Updated 10 Feb 2010
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
Hubert Harrison's Memoirs 1888-1977
Here are some of Hubert Harrison's memoirs - he called them "Reporter's
Recollections". More will follow. They have have been typed by my wife
Jae (Jennifer) whose father, Ken Harrison, was Hubert's first cousin.
Jae's parents, Jae and I visited Hubert in about 1975, at his home in
sheltered accommodation at Highworth, near Swindon. Hubert told us about
the memoirs and that he had sent them to Derbyshire County Council
Records Department, who kindly sent us a copy.
The memoirs have been typed exactly as Hubert wrote them, with no
editing. There is no record of when each one was written, so there is no
particular order. They should be read as delightfully honest records,
warts and all, of how things were in Wirksworth in olden days.
Hubert Harrison was a former editor of the paper, the [Swindon] Evening
Advertiser as it was then. He retired in December 1949 after serving for
20 years and passed away in Oct/Nov 1977 aged 90.
The present editor
James 1862 Mahalah
1908 | 1918
| | | | |
1863 1867 1870 1873 1875
William Isaac James Millicent Mahala
John 1886 Jane
J 1919 E
Luke Oakley Tombstone - Grey Slate
Inscription on headstone in obscure part of Wirksworth Cemetery.
The 14 years he served in the Civil Service was as a prison warder.
Poor Ann, his wife only merits two lines on the headstone.
Who was born at Yapton near Arundel, Sussex and died at Wirksworth,
February 18th 1879 aged 65 years.
He enlisted 20th January 1832 in the 11th Hussars in which he served
more than 24 years. He was 4 years in India, also throughout the
Crimean War, was present at the following engagements viz. Alma, Inkerman,
Balaclava, and Sebastopol. For his gallant service he received
the following decorations, Crimean Medal with 4 clasps, also a Turkish
Medal, Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field, and the one for
long service and good conduct. He also received 5 Good Conduct Badges.
On the 20th October 1854 at the Battle of Balaclava he was appointed
Orderly to Dr St.Croix Cross.
By his comrades he was called the model of the Regiment. He also served
14 years in the Civil Service and was in receipt of pensions from both
To sum up in a few words, he was a genial, kindly modest Englishman and a
Also Ann his wife who died December 14th 1906 aged 88 years.
[This was copied by Miss Mattie Benyon, 10 Cromford Road, Wirksworth in March 1976]
Mary Lynch (alias Mary Brady) was a vagrant Irishwoman who came before
the magistrates frequently in my junior reporting days for being found
drunk and incapable. She was perfectly harmless, but children tormented
her by calling "Mary Brady, she's a lady" whereupon she pretended to be
furious as she gave chase. On one occasion she was wheeled to the
lock-up in a barrow. Mary circulated between the poor law institutions
of Wirksworth, Ashbourne, Bakewell and Belper, in each being welcome for
her excellence as a scrubber. I was present in court on the occasion of
her hundredth conviction when the genial chairman of the bench urged her
to save her money and settle down instead of spending it on drink.
Mary's response was "Your Majesty, I consider that two pence after death
is wasted money". Her merely nominal fine was often paid by the magistrates
if there was no money in her possession when she had been locked up.
Mary's end was a sad one, as she was found dead beside the grave of the
chairman of the Bench who had often reproved her so kindly. She had a
bunch of wild flowers in her hand, having been in the habit of placing
them on the grave whenever she was in the vicinity.
The Truth, the Whole Truth
Another character sometimes summoned for failure to maintain his family
was Samuel Blackman (alias Pilo) an educated man who described himself
as a botanist, on the strength of selling ferns from door to door.
These were planted in small blocks of tufa, roughly hollowed out and
hanging in a wire frame that could be suspended in a porch. He also
sold lilies of the valley, daffodils, monkey musk, foxgloves etc. in
On one occasion Pilo brought his young daughter to court as a witness
that he had given money to his wife on the previous Saturday. She was
deemed too young to take the oath, but Sammy urged her not to be afraid
but to speak the truth to the magistrates. Didn't I give money to your
mother? He asked. "Yes, daddy", the child replied, "but you took it
from her soon afterwards". Hilarity in court in which Pilo joined, as
he was ordered to pay up.
Tape Loom Inventors
An industry of importance to Wirksworth in my youth was tape weaving which
provided a livelihood for a large number of people, mostly in families,
there being several factories , now (in 1971) alas reduced to three.
The looms in these were clumsy affairs, mostly made of wood with tension
on the cotton threads maintained by weights and pulleys. The looms were
ponderous slow rhythm in motion, driven by belting from shafting overhead,
a disadvantage being that when a thread broke the entire loom had to be
stopped while the broken ends could be tied, thus losing production from
the entire range of 30 to 40 shuttles.
Mr John Poyser thought of an improvement and patented the Poyser Loom,
more compact, about the size of a sewing machine, placed in rows but
each driven by a separate belt. Not only could these be driven much
faster but the merit was that a broken thread automatically stopped that
machine while the rest continued weaving.
For a time Mr Poyser tried unsuccessfully to market his loom, the mill
owners being reluctant to discard their existing machinery, slow and
ponderous as it was and repairable with bits of old belting, scrap metal
etc, by the weavers themselves. Then Mr Poyser tried another way, company
flotation, to market his invention. He started his own mill in a
converted malthouse at Steeple Grange to demonstrate his loom, employing
draughtsmen and mechanics to perfect it, his manager being Mr Joseph
Haywood, experienced in weaving and the tape trade. Mr Haywood was sent
to Switzerland and the United States to demonstrate the loom, only to
encounter the same sales resistance. Finally this mill was run to
manufacture tape, providing employment for girl weavers for a number of
years under Mr Haywood's management. Eventually a disastrous fire burnt
the mill to the ground. A number of Council houses being built on the site.
Now the Poyser patents having expired the principle of the loom was freely
exploited in Europe USA, Japan and China.
On the subject of tape weaving I ought to mention the genius and
perseverance of a boyhood friend, Hubert Haywood, trained as an engineer
in the textile trade, with experience in perfectionism gained by a
period of employment at the Rolls-Royce works Derby and at Kynochs.
The son of Joseph Haywood referred to in connection with the Poyser Loom.
Hubert made further improvements on it, making the parts by hand in a
spare room at his home over several years, working in secrecy before
taking out patent rights.
The Haywood loom
could not only weave tapes but was capable of making
elastics, ribbons, trimmings, galloons, petershams, webbing, gimps, gold
lace, listings from silk, rayon, cotton, flax, asbestos and jute. It
could be driven at high speeds from 140 to 200 picks a minute, making
perfect selvedges, by shafting or electric motors. Fitted with a Jacquard
the loom could weave elaborate designs.
