Districts of Derbyshire: South Derbyshire

South Derbyshire is a local government district of Derbyshire. The area contains one third of the National Forest, which is a scheme designed to increase woodland cover to about a third of all the land within its boundary. Within the district are also the towns of Melbourne and Swadlincote, and the villages of Repton and Ticknall.

Archaeological finds show that the area has been inhabited since at least the Mesolithic period. This flint blade (DENO-2CBE33) was formed using a soft hammer (perhaps made of bone, wood or softer stone), which is evident from the shallow ripple marks on the surface. It dates from the period 8,300 – 2,100 BC.

Mesolithic flint blade (DENO-2CBE33). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

Occupation continued into the Bronze Age as shown by this Middle Bronze Age axe (DENO-B7AB01). This is an incomplete example of a palstave axehead, as shown by the tell-tale flared sides or flanges. This example dates from c. 1,500 – 1,150 BC and was found near Drakelow.

Bronze Age palstave axehead, (DENO-B7AB01), Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY.

Finds from the Iron Age appear quite rare in this area. However, archaeology does show that people were settling and there is evidence for the building of hillforts in the surrounding areas. This object is an interesting one (DENO-D4EF33). It is a complete strap junction and dates from c. 100 BC – AD c. 100, so it crosses into the Roman period. It has been designated a find of note due to its rarity in the region and the fact it is complete.

Iron Age Strap Junction (DENO-D4EF33) Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

By the Roman period South Derbyshire was a bustling place to be, with lead mining beginning in the Peak District and trade booming in the surrounding areas. This Colchester derivative Polden Hill type brooch, dating from AD c. 75 – c. 175 suggests that trade was successful in the area (PUBLIC-4289AD). This type of brooch is more common in the West Midlands and Staffordshire, and to see one here suggests a movement of people during this period and possibly good trade links between regions.

Roman Colchester Derivative (Polden Hill) Type brooch (PUBLIC-4289AD), Copyright: Roger Thomas. License: CC BY-SA

During the Early Medieval period, Repton became a vitally important place. Christianity was reintroduced to the Midlands here and it is where some of the members of the Mercian Royal family, descendants of Peada, were baptised and buried. This object (DENO-08BD33) is known as a sword pyramid. These would have been attached to the scabbard with a piece of string, the string would then be used to tie the sword into the scabbard. This process ensured that the wearer would be unable to draw his sword in anger or during an argument, thus preventing the beginnings of a blood feud. This object is a simpler version of similar objects found with the Staffordshire Hoard. It dates from AD 600 – 650 , contemporary with Repton Abbey and with parts of the Staffordshire Hoard.

Early Medieval sword pyramid (DENO-08BD33) Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

Many Medieval finds have been discovered in South Derbyshire, including a sterling imitation long cross penny of John II of Avesnes, Count of Hainault (WMID-6975D9). However it is always exciting when a find comes in that is instantly recognisable, like this one (WMID-68F235). This is a key and it dates from AD c. 1150 – c. 1400. This kind of object can show that not much has changed between then and now.

Medieval key (WMID-68F235) Copyright: Birmingham Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

The final object dates from the Post Medieval period, AD c. 1500 – c. 1700 . It is an intriguing object (PUBLIC-6FF674), it comprised of 3 objects, a seal, nut cracker and a pipe tamper. This object shows the industrious nature of the Post Medieval peoples and their need, like ours, for efficiency and quick solutions to problems.

Post Medieval seal matrix (PUBLIC-6FF674) Copyright: Roger Thomas. License: CC BY-SA


Meet the Volunteers: Simon

Simon Nicholson. Copyright: Simon Nicholson. License: All Rights Reserved
Simon Nicholson. Copyright: Simon Nicholson. License: All Rights Reserved


Tell us about yourself.

I have been volunteering with the PAS in Derby since November 2015. My background is in adult education; my specialist area is Astronomy.

What does your role involve?

I assist the FLO identifying and recording items brought in by members of the public.

What area of history/archaeology are you most interested in?

I have long been interested in the Roman period, but since volunteering with the PAS I have become interested in a wider range of periods, especially Anglo-Saxon.

Why did you start volunteering for the PAS?

I am recovering from a stroke, and was looking for a positive use of my time. As I have always had an interest in history, working with the PAS sounded very attractive. I support the aims and goals of the PAS, I feel the recording of found objects is an important part of preserving our heritage, and I can appreciate the value of the database as a resource for future research.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

I enjoy the chance to see and handle ancient objects, and the challenge of identifying artefacts. The variety of objects that come in is amazing.  I find the training provided excellent; I have learned so much.

What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?

DENO-648944 is a Polden-Hill type Roman brooch.

Roman Polden Hill Brooch
Roman Polden Hill Brooch.(DENO-648944) Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License CC-BY

I find personal items like brooches very evocative.

What is your favorite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

DENO-D9B7E3 is an Iron Age coin of the Corieltavi tribe.

Iron Age Quarter Stater
Iron Age North Eastern Lindsey Scyphate Quarter Stater (DENO-D987E3)
Copyright Derby Museum Trust. License: CC-BY

Before working on the PAS I had an image of Iron Age Britons as rather primitive, huddled in their woad waiting for the Romans to civilize them! But objects like this, beautifully crafted, demonstrate a sophisticated culture.