The hamlet of Arleston lies to the north-west of the village of Barrow, and is within the parish of Barrow upon Trent. In 1086, the Domesday book lists Arleston’s population as 31 – Aelfric, Alric, Amalric, Dunning, Gamal, Geoffrey Alselin, Godric, Godwine, Gulbert, Ketil, Kolgrimr, Kolli, Leodmaer, Leofric, Lyfing, Orm, Osmund, Ramkel, Rawn, Robert, Siward, Theodric, Uhtbrand, Ulf, Ulfkil, William, Wulfgeat, Wulfsige, Wulfstan and Ylving.
It is the site of a deserted medieval village, but this site is thought to lie away to the west of the present-day Arleston House. A medieval strap handle was found just in front of Merrybower Cottages, to the south of the site.
Today it numbers around 44, spread out between 17 houses. Of these houses, three are farms (or former farm houses), three are original agricultural labourers’ cottages and 11 are converted farm outbuildings.
Whilst today it is combined with Arleston by name, the earliest written record of ‘Merrybower’ as a place name is from a manuscript found in the Matlock Records Office, detailing those that lived on the Harpur Crewe Estate at the time. In 1663, a John Clarke lived at Merry Bower House, and had 2 lands in Stenson Fields amongst others. It is not known if Merry Bower House is the current Merrybower Farm, or if there was another house at Merrybower that has since been destroyed.
There is map evidence of three distinct buildings at Merrybower in Burdett’s Map of 1791 and the three OS Maps, dated 1836, 1882, 1895/6. This does lead to more questions, as the current Merrybower Cottages are believed to have been built around the middle of the 19th century, and so wouldn’t appear on Burdett’s map. To view all four maps together, visit the maps page of Arleston and Merrybower.
As mentioned, there was a definite place called Merry Bower House, in the Arleston and Sinfin Rentsroll of 1663, found at Matlock Records Office. At the current time we are unsure of the age of Merrybower Farm, but as it was a thatched cottage farm, the name ‘House’ seems rather a grandiose title. White’s Directory of Derbyshire, 1857, also mentioned Merrybower as being a former open common. Today it still has some small pieces of common land around Arleston House. White’s Directory also mentions a resident of Merrybower, George Clay, who is reported to have had a public house at Merrybower around the mid 1700s, kept a cockpit there, “and was celebrated as a deer-stealer. His house was a noted rendezvous for similar characters.”
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