Aelvoldestune (Elvaston), Torulfestune (Thulston) and Emboldestune (Ambaston) are all recorded in the Domesday Book as Scandinavian Settlements. Amazingly, despite being within a mile or so of each other, the three villages exist and remain distinct to this day although we don’t boast many Scandinavian residents!
William the Conquerer bestowed the three manors on to Geoffrey Alselin (Hanselyn) and they remained in the Hanselyn family before passing to the Bardolphs, Blounts and finally in the 16th Century to the Stanhopes.
There is a reference in the Domesday Book to there having been a church in Elvaston in the time of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). Another early reference dates back to 1322 when it was recorded that 5 sub-deacons, 31 deacons and 15 priests were ordained in Elvaston church by Bishop Roger de Norbury. During Saxon times there was probably a wooden church on the site. In the present church the oldest elements of the building – the narrow lancet windows visible in the vestries and at the west end; the priest’s door on the north wall the nave and the south aisle – date from around 1200AD. The church was rebuilt and added to in the late 1400s. Walter Blount, the first Lord Mountjoy recorded in his will in 1474 “that the Parish Church and Chancel of our Lady at Elvaston should be made up and finished completely and a third bell installed”.
The most significant landmark of the parish is Elvaston Castle including its Gardens. The estate itself can be traced back to the 11th century. It was purchased by Sir Thomas Stanhope of Shelford, during the reign of Mary 1. Taking up the title of the Earls of Harrington, the Stanhopes built and rebuilt the property and commissioned the current ‘castle’ which was built between 1815 and 1829.
When relinquished by the Stanhopes during the 20th century the house was briefly used as a teacher training college for women. This closed in 1950 and the house and gardens left to fall into dereliction.
In 1963, the Castle and Estate were sold to developers who, in 1969, sold on the Castle and Park to Derbyshire County Council in conjunction with the County Borough of Derby. The Castle and Park were opened to the public in 1970 as the UK’s first ‘Country Park’.
Bizarrely, one of Elvaston Castle’s greatest claims to fame came in 1969 as the setting of the film version of D.H. Lawrence’s “Women In Love”. The infamous naked wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates took place in the ornate Gothic Entrance Hall of the Castle, one of the few parts of the Castle open to the public at the present time.
Whilst the villages themselves have maintained their individual identity, Elvaston’s proximity to Derby has led to the population of Elvaston Parish itself growing considerably over the last decade, with many new homes being built on Boulton Moor as part of the South Derbyshire Development Plan. That growth seems set to continue in years to come.