However, Hubert Haywood could not afford to exploit his invention before
age and failing health intervened and eventually the provisional patents
expired, so that he derived no financial benefit for the skill and
inventiveness that had taken so much toll of his life. He did not live
long enough to realise that his invention would be in extensive use in
Europe and America as it is at the time of writing.
He did derive some financial benefit from an improved mousetrap he
patented and sold to a well know firm of trap makers and it is still on
sale in most ironmongers' shops. As a pianist he played for the
Wirksworth cinema proprietor in the evenings during the era of the silent
films, his earnings helping to pay for tools and materials for his loom
My youthful days at Steeple Grange, Wirksworth, had some exciting
episodes which might throw light on village events of those times as
there can be few alive who can recollect them. For example there were
the exploits of the Berry family, their widowed father being absent for
longish periods as he followed his occupation as a traveller in wines and
spirits, his transport being by horse and trap. The family at these times
was cared for by the eldest daughter, Edna. Percy Berry, a daredevil,
was impressed by the bareback riding of acrobats in a travelling circus
and declared that he could emulate their feats. He stood on a gatepost
while companions drove an aged horse at a gallop through the gateway,
leaping on the startled animals back and so terrifying it that it dashed
for its stable door, the clearance only being a foot or so. Percy was
swept off in a backward somersault and miraculously landed on his feet
uninjured. He was shot dead in later life in a Klondyke saloon. It was
not his quarrel but he got in the way of a flying bullet. His tomboy
sister, Anita, held a village boy captive for a day or two in a calf pen
until the search for him got serious, when she released him. Another
madcap event was the bursting of a cannon in an enclosed yard at the
Berry home, which shattered the stained glass panes of a big staircase
window. Companions apprenticed to a glazier worked against the clock
repairing the damage before Mr Berry returned, being due at midnight.
He never found out this event, but the apprentices had the cost of the
glass deducted from their wages for many weeks and to this day have never
been recompensed, though they had nothing to do with the accident.
Public feeling was aroused by the callous jilting of a village girl by a
man who had courted her for years, but on being accepted as a student for
the nonconformist ministry ended the engagement. A torchlight procession
of indignant villagers burned the man's effigy to the accompaniment of a
ran-tan band in front of his house. My father sternly forbade any
participation in this episode on my part, which I considered a great
The first installation of incandescent gas lighting in the district was
an occasion for wonder, people coming from miles around to view the bright
illumination on the white blinds of the house where the "indecent" light
was to be seen. Naked gas lights with a fishtail burner were in general
use where gas was available, but the flat flame with a large blue centre
gave a very poor illumination at that time. Incandescent gas mantles,
a German invention, gave a great boost to gas lighting, but they were
The homecoming of Wirksworth soldiers from the South African war impressed
my boyish mind as each one was given an official welcome and was made the
central figure of a torchlight procession, headed by the town brass band,
with flags out and garlands across the streets. These events were all
separate occasions as the men were demobilised. In all about twelve men
from the town served in the war and all returned, I believe. Among the
names I remember were Isaac Walker, Harry Lenton, Corbett(Cob) Bartlett,
Richard Casterton, Bertram Arkwright (son of the Vicar, Rev H Arkwright),
all volunteers, also two Regular soldiers, Albert Goodwin (R.A.M.C.) and
Anthony Maskrey ("Rev Tant"), also Harry Gell of Hopton Hall.
The principal organiser of these processions deserves mention not only for
this but for his efforts for the youth of the town over many years, as he
ran the Church Lads' Brigade, with its own drum and fife band, its meeting
place in a gymnasium near the railway station, where there were horizontal
and parallel bars, weight lifting apparatus, trapezes, boxing gloves etc.,
largely provided by Charlie Wright, who took the boys to camp and recruited
gymnastic instructors for them. All this was before the Boy Scouts were
formed by Baden Powell of the defence of Mafeking fame. Mr Wright was
the son of Charles Wright, head of the wines and spirits business, and
after he retired he lived first on the French Riviera, then at Fort House,
Bolehill. Charlie Wright died in Scarborough aged about 90, largely
forgotten in Wirksworth as he had been so long absent from the town.
As I remembered his many services for youth I wrote my tribute to his
memory for the local papers, cuttings from them being pasted in many
scrapbooks of townspeople who had know him, especially the lads of the
Brigade long grown to manhood. The Brigade Room, also used by the
St John Ambulance Corps for instruction classes in first-aid was
destroyed in a disastrous fire many years ago. Dr A.E. Broster was the
first-aid instructor and it was not until the doctor died that I learned
that he had served as a surgeon with the Turkish Army during the siege
of Plevna and decorated by the Turkish Government for his work there.
Very few people ever knew that the face of a saint or an angel in the
stained glass memorial window of the Wrights in Wirksworth church is an
actual photograph of Charlie Wright's mother, much respected by
everybody who knew her. The family lived at Yokecliffe, West End,
Wirksworth, in considerable style.
HARRISON DRIVE, Wirksworth, is the only permanent memorial of the
public service during most of his lifetime, to my father William John
Harrison JP CC, who was chairman of the Urban District Council for 21 years
in succession and a member for longer than that until ill-health brought
about his retirement. This thoroughfare was constructed at his suggestion
when it was deemed necessary to bypass the narrow road at North End
through traffic hazards and a number of accidents there. It was made by
blasting away the rock barrier between the disused College's quarry and
the Town Hall and the demolition of old buildings beside the Red Lion Hotel
and throwing a suspension bridge to carry foot passengers from Chapel Lane
to Greenhill over the new road. Father was a member of the County Council
at this time, his particular interests being as always public health and
preventive medicine. He was a friend and staunch supporter of Derbyshire's
first Medical Officer of Health Dr Sidney Barwise. His special interest
was tuberculosis and he was chairman of the committee dealing with bovine
tuberculosis at Bretby Hall hospital, of which the matron was Miss Beesley,
sister of Laurence Beesley, a survivor from the Titanic disaster, whose
dramatic account of it received world wide publicity. Their father was
manager of Lloyds Bank at Wirksworth.
