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The mosaic created to celebrate Spondon's history

The completed mosaic Photo: Spondon Archive
The completed mosaic Photo: Spondon Archive

In May, the village celebrated the installation of a mosaic depicting 2,000 years of history. Two locals tell the story of an ambitious community project

The mosaic

The idea came about at a meeting of Spondon Archive group in 2018. We had some money left from a Co-op Community Fund grant and decided to design and fund a piece of artwork for the village centre. A mosaic seemed a novel idea. None of us realised it would take four years to complete the project.

Peter Massey, of Zantium Studios in Wirksworth, was approached and took it up with enthusiasm. He worked with us on themes and ideas, offering advice along the way.

Finding the right images to tell the story of Spondon past and present involved hours of work. Hotly debated questions arose about which buildings and trades should illustrate our history.

We realised we needed four panels to fill the wall and that Spondon’s story couldn’t be told in one panel.

Great British Life: Panel 2 17th-19th centuries Photo: Spondon ArchivePanel 2 17th-19th centuries Photo: Spondon Archive

The subjects were: Mediaeval Spondon; 17th to 19th century Spondon; and Industrial Spondon, with a long panel showing a timeline using the means of transport over the past 2,000 years.

We used a little artistic licence by starting with a Roman charioteer. Nottingham Road was originally a Roman road leading to Sawley from the Derventio Fort, sited by the River Derwent.

Little Hay Barn in Ockbrook was Romano-British, so it is possible there may be remains in Spondon.

There were probably people living here before the Romans. Church Hill would have been a good vantage point and there are still numerous springs of fresh water around here.

It became obvious the thread was agriculture; from the beginnings of the village to present day.

Great British Life: Panel 3: Modern Spondon Photo: Spondon ArchivePanel 3: Modern Spondon Photo: Spondon Archive

In 1086 the Domesday Book records: ‘There is land for 5 ploughs in demesne and 14 villains and 2 borders have 4 ploughs. There is a priest, a church and a mill rendering 5s 4d.’

At the end of 2019 the first panel was completed. Covid intervened and we waited until 2021 to restart the project, and had to raise much more funding.

Spondon Community Association was very generous with help and support. They refurbished the old toilet block for storage and the wall facing Sitwell Street was ideal for our mosaic. We also received donations from other neighbourhood groups.

We encourage people outside Spondon to come see it. We hope local schools will bring pupils along – it’s intended to be educational as well as enhancing the village.

Great British Life: The Evolution of Farming in Spondon Photo: Spondon ArchiveThe Evolution of Farming in Spondon Photo: Spondon Archive

Spondon Archive Books

Since 2011 we’ve had 6,000 copies printed and sold over 5,000. People like to collect the set. Our covers have an attractive style and, in recent years, glossy covers enhance the look. Our printers are Moorleys of Ilkeston, a lovely firm to work with.

In 2016, friend of Derbyshire Life Ashley Franklin visited Spondon. At this time, we had published ten books. He asked us to invite him back when we had published our 20th, which we did this year.

Ashley has visited numerous villages and asked for books about their local history.

‘No village in Derbyshire – possibly in Britain – can match Spondon,’ says Ashley.

‘This village’s symbol of community is not a book but a group: Spondon Archive, the publishing name of Spondon Community Association and Spondon Historical Society. Since 2011, they have published two books a year, a fine testament to a group of volunteers for whom this task has become a labour of love.’

The books published since 2016 are about people’s memories of the last century, along with War Memorials, Spondon Scouts, and Spondon Hospital, which was housed in the vacated school in Church Street; A History of Church Hill and Potter Street, the oldest part of the village, and Spondon’s Pubs and Clubs, a social history of pub life.

In 2011 we received donations to publish the first book. Since then, we have relied on sales to fund new ones.

We have to consider if it will be sufficiently popular to fund the next. Two books we felt were worth the risk, mainly because they were untold stories, are now selling well.

Spondon’s Power Stations: a century of change and innovation 1917-2017, gave a detailed account of the four power stations on the Celanese site since the factory was built.

This was probably the most challenging. I think we dreamt about boilers and turbines for a while after that! Derbyshire Archaeological Society has recently requested a copy.

The other was The Life and Times of Anne Topham of Spondon: Governess to the Kaiser’s daughter 1902-1909.

Anne lived on Church Hill, Spondon, where she wrote 11 books. First was Memories of the Kaiser’s Court, an intimate record of life with the Kaiser and his family. Published in August 1914 to worldwide acclaim, it was reprinted six times in the first year.

In researching her, we learnt how she went from a farmer’s daughter to Governess to Princess Victoria Louise.

We have supplied a copy to the Museum at the Roman Fort at Saalburg, a place Anne visited. She recounts in her book how the Kaiser had rebuilt the fort and took her on a personal guided tour. They want to use the information as part of their educational programme.

Our latest book, The Evolution of Farming in Spondon, takes us from early Mediaeval times, through the years of the Enclosures to farming today. It brings to life what it would have been like to work the land in centuries past.

You can buy our books (priced between £2.50 and £5) from Spondon Pharmacy and Simnetts on Sitwell Street.

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