The presence of both coal and clay in the region led to urbanisation as collieries, brickworks and potteries came to dominate the towns and villages of the area including Swadlincote, or ‘Swad’ as it is affectionately known by the community.
The 1848 public health reforms, combined with the huge and worldwide demand for pipe and sanitary products enabled the South Derbyshire potteries to fully utilise the specific characteristics of the local clay.
By the turn of the 20th century more than 70 pottery based manufacturers including Sharpe’s, were exploiting the region’s coal and clay reserves. The scale of local production was vast, and employment in the pits and potteries echoed the economic success of mining and pottery production. Unfortunately, the landscape was devastated by the continued use of coal fired kilns.
After the introduction of the Clean Air Act during the 1950’s and combined with the inability to quickly adopt new technology South Derbyshire’s potteries gradually closed.
However, the decision made in the 1970’s to site the National Forest in the region and the regeneration of the former coal mining areas ensures that local people will continue the tradition of finding work from the earth beneath their feet.