With the distinction of being the oldest soldier in the 6th Battalion of
the Sherwood Foresters territorials, after 32 years service in the
2nd Volunteer Battalion Notts and Derbyshire Regiment that preceded the
Territorials and with the rank of Colour Sergeant father retired as a
citizen soldier in 1911. I have an inscribed silver matchbox presented
to him to commemorate the presentation of colours by King Edward VII in
Windsor Park to the 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters from King's Colour
R.Saxby, Lieut. And Regimental Colour H.Heathcote, in June 1909. This
souvenir of a historic occasion bears the badge of the battalion in
coloured enamel. Father joined the battalion away back in 1879 when the
Snider rifle was the weapon of the British Army and he was always a
marksman. Father was the senior NCO of the colour guard, the others being
Colour Sergts J. Hoult of Clay Cross and F.Brindley of Buxton.
Among other appointments W.J.Harrison held were the chairmanships of
West Derbyshire Liberal Association, Derbyshire Insurance Committee,
Derbyshire Municipal and Rural District Councils Association, and a
governor of Wirksworth Grammar School. It is interesting to note that
his younger son Norman Harrison, in due course became a member of
Derbyshire County Council, chairman of the UDC and a justice of Wirksworth
A Middleton Paragon - Dan Milward
I have alluded elsewhere in a memoir to Daniel Milward, a Middleton
character in my youth. Dan was a blacksmith of merit, being exceptionally
skilled in tempering steel tools used by masons and quarrymen employed by
Killer Brothers and later Hopton Wood Stone firms who took over the
sawmills, the monumental masonry works and the quarry. Alas, the works
are now discontinued and the masons dispersed or dead, skilled victims of a
commercial change of fashion, a tragedy for the village.
Dan once discussed with me the lost art of the Romans of tempering copper
so that a cutting edge could be imparted to weapons. The secret is still
It was fascinating to watch Dan waiting for the prismatic colours to change
on cooling steel tools before the correct one came to plunge them in water
or oil which fixed the suitability in hardness for their purpose.
Pickaxes, chisels, punches, boasters, scribers, delicate carving tools.
Dan was able to make soft iron field gate fasteners sufficiently springy to
latch firmly. He shaped then on his anvil, then while still glowing hot,
beat the iron on one side only, wetting his hammer each blow, thus making a
weak spring. Was it case-hardening that he had discovered for himself?
I never heard him swear and he used biblical language-hither, thither,
hence, thence, whence, thee, thou , etc. He did the repairs to lifting
and haulage chains in sawmills and quarry, ironwork on wagons, maintained
augers for drilling blasting holes in the limestone, wedges, sledge
hammers, wheelbarrows and was a careful farrier. Loving skill for modest
pay. An almost extinct breed of country craftsman.
On his retirement he declined to pay a visit to his son George, his
blacksmith son and striker, who was prospering in the United States, who
was willing to pay travel expenses, preferring to remain in his beloved
village for his declining years. Dan was respected and admired by fellow
employees. We shall never see his like again.
Since writing the above I learn from one who as a child was a neighbour
of Daniel Milward, that he was known as "God's good man", being ever
ready to aid the distressed, aged or sick. He was a stalwart of the
Main Street Methodist Chapel Middleton.
Worthy Butchers of Wirksworth
The rapid rises in the price of beef in 1973 directed my thoughts to the
butchers of Wirksworth and district late in the last century and the
beginning of this one. Among the best know meat traders were George J.
Ogdon (a member of the Urban District Council for many years) whose shop
was in the Market Place; Ralph Oakly (pork); Josiah Abbott (one of the
shops on the ground floor of the Town Hall); William Blackwell (opposite
the Hope & Anchor Hotel); Joseph Rains and William Buxton (pork), each
in John Street; James Hawley (pork) at the bottom of Greenhill; all these
did their own slaughtering and had such pride in the quality of their meat
that sides of pork and mutton carcases were hung on hooks for display.
At festive seasons like Christmas the exhibits were enhances by braces of
pheasants and partridges, fowls, turkeys, hares, rabbits, geese and ducks.
The shows were impressive. Often they were photographed with the
proprietors standing besides their wares. Beef had thick layers of yellow
fat which enriched the flavour of the meat when roasted.
Most meat traders delivered in horsed vehicles to regular customers in
town and villages, the butchers in immaculate white linen sleeves or coats.
Refrigerators were not invented then, so they tried to sell out by the
end of the week but many poor people got a cheap joint by shopping late
on Saturday nights. Left-over meat could be salted, pickled or potted.
Argentine or Chicago meat from prairie herds, sheep carcases from New
Zealand or Australia was imported much later when refrigerated ships
brought cargoes to this country. This resulted in a reduction of prices
and big firms opened shops in the towns such as Wirksworth, Bakewell,
Matlock, Ashbourne and Chesterfield. They were managed by salesmen who
were not butchers in many cases.
Cromford had two butchers, Mr Brown at the end of North Street and Swifts
nearer the Market Place. The latter was pork and pork products. At
Middleton the butchers were W. Brooks, "Pokey" Moore and aptly named
W. Killer. These traders worked long hours, attended to customers
politely, were scrupulously clean, scrubbing their sycamore butchers'
blocks to whiteness, keeping cleavers, saws, knives, hooks, brightly
polished. Mostly they earned a comfortable livelihood. They were good
judges of cattle at the auction markets, or as they often preferred,
trading privately with farmers they trusted to rear quality stock.
Before the captive bolt humane killer was invented and later made
compulsory, slaughter methods were barbarous, a winch dragging beasts into
the slaughter shed where they were pole-axed, sometimes clumsily and their
throats cut. Sheep were held down on a rack, a knife stab in an artery
soon bled them to death. They never uttered a sound. Pigs on the other
hand squealed distressingly. Cottagers' pigs were generally killed in a
backyard by a man known as a pig-sticker, acting for anybody needing their
services. Generally neighbours got a share of liver, kidneys, leaf fat for
rendering to make lard. Wirksworth had a fellmongers business at the
bottom of Wash Green, near the railway station. There the hides were
treated to divide the hoof and horn, bones, hair, to form leather, glue,
fertiliser. The drayloads of skins destined for the tanneries were smelly
affairs, breeders of blowflies. In general the town's butchers were ardent
Methodists or Anglicans, generous and worthy citizens. Without these
memoirs they would be forgotten despite their prominence in Wirksworth
life in those times.
"Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
When wealth accumulates and men decay".
Visiting Wirksworth after an absence of many years, I was astonished to
find that businesses of much importance in the days of my youth had
disappeared. It seemed that there was no longer a printing shop (once
there were three); no bootmaker left; no saddler; only one chemist; two
firms of solicitors (against three); well established building firms closed
down; gas works and the railway station gone for good for passengers.
