ALFRETON (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Belper, hundred of Scarsdale, N. division of the county of Derby, 14 miles (N. N. E.) from Derby, and 140 (N. N. W.) from London; comprising the township of Alfreton, the manor of Riddings (in which is Ironville), and the townships or hamlets of Swanwick, Greenhill-Lane, Newlands, Summercotes, and Birchwood; and containing 7577 inhabitants, of whom 1774 are in Alfreton township. This place, called in King Ethelred's charter to Burton Abbey "Alfredingtune," and in Domesday book "Elfretune," is supposed to have derived its name from Alfred the Great. At the time of the Norman survey it was the property of Roger de Busli, and in the Pipe-Rolls of the reign of Henry II. it is recorded that Randulph was then enfeoffed of the barony of Alfreton; he served the office of sheriff of the counties of Derby and Nottingham, in the 9th year of that reign. Fitz-Randulph, his son, the founder of Beauchief Abbey, in this county, and said to have been one of the murderers of Thomas à Becket, was also sheriff of the same counties, in the 12th and subsequent years of the same king; and the like honour descended to his son William, whose heir, Robert, in the 13th of John, was certified to hold half a knight's fee in the adjoining manor of "Ryddinges," and in "Watnow" in Nottinghamshire. On the death of Thomas Fitz-Randulph the manor of Alfreton was transferred, in moieties, to William de Chaworth and Robert de Latham, who married his sisters, co-heiresses. The first charter for a market here was granted to Thomas de Chaworth, son of William, and to Robert de Latham, in the 36th of Henry III., and was renewed to one of their successors in the 5th of Edward VI. Thomas de Chaworth had free warren granted him in the 41st Henry III.; and in the 4th of Edward III. he claimed a park at Alfreton, with the privilege of having a gallows, tumbrell, and pillory, for the use of the manor. He purchased Robert de Latham's moiety. The last of the race was William de Chaworth, whose only daughter married John Ormond in the time of Henry VII.; and by the heiress of the latter, the manor passed to Sir Anthony Babington, of Dethick, in this county, by whose grandson it was sold, about 1565, to John Zouch, of Codnor. After a sale by a son of Zouch, in 1618, to Robert Sutton, it finally passed, by purchase in 1629, to Anthony Morewood and his son Rowland, in whose descendants it still continues, the present possessor being William Palmer Morewood, Esq.
The parish comprises 4550 acres of land. The town is pleasantly situated on the brow of a hill, sloping towards the south, and consists of four streets in the form of a cross, with a market-place at the point of intersection; the houses are irregularly built, but some of them are good specimens of the ancient style of domestic architecture. The manufacture of stockings is carried on to a considerable extent in the parish; and there are large iron-works at Riddings; and extensive collieries there, as well as in Alfreton, Greenhill-Lane, and the other townships. The produce is conveyed by the Cromford canal, a branch of which passes through Riddings and Summercotes: the Midland railway runs within about a mile and a half of the town; and roads to Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Derby, and Matlock pass through it. An act was passed in 1845 for making a railway from the parish of Alfreton to Sawley, on the Midland railway; the line is called the Erewash Valley railway, and communicates with the Mansfield and Pinxton line. The market-day is Friday; and fairs are held on January 26th, Easter-Tuesday, Whit-Tuesday, July 31st, October 7th, and November 24th, the last being the day for the annual hiring of servants in husbandry. The town is a polling-place for the Northern division of the county; and petty-sessions are held here: the powers of the county debt-court of Alfreton, established in 1847, extend over part of the registration districts of Belper, Chesterfield, Mansfield, and Basford. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £7. 18. 9.; net income, £150; patron, Mr. Morewood: the great tithes have been purchased by the Landowners. The church is an ancient structure, with an embattled tower crowned by pinnacles. At Riddings is a second church. There are places of worship within the township of Alfreton for Wesleyans, General Baptists, and Independents.