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The town's recorded history began with its entry in the Domesday Book as "Aitone", an Anglo-Saxon name, probably meaning "farm between streams". Long Eaton was a soke of the manor, i.e. the Bishop did not own the land but the freeholders held allegiance to him. In 1228, Aitone gained the suffix "Long", which was a reference to the length of the village. In the early days it consisted of little more than a few farms and cottages strung out between the parish church and what is now Main Street. It made up part of the parish of Sawley, which during the Middle Ages became a village of some importance, with Long Eaton under its jurisdiction.
Damage By Fire In 1694Long Eaton in 1801 was a Parish in the Hundred of Morleston and Litchurch, Derbyshire; nine miles from Derby, and 119 miles from London; containing 125 houses and 505 inhabitants. Until about the middle of the century, it remained very much the same, its handful of population occupied chiefly in boating and farming. An area with the beginnings of industry, where things moved slowly. The Church of St. Laurence, near the Market Place, can boast a history going back at least nine centuries. Once a Chapel of Ease, it is thought to be of Norman origin. It began to keep registers independent of its mother church at Sawley and in 1860, the Reverend Frederic Atkinson M.A. lost no time in getting the Parish made independent of Sawley. It was created as a separate Ecclesiastical Parish in 1864 and was restored and enlarged in 1868.
Developments in transport opened Long Eaton up and in the 18th century the main route from Nottingham to Birmingham passed through Long Eaton and Sawley. A turnpike road from Lenton to Sawley was built. Canals too were an important means of transporting goods – particularly coal. With coal came the chimney revolution. Coal was the driving force of the steam age and with the steam engine came the railways, industry, factories and foundries. Lace making had started before 1830 and by 1842 a steam-powered factory was built.The early lace factories were small, but in 1852, Mr. Joseph Austin built a large four-storey building on land near the market place. Beside the Erewash Canal, where it passes under Derby Road, stands a group of tenement lace factories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These buildings are the dominant features of the Long Eaton Mills Conservation Area, which was designated on 17th February 1983. An imposing physical relic of the lace industry, at its peak it employed half of Long Eaton’s working population. The four large, four-storey mills, West End Mill (1882), Whiteleys Mill (1883), Harrington Mill (1885) and Bridge Mills (1902) are typical of the form of factory that was built for the lace industry. The buildings were designed to provide rented space for a number of separate firms, the lace trade being traditionally one of relatively small concerns. The system of tenement factories enabled many people to set up as lace manufacturers with the minimum of capital, sharing the cost of power and other overheads.
The factories are entirely functional in design with closely spaced cast-iron windows to provide light for the lace makers, and projecting brick turret staircases to leave each floor entirely clear for the long lace machines. The turrets of turnpike staircases are the only embellishments. Although the factories have gradually lost their lace-manufacturing tenants, they continue in their original role of providing rented space for industry. Other buildings of interest are the lace factories on Stanhope Street and Milner Road. These factories were built between 1905 and 1909, and their single-storey structure is typical of the later stage of the factory development.
The railways became the prime means of transport and 1,000 men were engaged in the construction of the line between Derby and Nottingham. This line was opened on 4th June 1839, the Long Eaton station being at Meadow Lane, and the following year the line was extended to Leicester, Rugby, and London. In 1847 the Erewash Valley line, which passed close to the village centre, was opened and another station was built at Nottingham Road.
In 1862 the junctions were rearranged to form two curves, which brought trains round to a new junction with the London and Leicester lines. A new station – Trent Station – was opened here. On Goose Fair night, October 9th 1869, there was a collision at Long Eaton Junction between the mail train and two trains travelling from Nottingham. Nine people were killed and eleven seriously injured. In 1863 a new Long Eaton Station was opened on Station Street. This and Trent Station were both closed in the 1960s, and now Long Eaton is served by just one railway station. Situated at the junction of Tamworth Road and Wilsthorpe Road in New Sawley, this station was originally Sawley Junction.
The arrival of the railway brought the first major industry to Long Eaton. S.J. Claye's Wagon Works was established by 1851. Within 20 years, the company employed 300 men. The railway sidings at Toton also expanded during the period around the turn of the century. Even before that, as many as 120 trains were dealt with each day by up to 70 horses that were used for shunting. The census returns of 1871 show that 62% of the working population was employed in the lace and railway industries. In the early 1900s, it was proposed to construct a tramway (light railway) link between Nottingham and Derby, passing through Long Eaton and surrounding areas. This plan came to nothing because of a lack of funds to construct a bridge crossing over the existing Erewash Valley Line on Nottingham Road.