Perhaps the most disastrous casualty was the closure of the stonemasonry
works and sawmills at Middleton, with the loss of superb craftsmanship of
whole families of monumental masons and carvers, hereditary skill that
will never be replaced. This had contributed to churches, abbeys,
cathedrals, palaces, stately homes in London and throughout Britain, even
One timber trade business that had grown to big proportions expired after
the tragic death of its founder, Mr Ernest Beeston, in a bicycle accident.
His premises of close on an acre in extent, made thousands of boxes,
strengthened with hoop-iron for a firm of whisky blenders. He also
employed wheelwrights, cabinet-makers, coach painters, all kept busy on
new work or repairs for farmers, cab proprietors, local aristocracy,
prosperous traders, the churches and mill owners.
Of a similar firm at Warmbrook, founded by Mr J.C.T. Baker and run after
his death by Mr Harold Wain, not a trace remains. Mr Baker built many
houses in the Canterbury Terrace and Warmbrook areas, also at Middleton,
Gorsey Bank and as far away as Ambergate.
Present day residents of Wirksworth may never have heard of these worthy
citizens, but they were important once in the life of the town and their
works live after them.
Many inns have been closed, but notable survivors are the Red Lion Hotel
in the Market Place, also the Hope & Anchor Inn, still thriving under
different licensees. Mrs Budworth, landlady of the latter was a well
known character for many, many years.
Auctioneers and estate agents, once so busy, are non-existant, there are
not any blacksmiths, farriers or saddlers now, no cinema as such. There
was once a tannery at Wash Green, also a mineral water factory.
Meanwhile, the hills are literally being blasted away to get limestone for
tar macadam, building and agricultural fertiliser, chemicals, iron and
steel production, thanks to Mr Nobel's gelignite. Noise, dust, fumes,
loss of natural beauty, is the penalty of progress, but more and more
machines throw more and more people unemployed. What is to become of us
as the years pass by? We have a population explosion and will need more
schools, more hospitals, more transport, more doctors, nurses and teachers
to cope with them. Agricultural land is being lost for sites and roads
at an alarming, nay frightening rate. I am so old that the problem will
not be mine, but the coming generation will have to face it.
Within a few days of attaining my 85th birthday it occurs to me that I
ought to put on record the names of interesting characters living in
Bolehill Wirksworth, in my youth, since there can be few people alive who
know the facts. Without this record they would be lost in oblivion, so
I trust that Derbyshire County Records Department will preserve them in
Village life in my youth centred on the Primitive Methodist Chapel and the
Mens' Institute on the Green, so I will relate the names and what made them
noteworthy in my estimation.
Frequenting the Reading Room, of which one of the founders was Thomas
William Hunt, whose wife was an aunt of Harry McCardie (later Judge in
the High Court) whose name is inscribed on a foundation stone, were
George Wigley Walker, a stonemason employed on the Willersley estate of
F.C. Arkwright at Cromford. His wife Alice kept a small grocery shop and
their sons all became officials at Sheffield Town Hall - Billy, Joseph,
Laurence and Fred. At the time of which I write Kitchener was the
British general in the Sudan war against the Dervishes, and Mr Walker
followed the campaign so closely that we alluded (in secret) to him as
the Mad Mullah. Another elderly member was Mr Henry Abell, a studious
man, full of wisdom, whose son Benjamin became headmaster of Kirk Ireton
school. Then there was James Smith, councillor for years and a member
of the Poor Law Board of Guardians at Belper. His relative John Richard
Smith, retired from the sea to become a farmer, introduced the flagpole
with a jib which prevented the flag from becoming entangled because it
was free to swing with the wind. He also became a member of Wirksworth
Urban Council for many years.
Younger members included Fred Oxspring, Frank Brooks, Mark Flint (who was
killed in Black Rocks quarry, crushed by a block of stone). Poor Mark
had to be carried on a stretcher to Wirksworth Cottage Hospital by his
fellow workmates. Then there were William and John Holmes, brothers,
the first being killed in the 1914-18 war. William, a clerk, became
secretary of the Institute and John was a small farmer at the time of
the Hitler war. Alf Sheldon, a gritstone scappler, injured his shin with
a sharp pickaxe and suffered from it for the rest of his life. His widow
was over 90 in 1971.
I remember also inhabitants Bob Houghton, returned from Canada with
marvellous tales and a goatee beard like the Yankee figure Uncle Sam;
Joe Greenhough, lead miner, who walked to his work daily at the famous
Mill Close mine, Darley Dale, rearing a big family and running a small
holding in his spare time.
There was a baker named Joshua Greenhough, very religious, his favourite
quotation being the fiery furnace "heated seven times hotter that what
it was wont to be", and Shadrach and his companions emerging unscathed;
Miss Betsy Land, the mildest character and the kindest woman in the
village; Martha Flint, who fell into the canal on her way to work at
Lea Mills during a fog. When rescued by companions, her face dripping
wet and shedding tears of emotion, she remarked: "you have saved my life,
but I have lost my custard!" Her father was Alfred Flint, the cobbler,
used to be carried away with emotion in the chapel that he shed tears as
he gave his testimony. Ernest Wilson, his successor at the cobbler's shop,
welcomed company as he worked, the discussions varied, informative or
trivial. Mr Wilson was a devoted local preacher until his last illness.
Lavina Lee was the sub-postmistress, an ardent Methodist and mother of
Tommy and Louie. Tom enlisted in the Army and was a resplendent figure
when he attended chapel in picturesque uniform and spurs. Their father
Robert was employed on the High Peak railway I believe. Louie was my
Sunday School teacher and her class thought her a beautiful lady.
William Crowder was the father of Sarah Ann Crowder, vocalist at local
concerts in the Methodist Circuit.
Other residents included Sharrow Moresby, nephew I understand of
Admiral Moresby who named Port Moresby, now an important base in North
Australia. He was followed as tenant in the house he built on steep
Nan Gell's Hill, by Mr Woolnoth, former house master at Fettes School,
Edinburgh, his daughters prominent figures in village life.
Rather pathetic was the death of Frank Bealing, landlord of the New Inn,
who lay for days unburied because no relative could be traced, if he had
any. I helped my father to put him in his coffin in a hot little room
into which the sun poured. He was considerably dead and we had to cover
our noses with wet towels, but we both staggered out into the fresh air
and vomited. The Oddfellows paid the costs of Frank's funeral.
The Rev. Rupert King was a curate who took interest in boy's lives,
teaching us how to make box kites on the lawn of Bolehill House, his
wife whom we thought a beautiful lady, regaling us with tea and tarts.
