Sinfin, Derby, Derbyshire, England.
Well, all right, maybe a picture of Bonnie Prince Charlie is stretching credulity a little but in fact, before the 20th century, Sinfin’s principal claim to fame was that the scouting party sent on ahead by him from Derby probably (!) crossed Sinfin Moor on their way to Swarkestone Bridge where, receiving intelligence that the King’s armies were assembling near Lichfield, they turned back.
Sinfin Moor represents an extensive area to the south of Derby, bounded in the west by Stenson, in the east by Chellaston, in the north by Normanton and Allenton, and in the south by Swarkestone and Barrow-upon-Trent.
Sinfin is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Sedenefeld. It was shown as belonging to Henry of Ferrers, a fact commemorated by the present day Ferrers Arms pub. In later documents, it is Sidenfen, which appears to be an Anglo-Saxon name and probably means something like “Broad Fen”. By 1675, in Ogilby’s Road Maps, it is shown as Synfold and the road from Derby to Swarkestone at that time is clearly shown as crossing Synfold Moore.
Clearly, there was some farming taking place at the time of the Domesday book, but the area generally was probably not drained until much later. There are old references to snipe and duck hunting on Sinfin Moor.
Nevertheless, the image of the Moor as a vast marshy tract is erroneous. The neighbouring parishes had right of stray on the Moor until the land was enclosed in 1803, various landowners in those parishes receiving parcels of land by way of compensation for the loss of that right. Horse races were regularly held on the moor. White’s 1857 Directory of Derbyshire describes the grandstand as being situated next to land owned by Elizabeth Bancroft (who was at that time the farmer at Sinfin House) but also notes that it had been taken down some years previously.
By the date of the 1887 Ordnance Survey map, most of the Moor had been enclosed as individual fields. This map of a small portion of the area shows the tiny hamlet known as Sinfin, located at what is now the junction of Sinfin Lane and Redwood Road; and Sinfin House. Even at this date, there is no visible trace of the medieval village of Sinfin, believed to have been located at the bend in the road just north of Sinfin House, near the present day junction of Arleston Lane and Redwood Road. The church that served the community has likewise gone, the parish of Sinfin and Arleston having become part of Normanton-by-Derby.
Sinfin House was located near the present Sinfin Church Centre, the various outbuildings extending onto what are now allotments. The road leading southwest from Sinfin House is the line of present day Arleston Lane. The road leading southeast ran along the line of what is now a bank separating the Community School from its playing fields, before becoming the present Deep Dale Lane at its junction with Farmhouse Road. No trace of Sinfin House remains today.
Just one house now remains of the settlement shown as Sinfin on the 1887 map, most of the other buildings having been the victims of redevelopment in the latter part of the 20th Century. The Methodist Chapel survived into the 1980s, having had various uses including a period as a scout hut. It was demolished after being made unsafe as the result of a fire. It stood on Sinfin Lane next to where a gas pumping station is now located near the entrance to Sinfin Moor Park. There is one other survivor from this period, Woodbine Cottage, a little further down Sinfin Lane; then an isolated cottage, it is now part of a car servicing station. For clarity, this lower portion of Sinfin Lane was formerly known as Sinfin Moor Lane; Sinfin Lane itself ran along the line of what is now Redwood Road.
Original mapping from Ordnance Survey New Popular Edition Maps, formerly Crown Copyright, copyright expired. This rendition © 2007 Glyn Williams based on scanned data © 2005-2007 Richard Fairhurst, Mike Calder, Nick Burch and Andrew Rowbottom and published on the New Popular Edition Maps website under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Licence 2.5.
Note that although the original maps were published in the late 1940s, revision at the time was patchy and some features (notably buildings) that may have appeared during the 1930s or 1940s may not be shown.
What put Sinfin firmly on the map in the 20th Century was the massive preparations for the Second World War. Amongst other major industries, the Rolls-Royce aero engine factory was greatly extended and an Ordnance factory was built on a large site between Sinfin Lane and the main Derby to Birmingham railway line. The trolleybus wires were extended out from the town centre as far as the junction with Shakespeare Street, where a new housing estate was built for the workers: an area now known as “Old Sinfin”.
Near the trolleybus terminus was a pub called The County. It was so named because at the time it was built it lay just inside the County Borough of Derby. It is a coincidence that a large field adjacent to it (now Amberley Drive) was at one time one of the training grounds for Derby County Football Club. Before that, the field may have been used by the Derby County Borough Police Sports Club.
Farms in the area also changed as a result of the War. The somewhat primitive drainage introduced at the time of the enclosures was improved to allow the growing of grain crops. And the countryside had another role to play in the War effort: Lea Farm was the site of decoy lights, intended to divert German bombers away from the important target of the Rolls-Royce aero engine works. In fact, Derby suffered few major air raids during the War, the worst being on January 15th, 1941, which targeted railway facilities rather than Rolls-Royce. Nevertheless, at least one aircraft is known to have been lured away from the city by the decoy lights; and it is rumoured that one of a stick of bombs dropped on that occasion still remains buried, unexploded, deep in the soft clay of Sinfin Moor.
After the war, Sinfin was to remain pretty much unchanged until the 1970s; the most noticeable change on the ground being the demise of the trolleybuses in the 1960s. Then, the area became the focus of what at that time was a massive housing development (although since dwarfed by others).
