Swadlincote Heritage Trail

The Swadlincote Heritage Trail takes you on a journey through the Town Centre’s past, sharing stories of some of our significant people, industries and buildings.

It takes around 30 minutes to stroll around and there is one main hill otherwise it is fairly flat.

S1. Edmund Sharpe c1894

Sharpe’s Pottery Museum, West St, Swadlincote DE11 9DG

The youngest and most influential brother at Sharpe’s Pottery (est 1821) was the patentee of a successful variation of the “flushing rim” for water closets in 1855.

Sharpe’s Pottery and Edmund’s enterprising personality were driving factors behind Swadlincote’s growth from a small hamlet to a bustling town.

Photo: Sharpe’s Pottery Museum

S2. Majestic Cinema

Majestic Place, 21 Alexandra Road, Swadlincote DE11 9AZ (now a housing development)

Nothing remains of ‘The Majestic’ Cinema which opened on 15 May 1933. It was advertised as the ‘Majestic Super Cinema’.

There were five dressing rooms, a 33 feet wide proscenium and a 25 feet deep stage. It was fitted with CinemaScope in 1956, and the first film to be shown in that format was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” on 25 February 1956. In January 1957 the pantomime “Sinbad the Sailor” was produced on the stage.

The Majestic Cinema was closed in the early 1960s and was converted into a bingo club. In the 1970s it became Royall’s Theatre Club, which attracted stars like Tommy Cooper and Arthur Askey. However, due to financial difficulties the building became derelict and was demolished in 1984.

The land has been redeveloped for housing, but the cinema is remembered in the name ‘Majestic Place’. The Magic Attic has film clips of Manager John Avery and cinema guests.

S3. The original ‘Magic Attic’

At the Snooker Hall, 42-44 Grove Street, DE11 9DD

The Snooker Hall was originally a barn on the Sharpe family farm “The Grove” – which was demolished in 1972. The raised brick coped gables are typical of buildings from the 18th century.

Later, the upper floor of the building became the birthplace of The Magic Attic, Swadlincote’s very own local history group, started in 1987.

The Magic Attic moved to Sharpe’s Pottery Museum when it opened in 2002.

S4. Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Garden

Grove Street DE11 8HL

This site was dedicated as a garden in 1981 by Chairman of the Council, Councillor Roy Nutt & HRH The Princess Anne.

Before then it may have been the site of a clay hearth, part of Sharpe’s Pottery. Earlier still it was part of the garden at Grove House, which extended over a much larger area than the garden does today.

Diana, Princess of Wales, walked through the garden on her visit to Swadlincote on 16 Jan 1991. After her death in 1997, memorial flowers were laid here by local people.

The garden has been transformed thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (Swadlincote Townscape Heritage Scheme, 2016-2018).

S5. Old Midland Co-op building

West Street Swadlincote DE11 9DG (opposite Sharpe’s)

This building reflects Swadlincote’s development over time. It is built on the remains of a circular bottle kiln on land formerly part of Sharpe’s Pottery.

It became a key showroom for the Midland Co-Op and more recently housed an Auto shop before being restored as part of Swadlincote Townscape Heritage Scheme.

S6. New Empire Cinema

21 West St, DE11 9DG (The Lounge Bar)

In December 1912, The Empire Picture Palace opened, presenting ‘Pictures & Varieties’ to a hall seating 500 people. It was the second cinema to appear in the town – the first was a canvas tent on fields behind the block of shops including Poundstretcher today. By 1931 the original building had been demolished and the new (current) building, Swadlincote’s independent New Empire Picture Palace opened.

For most ordinary folk in the 1930s, this building would have been their first experience of the new flamboyant Art Deco architecture with its geometric shapes and exuberant interiors.

It is an excellent example of a style which swept the world. The impressive brick façade is largely the same as when it was built with elaborate detailing and decoration together with metal framed stained-glass windows. Only the ground floor has seen significant change with the loss of the glazed entrance canopy and the insertion of 2 large windows. The building had 716 seats and is one of the most dominant buildings on West Street, ironically opposite the Church which had some initial reservations about having a cinema opposite a place of worship.

The Cinema closed in the early 1960’s and has been used for various businesses since. 

S7. John Avery / The Bear

17 West St, DE11 9DG (now flats)

John Avery was born in 1927 at the Bear Inn, Swadlincote, which was managed by his parents. He served as a Bevin Boy (as a welder at Church Gresley Colliery) during the second world war, before working at the Empire Cinema and the Majestic Cinema in Swadlincote in the 1950’s.

In 1974 he was appointed general manager of the London Palladium, where he worked until his retirement in 1992.

He died on May 11 2016, aged 89. The Magic Attic Archives have film footage of John at the Majestic Cinema.

Photo: Eric & Olwen Hardy

S8. The Nag’s Head

1 West Street, DE11 9DG (now Dean & Smedley Pharmacy)

The Nag’s Head was a large public house which opened in Oct 1883 and stood here until the 1960s. The England football caps worn by Ben Warren, the first husband of the landlady Mrs Hall, were displayed behind the bar.