Boyhood memories! Miss Florence Arkwright lived in this house later,
riding her bicycle until she was a great age.
Mr Charles Wright lived at Fort House, Little Bolehill, for many years,
he was prominent in Wirksworth affairs as a young man. Died at Scarborough
Useful Street Hawkers of Wirksworth
There must be many people in Wirksworth, now elderly, who as children
can remember the useful function of those hawkers from drays who regularly
came round with paraffin, cleaning materials, domestic utensils, brushes,
pots and pans, buttons, collar studs and a host of other cheap goods, thus
saving busy housewives journeys to the nearest town shops. These included
Willie Gleeson, of Wirksworth, Mr Tolladay from Matlock, and doubtless
there were others. They were reliable in their visits, obliging,
friendly traders content to earn a modest living, helped no doubt by the
fact that they had not to employ assistants or shop rents and rates to pay.
Willie Gleeson was, I believe, one of the family of Patsy Gleeson, an
Irishman who ran a shop selling workmens' clothing, heavy boots, stout
braces and belts, the last named almost universal for quarrymen, farm
workers, roadmen, stone wallers, and carters. Virtually all these wore
corduroy trousers on sale at Patsy Gleeson's shop. Nowadays it seems such
articles are only sold at shops specialising in Govt surplus stores.
Another door to door trader, quite a lovable character, was Mrs Joseph
Storer, of Bolehill, who sold oatcakes, pikelets, and muffins which she
made at home on her bakestone (pronounced bakstone), eggs and wild fruits
in season, which she found readily saleable to regular customers who found
her wares delicious. "Polly Pikelet's" oatcakes were brought round in an
ancient vehicle drawn by a shaggy pony, kept on their small holding, run
by her husband, Joseph, crippled by rheumatism, who bred pigs and milked
a few cows. Mrs Storer sold her wares by count, not weight, and to needy
or out of work people, would slip in a couple extra. We shall not see her
Herbert Palin was another trader who came round regularly with his horsed
dray laden with fruit and vegetables. He had a shop in the Market Place,
Wirksworth, run by his wife, a ladylike woman who built up a thriving
business. Herbert fetched his produce from Melbourne market gardens almost
daily, thus saving charges for carriage and securing freshness. Their son
Sam, carried on the business, extended it in fresh premises and I believe
it still survives run by a Palin. Sam was a sergeant in the Derbyshire
Yeomanry. Herbert's daughter Lizzie (now Mrs Turner, a widow) was a
mainstay in her father's shop. All the Palins were ardent Congregationalists
at Wirksworth in their day.
The perfect charwoman
In my early boyhood at the close of the last century the perfect charwoman
came to live in my small village of Bolehill, Wirksworth, Derbyshire. She
was Irish and it was said she was a deserted wife, but Mrs Addekin was
clean, punctual, discreet, never discussing her employers' affairs with
the numerous clients she accumulated as her reputation spread around.
However she was a borrower of small sums of money to cope with various
emergencies such as rent, rates, bills, etc., which she invariably repaid
religiously without delay, hence she was trusted implicitly.
It escaped notice perhaps that Mrs Addekin was gradually increasing the
sums borrowed, but the repayments continued promptly as before so no
anxiety was felt or suspicion aroused, until one day she failed to report
for duty, nor did she attend the next day or the next. Fearing that this
paragon might be ill or called away by some emergency led to her cottage
being visited. It was locked and empty, the furniture having disappeared,
rent and rates were owing, and tradesmen's bills unpaid. The bird had
flown, having borrowed simultaneously from all her employers maximum amounts.
Inquiries at the railway station of an adjacent town elicitated the
information that a woman of Mrs Addekin's description had booked a ticket
for Liverpool early one morning, and further news was obtained that she
had sailed for America to rejoin her husband, Ned, a house painter, whom
she had confided to neighbours was such a desperate character that he
would think nothing of stabbing a man to death with his putty-knife.
"Boyish Pranks in days of yore - Drastic cure of face freckles"
Critics of the pranks that youngsters get up to nowadays may be interested
in an exploit of my youth in my native Derbyshire which could easily have
ended in tragedy. Approaching Bonfire Night most boys had home made
fireworks, and produced terrific bangs from cannon of short iron pipe cut
off and discarded by gas fitters. These were stapled to wood blocks, the
explosive being gunpowder, with fuses of saltpetre-soaked string to the
Our small gang was loading a cannon on the site of a derelict lead mine,
towards dusk, when one boy accidentally kicked over the tin containing
the powder. Several boys were leaning over as I was scraping it up from
the grass. Someone struck a match to light up this task, when the glowing
end fell on the powder. Up went a great flash, resulting in yells of pain
from those most injured.
My share was facial burns, singed eyelashes and hair. Others had burnt
clothing and injuries to face and ears. One boy cooled his burnt face
in a sewage-contaminated stream, with shocking after-effects of infection.
My parents improvised a facial mask of cotton wool, soaked with oil, with
holes cut for eyes, nostrils and mouth which I wore for some days.
Eyesight was not lost, but when the mask was peeled off the result was
unexpected. The skin came off with it, drastic complexion treatment indeed.
The reason we were not prosecuted for stealing the gunpowder was, it was
thought, that the Explosives Act regulations, stipulating the return to
the explosives magazine had not been observed. The quarrymen had hidden
their unused gunpowder and our supply had been "lifted" by a grandson of
the quarryowner, one of our gang.
The cannon was flung down the lead mine shaft and not one of us ever
played with gunpowder again.
Double miracle in a quarry accident.
A terrible accident which produced a double miracle of surgery and escape
from almost certain death occurred in my early years as a reporter about
1920-21, at Bowne and Shaw's quarry at Wirksworth. These are the facts
I recorded at the time, known I suppose to nobody else now living.
To the young surgeon involved, an assistant of Dr A.E.Broster, it brought
world fame and the appointment as chief surgeon at the Derby Royal
Infirmary. He was Mr Dyke who died at a great age some years ago, famous
and beloved by his patients.
The quarrymen concerned, James Brooks and J.J.Else, both known to me as
fellow Territorials, were working on a narrow ledge high up the quarry
face, and strictly against rules tamped a charge of blasting powder, using
the steel augur with which they had drilled the rock ready for the blast.
They should have used a copper rod to tamp the blasting powder. Apparently
this had been left at the quarry foot. The result was a spark that set off
the explosive, driving the long augur through Else's neck, pinning him to
Mr Dyke, who happened to live near by, got men to hold the steel augur on
each side of Else's neck while he cut through it with a hacksaw. He was
carried to the Cottage Hospital where the surgeon drew the shortened steel
through his neck in antiseptic conditions.
