Alderman Thomas Rivett (1713-1763) was an example of the astonishing social mobility that was far more commonplace in the 17th and 18th centuries than professional social commentators like to admit. Rivett was a third generation maltster in Derby, a city which was then famous for the quality of its beer, long pre-dating the fame of Burton. His great-grandfather, also Thomas, had come to Derby from Repton before the Civil War and had set up as a blacksmith. His son, Thomas II (died 1679) was sufficiently well off on his father’s death in 1660 to become a maltster, a trade that revived with the lifting of the puritanical strictures of the Commonwealth on the return of Charles II. His son, Thomas III continued the trade and married Rebecca, daughter of Charles Agard of Mackworth (of a junior branch of the Agards of Foston Hall).
The fourth generation, however, started to spread their wings. Thomas and Rebecca had an eldest son, yet another Thomas (IV) who was born in 1678. In 1708 he married Elizabeth daughter of Humphrey Eaton of Derby and was then already a brother of the Corporation, becoming Alderman in 1710 and Mayor of Derby in 1715. In 1718 he was wealthy enough to begin to piece together an estate in Staffordshire at Blore, and by 1720 he was lord of the manor and impropriator of the church (that is, he acquired the right to nominate a new rector). However, he died in 1724 leaving Elizabeth with seven young children, his fourth child and eldest son being – yes, you guessed it! – Thomas (V), born in 1713.
Thomas’s responsibilities began early when he was required to nominate a new incumbent for Blore in 1728, the lucky person being his mother’s cousin, Revd. Richard Blackwall, although he died in 1732, requiring a successor, who was Revd. Charles Sibley, previously of Bath. Thomas came of age in 1734, becoming a brother of the Corporation in 1740, having gained his freedom of the borough in 1738. He had attended the Inner Temple in 1732 and was called to the bar in 1738, too. He was elected to Parliament in the Whig interest a decade later, continuing until 1754, and in 1749 married ‘the celebrated’ Anna Maria, daughter of Mr. Sibley, the rector of Blore (although the rector had died by this time). Incidentally, her uncle, Revd. George Gretton, later also Rector of Blore, was father of Elizabeth, who married Thomas’s exact contemporary and Derby neighbour, John Whitehurst FRS.
In 1757 he was High Sheriff of the County, and the same year he also purchased an estate at Mapleton, building the handsome Mapleton Manor shortly afterwards, a house in which he subsequently resided. He served as Mayor of Derby in 1761 and was appointed High Sheriff for the second time two years later, but died at Bath in the April before taking up office. Needless to say, he was also a JP. He left four sons and four daughters.
He was also an entrepreneur, and in 1751 with local banker John Heath, put up the money to found the Cockpit Hill pottery works, run by potter William Butts, just a few yards along from the rather spacious house he built in Tenant Street, two doors down from the Thorn Tree inn, and adjacent to the Old Mayors Parlour (see Country Images May 2014), on reaching his majority. This became his permanent home until he moved to Mapleton, after which it was his town house which he used when in Derby on business.
This house was of brick, four bays wide and three stories high with a parapet to the front hiding a hipped roof. The sashed windows had gauged brick lintels centered by a stone keyblock, and it had a fine timber staircase and some interior ornamental plasterwork.
The house also boasted a garden running down to the river bank, where Rivett added a small brick Gothick summerhouse in which to sit and read of an evening, although the expanding copper rolling mills, established opposite only a year or two later on The Holmes, must have quickly rendered it less idyllic fairly quickly. Robert Bakewell made a handsome set of gates with an arched overthrow with his monogram in a roundel below his crest – an arm holding a broken sword – at the top. These stood at the rear of the house between a pair of simple stone piers topped with ball finials with attendant spear-headed railings and led onto an avenue leading down to the banks of the Derwent Navigation.
