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Alrewas Parish Council

A Short History of Alrewas

Alrewas is one of the oldest recorded communities in the Midlands. Salt, a widely needed commodity of humanity and was carried, from very early to mediaeval times, by pack horses from the salt springs and mines of Cheshire to London and East Anglia.

One such track passed through Alrewas, coming from the North West via Kings Bromley, through Orgreave, along Overley Lane and through Alrewas to ford the River Trent either at Mill End or the weir, forking south to ford the River Tame near the present Salters' Bridge and continuing south-east.

It is possible that the salt traders (and others) might at times be held up at the fords by flooding, and this could have been the reason why an Iron-age farm became a village, to supply the needs of the trading people. After the Roman and Danish invaders left, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, held the Manor and he and his countess, Lady Godiva had a summer residence at Kings Bromley. Alrewas is mentioned in many ancient records as Allerwas. There was a church there in 822 and after the Norman Conquest the Manor belonged to the crown until the reign of King John. In 1349 the people suffered from the Black Death and two thirds of the villagers died.

In 1643 there is a record of a fire, which began one Sunday morning, in a village alehouse kept by George Thorniworke. One of his customers fired off a 'horne gun' causing a fire, and the alehouse was destroyed, along with the barns and houses of his neighbours, John Fitcher and John Francis. In the not so distant past, Alrewas was famous for its eel fishery, and basket weaving was a thriving cottage industry, using osiers that grew so plentifully alongside the river.

The following account was given of Alrewas in 1968, when being designated a conservation area. It has an area of 6,130 acres with a population of 3050:

"Alrewas has a wide, unspoiled main street with a remarkable number of 16th century houses, their black beams, white walls and thatched roofs are kept in excellent repair. The parish church of All Saints still has many items of interest ranging in date from the 13th to the 17th century. As is the case with many other parishes there are new houses, well designed and pleasantly arranged to fit in with the old village and surrounding countryside. To the north-west of the village are pleasant walks towards Wychnor by the winding River Trent and its tributary the Tame. To the south-west are the lanes leading to the hamlet of Fradley and to Fradley Woods. The A38, the old Roman Road from Lichfield to Derby runs along the east side of Alrewas. The very popular show of the Alrewas & District Agricultural and Horticultural Society is held annually."

In recent years the parish has become the home of the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round Centre of Remembrance.

A major discovery

In 2002 a major archaeological discovery was unearthed in the sand and gravel quarry at Whitemoor Haye within the parish. The chance find was made by Ray Davies, a worker at the Lafarge Aggregates quarry, who pulled up the massive skull of a woolly rhino in the bucket of his digger.

Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham were called in to supervise the recovery of the skeleton which dates back to the Ice Age. Gary Coates, a University of Birmingham archaeologist, said, 'I've been working at Whitemoor Haye Quarry for five years and have excavated everything from prehistoric burial grounds to Roman farmsteads, but this find was totally unexpected. It's the biggest find - in all senses of the word - I've ever been involved with'.

Initially the rhino remains were taken to the University's archaeological unit for cleaning and identification. The rhino, believed to have died 30 - 40 thousand years ago and weighing approximately one and a half tonnes, has now been taken to the Natural History Museum in London to be conserved. Andy Currant, a palaeontologist from the Natural History Museum, said, 'This is the best example of a woolly rhino I have ever seen. The bones are exceptionally well preserved - usually, remains have been scavenged by predators and only fragments survive'. The dig has also uncovered the remains of mammoth, reindeer, wild horse and a wolf as well as plants and beetles which provide an extraordinarily detailed picture of the freezing environment in which the rhino lived and died. This important find demonstrates the rich archaeological heritage of this area.


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