The miracle was that arteries, brain, spinal column had all been missed
and eventually Else recovered with nothing worse than a permanently twisted
neck. He became a quarry foreman until his death many years later.
The lesson of this accident was lost on Brooks who was killed in a similar
blasting mishap some years later.
Quarrymen on low piecework rates often took unjustifiable risks with a
dangerous explosive like blasting powder, until it was superseded by
gelignite, electrically detonated from a distant safe place.
Mr Nobel's gelignite is a life-saver in industrial blasting, but a curse
in war, civil strife, and criminology like bombing, strong room blowing
and safe breaking.
Sholto, The Cycle Hirer
One of the characters in Wirksworth in the years between the South African
war and the 1914-18 war was
Sholto Greenhough, who hired out bicycles for
sixpence an hour to youngsters eager to learn to ride them. The machines,
second-hand ones to begin with, were ill-used to such an extent that Sholto
learned to repair them (punctured tyres, broken spokes or chains were the
chief source of trouble), becoming so expert that similar jobs on the cycles
of more prosperous people flowed to the tiny shop in North End where his
mother, a French woman I believe, a thrifty cook, sold her pickled onions,
beetroot, red cabbage, etc. to the neighbours.
Also she had an extensive trade with children for lucky-bags, licorice
strips, locust beans, boiled sweets, any item that could be sold for a
halfpenny, as children were not given the lavish spending money they get
Reverting to Sholto (his Christian names were John Sholto Douglas) he was
a pioneer photographer as well as a dealer in bicycle spare parts and he
quickly built up a trade for portraits, football and cricket team groups,
wedding pictures, and he sold photographic materials to amateurs,
second-hand cameras, etc. On the whole I suppose he made a satisfactory
Two other cycle dealers in the town were
Charlie Slater, St Mary's Gate,
and Will Killer, North End,
but they had agencys for new machines.
Mr Slater did his business mostly in the evenings, after he finished work
as a clerk with a Cromford firm. Mr Killer was a printer by trade and at
his death left a surprisingly big estate, bequeathing a sum for the
provision of the public clock in the tower of the Town Hall. Part of his
fortune came form his brother, who had a confectionary business in
I believe Mrs Greenhough's lucky bags cost a penny. One took a chance
whether they contained a balloon, a squeaker, a few sweets, chewing gum,
a sheet of transfers which wetted and pressed on the back of the hand or
a book, left a highly coloured picture that was not so permanent as the
tattoo marks of old soldiers or sailors. She also did a thriving trade
in marbles, popular at that time as a boys' game.
Reputed to have been formed as far back as 1814, the Wirksworth and
Middleton Association for the Prosecution of Felons scarcely ever did
prosecute, its flamboyant posters offering a reward for information
leading to the conviction of offenders being a sufficient deterrent to
vandals or villains. However the association's annual dinner was an
important function in the social life of the town, this beano in my early
days being held in the club room at the Red Lion Hotel, the speeches and
the names of principal guests and entertainers providing copy for the
It is believed that the humorous story about the old farmer and the
gorgonzola cheese originated at one of the Association's dinners at which
the last item on the menu was cheese and celery. It goes as follows:
The old chap was persuaded to try gorgonzola, but spat out the first
mouthful in disgust, whereupon a fellow guest inquired what's the matter,
haven't you eaten it before? Never, he said but I've trod on it.
One of the four local papers once headlined a report of this event.
FELON'S DINNER, which I surmise must have annoyed some of the guests
who attended it.
Other social functions of importance were the annual concerts of the
Choral Society, the County Ball, the Volunteer's Ball, the Volunteer's
dinner and prize distribution, all held in the Town Hall. For the
County Ball, attended by the aristocracy in large numbers, there was an
awning from the pavement to the entrance, red carpet laid, a lavish
display of flowers and plants, music by some famous band, catering by
contract, an admiring crowd to see the dresses of the women as they
stepped from their carriages.
Oxford University Extension lectures, debating society and other cultural
activities were usually held in the Parish Room.
Miss Gibbs of Bridge
Mrs Meade Waldo,
Mr A.D.M. Severne undertaking the administrative
work. Choral Society rehearsals were held in the Parish Room, which also
housed a social club with a billiards table for young men. All these
activities are ended long since, alas!
At the time of writing (1972) the secretary and treasurer of the Society
for the Prosecution of Felons was
Mr Harold Pearson, who has held the
office for many years with the exception of his war service with the
6th Batt. Sherwood Foresters. He is now 81 years old.
Wirksworth Worthies of the Last Century
Following are the names and some facts about worthy citizens of Wirksworth
in my youth, who, without this record, would have sunk into oblivion, since,
in old age one who remembers them wishes to acknowledge the parts they
played in town affairs at the end of the past century and early in the
present one. I trust this record will be preserved for reference by
Derbyshire County Archives. The facts are not known to many still living
at the time I set them down June 1972.
an aged wheelwright worked in premises at North end,
Wirksworth, whom I recollect because I used to watch him at work as top
sawyer in a pit cutting planks from tree trunks, a laborious process before
they had circular saws. They had long saws with big teeth, a mate in the
pit covered with sawdust alternately pulling down the saw and helping to
lift it for the return stroke, arduous and exhausting. The straight line
along the log was made by chalking a string and plucked like an archery
bow. The top sawyers task was to keep to this line, the saying about being
"top sawyer" meaning anyone in authority over others, in local use to the
present day by people who do not know the derivation of the term.
Mr Shepherd's premises fell into ruins on his death, but eventually were
built upon by
William Talbot, a prosperous cab proprietor, to form a
centre for a young mens' recreation room and social club. Later this
became a builder's warehouse.
WILLIAM WESLEY MARSDEN,
a prominent Wesleyan, was the proprietor of a
thriving ironmongery business in the Market place, who also had a tin
plate workshop employing several men to make milk churns of a different
shape from those currently in use. These were conical, with a strong band
at the bottom and a circular projection in the lid, enabling one man to
trundle them along the stone paving of a dairy or railway station platform
to the milk vans. Marsden won a prize for this design, his churns being
exhibited at agricultural shows and gaining many customers. I remember
seeing as many as 40 to 50 milk floats bringing churns from farms to
Wirksworth railway station to travel by the evening train. It was said
that one third of London's daily milk supply came from Derbyshire, the
rest being sent from Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, even Cornwall. Marsden's
Daniel, succeeded him in the business.
