Landscape History of Shipley Country Park
WHM Magazine October 1990
Looking at Shipley Country Park today it seems incredible that just over twenty years ago the Visitor Centre and what is now the American Adventure were bustling with coalmining activities, the pits, the winding engines, railway lines, buildings. Or that in the early 1970’s these same areas were gaping holes as open-cast coalmining on a vast scale prepared the way for restoration of the derelict mines and spoil tips.
Today we see open grassland, woodlands and tranquil lakes, a few decades and perhaps the landscape of Shipley will seem timeless and unchanging. In fact, the landscape of Shipley has been constantly changing for at least the last four hundred years. Some of the changes have been at least as radical as those of the last twenty years.
Medieval Shipley was a wooded estate, with two deer parks, a village (perhaps two), manor house and cultivated fields. Instead of the rolling grasslands and pasture fields around Shipley Hall today, imagine a vast area of woodland, with deer roaming free within the park boundaries. We can still see traces of a deer park boundary along the south side of the valley that is now filled by Mapperley reservoir a double bank and ditch just beside the footpath.
There was a village and probably a manor house, on Shipley Hill, surrounded by a few arable fields. Traces of the cultivation strips can still be seen under the woodlands near the graveyard and west of Shipley Lane as it goes over the hill.
This wooded landscape was dramatically changed in the early seventeenth century by George Peckham. The Strelley family was in financial difficulties and sold the estate to Peckham who felled the woodlands and sold the timber. The trees of the deer park were replaced by open pasture fields divided by hedgerows.
It seems that Peckham also considerably extended coalmining activities on the estate. Mining had been going on since at least the twelfth century, probably on the area of Shipley Common. Peckham ex-tended the mining over much of the eastern park of the estate, over the area now occupied by the American Adventure. We should imagine a landscape pock-marked by the mounds and hollows of shallow mining. The coal was worked by shallow opencasting following surface seams, and by small pits ten or twenty feet deep, with a characteristic ‘Bell’ shape where the miners removed the coal from the seam beneath a vertical entrance shaft. The lumps and hollows in Shipley Wood give a good idea of the landscape left by this type of mining.
The map shows the village and manor house on Shipley Hill as it was in 1713, about 100 years after Peckham cleared the woodlands. The shaded areas mark the gardens of the manor house and the cultivated garden plots of the cottages. The manor house lay just to the right of the circular enclosure (the forecourt) in the centre of the plan. Remains of this hall were found during archaeological excavations on Shipley Hill during the 1970’s. Surrounding the hill are the fields enclosed by hedgerows, created after the de-struction of the woodlands.
In another short article, I shall write about the major changes that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. If you would like to know more, a wide range of leaflets about the history of the Country Park are available from the Visitor Centre. Walks on historical themes are organised regularly by the Countryside Rangers, see the events leaflet for details. Groups may also request an interpretive walk on a particular theme (subject to staff being available, and to pre-booking.)
THE SHIPLEY HALL
The Mundy family began in 1729 with the marriage of Hestor Miller, heiress of Shipley with Edward Mundy of Allestree Hall, Derby. The couple took the name of Miller-Mundy and made their home at Shipley Hall. For nearly 200 years, the family held the Lordship of the Manor of Shipley and at various times provided the country with Members of Parliament, Generals, Admirals, JP, High Sheriffs, Lord Leiut., Colonial Sec., and a Leiut. Gov.
The last member of the family to live at Shipley Hall was Alfred Edward Miller-Mundy who died on 15 April 1920, was buried in the cemetery added to the edge of the estate. His son, Godfrey Edward Miller-Mundy decided not to move into the Hall and so broke with nearly 200 years of tradition.
Although the estate being sold in 1922 to the tenants and the Shipley Colliery Company ended the family’s connection with Shipley, the present members of the family continue to retain an interest in the area.
The Hall remained empty until 1943 when due to the effects of neglect and mining subsidence, it was demolished.