New Sinfin now covers almost 2 square km of the City of Derby, and merges imperceptibly into the almost equally large development of Stenson Fields, in South Derbyshire.
Although the aero engine factory is still here and continues to expand, many of the old businesses, including the Ordnance Factory, are gone or at least severely diminished in size.
From the 1990s, new light industry was brought in, mostly located on the old Ordnance Factory site. In the 2010s, work began on a large new commercial and industrial park, Infinity Park, located on about 100 acres of Sinfin Moor. Its environmental impacts are being offset by new flood relief areas which over time will develop into natural wetlands.
The Sinfin District Centre has a large Asda supermarket, together with the Ferrers Arms pub already mentioned, Post Office, a number of small shops, library and doctor’s surgery. The present Asda store opened in 2000, replacing a smaller store on another part of the site. Various other small shops and takeaways are dotted in convenient small groups around Sinfin.
On the northern outskirts of Sinfin is the Foresters’ Leisure Park, where there are the Oast House pub and hotel, a fast food restaurant, and a bowling alley and laser game arena. A multiplex cinema, a bingo hall, and another fast food restaurant all closed in 2020. The bingo hall has since been converted into a Lidl supermarket. Foresters’ Park takes its name from the Sherwood Foresters Regiment, whose Normanton Barracks formerly occupied the site.
There are a number of pubs in Sinfin. Within the City of Derby are the Ferrers Arms, the Oast House, and the Grampian. The Fighting Cocks was demolished in 1998 after a lifespan of only about 20 years. The Cock and Bull (opened in the 1930s as the Sinfin Hotel, later known as the Saxon Arms) was demolished in 2014 after standing empty for several years. The County also stood empty for some time before being demolished in 2020, to be replaced by a motor vehicle servicing centre. In 2022, the former Sinfin Social Club was converted into an event venue, Arleston Hall. Just outside the city boundary are the Stenson Fields in (you guessed!) Stenson Fields; the Bubble Inn in Stenson village, taking its name from a turning point (bubble) for narrowboats on the Trent & Mersey Canal; and the Ragley Boat Stop, a converted farmhouse just off Deep Dale Lane, the road leading to Barrow-upon-Trent. It has a small landing stage for boats on the same canal, hence its name.
Sinfin has four primary schools, a pre-school day centre and a secondary school. The secondary school was badly damaged by fire in 2006, and classes were held in temporary accommodation whilst it was being rebuilt. The new school, extended and with improved facilities including its own wind turbine power generation, opened in 2008. In 2013, it became the City of Derby Academy.
There are Church of England (St Stephen’s) and Roman Catholic (Holy Spirit) churches, and Sinfin Moor Church which holds services for Church of England, United Reformed and Methodist. Perhaps surprisingly, for an area whose population includes many Asians, there are no mosques or temples: the nearest are situated in Normanton.
Sinfin is connected to Derby City Centre by buses which are very frequent during the day on Mondays to Saturdays, and provide a good, though less frequent service, in the evenings and on Sundays. In 2009, the local operator, Arriva, introduced a dedicated fleet of accessible double deck buses on route 38; in 2014 these were replaced by yet another new fleet, branded Arriva Sapphire, finished to a high standard and equipped with wifi and power points.
However, in spite of the nearness of the main lines from Derby to Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent, Sinfin has no rail station. Two stations, Sinfin North and Sinfin Central, were opened in 1976 on a branch line that formerly served Chellaston, but were not a success, partly because of the decline of the factories they were intended to serve. Because of technical difficulties with new rolling stock, passenger trains ceased to run in 1993. The line had not been officially sanctioned for closure, so a substitute service had to be provided. Passenger numbers had declined to such an extent by this time that a taxicab was sufficient to provide the service! Closure was finally sanctioned in 1998, and the taxicab service withdrawn.
In more recent years, Peartree station, near the Foresters’ Leisure Park, had its service enhanced, and a new station was opened at Willington, about 7 km away. But again, neither of these developments proved as successful as had been hoped and both are now served only by a handful of trains.
The land to the south of the City boundary is still farmed, and though by no stretch of the imagination outstandingly beautiful, there are some pleasant walks, and paths for cycling and horse riding.
Our own house has a pleasant outlook. Built on what was the team yard of Poplars Farm (once owned by Ted Moult, a well known TV personality in the 1950s and 60s), an elder and hawthorn hedge to the rear has been allowed to outgrow which, with a row of willows a little further off, gives an enjoyable leafy vista, with plenty of scope for visits by small animals and birds.
A bridle path and cycleway runs to Chellaston, connecting with the Derby to Melbourne cycleway along the line of the old Derby Canal. Other paths lead over the high ground to the south and into the valley of the Trent, once a major travel artery with the Willington to Swarkestone road, the Stenson to Sawley freight railway line and the Trent & Mersey Canal (the towpath of which provides another pleasant walk) running closely parallel to one another on the left bank of the river. The more recent A50 road linking M1 and M6 tries to hide itself away (with tolerable success) in the rising ground between them and Sinfin Moor, skirting as it does so the hill on which stands the prehistoric round barrow cemetery known as Swarkestone Lowes.
This has necessarily been a very condensed history, written from a personal point of view. More information can be found at the Derby Local Studies and Family History Library.