Story of Swadlincote
In the Domesday Book of 1086, Siuardingescotes is recorded as just a small manor and was part of the parish of Church Gresley. The name "Swadlincote" derives from the Anglo-Saxon "Swartlings Cotta's", Swartling being an Anglo-Saxon mans name and Cotta's meaning cottages. The residents of Swadlincote often shorten its name to simply 'Swad'.
Today, Swadlincote is South Derbyshire's largest town. The population at the beginning of the 21st century was around 30,000 people. The use of the word ‘town' is, perhaps, misleading. Swadlincote is made up of three separate settlements - Swadlincote, Church Gresley and Newhall. These combine with the parishes of Woodville and Castle Gresley to form a band of development across the southern part of the District - lying between Burton on Trent in the west and Ashby de la Zouch in the east.
The earliest written reference to the town's mineral deposits is found in a document dated 1294. This recorded the granting of mineral extraction rights. However, throughout the Middle Ages, although some coalmining and clay extraction took place, the area remained essentially rural. The real growth of Swadlincote took place from the late 18th century with the development of coal and clay extraction on a large scale. This was a result of the demand for coal and clay during the Industrial Revolution.
Throughout the 19th century, a number of collieries, brickworks and potteries were established - including Sharpe's Pottery in 1821. As this industry grew so did the number of chimneys and kilns. It was possible to see 60-70 chimneys from almost anywhere in the town.
The growth of coalmining and the clay industry continued until just after the Second World War. With it came an increase in population and the building of many new houses. Related industries such as boilermaking and engineering and shopping facilities expanded to serve the growing population. All this expansion was achieved at considerable cost to the environment. The town suffered a shortage of stable building land and became scarred by colliery spoil heaps and clay holes.
Today, the approach is one of trying to balance the need for mineral extraction with the need to protect the environment and provide amenities for the local community. All of the old colliery spoil heaps and clay holes have now been landscaped with trees and grass. The last colliery closed in 1988. As far as clay is concerned, the making of stoneware pipes continues. The engineering industry also remains important.
Swadlincote now is in the heart of The National Forest. The National Forest is transforming 200 square miles of town and countryside into the largest multi-purpose forest created for the nation in a thousand years. Planting has extended right into Swadlincote with the creation of Swadlincote Woodlands Forest Park. The area was formerly used for opencast and clay manufacture and extraction. The 80 acre site includes a network of forest trails and footpaths set amongst more than 22,000 trees.
Within a relatively short period of time, Swadlincote has changed. It has evolved from a community whose development, wealth and way of life were closely related to the mining and pottery industry to a bright modern town which is now the administrative centre for the whole of South Derbyshire.
The heritage remains, however, for those who look closely!