Updated 7 Dec 2000

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Life in Matlock 1886

by Eliza Dorothy Doxey

These are extracts from letters in my possession written by Eliza Dorothy DOXEY, my GGGrandmother. She was born at Ashford-in-the-Water in 1806 and died at Matlock in 1888. They are written to her 20 year old grandson in Sheffield, of whom she was very fond. She was living in Matlock with her son and family, at the top of Bank Road (then Dob Lane) at the corner with New Street. Dob Lane was very steep (1 in 6), probably too steep for her to climb at 80. Her son William was Clerk of the Works at Smedleys Hydro, and helped design the tramway up Bank Road.
Deciphered, transcribed, compiled, indexed, formatted and copyright © 2000, . All Rights Reserved.


22 Jan 1885

My Dear Alfred,
I now sit down to write a letter and I can assure you it is a great job for me; first our house is never empty, there is always somebody in and I cannot think as I used to do as when there is such a noise and talking in the house. Oh for a bit of quiet. I forget all I set out to say so you must not expect much thought or order. We were very uneasy when we did nor receive a letter on Monday morn. ; the weather here is terrible, we thought you were laid up with the cold, and were thankful when your letter came saying you are better of your plague the Tec(?). I am wonderful this winter , I have not had a cough at all and am very well for my age thank God for his goodness, Sickness and Death hath not been permitted to enter our dwelling.


8 Dec 1884

George Merchant, who used to be Mrs Smedley's coachman, died very suddenly last week. He seemed quite as well as usual when he went to bed about ten o'clock, and was dead soon after eleven. They have a lodger and he ran to fetch Dr Malan, he rang the night bell and Dr M opened the window and asked who was there and the man said you must come directly, George Marchant is gone out and where is he gone to said Dr M why he is snuffed out, when he got there poor Merchant was quite dead.


8 Dec 1884

We had a soldier preaching at our chapel yesterday in his regimentals, it did not seem right to me to see a red coat in the pulpit but he made a very good sermon and it was 1 o'clock at night when we got home. There will be a service every day this week.


22 Jan 1885

Aunt Mary is still at the Boathouse every other night and day with Mrs Wheatcroft. She is no better in her mind, there are two a man and a woman obliged to be with her night and day and she seems to get no better. She struck Aunt yesterday over her nose and made it bleed. One of Thompsons girls at the bridge is out of her mind. She was living with Rowdens as servant but I think she is getting better. Mrs Martin's niece that was with her when Aunt was there has gone crazy. Mrs Martin was gone away to undergo a very dangerous operation, she has a Tumer in her stomach and the doctor dare not cut it out it is so near her Heart, and while she was gone Fanny went out of her mind and had to be taken home to her mother, how she is going on I do not know.


22 Jan 1885

There has been a grand Dramatic Performance at the Market Hall by the members of the cricket club. Mathew Shawe and Brothers were some of the performers, all the gentry in the neighbourhood were there, tickets 2/6 2/- 1/- each the place was crammed they say 100 could not cram in it was quite a success. They got 20 pounds profit after all expenses was paid the first night and they had a second night because there was so many that could not get in the first night and the place was full at half price.


25 Oct 1885

I have had a letter from your Aunt Hannah at Manchester, she is very ill, she is short of breath. She went to Market last Saturday and could not get back; they sent for a doctor at last, he said she would not be long here. I have had another letter this morning saying she had begun to swell and they say she may not see another Sunday morning. I have sent a little money, indeed all I have. I wish I could send her more, it will be my turn next, I am the last of our family. Oh may I be ready when the summons shall come.


17 Dec 1885

I am sorry to say Father has been ill, he has not looked well some time, he is overworked. He had a very bad cold and it seemed to settle on his lungs and he had a very bad sore throat. To use his own words it seemed all rags. At last he was persuaded to see Dr Hunter, he soon told him he should not do so much work but should see that others did more. He is very good to him, gave him a book for treatment and you will think it odd treatment. For his throat he was to have 6 quarts of water poured on the back of his neck first one hot and then the next cold and so on, and a cold pad on his throat and a long flannel bandage round his neck at night and one quart of cold in a morning, and it is now well. He is to have a Turkish Bath every week or more.


