High Street, Alfreton (2007)
|Area||1.765 sq mi (4.57 km2)|
|• Density||13,769/sq mi (5,316/km2)|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||122.5 mi (197.1 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Website||Alfreton Town Council|
Alfreton (// AL-frih-tən) is a town and civil parish in the Amber Valley district of Derbyshire, England. The town was formerly a Norman Manor and later an Urban District. The population of the Alfreton parish was 8,799 at the 2021 Census. The villages of Ironville, Riddings, Somercotes and Swanwick were historically part of the Manor and Urban District, and the population including these was 24,476 in 2001.
Alfreton is said to have been founded by King Alfred and to have derived its name from him. The placename appears in different forms throughout the ages, such as 'Elstretune' in Domesday, but the earliest record appears to occur in CE1004 in the will of Wulfric Spott, the founder of Burton Abbey. Amongst his bequests was 'Aelfredingtune', or 'Alfred's farmstead', which is believed to relate to Alfreton. However, there is no evidence that this Alfred was the aforementioned king.
To the southwest near Pentrich was a Roman fortlet on the major road known as Ryknield Street. Another Roman road known as Lilley Street ran from there to the southern end of Alfreton, suggesting that settlement in the area predated the time of King Alfred by several centuries.
The initial settlement was centred at the top of the modern King Street hill, where the original market place developed. On the hilltop there was also an ancient meeting hall (the 'Moot Hall') until 1914, and several inns became established over the centuries, some of which survive today. To the west was a manor house, and the nearby Church of St. Martin, parts of which date back to 1200. The manor of Alfreton spread over lands to the south and east, including the parishes of Somercotes, Swanwick, Riddings, and Ironville. The first Lord of the Manor was Earl Roger de Busli, who delegated the position to Baron Ralf Ingram. The position was passed down variously through heredity, gift, and sale over the centuries up until William Palmer-Morewood, the last Lord of Alfreton, who died in 1957.
The economy during the medieval period centred on agriculture. However, the presence of readily accessible and extensive deposits of coal and ironstone in the area meant that mining and iron-working grew in importance. In some parts of the manor, coal seams were so close to the surface they were often ploughed up, and numerous small workings developed. Pits developed throughout the Manor, with those in Swanwick and Alfreton being the most productive. Alfreton colliery was sited to the northeast of the town. Ropemaking was allied to this industry, and the locality became famous for the quality of its ropes. In the 18th century Alfreton was the chief coal mining centre in Derbyshire, and the third-largest town in the county. The pits closed in the late 1960s and their sites have been reclaimed for other development.
Local iron working began in the low-lying land to the south of the current town in the vicinity of the A61, where a dam was made to power a water mill. This would have been quite a small operation, along with another at Lower Birchwood, and it was not until the 18th century that iron working was expanded into major enterprises, centred on Riddings and Butterley, south and southeast of the manor.
The growth of these industries grounded the area's prosperity and attracted huge numbers of workers in the 19th century, rapidly swelling the local population. The extensive brick terraced housing in the area dates to this period, and brickmaking and tilemaking were significant local industries. Bootmaking and repairing, and tanning of leather, were also substantial employers due to the need for footwear for these heavy industries. According to Census figures, in 1801 the population of the area that would become the Urban District stood at 2,301, rising to 21,232 in 1931. It has remained within about 3,000 of that number ever since.
After the closure of the pits and Riddings Ironworks in the 1960s, local employment shifted to factory, retail, and service enterprises, many of which grew up on industrial estates occupying formerly despoiled colliery lands. Initially only a few major employers were present, such as Aertex and English Rose, but this changed with the development of several industrial estates to the east of the town.
The development of transport in the area followed much the same pattern as elsewhere in England, with roads being vastly improved by turnpiking from the late 18th century onwards. Turnpike Acts affecting the area were obtained in 1759, 1764 (amended in 1790 and 1812), 1786, and 1802. These provided Alfreton with good road links to Derby, Nottingham, Mansfield, Chesterfield, and the High Peak. The town became a coaching centre, which accounts for the inordinate number of inns that were formerly in the vicinity of the market place. A legal requirement on turnpike companies to provide milestones resulted in a local curiosity, a cast-iron marker on the town crossroads with the notation 'Alfreton 0 Miles'. Around the same time as turnpikes were introduced the coal and iron industries benefited from the building of canals in the southern and eastern parts of the area. The Cromford Canal, built in 1793, had a 3,000 yard-long tunnel. In the 19th century, coaching and canal transport were rendered increasingly obsolete by railways built to the east of the town and along the eastern and southern boundaries of the former manor. As canals fell into disuse, road and rail transport burgeoned. Rail transport temporarily declined in the 1960s when Alfreton station was closed due to the Beeching cuts, before being reopened in May 1973.
