Overseal Primary School. This colliery winding wheel is from Donisthorpe colliery, the last deep mine in South Derbyshire.
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Overseal is a village and civil parish in South Derbyshire, 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Swadlincote, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) west of Ashby-de-la-Zouch and 12.5 miles (20.1 km) due south-southwest of Derby (16.5 miles by road). The population of the civil parish at the 2011 census was 2,450. It is one of the southernmost settlements in Derbyshire (after Netherseal and Lullington), close to the border with Leicestershire and within the National Forest area.
Historically both Overseal and Netherseal were part of Leicestershire: they were transferred from Leicestershire to Derbyshire in 1897, in return for Leicestershire absorbing several of Derbyshire's enclaves (see county enclaves).
The village was once part of the district of Seal, which included a number of settlements, many of which form Netherseal and Overseal in modern times. Seal suggests the area was once heavily forested and Nether means "lower" and Over means "upper". The small hamlet of Seale is approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the village, marking the border with Leicestershire near Acresford. The busy A444 national route bisects the village, with Burton upon Trent 6.5 miles (10.5 km) to the northwest and Nuneaton some 17.5 miles (28.2 km) to the south. The M42 motorway is accessible 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to the southeast.
Overseal is located very close to the furthest point from mainland Britain's coast, at Church Flatts Farm near Coton-in-the-Elms (grid reference ), approximately 3 miles to the west. Overseal was said to be the 'population centre of Britain' in 1971 with an equal number of people living north and south of it, and similarly for east and west. However, this centre has slowly been moving southwards and is now claimed by the nearby village of Appleby Parva in North West Leicestershire, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of the village. Overeseal lies at almost the same latitude (52.735°N) as Shrewsbury, Shropshire and Barmouth, Gwynedd.
Overseal is in the heart of the National Forest. To the southeast is Donisthorpe (in Leicestershire). Halfway between the village and Moira, half a mile to the east, is the Conkers activity park, the National Forest youth hostel and a Camping and Caravanning Club site (all in Leicestershire), close by also to Short Heath (in Derbyshire). The village was part of West Goscote Hundred in Leicestershire for most of its history. In 1889 it was transferred, along with Netherseal, to Derbyshire in exchange for Chilcote, Donisthorpe, Measham, Oakthorpe, Stretton-en-le-Field and Willesley plus the Derbyshire parts of Appleby Magna, Packington and Ravenstone.
Woodville Road, leading to the northeast from the A444, was formerly the B5004, but has now been downgraded to a minor road. Close by is the former Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway (became the Leicester to Burton line), with a station for Overseal and Moira. There was also a small two-road loco depot, a sub-shed of nearby Burton which was coded 16F. The depot was closed in the late 1960s.
There is only one pub in the village, the Robin Hood Inn at the junction of Main Street and Burton Road (A444). The Navigation Inn on Spring Cottage Road in Leicestershire was demolished in 2015 to make way for elderly accommodation lodges. There is a small Co-op supermarket on the north side of the village on the A444, next to a chip shop.
Overseal's history is inseparable from the nearby village of Netherseal (approximately 1.5 miles southwest). Historically forming a single parish and township, the two settlements have been known by various names, with Overseal having been known as, amongst others, Little Seale and Spital Seile and with variations on Seal including Seile, Sela, Sheile, Seeyle.
During the reign of Henry III, the manors of Overseal and Netherseal were given by William de Meisham (along with a park, a wood and a mill), as a dowry for his daughter, Godehouda, on the occasion of her marriage to William de Appleby of Appleby Magna. The manor house itself was located in what is now Netherseal. Around 1250, William de Meisaham also gave care of the church to Merevale Abbey near Atherstone, Warwickshire.
Around the turn of the 16th century, the Manor, Netherseal Hall, had passed to the Gresley Family of Drakelow, having been purchased by Sir William Gresley (father of Sir George Gresley, 1st Baronet). The Gresley family sold the manor to the Morewood family in 1627. However, the manor passed back to the Gresley family through the marriage of Sir Thomas Gresley, 2nd Baronet, to Francis Morewood. In 1569 Sir Thomas Gresley, 2nd Baronet, is listed as Lord of the Manor, with the Manor itself being tenanted to E.W. Robertson, Esq.
In 1863 the manorial rights are recorded as belonging to Thomas Mowbray Esq. of Grange Wood House (later Grangewood Hall), which was around a mile southwest of Overseal. He did not, however, own all the land in the village; John Curzon Esq. was listed as a major landholder, with the rest shared between smaller owners.
The village church is dedicated to St Matthew. There appears to have been an earlier church in Overseal; however, in 1622 this was reported as being "quite decayed and gone". A new church ("Chapel of Ease") was built in 1840–1841, on land donated by Elizabeth Pycroft, who also gave money for its construction. Elizabeth laid the first stone on 27 August 1840, but died 19 December 1840; she is buried within the church. Her family subsequently made further donations to pay for the communion plate, altar table and velvet covering. The church was built in the early English style: the tower has eight bells and the church boasts stained-glass windows, a carved stone altar and a font made of Caen stone. The surrounding church/chapel-yard is three-quarters of an acre, and at its northwest corner stood an oak tree descended from the Royal Oak at Boscobel House in which King Charles II hid to escape the Roundheads following the Battle of Worcester in 1651.[needs update] In 1863 the church is described as a 'chapelry' annexed to the rectory at Netherseal; the curate was Rev. John Morewood Gresley, M.A. The church is Grade II listed.
The Lord of the Manor built a school adjacent to the church in 1841.
A Baptist chapel was built in the village in 1840 and a Methodist chapel in 1860.
Every year a gala takes place on one afternoon in July. This includes a parade of floats led by the "Gala King and Queen" and their attendants.
- Joseph Wilkes, industrialist, was born here in 1733
- Charlie Freeman, footballer
- Ernest Hart, footballer
- "Civil parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- "Derbyshire Enclaves Map". Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Netherseal & Overseal Parish Pages, RootsWeb, retrieved 5 December 2019
- Overseal -= centre of Britain accessed 30 December 2007 Archived 23 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- British Locomotive Shed Directory, Ian Allan, London 1966
- Kreft, Helen (24 March 2015). "End of era as The Navigation Inn, in Spring Cottage Road, Overseal, is bulldozed for elderly accommodation lodges". Burton Mail. Archived from the original on 11 August 2015.
- White, William (1863). History, Gazetteer, and Directory of the Counties of Leicester and Rutland. Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society.
- "Overseal". Peak District View.
- Historic England. "Church of St Matthew (Grade II) (1159220)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- Overseal Village Gala Archived 16 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Joseph Wilkes web site
Media related to Overseal at Wikimedia Commons