Risley - Village and City
w/e 13 July 2008
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

It would be unkind to say that Risley is just the western extension of Sandiacre on the road towards Derby but to be fair, a casual visitor would be likely to gain that impression. Much of the traffic that once would have used this road now utilises the faster and much busier A52 road to the south that links Derby and Nottingham. Even those travellers that do venture off the Brian Clough Way and through the village will probably be heading for a hotel and know little of the village's history which dates back beyond the Domesday Book. In those days the name was spelt Rislie or Riseleie and was derived from "hris" the Old English and Old Scandinavian for brushwood and "leah", Old English for a woodland clearing.

The Risley Park

The "brushwood clearing" has probably long since disappeared and been filled with a variety of buildings. One of the first to been seen on entering the village from the Derby side is the Risley Park that now contains a bar, restaurant and function rooms. I still remember it along with many others I suppose, as the Blue Ball pub but its outward appearance has benefited from a coat of paint, barriers across the car park and increased planting in its step upmarket.
Risley Hall Hotel

Another nearby building that has undergone a transformation is the Risley Hall Hotel. In the not too distant past this was run by the Nottingham Corporation as an approved school for boys. Within the grounds of the hotel as well as a nursing home and some private dwellings, the Treetops Hospice that cares for the terminally ill can also be found.
Risley Hall Hotel grounds

But even prior to being an approved school Risley Hall had a long history dating back to the 16th century when it was held by the celebrated navigator Sir Hugh Willoughby, who sailed in the 1550s in search of a north-east passage. Tragically he and his crew were frozen to death in the January following their departure. The Hall was rebuilt around 1725 after the original was destroyed, it is thought, by fire leaving only the balustrade and gateway on the terrace from the original building.

Cottages

Not as old as the original Hall but certainly dating from an age before many of the houses that line the main road, these cottages standing opposite the Risley Hall site, although at the opposite end of the housing scale to the great house they face, are probably just as desirable in the today's housing market as the Hall itself.
All Saints Church

Also opposite the Hall site is All Saints Church which is unusual in that it is one of only six in England that was built when most churches were being demolished. Whilst researching the history of Risley I found that the church is "Elizabethan" and was built by Sir Michael Willougby, Lord of the manor of Risley and his wife Katherine in 1593. Elizabeth I reigned from 1533 until 1603 which of course tallies with the date of the Hall but the church was not consecrated until 1632.
Latin House

Next to the church is the Latin House. This again has connections with the Willoughby family for it was Katherine Willoughby who founded a free school in 1583 and left money in her will to educate children. Dame Elizabeth Grey, her great-great grand niece was responsible for this building plus some other associated buildings in the early 18th century. Risley Latin School was built in 1732 and the Latin House pictured above at one time housed a Grammar School.
The City

One of the other associated buildings stands on the other side of a narrow lane at the side of the Latin House and this is called the Latin College. The lane is somewhat euphemistically called The City and the inscription of the nameplate reads "Site of the first settlement of Riselei, being from the Latin 'Civitas' meaning citadel. Over time this became 'Cite' in Old English. A citadel would have existed hereabouts to protect the village's livestock." And that explains why Risley can be both a village and a city.
The Old Post Office

A little way into The City a cottage stands by a babbling brook crossed both by a ford and a small footbridge. With the church tower as a backdrop it is really a world away from the trappings of modern life but the circular plaque on the cottage wall gives a clue to when it was a focal point in the village. It reads "The Old Post Office." Ethel Hulse has written a book titled "Life at 'Our End' of Risley" which is a personal account from the 1920s and in which she paints some wonderfully evocative pictures from that time. Of this area she writes "The brook was a big attraction there, to be jumped over instead of using the bridge. Nearby the lovely conker tree stood and behind the Post Office .... a row of quaint cottages. Up the brook we paddled, taking our nets to catch minnows which we put in a jam jar, releasing them again into the water before we went home." Proceeds from the sale of the book are in aid of the Treetops Hospice.
Risley School

Returning to the main road the next and final building in this selection of images from Risley is the present school building. Again with more than a passing nod to the Willoughby family this dates from 1753 when it was known as the English School. With bunting and a banner advertising the Summer Fair, the pupils are obviously not stuck in the past but it is perhaps worth recalling here one last important historical fact. In 1729 near the Hall, a Romano-British silver plate was discovered. It measured twenty inches by fifteen and is thought to have belonged to a church in France in 405AD. Now on display in the British Museum it is known as the Risley Lanx. So as you can see, there IS much more to Risley than first meets the eye.

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