15 Mar 1886

I do not know what kind of weather it is at Sheffield it is fearfull here, the Hills have been covered with snow ever since Christmas and the roads are all over ice and dangerous to walk on. The snow melts in the sun in the daytime and freezes again at night. All out door work is at a stand and there are many men with families have been out of work ten weeks, able and willing to work and cannot get a job to do. Dr Hunter and Father have had a sack of flour and given the worst off a stone of flour and a peck of Lentils and there is a little cart going all day up and down Dab Lane with a few Hundreds of coal. Poor things think in this weather, neither food nor fire God help them, surely this can not last long. They say in America(?) that it will last until the middle of May I hope they do not know. It has been a rough beginning for Walter. They are repairing the water pipes at Matlock Bath and they have been working out of door all this storm almost and at the top of Cross Green Church sometime. I am sure they must be almost frozen sometimes but I take care that he has dry warm clothes to put on when he comes home.


15 Mar 1886

I suppose Father has told you Mr Wass is dead and buried. Mother and I went to Darley to see the Funeral. He was out shooting on the moors and got very wet and had a bad cold, and he meant to go to Bournmouth or Cannes in France but he got no further than London to his sister's Mrs Buzzard her husband is a doctor (Miss Bell Wass that was) and could get no further and died there. He came from London by the railway to Darley. They put him into the hearse at the station and there was almost all the great folks with their carriages and cabs there and all Mr Wass's workmen all in procesion. I think there must have been some hundreds of them for the Church was full of men. We did not see them come from the station for we did not know what time they would be at the station and we were 2 hours too soon and we got in the church as soon as we got the door opened and did not come out till they went to the grave it was so cold. The Church was quite filled with the men. William Buxton was one of the bearers and the people about Lea. It was a most beautiful coffin and the top and sides being covered with the most beautiful wreath of flowers. I never saw such beautiful wreathes in my life. The grave was only dug and lined with brick, everybody said for a rich Gentleman they never saw so plain a funeral in their life. There was no fuss but just the same service as for a poor man. It began to snow as we stood in the churchyard and we almost starved, so we set off to come home as soon as we could, the snow beat in our faces like pinpoints. I began to be tired when up came a cab and someone called Mrs Doxey, will you ride to the Bridge, come jump up. It was Joe Radford and very thankful it was to ride with the driver in front, but Mother had to walk ( it was Mrs Myers and daughter in the cab) but she could get on faster without me . Mr Wass was 56 years. I do not know how things will be I think the wife? will get on badly with out him, and I do not know how he has left his affairs, perhaps we shall hear in time.


15 Mar 1886

They have formed Committee at the Bridge to make soup for the destitute. I saw them comming up Dab Lane with cases and a loaf of bread each and I feel thankful that they can get a little help. They say they have cut up 3 quarters of a cow in two days. Williams that used to be at Smedleys is making the soup, and they say it is very good.


9 July 1886

Charlie Champole? is dead, he was ruptured in his bowels some years. He went to Derby for a truss, when he came back he could hardly get up Dab Lane. They had to call up Malan in the night, he told him there was no hope except he would undergo an operation. He said he would, they gave him cloreform ,(I can not spell it right), and cut and took his bowels out, and put them right and sewed them up again, but he died with the chloriform.


29 November 1886

Walter is sadly faced with the toothache, I want him to have it drawn but he does not seem willing to part with it poor lad. He very often comes home at night wet through and all over mud, but I take care to dry his things ready for morning, but he is a very good lad and works hard God Bless him.