Alfreton Hall, the successor to the original manor house, was built c.1750, with an additional wing added c.1850; it is now a conference centre and restaurant. Alfreton House just off the High Street dates from c.1650 and is now occupied by the Town Council. The former George Inn at the top of King Street dates back to the 18th century and was used as the meeting place for the local Turnpike Trust and local Assizes. On the west side of the southern approach to Alfreton is a small and distinctive stone-roofed building known as the 'House of Confinement'. This was built in the 1840s and was the local jail. There are also several churches, the oldest of which is St. Martin's at the west end of the town, part of which dates back to 1200. Beyond the town but within the ancient Manor are Carnfield Hall (15th century, now a private residence and events venue), Riddings House (now a nursing home), Swanwick Hall (c.1772, now a school), Swanwick Old Hall (1678, private residence), The Hayes (c.1860, now a conference centre), Newlands House (19th century, now flats), and the Jessop Monument (1854) at Ironville.
The main industry of Alfreton was historically coal mining but after the mines closed in the 1960s it changed to light industry, warehousing, retailing, and the service sector. A substantial proportion of local jobs are in health, education, and leisure. A significant but declining proportion of the area is still agricultural. Alfreton town centre features a number of national chain stores, along with independent businesses and charity shops, but it is dominated by a large branch of Tesco. There are several banks, building societies, estate agents, and other services. There is an indoor market, library, two post offices, a job centre, and numerous pubs and food outlets. There is a health centre, a leisure centre, swimming pool and park at the west end of the town, and a golf course outside the town to the west.
The chocolate company Thorntons and safety footwear manufacturer Rock Fall are based in Alfreton.
The area has a heavily used and extensive road network, in particular the arterial A61 and A38, the latter linking to the nearby junction 28 of the M1 motorway. The town grew as a centre for bus transport throughout the 20th century and still has extensive bus services. Alfreton's railway station, sited northeast of the town, was originally closed in 1967 as part of the Beeching Axe, but in 1973 a station was opened on the same site named Alfreton and Mansfield Parkway, as the nearby town of Mansfield did not have its own station at this time. When Mansfield regained its own station as part of the Robin Hood Line reopenings in the 1990s, the station's name reverted to Alfreton. From May 2021, the station lost all direct services to and from London, though a campaign to have some reinstated has the support of the Town Council. An hourly service also runs to Liverpool and Norwich, and between Leeds and Nottingham.
Alfreton is 2.45 miles (3.94 kilometres) from the border with Nottinghamshire and lies near the towns of Kirkby-in-Ashfield 5 miles (8.0 kilometres), Sutton-in-Ashfield 5.09 miles (8.19 kilometres) and Mansfield 8.3 miles (13.4 kilometres). The towns of Clay Cross 4.95 miles (7.97 kilometres) and Ripley 3.38 miles (5.44 kilometres) are also nearby. Chesterfield is 9.66 miles (15.55 kilometres) north of Alfreton.
Alfreton is part of the Amber Valley constituency; the Member of Parliament (MP) is Nigel Mills (Conservative). The local council for Alfreton is Amber Valley Borough Council.
The local secondary school is David Nieper Academy. Before September 2008 the school was known as Mortimer Wilson School for many decades. In September 2017 it became David Nieper Academy, after the clothing line that now owns it.
Two schools for children aged 4–6 are called Copthorne Infant School and Croft Infant School. Leys Junior School, on Flowery Leys Lane, and Woodbridge Junior school, which shares the Alfreton Grange site on Grange Street, provide for children aged 7–11.
There is also a Roman Catholic school named Christ the King on Firs Avenue, for children 4–11, as well as an adjoining nursery for children 2–4
Alfreton Town's home ground is at The Impact Arena on North Street and they play in the National League North, the sixth tier of English football.
Alfreton Cricket Club is an English amateur cricket club, founded in 1927. The club ground is based on Alfreton Park on Wingfield Road. Alfreton CC have 2 Saturday senior XI teams that compete in the Derbyshire County Cricket League, a Women's Softball team competing in the East Midlands Women’s Cricket League, and a junior training section that play competitive cricket in the Notts & Derby Border Youth Cricket League.
Alfreton has an active cycling club, organising a full programme of Audax events.
Alfreton is home to 1401 (Alfreton and Ripley) Squadron of the Air Training Corps.
Professional wrestling shows were often shown in Alfreton, with British legends such as Big Daddy, Jackie Pallo, and Blackjack Mulligan performing.