SHIREBROOK

Shirebrook's first mention on record appeared in the 12th century and is believed to have derived from "boundary brook". The brook, the plentiful supply of wood and the fertile, well drained soil attracted Anglo Saxon settlers from the 6th century, although evidence of earlier occupation exists on the eastern side of the modern village at Thickley Bank and Roseland Wood, where 1st century Roman pottery has been found. Further evidence of Roman occupation has been found at Stubbin Wood to the north, where building remains dated to the 3rd century together with course pottery has been unearthed. This site is believed to have been inhabited by peasant farmers. Major Rooke's extensive Roman excavations, conducted in the 18th century, discovered the Northfield villa at nearby Pleasley Vale that was probably the centre of agricultural and industrial activity in the area. He discovered the Roman tile kiln at Sookholm and remnants of Roman cobbled roads, connecting Shirebrook with Sookholm, which then joined Leeming Lane, the Roman north road from Mansfield.

At the time of the Norman conquest, Shirebrook can only have been a small settlement as it did not get a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was believed to have been a part of the Glapwell manor. Later on, when Pleasley broke away to form a manor of its own, Shirebrook became part of Pleasley manor later becoming Pleasley parish. At this time, it consisted of a few scattered dwellings surrounded by four large fields and probably half a dozen tracks or roads, which were to become Main Street, Carter Lane, Stinting Lane, Wood Lane, Thickley Bank and the Church Way leading to Pleasley.
The main local families were the Stuffyns and the de Sherbrookes. Stuffynwood Farm, to the south of Shirebrook has been dated to the 1470s, while it is thought the de Sherbrookes may possibly have been the occupants of a large moated homestead lying to the east of Portland Road, which would have been held by a sub-tenant on behalf of the Lord of the Manor at Pleasley. Ashbourne Grammar School bought this property in 1613 and in 1705 is recorded as Ashbourne Farm. Traces of the old moat were still evident in the 1960's.

There has been a church at Shirebrook from the Middle Ages onwards. The 14th century church is illustrated in a drawing made by the Rev Guy Brian in 1816. By 1650 it had fallen into disrepair and in spite of expensive renovations was allowed to decay once more and was finally demolished. It was replaced in 1843 by the Holy Trinity Church, which was consecrated that September. Soon afterwards, in 1849, Shirebrook became its own ecclesiastical parish, though still part of the civil parish of Pleasley.

In 1857, Joseph Paget, partner in the Pleasley mills hosiery business, became a major landowner, building Stuffynwood Hall closeby to supervise the day-to-day life of what was still a small farming hamlet of agricultural labourers and related craftsmen such as millers, wheelwrights and blacksmiths. Paget came from a family who were major landowners and pioneering farmers from Leicestershire. In 1801, Shirebrook had 156 inhabitants and 31 houses, in 1891 it had risen to 576, the majority of which were employed in the Pleasley Mills.

The arrival of the Midland Railway, whose line bypassed the village to the east in 1875, was the beginning of a major transormation for Shirebrook. One of it's major investors was Joseph Paget whose Last Will & Testament reveals a considerable holding of Midland Railway shares that probably came by way of an exchange for his land on which the railway ran.

In 1895 Shirebrook was chosen as a suitable site by Professor Arnold Lupton, a coal mining engineer from Leeds. He secured agreements from the Duke of Portland, Duke of Devonshire and four other landowners to lease the Top Hard coal in the area, subsequently establishing Shirebrook Colliery Ltd with an authorised capital of £150,000 in £100 shares. Imterestingly, Joseph Paget does not appear to have been a shareholder. My theory is that Paget unwittingly sold his rights and land ownership to the Midland Railway whose principal shareholders were also shareholders in Shirebrook Colliery. Whatever happened and why brought great stress to Joseph Paget who fell ill with asthenia and died of cardiac failure the following year in 1896 when the colliery works were started.

Reported in the Derbyshire Times. 30th October 1897.
"The work in connection with the new colliery at Shirebrook is rapidly extending. The engine house and fitting shops and other buildings are nearly completed. A small output of coal which is of a satisfactory quality has already commenced and extensive
sidings are in the course of construction with the railways. The plant is put down to deal with a daily output of 3,000 tons and several hundred men are employed. About a half a mile away from the colliery a model village is springing up, some 150 houses
have already been erected and about 420 are to be built. There is an enclosed garden in front and an enclosed yard at the back of each. The houses are fitted up with bathrooms and sculleries. Trees will be planted in the main street and a hotel is to be built at a cost of £3,000.
"

By the 1901 census, the population of Shirebrook had grown in 10 years from 576 to 6,200. Families were arriving from various parts of the country looking for work. The Shirebrook Colliery Company were building the new Model Village for the mine workers and their families, unfortunately though, the houses were not being built fast enough to satisfy the tremendous growth in population. Hastily erected huts were built in nearby fields that led to health and hygiene issues. The 1901 census records the 'Stuffynwood Huts' occupied by colliery workers and their families. The poor conditions for the workers and particularly the children led to Professor Lupton, the colliery company's managing director, coming under a great deal of critisism from the parish council, whose claim was that low costs & profit were of more concern to him.

The council's fears proved to be correct. The sanitation and hygiene problems persisted, leading to a typhoid outbreak that killed 150 young children in four years. The churchyard was filled, extended, filled again and in 1899 was closed and a new cemetery opened on the Pleasley Road (Common Lane). Inevitably, such a rapid change to the village brought violence and lawlessness that gave it a 'wildwest boom town' reputation and much critisism from Stuffynwood's new occupant, Mansfield's MP, Arthur Markham. Markham attributed much of Shirebrook's lawlessness to lax policing and unlicensed alcohol sales.

By 1904, piped water systems were established, with the brook now running underground, and sewers and street lighting gradually installed. Shirebrook became an independent civil parish, and under the leadership of entrepreneurs such as the Moores and Thomas Moorley embarked on further provision of schools and social amenities. The Catholic and Nonconformist churches, the Model Village schools and later the Central School on Langwith Road are a few examples of many.
Shirebrook's first council houses were built in the Park Road area in the 1920's and further housing developments took place to the west and at Langwith Junction within the next fifteen years. By 1937 Shirebrook boasted four recreation grounds, two cinemas and two dance halls, and its population had risen to 11,000. With coal at a premium, the colliery continued operations throughout the war, and at its peak employed 2,000 men.

The post-war period saw the nationalisation of the coal industry and further housing and educational development. The 1960s saw the building of the Pear Tree Estate off Recreation Road and the erection of a new comprehensive school, while in the 1970s many of the old terraced streets in the centre of Shirebrook were demolished, replaced by modern bungalows and shops. In the local government reorganisation of 1974 Shirebrook left the Blackwell R.D.C. becoming part of the new Bolsover District Council. In 1961 its population peaked at 11,635. The following 30 years saw a steady decline with the 1991 census standing at 9,149. The 1980s brought an increase in unemployment and migration of workers due to redundancies at the colliery. Shirebrook Colliery was finally closed in August 1994 and its 98 years as a mining village came to an end. The colliery site was eventually levelled and new road infrastructure built to attract new enterprise, the largest of which is Sports Direct International PLC who have built one of Europe's largest distribution hubs from where it sells sporting goods direct through online sales and also supplies the company's retail outlets all over the UK & parts of Europe.

A shot from Stuffynwood Hall site showing the old stone Shirebrook colliery workshops making way for the new steel-framed industrial units.
Another shot from Stuffynwood showing the contruction of the huge Sports Direct International PLC's headoffice & warehouse, where Shirebrook Colliery once stood.