With heavy machinery at work and much building going up in the tract of land between the Railway Station and Traffic Street in Derby, the site of the most ambitious country house close to Derby will be developed for the second time since its demolition nearly 180 years ago.
The area is now called Castleward – the name of the voting district, of course – but derives from Castlefields, the ancient name of the area and of the later house. That in itself derives from the shadowy castle at Derby, of which no trace remains, nor has since the Civil War, when a bank and ditch were reported, roughly where Albion Street is now. Castles, even totally vanished ones, usually leave a documentary trace, if only because if the Crown did not build them, one of the great magnates will have done so and not without Royal approval either. Yet no documents survive concerning a castle at Derby, although place name evidence is early enough to be convincing as proof that one did exist. In many of these undocumented cases, the missing fortification turns out to have been a prehistoric (often Iron Age) fort, but this is exceedingly unlikely at Derby, the topography being all against it.
The discovery of a previously undocumented motte and bailey castle at Repton by Professor Martin Biddle in the Headmaster’s garden in 1989 (at first thought to have been a Viking dock!) gave the key. It was established as part of a chain of fortifications set up by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester around 1141, during the anarchy of King Stephen’s reign. He hoped to use the chaos to secure a separate Northern sovereign principality for himself, and these unauthorized or adulterine castles to defend his southern border, roughly along the Trent Valley, were the result. That at Castle Gresley is another example, and it rapidly became clear that the one at Derby fitted the distribution pattern perfectly. After the war, when Henry II managed to establish order again, they were mainly destroyed, Derby and Repton amongst them. Only the toponym lingered on, in the SE corner of the town.
The Castle Fields lay south of Cockpit Hill (possibly the site of the castle’s motte), west of the Derwent and east of Osmaston Road, there being no London Road as we know it then. Before the early 18th century, one went to London following the Roman/Prehistoric route along Osmaston Road to Swarkestone Bridge and thence to Leicester. London Road was only formalised in the age of the turnpike.
In order to raise funds, the Corporation, the rather paltry income of which derived from stall rents at fairs and tolls, from time to time sold some of the generous quantities of land it controlled around the edge of the town, the original common fields, of which Castle Fields was one. Others included Parkfield, Whitecross Field, Newlands and so on.
At the end of the first decade of the 18th century money was required to build a new Guildhall to replace the 15th century one camped out in the middle of the Market Place. Castle Field was therefore sold to Isaac Borrow of Hulland Hall (1673-1745), whose father John had migrated from Gotham, Notts., and was descended from a family living at Thrumpton in the 16th century.
The historian William Woolley wrote of ‘…Castlefields, where Mr. Boroughs [sic] builds a very good house (with a curious garden and paddock for deer)’. Woolley’s MS is undated but internal evidence suggests that he wrote the Derby portion in 1713, which fixes the date for a house that one would on architectural grounds describe as ‘Queen Anne’ fairly firmly.
Castlefields was a provincial Baroque house in brick of three storeys oriented east – west. The two main fronts were astylar, seven bays wide, the central three recessed on the east side and breaking forward by a brick’s width on the west. The two entrance aedicules have segmental pediments, and the angles are marked by stone quoins. It is difficult to tell whether the fenestration is set in stone surrounds, but if it is, they were clearly fairly skimpy. There were also recessed blind brick panels above the windows on the second floor forming the parapet, which had no cornice only copings, as at Clifton Campville (Staffs., 1708 by William Dickinson) and the Wardwick Tavern, Derby (also 1708). There are no sill or plat bands and no visible string courses. The north & south sides appear to have been of two bays if the painting is to be trusted, but south and north Bucks’ 1728 view suggests a much more credible deeper, double pile house, probably giving five bays on the returns. Both pictures suggest that the south front at least projected by a further bay, recessed from the main facade, like the central section on the east.
From Woolley’s description the park was intended for deer, and the curious garden may have been the rather dated looking parterre seen in the picture. There were two slightly detached service wings to the north and south, too with stables beside the former. The whole ensemble was really quite grand.
I am coming to the opinion that its similarities to the square, three storey houses without an order of columns or pilasters (astylar) like Wingerworth (1725), Umberslade (1700, Warw.), Newbold Revel (Warw. 1715), Longnor (Staffs. 1726) link it firmly to the oeuvre of Francis Smith of Warwick. He designed all the foregoing (or is firmly linked to them) and whilst building All Saints’, Derby for James Gibbs seems to have acquired seven other Derbyshire commissions from amongst the subscribers to the new church (now the Cathedral).