When the Jacobite army was nearing Derby in autumn 1745, Thomas Rivett was hastily made a deputy lieutenant of the county by the Duke of Devonshire (the Lord Lieutenant) and commissioned as a Captain into the hastily raised militia then being recruited. Once Bonnie Prince Charlie had arrived, on December 4th, this militia, called The Blues, made a strategic withdrawal to Nottingham, Rivett included. This left Rivett’s aged mother landed with the duty of having to billet no less a personage than the Prince’s joint commanding officer, James Drummond, 6th Earl and 3rd (Jacobite) Duke of Perth as a guest in the house, although his stay was just two nights, as he was obliged to lead the army back to Scotland at dawn on the 6th.
After Thomas’s death, his wealth relatively undiminished, despite the bankruptcy of John Heath and his brothers in 1779 and the consequent failure of the Cockpit Hill pot works. The house remained in the family, although lived in by the third son, Peter Charles Sibley Rivett, who died unmarried there in 1784. It was then occupied by his sister Anna Maria, but she married William Richards in 1788 after which she lived at Penglais, his house in Cardiganshire. Meanwhile the youngest son, James Rivett-Carnac was assistant governor of Bombay (and father of Sir James, also governor of Bombay and the man who suppressed the practice of infanticide in Gujerat, made a baronet in 1836) and the elder sibling (Thomas V) was rector of Maresfield in Sussex, so the house was let until 1804 when it was sold for £4,800 to Henry Richardson, a local banker.
Richardson appears to have enlarged the house, by adding a wing to the east (river) elevation. This was also three storeys, but the upper floor rooms were of superior height, with rusticated stone lintels to the windows and a sill band on the first floor. It was drawn by S. H. Parkins for Alfred Goodey prior to demolition, with the gates long removed and just a line of spear head railings still in situ. Whilst not a visual success, this extension must have nearly doubled the size of the house and provided impressive river views from the upper windows.
From Richardson, the house (no longer Rivett’s House but 3-4 Tenant Street) was acquired by the Cox family, proprietors of the almost adjacent lead works (of shot tower fame). It was later sold to Harry Osborne, who shop-fronted it about the turn of the century but by 1928 it was owned by Tom Roberts who ran a hair dressing salon in one half and the ‘Olde English Tea Rooms’ in the other, living over the shop with wife and family.
In 1931 Borough Architect had re-written the Council’s Central Improvement Scheme, and this envisaged the re-development of the whole of Tenant Street, and in 1937 No. 3-4 was compulsorily purchased and demolished, although the outbreak of war prevented the scheme here being built, and the Old Mayor’s Parlour was suffered to remain another decade before the site was cleared to become a place to park ’buses (it is now the Sir Peter Hilton Memorial Garden). The garden had already been lost in 1908 to the widening of Morlege and the 1932 building of the ’Bus Station, Open Market and later the Council House.
Rivett’s house, however, had an afterlife for, in Harry Osborne’s time, the fine wrought iron Gates, redundant due to the expansion of The Morlege, were bought by Reginald Samuel Boden, son of the owner of The Friary, a lace manufacturing magnate, and were altered by talented iron smith Edwin Haslam. The Rivett crest and monogram roundel were removed and replaced by Boden’s own crest (a swan close) and monogram ‘RSB’ after which, in 1910, they were re-erected in front of his home at Aston Lodge, Aston-on-Trent (see Lost Houses, in Country Images April 2014) with new gate piers and side gates. Meanwhile, the old monogram roundel was given to Harry Osborne and from him passed, with the house, to Tom Roberts who in 1923 gave it to the Museum, where it is now proudly on display in the new Museum of Making at the Silk Mill.
The gates, though, did not fare so well at Aston either, for in 1925 Boden left and, after a few years as a nursing home and a couple more standing empty, it was sold to Alfred Loomes and demolished in 1932. The gates were sold for Long Eaton Council for £33, and soon afterwards re-erected at the entrance to West Park, Long Eaton, along with Boden’s gate piers, where they proudly stand to this day.