Daniel was a fellow member of
mine in the 2nd Battalion Notts and Derby Volunteers, later the 6th
Battalion Sherwood Foresters Territorials. The business still exists in
an uncle on my mother's side (he married her eldest sister,
Annie Gamble) started a mill to weave tape at Gorsey Bank. It prospered
from the beginning, his employees being loyal and energetic to a benevolent
master. This mill, a restored building, was financed by my grandfather
William Gamble, whose loan was rapidly repaid out of the profits, grandfather
Bowmers Gorsey bank mill is now a warehouse, modern looms weaving in a
new factory in Water Lane, built by Michael Bowmer, son of Edgar and
grandson of John. Michael is a county councillor who describes himself
as a manufacturer of narrow fabrics. Edgar learned his business as a
partner with his brothers Arthur and George in the Gorsey Bank mill, which
they managed after John's death, following a year of ill health. Edgar
Bowmer was a boyhood playmate of mine.
Wirksworth Worthies (2)
JOHN KINDER FRITCHLEY,
my uncle (married mother's sister Elizabeth) built
up a considerable business in Wirksworth as a painting and decorating
contractor, glazier, bell-hanger, sign writer, from premises in North End
now long demolished. He was prominent in the football world as a referee
and football administrator, secretary of the Derbyshire Football League
1890-91. He refereed matches of the Matlock and District League as far
afield as Darley Dale, Youlgreave, Holloway, Crich, Wessington, Bonsall,
Bakewell, Matlock, travelling by pony trap and sometimes taking me and my
cousin Edgar Bowmer, with him, a wonderful treat for us.
J. K.F. as he was affectionately known, was always to the fore for
charitable efforts in the town, athletic sports, church events, etc.
He never made any charge for fixing footlights or working limelight
spotlights for Town Hall or Parish Room functions. He was secretary of
the Forget-me-Not lodge of Oddfellows until his death, a beloved and
started life as a boy employee of Ripley Co-op, was the
first manager of the newly formed Wirksworth Co-operative Society, which
prospered under his administration until he left to become manager of
Grantham Co-op Society, because the committee at Wirksworth refused to
increase his salary of £2.5 shillings a week. Later Mr Bradshaw
became chairman of the Co-operative Wholesale Society from 1936-1945.
He was knighted in 1937. I met Sir William in Bath during the Hitler War.
He remembered me as a youth shopping for my parents, even recalling their
share number 44, for they were Wirksworth Society's earliest members.
who had another painting and decorating business, was
for many years a member of Wirksworth Urban Dist Council, his premises
being situated in the churchyard, close to the row of almshouses. His
workshop was reputed to be the oldest building in the town, once it was
said Priest's House. Joseph's brother
Isaac was a school attendance
officer who lived to be 90 or over and in his old age bore a striking
resemblance to George Bernard Shaw. He was very pleased if anyone
commented upon it. His daughter Mary looked after him since the death
of his wife. She was a dutiful child and a charming character when I
conversed about Wirksworth affairs in 1971.
Joseph and George,
each had separate building businesses,
the former at Steeple Grange, but combined to undertake extensive contracts
for the Midland Railway Company, building enormous breast walls and
buttresses for stations at Birmingham, Gloucester, Cheltenham , massive
work for stonemasons. They made arches, platforms, and did the woodwork,
being able to beat competition from city firms by paying country wages and
part lodging money for workmen willing to live away from home. A regular
job in the building trade in those days of frequent unemployment seemed
worth looking after. The brothers Walker were the first locally to
install steam engines to power mortar mills and wood working machinery.
Both brothers served on the Urban District Council and each had a turn as
chairman. They were staunch Methodists, Joseph at Bolehill and G.W. at
Dale Chapel, Wirksworth. Through age and ill health the businesses closed,
but the Walkers' works live after them.
Walker, Job, also had a building business,
but he retired to live
near my parents' home at Bolehill, where as a boy I learned much from Job's
wisdom. Olive Schriener, author of the book "On An African Farm", a
classic wrote a part of it while convalescing in Mr Job Walker's House.
One of the most prominent and prosperous families in Bolehill, Wirksworth,
in the days of my youth, was that of the
Halls, with an extensive bakery
business and a grocery shop attached. The founder was Luke Hall, a shrewd
character with the ability to make and keep money. He had a son Luke,
whose son was also named Luke, so that at one time they were distinguished
as old Luke, young Luke, and young Luke's son Luke, all employed in the
business. The bakery side supplied bread and confectionery to places as
far distant as Lea, Holloway, Crich, Cromford, Bonsall, Alderwasley,
Whatstandwell, also Matlock Bath and Wirksworth, deliveries being by horsed
vans. The Hall wealth was invested in land which increased in value as
the years went by. Young Luke had a singularly placid wife and a large
family. On one occasion as Mrs Hall was present at a concert in the
Institute a message arrived that their premises were on fire, but she
showed no concern when it was suggested that she might wish to dash home,
merely remarking "Luke will attend to it", and calmly went on enjoying
the entertainment. One of the younger sons, Charles, was killed in an
ambush by Sinn Feiners only a few weeks after he had joined the Army as
a lorry driver at the time of the Irish rebellion. His brother Luke
lost a finger in a machine dough mixer his father installed in the bakery
soon after he inherited his father's fortune. The business has long been
closed and it is doubtful if there are any survivors of this large family.
The middle Luke donated the site of the Bolehill and Steeple Grange war
A noteworthy example of "village boy makes good" is that of Billy Walker,
elder son of a Bolehill small grocer, who gained his first step to an
important post on the staff of the City Treasurer of Sheffield because of
his copper plate handwriting. Walker responded to an advertisement for a
junior clerkship which specified that applications must be in own
handwriting. He got the job and reported for duty at Sheffield Town Hall
so early on the appointed day that only charwomen were at work, so he
wandered round the vast building until he came to a tiny office in which
an elderly man was opening letters. Cheekily remarking "I'm starting work
here today, but I don't think much of this place. You have not even a
typewriter. We must get typewriters". This was true at that time and the
remark was made to the City Treasurer, who was so amused that he fostered
Walker's career until he rose to be a principal assistant in that department,
and three of his brothers also rose to important posts under the
It may interest somebody in the future to know about the arduous conditions
prevailing for country reporters covering parliamentary election campaigns
early in the present century, since the facts will never be available unless
I record them, as I am the sole survivor in July 1972 of any of my
contemporaries of that time.
The West Derbyshire constituency extended right across the county from the
outskirts of Sheffield to the Staffordshire border, in an irregular shape.