29 November 1886

We went to Mrs Walkers to Dinner a short time since. Mr Walker gave an address but I could not hear a word before we came away . We sat down at the table for a sitting, it was a large dining table and as there was only Mr W, Mrs W, Father, Mother, Mr and Mrs Lennox and me, we had a square piece of wood on the top of the table to put our hands on. Eliza was with us and stood watching us, and at last she asked her mother what are you playing at. This set Mother laughing and could not give over. Mr Lennox said aye you may well ask that child, so we all got up, it was no go.


29 November 1886

We have a lady preaching at our chapel yesterday in the morning. At night the chapel was full. She is staying a fortnight and speaking every day. I like her much, I think she will do good among us. She gives Bible readings in the afternoon and preaches at night. She takes a Parable from the Bible and forms it so as to make it pass before your eyes, and then gives it in a spiritual sense and does it well, you seem to see the Picture before your eyes. Her language is good yet very simple . I like her much.


29 November 1886

I and William went to Stanton Wakes, it was up to the shoe top in mud, but I got into a milk cart and I thought William had paid him, so I thanked him on getting out and walked away. I felt quite ashamed when he told me, and sent Uncle with the money. I dare not ask him again.


29 November 1886

Poor Mrs Foley at Wensley is dead and buried, she died of a cancer in her breast. Mr Montgomery is very ill, he is given over by the Doctors. He had a cancer on the inside, he cannot get better. I think he hath been in bed 8 or 9 weeks, I am very sorry he hath a large family.Mr Henry Wright (Wensley) is dead if you remember he had a wooden leg and was a Tailor. Mrs Hammersley is dead and Mr and Miss is gone away. Old Mrs Hopkinson, Miss Holmes Grandmother is dead. William Hanby, Lea, is dead and Wm Pearsons wife, Lea, has had a stroke and is dead, and many of my old friends have been called away and I am yet spared Praise the Lord for his sparing mercy and may I each day feel that I am a days march nearer Home and ready at any time to go when the master shall please to call me.


15 March

You know that young girl at the Bridge, her name is Thompson, went out of her mind some time since, she is rather better and Coopers that keep a Pot Shop at Matlock Green have adopted her as their daughter as they have no children of their own. I am glad, I think they will be good to her, Bless the Good Lord he has opened a path for her that no one would have thought of.


15 March

They are going to begin of the road past our house tomorrow, it does plague your poor Father it will be so much expense but we shall have a lamp at the corner of our shop and another at the corner so it will be a little better on a dark night.


[no date]

I have had a very bad cold and cough but I am thankful I am much better. Father has been in a poor way some time I feel very anxious about him sometime he has begun to have a bottle of beer every day and I think it hath done him much good for he seems better and more cheerful thank God.


[no date]

I think I told you Mrs Crowder is dead poor thing they are all quarreling about her clothes forgetting there is a baby that ought to be thought about. There was quite a little (?) at her death there came a basket of the most beautiful hot house flowers to be put in her coffin a boy brought them and when asked who had sent them he said there was no name they would not allow them to be put in but her sisters made them into a wreath and Aunt Mary Doxey carried them after the Funeral (poor thing) somebody thought well on her.


[no date]

All the world almost are talking of Battles, and Armies and Soldiers, and I think I must tell you about an Army on paper. There are 2 armies set in battle array, the one side are fine straight clean good looking soldiers, upright and true and they have a banner inscribed with the motto The good old English language. The other side are a mixed lot from all parts. Poor feeble, lame and vulgar, some without an arm, some without a leg and I think some without a head and their Banner has the motto Slang Hoorah for the good old English that tyrants cannot gagge and I hope it will drive the alien army clean out of the Field.


29 November 1886

I hope this frost will suit you better than the cold wet time we have had so long. Christmas will soon be here and then I hope you will be able to come over once more and be with us it will not be Christmas without you. We all join in love to you and I remain,

Your affectionate friend,

Old Grandmother Doxey.

Deciphered, transcribed, compiled, indexed, formatted and copyright © 2000, . All Rights Reserved.