There are recollections of the pub being packed to capacity, especially on nights when big dance bands attended the Rink.

S9a. Swadlincote Market Hall

The Delph, Swadlincote DE11 0AH

Also known as Swadlincote Town Hall, the Market Hall was built in 1861 from money raised by public subscription. Below the clock face is the motto ‘Time the Avenger’, which was included at the insistence of Sir Henry Des Voeux and his wife Sophia, who contributed £44 to pay for the clock.

At the time that Henry Des Voeux was approached for the money, he was embroiled in a bitter lawsuit with some negative publicity and insisted that time would avenge him, or prove him right – hence his choice of motto.

The February 1863 Derby Advertiser (in the Magic Attic Archives) has more information.

There have been several changes to the ground floor frontage over time and to suit local needs. The area under the hall has been used to store fire hoses as well as for shops and market stalls.

Every Tuesday for around 100 years, a petty Crimes Court was held “under the clock”. The clock and motto are said to have inspired Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders to write her song ‘Time the Avenger’, which was included in the Pretender’s 1984 album ‘Learning to Crawl’.

S9b. Sherwood Foresters

The Delph, Swadlincote DE11 OAH

The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) were formed in 1881 and are an important part of Swadlincote’s heritage.

As part of the 5th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, H Company paraded regularly on the Delph. The Regiment had links with almost every family in town through their service in the first or second world wars.

They remained a separate regiment until 1970 when they were merged with the Worcestershire Regiment.

Since 2007 they have been part of the 2nd battalion of the Mercian Regiment.

S10. Richard Holden

The Delph, Swadlincote (actual location unknown)

Richard Holden was an armourer from Swadlincote. He was apprenticed to a London armourer in 1658 and was working in his own right from 1665 as a member of The Armourers Company. From 1673 he was supplying munition armour to the Board of Ordnance and by 1681 he had become the armourer responsible for Royal commissions.

He died in 1709, one of the last of the London armour makers.

Photo: Royal Armouries

S11. Anne Beverley (nee McDonald)

Sid Vicious’ mum

The mother of ‘Sid Vicious’ from the Sex Pistols band had a turbulent life. She died of an overdose in 1996 at her home in Hastings Road, Swadlincote.

There is a mystery surrounding her son’s ashes – apparently she used to pace around with them on High Street and rumour has it they may have spilled out on to the Delph!

Photo scanned from the Burton Mail

S12. Sabine’s Foundry

Sabine’s Foundry was on Belmont Street, Swadlincote DE11 8JZ (opposite the British Legion)

Sabine and his brother were blacksmiths who lived in Swadlincote in the early 1800s. Amongst other things, they invented the extrusion machine for making sockets on the ends of clay pipes. This was used by the pipe manufacturer, Thomas Wragg, with great success as it meant sections of pipe could be joined together more easily.

Part of Sabine’s Foundry, which made munitions during the first world war, remain on Belmont St.

Sabine Brothers (Engineering) Ltd are still based in Swadlincote. Mr Tim Sabine is the 5th generation of the family to run the firm.

Sabine’s Munitions works, Belmont St, during the Second World War (1939-45)

S13. Helen Allingham

7 High St, Swadlincote DE118J

Helen Mary Elizabeth Paterson (Allingham) was born here on 26 September, 1848. She was the eldest of seven children born to Alexander Henry Paterson, a rural doctor, and Mary Chance Herford. She became known for her watercolour paintings of the countryside, flower gardens, her children and especially picturesque old country cottages.

Helen made her living selling illustrations for magazines, which enabled her to support her young family when her husband died.

In 1896 she was the first female member to be elected to the Royal Society of Watercolours.

Helen’s decorative paintings were very popular and sometimes used to decorate products like chocolate boxes and biscuit cartons. The originals are now collectors’ items.

Photo: Wikipedia 

S14. Waterfield‘s Bakery

15-17 High Street Swadlincote DE11 8JE

Joseph and his son Joseph Harold (known as Harold) developed a large and successful bakery, confectionary and catering business which won national awards.

Joseph started the business in 1895/6 at premises on Alexandra Rd in Swadlincote (where Harold was born). The original bakery is now the Golden Dragon takeaway. The bakery had moved to Church Gresley by 1911.

When he took over the business, Harold expanded into Swadlincote town centre. He ran tea rooms on High Street where Boots The Chemist is today. He also opened shops in Burton and Ashby.

Photos and information from Caroline Moore (Joseph’s grand daughter)

S15. The original Salt Brothers Stores

26a High Street, DE11 8HY (one of several Salts properties on High Street) 

In the 1890s, brothers Enoch, Joseph and Hezekiah Salt opened their first shop in Swadlincote, on the High Street. Eventually, this extended to three stores which included a haberdashery and menswear shop.

By the late 1920’s they had added a hardware store. They also had stores in Moira, Newhall and Alvaston.

Salt Brothers finally closed all their Swadlincote shops in 1982, after almost a century of trading.

Today’s ‘Salts’ shop name is a tribute to one of Swadlincote’s favourite brands.

