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Melbourne - History and Heritage

Melbourne is a small and attractive Georgian market town in a delightful part of South Derbyshire, about eight miles south of Derby and two miles from the River Trent. 

Melbourne montage

Melbourne was a Royal Manor from the Norman Conquest until 1604 and once had a magnificent but unfinished castle. Fortified between 1311 and 1322, it was destroyed in the early years of the 17th century and today all that can be seen is a remnant of one of the walls.

Melbourne means 'Mill Stream' so it is appropriate that one of the best known features is the old mill pond known as Melbourne Pool, picturesquely landscaped in 1845 for Lord Melbourne, the former Prime Minister (1779-1848). The mill still stands but is now a private residence.

Overlooking the pool is Melbourne Hall and Gardens. Melbourne Hall was a secondary home of Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister William Lamb who as second Viscount Melbourne gave his name to the Australian city of Melbourne in the 1830s. The Hall was formerly the Rectory house of Melbourne and was owned by the Bishops of Carlisle who occasionally lived there in the Middle Ages. The present building dates from re-buildings of 1630, 1726 and 1744. The spectacular gardens were laid out by the Rt. Hon. Thomas Coke in 1704 with the assistance of the Royal gardeners London and Wise. They are not large, but the avenues and vistas give a misleading impression of size. There is also an outstanding wrought iron arbour 'The Birdcage' of 1706-8 by Robert Bakewell, and a 300ft Yew Tunnel.

The Parish Church of St. Michael & St. Mary, one of the finest Norman parish churches in Britain is believed to have been built c1125-35 and is well preserved. Fine displays of Norman sculpture can be seen on the piers supporting the tower, which houses an impressive ring of twelve bells.

Melbourne was formerly known for its hosiery and silk glove factories and Thomas Cook the travel agent, born of a poor family in 1808, was employed by a Melbourne market gardener. Having found fame and fortune, Cook built a quadrangle of memorial cottages on High Street which are still run in trust. Cook's humble birthplace was sadly demolished in the 1960's.

Today Melbourne has a wide range of restaurants, bistros and cafes. It also has a wealth of opportunities for shopping including galleries, antiques shops, specialist clothes stores, and local produce. To download your shopping guide, see below related documents.

King's Newton

A short drive (or walk) away from Melbourne is the charming village of King's Newton. Although a part of the manor and parish of Melbourne, King's Newton has always had its own distinct character and identity. Open land around the village physically separates it from Melbourne, except at the west end where the two settlements now meet on Packhorse Road.

Dating from the time of Henry II (c1160), King's Newton's wealth was originally generated through agriculture and despite its failure to diversify during the Industrial Revolution, it retained its air of gentility and dignity. Evidence of its agricultural background can be seen at the Hardinge Arms which was originally a farmstead. The 'Newton Wonder' apple was propagated in the back garden of the property which was run as a beerhouse from the 1880's only becoming licensed as the 'Hardinge Arms' in the early 20th century. Nowadays the pub has a reputation for serving fine food using locally sourced produce. Other notable buildings include King's Newton Hall, King's Newton House, Cross House and Crofton House the last three of which are located at the cross roads in the village.

Now Available!

'Conservation Area History of Melbourne' & the 'Conservation Area History of King's Newton' - The history of both of these fascinating towns is explored by Philip Heath in two short leaflets available from Swadlincote Tourist Information Centre priced at 1.50 each (+50p postage). Tel: 01283 222 848