The Village

A Thousand Years of Division

The village of Kirkby Sutton is a conglomerate and an enigma. Formed by the merging of two villages that had outgrown their ability to remain separate as an entity, it nevertheless retains two extremely different and specific identities. One half, as its name suggests, is built around the church and is a (mainly) well-to-do haven of respectability with its Georgian Manor, leafy wide-verged streets lined with large, detached houses, driveways, off road parking and a library. There is also a small 1960s estate, a mix of three bedroomed, privately-owned houses, with an enclave of housing association tenants bolted on for political expediency.

Down the hill, the other half of the village contains a higgledy-piggledy, hotchpotch of stone cottages, modern town houses and rows of Victorian terraces, originally built for the employees at the local lace factory, brewery and estate workers, who made the short trip up the road to toil on the farms of Lord Beresford on the other side of the village. Nowadays, the descendants of those workers still live in the red brick terraces, but are mostly employed by industries in the nearby cities of Nottingham and Derby.

The rivalry of its residents compares to any found in much larger towns and cities. You would be hard pressed to find as much animosity at a local Derby football match in Liverpool or Manchester. The annual village fair, which includes a fiercely fought tug-of-war competition, held on a boozy bank holiday weekend, regularly turns violent. For years, a police sergeant from the small town of Higton was paid to referee the event, but when the ageing sergeant retired and the police station was closed down to save money in the 1950s, the residents were left to sort out their own mess, so a committee, made up of the vicar’s wife and a group of teetotal residents from both sides, sat in sober judgment over the proceedings. To this day, the committee still rules on complaints and accusations made by one side against the other. Most of the grievances are easily dismissed, but on a few occasions a vote has to be taken with the chairperson, a lady with no connection to either side of the village holding the casting vote.

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