Nor was Smith unknown locally before that, having designed and built Kedleston (1700-1721) and rebuilt Etwall Halls. Indeed, the very year Castlefields was ‘building’, 1713, he was providing a design for a new Guildhall for the Corporation of Derby. As Isaac Borrow was a member of the Corporation then, this may be the link between the two men that would reinforce the suggestion.
Last May I showed a picture here of a Derby house painted in sepia by S. H. Parkyns at the behest of Alfred Goodey in the early 20th century. This is entitled Abbott’s Hill House, but as I demonstrated on that occasion, it cannot be that house which was smaller on every side. Parkyns painted many of his sepias of Old Derby retrospectively and we know from research that his detail is not to be trusted. It may be that this does, however, purport to be Castlefields but that house is quite different in detail. If Parkyns (who was not born when Castlefields was demolished) was trying to make a reconstruction the house, he would only have had S & N Bucks’ view to go from, as the panorama showing it c. 1730 in the Museum was not then known about, so the differences may be accountable through his imagination trying to apply detail where little is visible on the Bucks’ engraving. The Bucks, by the way, are known to have been scrupulously accurate in drawing buildings, even in townscapes.
Although Parkyns’ version is of three full storeys and having an entrance front of seven bays and being of brick, there are important differences. The fenestration is set in very emphatic stone surrounds, on the main floors with entablatures and cornices, and on the first floor with prominent keyblocks too, a feature of two extant late 17th century buildings in Derby, most notably 3, Market Place (Franceys’s House), which probably gave Parkyns the idea. There are a substantial number of other differences. Nonetheless, I have put this view in again as probably being intended for Castlefields, with the proviso that if so, it still falls rather a long way short of giving us a true reflection of its detailed appearance
Isaac Borrow was succeeded at Hulland by his younger son John (1710-1780) who married a Derby Bainbrigge and both were painted by the young Joseph Wright. Her also painted his eldest son, Thomas Borrow (1709-1786). Whilst Isaac had been Mayor of Derby (in 1730 and 1742) Thomas was Recorder of the Borough and his son, another Thomas Borough, who changed the spelling of his name thus, purchased an estate called Chetwynd Park in Shropshire in 1803. He thereupon rebuilt his Shropshire seat and, that done, let the Derby house, building a charming brick villa on London Road called Chetwynd House, for his agent, Mr. Leech, who in 1806 arranged the sale of the westernmost part of the parkland to William Strutt and the trustees of the Derbyshire General Infirmary to build Derby’s first hospital. Leech’s accounts were still in the Chetwynd Park agent’s archives in the 1980s.
The tenants at Castlefield included Baroness Grey de Ruthyn (later Marchioness of Hastings), and George Moore, a silk throwster. He later joined with John Copeland (like Moore from Lincoln) to buy the remaining estate from the Boroughs for £23,000 early in March 1825. They let the house again, to William Newton and then the widowed mother of Sir Hugh Bateman. By 1836, and with Moore dead, it lay empty and the coming of the railway station only a couple of hundred yards away finally decided its fate. Copeland couldn’t see anyone wanting to live there, so resolved to demolish it, probably in 1839-40, leaving only the stable block, which was converted into a school and lasted until the 1890s.
Copeland built, over the following decade, Park Street across the front of the house, Siddalls Road (formerly Siddalls Lane) behind it, and Traffic Street along the N. boundary, infilling with the mean streets (including Copeland Street) which were only cleared away a few decades ago.
Apart from Osmaston Hall, this was the most ambitious house in Derby, and its loss and that of the rolling parkland, painted in the nick of time by china painter George Robertson, was a grievous one, but in the 1830s, there was little to stop the march of smoke-belching industry. That’s why the Boroughs had left in the first place.
Today two vestiges remain as a reminder of the great house and its 43 acre park: Chetwynd House on London Road’s corner with Trinity Street (much extended and internally altered as the Nightingale Institute a century ago) and the great estate painting given to the Museum in 1967 by the late Canon R. F. Borough which the family had taken with them from Castlefields to Chetwynd Park in 1803.