The Blocks and Villas

After taking over the business from his brother, Richard Barrow signed a lease from the Duke of Devonshire, on 28th February 1843, which gave him control of all the mines and beds of coal and ironstone in the manor of Staveley. [1] This was one of the richest mineral leases in England and, combined with the recent arrival of the railway,[2] provided Barrow with an ideal opportunity to expand his business.

Recruiting workers for his mines and foundries was difficult as the area was then sparsely inhabited, with few dwellings available nearby. In addition, it was a condition of the lease that houses should be built for the workers. The Barrow brothers had built a small number of cottages in the early 1840’s, including Cavendish Place, Furnace Hill, Devonshire Terrace and East and West Railway Terraces which were collectively described as “Staveley Forge” in parish registers. The planned building of a model village, to be known as Barrow’s Hill, began in the early 1850s.

The Blocks

Blocks 100 cottagesDerbyshire Courier 4th June 1853

The successful builder was Matthew Marriott of Staveley, once described by his son as “the largest builder in Derbyshire” [3] who built the cottages of stone blocks with bricks from Barrow’s own brickyards being used for the internal walls and frontages.

These cottages were built to a much higher standard than working class housing in other areas at that period [4] and it is estimated that they cost an average of £97 each to build. [5]

The majority of other working class dwellings were usually austere one-up, one down terraces built in long, parallel rows. Barrow’s new cottages differed in that they had only three cottages to each block.

Blocks floor plan

Each individual cottage had three bedrooms, a living room, a scullery and an extensive garden. The gardens, and the space between each block, allowed for free circulation of air and, in 1910, the death rate at Barrow Hill was just 1/5th of that in some other local mining villages. [6]

The top row of houses, from number 16 to 27, each had a brick built pig sty across the road and running water was provided by a stand pipe to each block. [7] There were no toilets or wash-houses when the cottages were originally built, simply middens and ash pans. Heating and cooking were by coal and lighting was by oil lamps and candles.

Blocks1The 1861 census shows that very few of the miners were originally local, with nearly a quarter of the cottage residents having been born over one hundred miles away and a further 40% coming from over thirty miles away. By this time, over 141 cottages had been built in 3 phases, with 11 still in the process of being built. Although the area had been referred to as “Barrow’s Hill” in local newspapers from as early as 1854, the 1861 census description was the first time that the name appeared on official records, with the cottages noted as the “New Blocks.”

Despite the first phase of building having been completed by 1860, accommodation for the large numbers of workers employed by Barrow was still far from sufficient and many employees travelled daily to the mines and ironworks from the slum areas of Chesterfield. [8]

Blocks Paddy Train cutting

The final phase of building the block cottages was completed in June 1865 when a further 29 cottages were built at the crossroads, an area then known as Solomon’s Pump, bringing the total of new “blocks” to 181. [9]

The cottages were tied to employment with Barrow’s company (Staveley Coal and Iron Company from 1863) and, in 1866, it was reported that “between seventy and a hundred of the colliers who reside in the company’s houses on Barrow Hill, and who have joined the union, have received notices to quit the houses.” [10]

Blocks Strike cutting

Charles Markham, the Managing Director of the Staveley Company, said in 1868, “We have built a large number of cottages and have provided 3 bedrooms to each house and we only charge 2s 6d per week for rent to our cottages which also includes a garden and a pigsty. [11]

The Staveley Company had originally supplied water for the cottages, via stand pipes, from the River Rother. In a dispute with the Chesterfield Corporation, Charles Markham described it as having been “good water and suited for domestic purposes” for many years but that, by 1871, the sewage of Chesterfield had seriously contaminated it and the “water now pumped up….is totally unfit for domestic purposes.” [12] “It is fair to say that a good deal of the typhoid fever which has prevailed there is due to the water.” [13] The pollution of rivers was a nationwide concern and a government enquiry led to commissioners examining the Rother in 1872. The outcome was that a reservoir was built above the village until new mains were laid from Barrow Hill to Lowgates in the early 20th century. [14]

Blocks Top Row

It was not until 1926 that single-storey “wash-house” extensions were added to each block and drains and water supplied to each individual cottage. The ash pans and middens were replaced by these extensions which contained a water-closet toilet and a copper boiler for heating water. [15] These “wash-houses” were removed when the cottages were modernised in the early 1970s as part of the Barrow Hill Improvement Scheme; a scheme which also introduced street names for the rows for the first time and saw the space between the blocks greatly reduced with the building of houses and flats between each row.

2nd row blocks

Blocks Road and bungalow wm

Crossroads wm

Station Road

In 1854, Barrow advertised for builders to erect a number of buildings on what is now Station Road. [16] On a hillside adjacent to the block cottages, four manager’s villas and a schoolmaster’s house were built overlooking the river valley towards the south.

Blocks Station Road CuttingThe grand and spacious villas were initially to be called “Belle Vue” and cost an average of £943 [17] each to build, almost ten times the amount expended on the workmen’s cottages. Each semi-detached villa has since been sub-divided and are now numbered 11 to 21, Station Road.