S16. Paramount Cars

50 High Street, DE11 8HS (now Clark’s/ Ladbroke’s)

This British company produced the Paramount automobile between 1948 and 1956.

Founded by WA Hudson and S Underwood from Derbyshire, the company manufactured some of its cars in Swadlincote. You can still see part of the workshop behind Ladbroke’s, and the showroom was in the area now occupied by Clarks’ shoes.

Some work was also carried out in one of the workshops behind Bretby Art Pottery. Some of the joinery for the cars was done in Melbourne and production moved there.

Fewer than 10 cars were actually made in Swadlincote – further production took place in Leighton Buzzard (Camden Motors).

S17. Foresters Arms

67 High Street, Swadlincote, DE11 8JA

The Pub may have taken its name from the Foresters ‘Friendly Society’. The Society was established in Lancashire in 1834 and offered ‘penny’ insurance schemes – aiming to support working men and their families as they ‘’walked through the forest of life’’.

Pubs all around the country are named after it. Celebrating the presence of a Foresters Public House in Swadlincote is a nice link with The National Forest.

S18. Joe Jackson
Joe’s Gran’s house was on Vicarage Road DE11 8LG (near junction of Civic Way /Church St)

Born in Burton Upon Trent in 1954, Joe Jackson lived on Coronation Street, Newhall as a child and spent a lot of time at his granny’s at Vicarage Road, Swadlincote.

He later moved to New York and became well known as a singer/songwriter. His first hit “Is she really going out with him?” made him an overnight success in 1979. He has recorded 19 studio albums and received five Grammy Award nominations during his career to date.

In his biography ‘A Cure for Gravity’ there are several references to Swadlincote including “this unearthly landscape still haunts me” (p3/4).

Photo: Joejackson.com

S19. Hill Street Baptist Church

16, Hill Street, DE11 8HL

Founded in 1867, Hill Street Baptist Church has been home to a growing group of Christians for nearly 150 years. Since its establishment, the building has been extended and modernised. The spectacular pipe organ inside this church is the main reason for its inclusion here and musicians and music lovers are welcomed for a varied programme of musical performances.

During the second world war several aerial mines were dropped in this area and one landed in a clay hole behind the church. All the windows were blown out and the glass was replaced with all kinds of second-hand pieces – a real patchwork job. Some fragments of the mine are stored at The Magic Attic.

Photo: from Steve Mansfield shows Steve playing the famous organ at Hill St

S20. Swadlincote’s Mining Heritage

The Pipeworks, DE11 9AA

The mining of coal is first recorded for this area in February 1293 (The Phillipps Charters) but it was not until the Industrial Revolution, with its increased demand for fuel, that it became a major local industry.

Many collieries were established in the area, of which these are a few: Granville Colliery (1823), Church Gresley (1829), Stanton (1854), Bretby (1855), Gresley Wood (1856), Cadley Hill (1861), Netherseal (1872), and Coton Park and Linton Colliery (1875).

By the time the industry was nationalised in 1947, 6,600 men were employed in local mines. The last pit, Cadley Hill, closed on Friday 25th March 1988 – this marked the end of deep coal mining in South Derbyshire, although open cast mining continued for some years after that. 

S21. Sanitary Ware

The Pipeworks, DE11 9AA

Many local potteries, including Wragg’s & Woodward’s and Sharpe’s, made this area famous for the production of sanitary ware & associated pipework. During the 1850s, for public health reasons, the sanitary ware market expanded and the local clay was ideal for the production of pipes, sinks and toilets.

Sharpe’s patented their new ‘rim flush’ toilet and exported sanitary ware around the world for over 100 years. Its water closets were considered status symbols in Russia!

Wragg’s, the other big local pottery, also produced vast quantities of pipes suitable for sewerage and drainage which were exported internationally. The Wragg’s factory site (previously known as John Hunt’s, then Woodward’s, then Wragg’s and Woodward’s) is marked by the tall chimney, originally one of many, which could be seen from most of the Swadlincote area.


S22. Alexandra Rink

Rink Drive Swadlincote DE11 8JL (Now DCC Youth Information)

The Alexandra Rink was opened in 1909 as a skating rink by Ben Robinson with the words “Our rink is efficiently heated, our floor is a pleasure to fall on”. The surface of the floor was Canadian sugar maple wood, recognised as one of the best surfaces for roller skating.

By 1913 part of the Rink building had been partitioned off to become the ‘Alexandra Palace of Varieties’, showing films and variety acts. For a short time it even had its own film studio, Albion Film Co. The main room was still being used for roller skating and in later years also offered dancing, boxing, wrestling, bingo.

By 1917 Ernie Hall had started giving dancing lessons there. Known as  “The Law of The Floor’’, Ernie went on to run the Rink for many years, until the mid 1950’s.

The venue attracted many US and UK acts over the years including Victor Sylvester, Joe Loss, The Searchers, Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps, Black Eric Delaney, the Honey Combs, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The Rink drew its final audience in the 1980’s and in 1991 it burnt down shortly before it was due to be demolished.

Swadlincote Heritage Trail Photo copyright (unless stated otherwise): SDDC – recent photos, Magic Attic Archives – historic photos