Brinsley is situated on the side of the Erewash Valley, bordering Derbyshire. In Saxon times thea area was densely forested and it was in this period that a man called Brune established a settlement. He cleared the forest, drained this marginal land and built himself a manor house. It remained like this until the Norman Conquest when Brune's land was confiscated and William Peveral became Greasley Parish's overlord. He, in turn, installed his own man called Ailric to look after his interests in the area.There are few records of Norman Brinsley but it is thought that there were just two families living in the area at the time.
By 1154 the Peverals had gone and the Brunnesleys, perhaps decendants of the pioneer Brune, took control of the lands. The family farmed the area and by 1300 sheep-farming was well established and the population was begining to increas. During this time Roger de Brunnesley obtained a licence to build a chapel close to his manor house, making it much easier for the population to go to church. No longer did they have a two mile walk to Greasley's St. Mary's church! It was about this time, in 1343, that Nicholas de Cantelupe built the Carthusian Priory in Beauvale just a short distance from his crenellated manor house, Greasley Cattle. Very little changed for many years but around 1400 there is the first mention of "coal getting" in the area with a reference to Brunnesley Ashe. Coal was very close to the surface and outcrops were quite a common feature.
In the 17th Century the Brunnesleys’ interest ended and the manor and lands were sold to Gilbert Millington and Patrick Cocke. Millington, a prominent Parliamentarian in the Civil War, was, after the Restoration, imprisoned for being involved in regicide. Millington died in prison but William Cocke had Royalist sympathies and retained his properties. The quality of the land had not improved and it was not until late 18th Century that land enclosures and the development of the coal industry that the wealth of the area improved. The building of the Erewash and Cromford Canals made it easier to transport coal long distances. The population was growing and in 1838, with contributions from the local colliery owners and wealthy individuals, a small church, later to be called St. James, was built. There were also three non-conformist chapels, ensuring the population’s spiritual well-being.
During both World Wars mining became increasingly significant because it provided the fuel to feed the industrial war effort. However, by the middle of the 20th Century coal in the area was almost exhausted. It was the end of the Steam Age and there was increasing concern about pollution, deep-mining lingered on into the 1980’s but it was no longer a cheap source of energy. Brinsley is now a quiet residential village with a population of approximately 2,500. There are few reminders of what made this locality important to the wealth of a nation – the scars of the village’s past are gone but the pithead stocks are still there along with a large green hill that was once a slag heap – and there are still place names and localities that remind us of our history.