The cemetery was opened on Saturday 2nd April 1884. The land for this and West Park, was purchased from the Harrington family in 1883. Long Eaton's first police constable, Mr. John Parker, took up residence, and in the same year, a wooden shed was bought to keep the town fire engine in. Three years later, the shoulder of Mutton Close, a field next to the Erewash Canal, was purchased for use by the fire service, which is still on the same site today. The first national school was built in 1862 on a site presented by Mr. Claye of the Wagon Works. The first Council school was opened on the High Street in 1867. The Long Eaton Gas Company, which had been started as a private concern by William Bush in 1853, became a public company in 1864 and street lighting began in the town in 1872. The town's Andrew Carnegie Library was opened in 1906, and the Grammar School in 1910, both built on a piece of land called "Gorse Holmes", which was bought for £1,150. The first headmaster, Samuel Clegg – grandfather to Sir David Attenborough and Lord Richard Attenborough – remained there until his death in 1930. The school is now a listed building and part of the Long Eaton School.
Until 1875, its own freeholders who elected, at an annual vestry meeting, the various parish officers, administered Long Eaton. The Long Eaton Local Board of Health, along with the Local Board of Education (1873) then functioned as the administrative bodies until superseded in 1894. The Urban Council's first meeting took place in January 1895 at the Blue Bell Inn. Later meetings took place regularly at the Zion Hall, until the Town Hall on Nottingham Road was acquired in 1938. The local government reorganisation of that date created the Long Eaton District Council and Sawley was grouped with other local villages to form the Shardlow Rural District Council. The boundaries of Long Eaton were extended in 1921 by taking in the whole of Wilsthorpe, along with parts of Sawley and Sandiacre. In 1934 the rest of Sawley was split up, part being attached to Breaston and the remainder, which included the old village, to Long Eaton.
In 1875, the local boards of health were created; a separate board was allocated to Long Eaton. This was the forerunner of the District Council, which took over in 1895. Its first act during its 20 years was the acquisition of an area of land in the centre of Long Eaton, which for centuries had been used as a grazing common. This area is what we now called the Market Place, and a regular weekly market was later instigated. Long Eaton was thus recognised as a market town and shopping centre.
Today, Ilkeston and Long Eaton are the two principle towns in the Borough of Erewash, and the two have nearly 70% of the total Erewash inhabitants. Long Eaton Station had trains departing for Derby, Leicester, London, Nottingham and Lincoln. These, along with the nearby M1, are just some of the examples of transport links in the town.
Long Eaton is twinned with two European towns: Romorantin in the Loire Valley of France and Langen, near Frankfurt in Germany. The Long Eaton Twinning Association was established in 1961, its aims being "to promote good relations and exchanges of all types". Each year, organised visits take place, with one town acting as a host for the other two in rotation. Long Eaton School, Trent College and Wilsthorpe School have regular pupil exchange visits and various other organisations in the town have visited or been host to their counterparts in Romarantin and Langen.
As well as promoting itself abroad, Long Eaton does much to improve its status in Britain. Long Eaton participates in Tidy Britain Group's Britain in Bloom competition. The town has three times been a regional finalist, and has represented the East Midlands in the All-England Finals. One of Long Eaton's main attractions is West Park, and its Leisure Centre. Swimming, saunas, solariums, sunbeds, sports halls, weight training, activity rooms and a licenced bar feature.
Dating from 1778, Long Eaton Hall was designed in the late Palladian Style by Joseph Pickford of Derby. A red brick three-storey house with sandstone dressings and a roof of graduated Swithland slates, it is a Grade II Listed Building of special architectural interest, which was taken into consideration when a new block was added to the west side of the Hall in 1990/91.
Originally built for the Howitt family, the Hall was purchased by the Reverend Francis Gawthorne in 1839 and passed to Joseph and Thomas Fletcher in 1873. The Long Eaton District Council purchased it in 1921. In 1918 Mr. Charles Sydney Howitt left his collection of painting to the L.E.U.D.C. These oils and watercolours dating from the 18th and 19th centuries hang in the Hall and the new building. Several works have been added to the original collection, which comprises of around 45 items.
The new extension is mainly a steel framed construction with reinforced floors on the upper levels. The brickwork is Butterley Thurcroft Lindrick Red Rustics and the roof of Burlington blue slates matches the Swithland slates of the original building, which are no longer available. The façade of curved aluminium members glazed with tinted reflective glass give the building a more modern look. The formal opening of the building took place on April 25th 1991, by Michael Portillo M.P. who was at the time the Minister of State for Local Government and Inner Cities.