Ken Brockway, Footpath Inspector
This article is from Signpost 65, Autumn 2020
Two villages in South Derbyshire standing on opposite banks of the River Trent have their own claim to fame. Willington on the north bank had two power stations, both demolished by 2000 but retains the landmark of five cooling towers. Repton on the south bank, the former capital of Mercia is now a small pleasant village dominated by the independent co-educational boarding school of that name.
Since 7 August 1839 a bridge has linked the two settlements, but travellers were able to cross the Trent here well before that. The Repton Enclosure Award of 1769 laid out " ONE other Publick Cart Carriage and Drift Road called Willington Ferry Road". The first edition Ordnance Survey map sheet 71 of 1836 shows this ferry road and a second road downstream which led to a separate ford, the roads are now recorded as Repton BW 42 which would continue in Willington as BW11 to meet Ford Lane.
Ferry Lane at Repton is not recorded but in 2012 the Parish Council submitted a DMMO application to have it added to the definitive map as a footpath. The application was solely on the basis of user evidence which was disputed by a landowner and when investigated by DCC found to be lacking as many claimed users had climbed a locked gate. At a committee meeting in 2015 application 03858 was rejected "due to insufficient evidence".
Royal Assent for the bridge was give on 21st August 1835, this empowered the Bridge Trustees to stop up the ford and the roads leading to it but as the Definitive Map now shows the route still exits as a bridleway. On the day of the bridge opening the Trustees held a meeting at the Mitre Inn in Repton. In the morning they "Resolved - That an order be signed to the present (illegible) of the Ferry to assist in removing the Ferry and Boat now (illegible) in the river near to the Ferry House in order that the same money be secured for the benefit of the Trustees and to prevent the same being used in fraud of the tolls of the bridge".
The meeting was then adjourned for the bridge opening ceremony and perhaps lunch being reconvened at 2.30. The Trustees followed the wording of the Act to stop up the ford, "the banks of the said River Trent sloped and proper Fences fixed against the same for the purpose of preventing the said Ford being used".
In 2020 Peak and Northern Footpaths Society submitted a DMMO application reference 04444 to have Ferry Lane added as a footpath. This time historical evidence was used as summarised above. The decision may hinge on the following requirement of the Act for which no evidence of compliance has been found.
Provided nevertheless, That no such road shall be discontinued, stopped up, diverted, turned or altered, without the concurrence and order of two justices of the peace for the said county of Derby not interested in the premises, such order to be made upon and after such notice, and subject to such appeal as is required and directed in and by an Act passed in the fifty-fifth year of the reign of His late Majesty King George the third, intituled "An Act to amend an Act of the thirteenth year of his present Majesty for the amendment and preservation of the pubic highway in so far as the same relates to notice of appeal against turning or diverting a public highway, and to extend the provisions of the same Act to the stopping up of unnecessary roads."
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