Origins of the Village

A Roman road courses its way through Marston on its way to Derby (Little Chester) to Newcastle under Lyme (Chesterton).  It almost certainly pre-dates the village and a Roman soldier would be marching along through a thickly wooded area unaware of things to come!  The Saxon development was to take place a few hundred years later. As with most small Saxon settlements, there is very little known about the early years, except that Marston probably meant  'marsh homestead'.  Like many Marstons up and down the country, the sub-soil is clay and the ground is frequently moist - hence the abundant grass and the high productivity of our dairy farms!    After 1066 the village was owned by a knight called Montgomery who came over from Normandy with his close neighbour Henry de Ferrières a vassal of William the Conqueror.  The Montgomery seat was at neighbouring Cubley.

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Marston has certainly more than just a backwater.  Church archaeologists in the 19th century identified within St. Giles a very early piece of Saxon masonry in the archway to the chancel.  There is no mention of Marston Montgomery in the Domesday Survey of 1086.  However, the book lists a Mercaston where one would have expected Marston to be.  This would mean that there were two Mercastons in Derbyshire which is highly unlikely and the modern thinking is that there was a transcription error at the time the book was compiled, and that for Mercaston one should now read Marston.  It looks as though the church referred to in Domesday was in fact the Church of St. Giles.  A Saxon village with a stone church was certainly unusual and therefore it looks as though a village of some standing pre-dated the Norman Conquest.

For the next four hundred years or so, nothing is recorded of Marston's history.  Its population was probably decimated by the Black Death, as was nearby Hungry Bentley, but clearly it survived.  Throughout this time the inhabitants quietly got on with their lives growing crops and breeding cattle, and anything surplus to their requirement would probably have been sold at the Uttoxeter market, which had been established in the thirteenth century.   We know by the early seventeenth century that Uttoxeter was selling on to London merchants cheese and butter on a large scale and doubtless Marston was a valued source of milk. At the north end of the village there was a hunting park and an early seventeenth century hunting lodge survives as Marston Lodge farm, a half timbered building known to have been built in the early years of the sixteenth century. One possession that the village is particularly proud of is an early seventeenth century silver Communion chalice.  Dated 1604, it was to survive Cromwell's puritanical despoliation of churches, and is still in use four hundred years later. We have no record of population numbers until 1801, when the census revealed 438 residents and nearly 100 houses.  It was still very much an isolated community and was self sufficient, boasting three boot and shoe makers, two public houses, a tailor, two shops, a smithy, a brewer, as well as a schoolmaster presiding over a school.  Sixty years later, numbers had barely crept up to 473 in a hundred houses.  The Derbyshire county in comparison, doubled its population to 340,000 over the same period.  With no main roads, canals or railways, no natural resources, apart from clay used by two local brickyards, and very nutrient grass leading to dairy farming, the industrial revolution passed the village by, and this slow growth, and indeed its subsequent decline to its present 200 people or so, is the result.

Late in the nineteenth century, a cooperative Cheese Factory was set up in the village but after thirty years became unprofitable as the internal combustion engine led to the more cost effective transportation of milk direct from the milking parlours to the railway station at Rocester and the bigger markets beyond. In 1824 there was a major refurbishment of the church costing £400.  A gallery at the west end as well as a brick belfry is mentioned in White's Directory of 1857.  The three bells are dated 1639, 1699 and 1703.  In 1876 a more major reconstruction took place costing £2500 and in 1885 a new organ was installed costing £100.  These considerable sums of money were all raised by voluntary subscriptions showing that the village had become quite prosperous.   Nonconformism crept into the village during the early part of the nineteenth century and was sufficiently strong to warrant the erection of a Wesleyan Chapel in 1845.  (This was finally demolished in the early 1960s.) In 1835, Pigot's Directory mentions that Marston already had a school and that this was supported by 'small annual donations'.  By 1857 plans were afoot to build a new school the 'old one being unfit for use'.  Finally in 1872, a new Board School was built and this is the one still in use today. Present day Marston Montgomery is relying less and less on dairy farming for its employment and wealth.  Mechanisation and agribusiness has taken over.  The poultry unit has become as familiar as the milking parlour - but far less attractive.  More and more working families seek employment outside the village, commuting in some cases considerable distances to work.  Almost without exception, all the houses are now owner-occupied, and Marston continues to be a prosperous little village.  A sad development in 2008 was the permanent closure of the village Post Office.