 Blocks Schoolmasters House

1856 Number 1 Station Road: The schoolmaster’s house was at the top of the hill, opposite the current entrance to Avondale Close, and cost £501 to build. The first occupant was Mr Stevenson, the master of the National School who was appointed by Richard Barrow. The house had eight rooms [18] and was later used as a vicarage. It was demolished in the early 1970s.

Blocks School 1912



1856: Sandwiched between numbers 1 and 2, Station Road was the building housing the church and schools.




Blocks 2 Station Road1856: Number 2 Station Road:

The largest of the villas had 13 rooms and was built to house the Staveley Company doctor and his surgery. The first resident was Dr Hale, followed in later years by Dr’s Blight, Driver and Sparshott. To the rear of the property were two stables which were later converted into cottages.

Blocks 3 Station Road1856: Number 3 Station Road:

Thomas Robinson, the cashier at Staveley Works was the first resident of this eleven room property. In the late 19th century, alterations were made to the interior for Henry Westlake by Raymond Unwin (later Sir Raymond).

Blocks 4 Station Road

1856: Number 4 Station Road: The smallest of the Belle Vue Villas had 9 rooms and was allocated to Thomas De Vine, the Church of England lay reader who was appointed by Richard Barrow to teach the Sunday Schools and conduct the services in the Church (School).

Blocks 5 Station Road1856: Number 5 Station Road: William Buxton, the Collieries Manager, was the first tenant of the 10 roomed house.

As with the other villas, many of the original features of the property have survived.

The works managers and agents tenanted these villas free of charge during Barrow’s life time but, soon after the incorporation of the business in 1863, they were asked to pay rent.

Blocks Stationmasters House


Number 6 Station Road: Opposite the new villas, on the corner of the bridge, was the Stationmaster’s house. This was not part of the model village development and is more likely to have been built by the Midland Railway around the same time. [19]



Although it was originally planned that the villas should be named “Belle Vue,” they are described in census returns as “South View.” After the railway station was extended in 1888, the name changed to Station Road.

Blocks Terrace1863: Numbers 7 to 9 Station Road: Soon after the Staveley Coal and Iron Company was incorporated in 1863, another 3 smaller villas were completed on the hill. Costing an average of £488 each to build, half the cost of the earlier dwellings, they were tenanted by school teachers, lay ministers, dining room managers and agents of the works. They were recorded on census returns as “The Terrace.”

Only one of these 3 villas has survived.


1863: Number 10 Station Road: The Dining Hall, now the Memorial Club, was given the number 10. Built in 1863, at the same time as “The Terrace” and the Barrow Hill Hotel, the small door to the right of the war memorial still bears the original number. [20]

A Derbyshire Times report described the newly built village thus: “Contiguous to the Staveley station on the Midland Railway, on a rising ascent to the north, a modern town has sprung up within the last few years, consisting of several hundred neatly arranged and commodious workmen’s dwellings, in clusters of three, which have a very interesting and striking appearance to a traveller approaching from the south. In them are housed a great number of workmen employed on the works in this more immediate neighbourhood…. Adjoining the schools, several very attractive villa buildings, for the residence of the agents and managers of the various departments, have been erected, which add greatly to the coup d’oeil of “Barrow Hill” – for such is the name of this modern town…..The style of architecture (the Elizabethan) of the church and villas, beautifully harmonizes, the materials of which they are composed being of hard durable stone raised in the neighbouring district. In a few years, when shrubs &c., which are intended to fill the lawns and parterres, now in course of disposition, are advanced in growth, a more lovely spot than “Barrow Hill” it would be difficult to meet with in any mineral locality.  [21]

Blocks Station Road

©Ann Lucas

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[1] G.H.B. and Ringwood Hall: Cliff Williams
[2] See also “The Building of Barrow Hill: The Arrival of the Railway” Ann Lucas
[3] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 21st June 1873
[4] Stanton and Staveley, A Business history” S.D.Chapman
[5] Barrow Hill and a Load of Bricks: Cliff Williams
[6] The Derbyshire Miners: J.E.Williams 1962 p448
[7] Autobiography of Arthur Fox (1908-1993)
[8] Derby Mercury: 19th September 1860
[9] 1901 Census
[10] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 29th September 1866
[11] Barrow Hill and a Load of Bricks: Cliff Williams
[12] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 29th April 1871
[13] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 6th May 1871
[14] Derbyshire Courier – Saturday 26 August 1911
[15] A Short Autobiography: Arthur Fox (1908-1993)
[16] Derbyshire Courier: Saturday 22nd July 1854
[17] All costings from “Barrow Hill and a Load of bricks” Cliff Williams
[18] 1911 England census
[19] See also “The Building of Barrow Hill: The Arrival of the Railway” Ann Lucas
[20] See also “The Building of Barrow Hill: Barrow Hill Memorial Club”
[21] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 11th October 1856