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The Lost Houses of Derbyshire – Temple House, Derby

The Lost Houses of Derbyshire – Temple House, Derby

If you go up Mill Hill Lane today, you might come away with the impression that Temple House is the house facing you end-wise as you link round towards the top of Renals Street. That, however, would be a mistake encouraged by the fact that the building in question, a brick villa of some size, is the Temple Clinic.

In fact, this building was put up to the designs of architects Giles & Brookhouse in 1867 and then rebuilt by Edward Fryer (1852-1883) in 1882 as the vicarage of St. Chad’s church, further along in St. Chad’s Road. Even then, it was smaller than it is now, for it underwent a further enlargement (by about a third) in the 1980s at the hands of the Council, the job being done with amazing tact in matching style: red brick, sparing stone dressings, sashes with glazing bars, dog-tooth cornicing and so on.

In fact that villa was built as a dower house for the owner of much larger Temple House, which nestled amongst the bocage on the slope to its right, half way between Mill Hill Lane and Burton Road. It was sold off for adaptation as a vicarage in 1881.

Temple House itself, demolished in 1959, was built about 1825 for Joseph Woollatt (or Willott) nephew of William Woollatt, Jedediah Strutt’s original partner in his cotton spinning business. It was situated on a steeply sloping piece of land which descended to the Burton Road, and which had been part of the pleasure grounds of Mill Hill House, the residence of banker Thomas Swinburne but, being rather steep and north facing, was sold to Swinburne’s fellow banker Samuel Richardson (1741-1823) about 1816. He landscaped the plot and had ‘a very handsome summerhouse built’ which he called The Prospect. This was situated near the top of the slope, just below what is now Mill Hill Lane and which was then a footpath, with a circular walk embowered by trees. Richardson died in 1823 when his family sold the plot, along with surrounding land to the south, to Joseph Woollatt.

Woollatt’s new house, which essentially replaced the summer house, was (naturally) called Prospect House, and not without reason, for anyone who has travelled up Mill Hill Lane will tell you that, where one can see northwards between the later houses, there are magnificent views to be had right across Derby to Drum Hill by Little Eaton.

The house Joseph Woollatt built was a rectangular villa of Keuper sandstone ashlar blocks, situated towards the top of the slope on the south side of Burton Road. The house had main fronts facing NW and NE (due to the vagaries of the site). There were three storeys under a hipped slate roof supported upon a cornice and moulded entablature, there having been three widely spaced bays on each main front. The windows were protected by sliding cast iron jalousies those on the Burton Road (NW) side with moulded entablatures above. The angles were embellished with giant Doric pilasters.

The entrance front faced Mill Hill Lane, and boasted a Doric portico, although a secondary approach was via a steeply inclined path from a lodge house on the Burton Road, more or less opposite the junction with Abbey Street which still survives, although today sealed off and very overgrown. This led to the other show front of the house, the entrance on this side being via a door set under a broken pediment in a canted ground floor bay, the top providing a balcony for the bedroom above and being protected by an attractive cast iron balustrade.

There was a service wing to the west forming a court yard, and a conservatory. The plainer elevations of the house were very close in style to those of The Field, Osmaston Road, a villa which was described in Country Images in September 2014, which rather suggests that the architect was probably the ubiquitous and versatile Richard Leaper: alderman and serial Mayor of Derby, banker, collector of customs for the Borough and prolific amateur architect. This supposition is strengthened when we realise that he was also the architect of Mill Hill House (built c. 1812) and also of Corndean Hall.

The ground floor windows on the two main fronts were sashes extended to terrace level, and in deed on the Burton Road side, the gardens were impressively terraced the house platform descending sharply to a semi-circular terrace below, a feature which began to give trouble post World war Two, as they began to slip partly due to lack of maintenance and partly due to the widening of Burton Road undercutting the bank. Much of the Swinburne’s landscaping was, however, retained.

Joseph Woollatt died in about 1830 and his widow, Harriett, married Joseph Bailey, a landowner at Allestree and Breadsall and a wholesale grocer. It was a second marriage for Bailey, too, for he brought with him a teenage son John who took over the business in the 1840s when his father died. The estate that came with the house lay mainly to the south, and seems to have extended to about 60 acres, cheek-by-jowl with that of another lost house (of which a photograph has yet to emerge), Mount Carmel.

Bailey was a councillor, chairman of the bench and a keen member of the Freemasonic Tyrian Lodge in Derby. Unfortunately, neither he nor his wife, Hannah had issue, and after she died in the 1870s, he decided to release about half the estate to build badly-needed houses, thus creating a block of streets south of Mill Hill Lane, by this time a fully metalled road: Bailey Street, Mill Hill Road, Western Road and Temple Street, all pitched 1875-1878; in 1881 there were 3,000 people living on what had been Bailey’s estate!

Temple Street, of course, took its name from the Temple of Jerusalem, after which Bailey’s house had been re-named when he inherited it, thanks to his keenness for the arcana of freemasonry. The name remained with it for the remainder of its existence. Bailey himself remarried Londoner Sophie Anne Beswick in 1882 and despite being in his seventies, had a son and three daughters, the youngest, Vera Margaret, being born only a decade before his death aged eighty in 1897.

The family continued to live there, with three staff and a Dutch governess, until the early 1900s, when they moved to Buxton and let the house to Thomas Allen Edwardes, the enigmatic proprietor of the Grand Theatre, Babington Lane from 1898 to 1919. His son Ernest pre-deceased him and he later moved to Bass Street, before going to Nottingham where he left his wife and family to run off with an actress and was never heard of again. It was let to Frederic Mander who left about 1930, when it was purchased by Derby Council from Bailey’s son, John Beswick Bailey (who went to Canada) and established the Temple House (Mentally Defective) Council School there which, after a more tactful name change, lasted until about 1956.

The house lingered on, unloved and unappreciated, until 1958 when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham acquired it as the site of a new church. This was because St. Joseph’s Gordon Road, was considered inadequate to (then) current needs, and a new church designed by the late Derek Montague was built in rotunda style in 1962 on the semi-circular terrace of the old house, the site of which was used for a church hall. The old St. Joseph’s was handed on to Derby’s thriving Polish community which re-dedicated it to St. Maksymilian Kolbe.

Today, the only relic of Temple House is the rusty iron railing alongside Burton Road and the chained up gate which, after its purchase by Derby Council, was used as the main entrance to the house, latterly just 91 Burton Road.


  1. I find these articles fascinating. I particularly like to read these and then head over to the “Britain From ABove” website where, more often than not, you can actually find these old buildings in the old photographs.


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