A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I finished my last day of regular gainful employment. Twenty eight years at the same place and I'd had enough. I had made the occasional effort to escape but I knew that I'd always get a parking place and also how the coffee machine worked so had decided to stay put. It helped that every time I was thinking of moving on I somehow managed to get promoted in-house. To mark my great escape I went for a beer with a few select workmates. The venue we chose was the Spread Eagle in Etwall and Eric was kind enough to stand me a pint of Pedigree. As I was drinking 'real ale' the barmaid gave me an Old Speckled Hen key ring which I said I'd add to my other leaving presents – a mini music system and...
... wait for it...
Standing on the corner of Willington Road and Main Street it, however, is not the subject of this post, for fortunately it is still up and running.
The scene today doesn't look too different compared with that from a century and a bit ago. The pub's expanded, the building on the corner of Willington Road has gone but other than that not too much has changed. The butcher's shop, although now a hairdressers – sorry, I mean a hair design studio – was still a butcher's shop in my memory.
Willington Road zigged and zagged a bit, and passed Etwall Lodge, before straightening and heading in a south-easterly direction towards, errr, Willington.
Where it crossed the main Derby to Burton upon Trent road used to stand another pub. Another Spread Eagle. Why so many Spread Eagles around? Somewhere I've heard or read that an eagle displayed , or in non-heraldic parlance a spread eagle, featured in the coat of arms of the Findern family from the nearby eponymous village who had married into the Port family of Etwall but I'm at a loss as to where. If true, it might be an answer to the question.
This particular Spread Eagle was also known as Halfway House, being situated as it was halfway between Derby and Burton on the 1753 turnpike road, known since 1922 as the A38. Although almost certainly dating back further, the earliest landlord that I can find is one Joseph Shepherd who's listed in Glover's 1829 directory.
Twelve years later the 1841 census shows another Shepherd in residence, Thomas – most probably Joseph's son. It also shows another hostelry, one of which I was totally ignorant, Little Derby House. It probably goes without saying that it's a bygone boozer too.
Whilst Thomas Shepherd is in occupation the 1849 Tithe Map informs us, not too surprisingly, that the owner of the pub is Ashton Mosely of Burnaston House and it's not too long before Mosely has a new tenant with James Marsden in residence by 1851...
...who was replaced, by at least 1855, by William Archer. We can see that Samuel Parker's still serving at Little Derby House aged 77
Samuel Parker died in Feb1859 and I can find no later reference to Little Derby House as a pub after that. The Spread Eagle continued for a century longer. This photograph shows the pub advertising the sale of the wares produced by Derby's Alton's brewery...
...as it is here.
It passed, as a result of acquisitions and mergers, from Alton's to fellow Derby brewers Stretton, then to Burton's Samuel Allsop who merged with Ind Coope before it finally ended up in the possession of Allied Breweries.
In the mid 1960s the pub became the victim of progress with the decision to upgrade the A38 from single to dual carriageway and was demolished. The final landlord did receive a stay of execution as the proposed date for demolition was moved to the right by a couple of years for financial reasons, but demolished it was.
I can remember, not long after arriving in south Derbyshire, driving in my Triumph 2.5PI along Willington Road to the A38. I don't really know why. Exploring I suppose, for I knew that I couldn't gain access to the main road. It would be impossible to repeat that drive today for in the late 1980s Toyota's UK plant was constructed and now covers much of the south-eastern end of the road. The site of the former Spread Eagle is now in the middle of the roundabout complex which links the car factory with the A38 and A50.
I still have a memory of that pint of Pedigree in Etwall and of being given an Old Speckled Hen key ring by the barmaid as I was drinking 'real ale'. I still have the key ring and use the music system and chainsaw, although the latter is in pieces in the cellar awaiting determination of why there is a lack of oil reaching the blade. l still remember incidents from work all that time ago, some funny others sad. Some great ones along with some I'd actually rather forget. However, I've no memory of the Spread Eagle in Burnaston. There is no reason why I should.
Thanks to Eric for that pint of Pedigree and for the old shot of Etwall's Spread Eagle.
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