Old Dalby Past Times

Double Eagled Crest

The Double Eagled Crest is that of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller. It is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Order and done so to highlight the connection between the Old Dalby Manor house and the Order during the mediaeval times.
Old Dalby – Times Past
In no sense is this intended to be a serious historical narrative….. that can be found else-where…. it is simply a description of some events in the village’s past.
Old Dalby has a Danish name. It lies in that part of the country which was under Danish rule in the ninth century and called Danelaw. Its name derives from the words dale and wolds. Its closeness to the north of the ancient ridgeway (and later Roman road) called the Saltway, makes it likely that there was a settlement here before Danish times.
In the middle ages the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem had a preceptory here and held the manor. This establishment, eventually passed into private hands and formed the basis for Old Dalby Hall, though little, if any, of the fabric of those days survives now. The hall and estate have had many notable owners, among them were Oliver Cromwell, ‘Hanging Judge Jeffreys” and the Duke of Buckingham. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the hall and estate were in the hands of the Sawyer family. Initially, it was owned by Sir Herbert Sawyer, a retired admiral of the fleet, latterly by his son the Reverend George Sawyer. It was George Sawyer who spent much of his wealth on restoring the parish church. He also built the village school (now the village hall) and the village reading room (now a private dwelling), additionally he had the chapel of ease at Six Hills built. It is not impossible that these good works were derived from prize money accumulated by his father in the French Wars.
Until very recently much of the property in the village belonged to the estate. It was not until the 1980s that many properties were sold off: this was true, originally of the Crown Inn, too. ~the prominence of the estate in village affairs led to one curious outcome directly related to the village pub. At the beginning of this century there were two village pubs, the present one – The Crown, and the other, the major one – The Plough (now a private house). Both had histories going back several centuries. The Crown was an ale house and had a six day licence (brewing took place in the room which noW serves as the entrance and the bar). The Plough had a full seven day licence. In the neighbouring village of Grimston to the south the pub there, The Black Horse. also only possessed a six day licence. This led to thirsty villagers from Grimston walking along the footpath through the woods and past the Hall, down into Old Dalby and The Plough to assuage their thirst. Unfortunately their condition on their return, led to scenes in front of the Hall which created offence to the squire and his family. An ultimatum was issued requiring all debauchery to cease – or else! It didn’t. so three hundred years of history came to an end when he closed The Plough. Subsequently. The Black Horse at Grimston acquired a full seven day licence, so perhaps there was trade in the reverse direction! Eventually, with some earlier owners, The Crown opened on Sundays.
One feature which anyone approaching the village from the east cannot fail to notice, are the buildings of a large industrial-type of establishment. Many of these were built in the early years of World War 2 and were military workshops. One important factor which led them to be sited in Old Dalby, was the existence of a main line railway (Nottingham to London) and extensive sidings. The sidings were there because of the iron ore extraction along the top of the Jurassic escarpment to the south. Originally the military depot extended to both sides of the road (astute observers may still be able to detect where the level crossing was). All buildings on the north side of the road (apart from the modern barracks) and sidings were removed and the land was restored to agricultural use. A wartime tragedy is encapsulated in the railway bridge over the road. The bridge parapet on the eastern side is now substantially higher than that on the other side. One dark night a train pulled into Old Dalby station (now gone). A voting soldier anticipating arrival at his destination alighted from the train. Unfortunately, the station platform was too short for the long train, and in stepping out the soldier was precipitated over the then low bridge parapet onto the road below. He was killed instantly The depot buildings now form the basis of the Crown Business Park, and the former married quarters have been sold to private ownership.
(Reproduced by kind permission of Derek Radburn)
If you are interested in exploring the history of Old Dalby further a book is available called ‘Looking back at Old Dalby’ by Ann Jalland McKenna (ISBN 0 9519843 0 6).
Also ‘The Knights of Old Dalby’ (2nd edition) and ‘The Lords of the Manor of Old Dalby’ by David Revill are available.

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