names' by Dr. Kenneth Cameron, and arranged for the Derbyshire Federation of Women's Institutes by Miss N.Middleton, W.E.A. Organiser for Derby.

We attended a series of meetings during 1963 in Morley, our tutor being Miss R. Tulloch, B.A., who told us how and where to look for in¬formation and also helped in collecting and put¬ting the notes into some order. We are very grateful to her for all her advice and enthu¬siasm, and to Miss N. Middleton who arranged the meetings for her help and encouragement.

To write a complete history of a parish is a great undertaking. We were very much a group of amateurs and we hope that this is only a be-ginning and that others may venture and continue the search. We made an attempt to search the old parish registers, books and newspapers as best we could, but because of the costs involved it was not possible to get it printed.

The Women's Institute. Members who helped in one way or another to compile these notes were:-Miss D. Topham, Mrs. M. Slack, Mrs. L. Peach, Mrs. I. Hammersley, Mrs. L. Giblin, Mrs. K. Drinkwater and Mrs. E. Bestwick, and we were assisted by Mr. F. Bestwick, Mr. M. Bladon, Mr.and Mrs. J. Dawes and Mr. R. Hammersley.

We should like to record our thanks to Mr.R.Dilks for his notes and map on the geology of the area in the original manuscript; and Mr. S. Ogden, F.R.I.C.S. (Churchwarden) of Morley Church for his drawings and notes on the Rectory and the Almshouses, also in the original manus-cript, and to the Villagers themselves for their patience in answering innumerable questions.

We should also like to thank the then Rector of Morley, Canon R.P. Stacy Waddy for allowing us access to the old parish registers(which were our Main source of information), and for his help and interest, also the staffs of the Derby Borough and County Libraries.

As this is the Silver Jubilee year of our Queen's accession, we thought this would be an appropriate time to publish this as a tribute to this historic occasion, and a fitting reminder of the part Morley and its people have played in the past. We are indebted to those in the parish and their friends outside and to the present Women's Institute members who have encouraged us to prepare this for print.

Eva E. Bestwick 1977


In addition to those already mentioned in the preface, we wish to record our thanks to:

Mrs. L. Giblin for the current maps of the village and drawings of The Almshouses, Three Horse Shoes, Morley Hall Gateway and the Butter Cross

Mr. E.V.J. Bathurst, B.Sc., for the notes on Broomfield Hall;

the staff of Heanor County Library; and all those who have kindly loaned photographs for inclusion in this History.