It had mainly landowning and farming interests, and only slightly industrial
around Matlock, Wirksworth, Darley Dale, Rowsley, Winster, Brassington,
Candidates largely relied on press publicity and public meetings in the
villages and small towns. These were well attended, being regarded as
diversions from rural monotony. As the constituency had a hundred and
twenty-nine polling districts, aspirants for the House of Commons had
perforce to address several meetings on the same night, dashing from
village halls and schools to other places, where hack speakers from party
headquarters, or local politicians, had been "holding the fort" and working
up excitement for the arrival of the candidate, arrangements having been
made for a demonstration of enthusiasm on the entry of the gladiator.
This was mostly reported as vociferous, tumultuous, in some towns or
villages. Lukewarm, even hostile in others. In the later case the chairman
sometimes decided against a vote of confidence lest it be lost on a show of
As the candidates' stock speeches had previously been reported at length
there was the danger of repetition, so heckling (apt, witty, damaging, even
cruel) were obviously good copy, also questions , which reporters were
alert for. Supporters on the platform had their names faithfully recorded,
it being thought that this might influence waverers or the indifferent.
Dashing by horsed transport from one over-heated room, through cold air in
winter time, to another crowded meeting, nearly always resulted in illness
and loss of voice for candidates and reporters alike, since they were
pleased for us to accompany them in their vehicles. Indeed my first ride
in a motor-car was on such an occasion, Lord Kerry (son of the famous
statesman Lord Lansdowne), the sitting M.P., taking me home in wintry
weather before returning to Chatsworth, stately seat of the Duke of
Devonshire, which was his campaign residence, his political headquarters
being at Bakewell.
The Earl of Kerry's sister was the wife of the Duke of Devonshire. As the
Dowager Duchess she lived to a great age, devoting herself to restoring the
famous tapestry of Hardwicke Hall, near Chesterfield. She retained her
beauty in old age, as I observed when she personally conducted my wife and
myself over Hardwicke shortly before her death.
At times the result of the polling and its details did not reach remote
places in the division until our weekly papers arrived. The radio was not
Politics were more interesting to the public in those far-off days than
they are today. Free Trade, Tariff Reform, the South Africa war aftermath,
Wages, Unemployment, Trade Unionism, Home Rule for Ireland, Votes for Women,
the Lloyd George Old Age Pension Scheme of five shillings a week, House of
Lords Veto, were the topics in the papers and places where they talked,
drank and made merry.
Skeletons in the Vestry at Middleton Church
A curious incident that occurred early this century when as a junior
reporter it was my duty to attend a vestry meeting of Middleton-by-Wirksworth
parish church. This function took place in a room entered from the
churchyard path and there was no table or facilities for taking notes.
Accordingly I sat on a green baize cloth, covering what I supposed might be
a stack of hymnbooks, with my notebook on my knee. It was so uncomfortable
that when the gathering was over I raised the cloth and was horrified to see
that I had been sitting on a pile of skulls and human bones.
The Vicar (Rev. J. Smaridge, long since dead) explained that these remains
had been uncovered over a long period by the sexton every time he had to
dig a grave, the churchyard being full for years, but despite his urging
for the provision of a public cemetery, local opposition was so strong that
he was reluctant to press his point to get the churchyard closed.
Parishioners feared the expense, he said, and implored me not to expose the
scandal in the paper.
Shortly afterwards however, the problem was solved by nature: an ancient
lead mine shaft beneath the churchyard collapsed one night, carrying many
graves and bodies with the subsidence to an unknown depth.
(boss Sheldon) a foreman over the stonemasons at a local works, who was
also a churchwarden and a public figure at that time, took advantage of the
subsidence to dump the skeletons down the shaft, unknown to the villagers,
filling the hole with earth waste from the quarry. Eventually, the public
cemetery was provided high up in the village beside the Via Gellia road,
and the churchyard officially closed.
About this time,
wife of the postmaster at Middleton, who had
lived in Warsaw when Poland was part of the Russian Czarist empire, told me
of the shocking persecution by Cossack cavalry of Polish citizens who were
ridden down in the streets, slashed with whips and cut down with sabres.
She vouched for the truth of this which she had personally witnessed.
Many skilful stonemasons were employed at the Middleton sawmills, the
famous Hopton Wood marble being in great demand for interior architecture,
tablets, tombs, plaques, staircases, flooring etc in stately homes,
public buildings, cathedrals and churches. All this specialised skill
was lost when the works closed down, leaving only the quarries to carry on
the limestone trade, said to be more lucrative.
Visiting Wirksworth in 1970 when I was approaching 84 years of age, my
thoughts reverted to schooldays before the present century, when
Nonconformists had to struggle to get funds to establish and maintain their
primary schools. My infants' school was in the basement of the Baptist
Church, rather gloomy and certainly overcrowded, the children sitting on a
wooden gallery with steps like stairs and, I believe, lacking a protective
rail at the back of the top deck to prevent scholars from falling over. I
do not remember any accidents.
The teacher was Miss Jones, spectacled, strict disciplinarian both feared
and respected. I have forgotten whether there were other teachers, but
perhaps there were monitors.
It was an event when the children were marched on promotion to the "top
school", the basement room in the Congregational Sunday schoolroom, the
upper floors being for older classes of the British School, headmaster
John Henry Starkey,
a big man with a flowing black beard, a prominent
Baptist, keen on geometry and geography, who late in life was made a
magistrate. He served on the Belper Board of Guardians.
Probably the room under the Baptist Church was condemned as a schoolroom,
so a new school for infants was planned in Chapel Lane, for which funds
were raised by subscription and, a novel idea then, foundation stone
donations from scholars. Public characters contributed larger sums for
The scholars' stones merely had initials carved on courses of ashlar
blocks in the wall nearest the road, and I remember the excitement as each
boy mounted the scaffold to lay his gold coin on his stone as it was laid
by a mason and ceremonially tapped by a mallet. Piggy banks had been
raided, helped perhaps by parents, to provide the golden sovereigns.
My initials have nearly been obliterated by erosion, but some are still
decipherable. Alas, many of my schoolfellows have passed on. The
building long ago ceased to be a school, but I think I have a £1
share in it still. Whether girls were stonelayers I cannot remember but
perhaps they were.
The Rev. B. Noble,
Baptist minister, gave scripture lessons, and scholars
were fascinated by a huge upstanding curl in his jet black hair, worn at
Plaque on the wall of Wirksworth Church, high up outside the west door.
Legal "quill driver" before 1787
Near this place lies the body of
Philip Shallcross once an eminent Quill
Driver to the attorneys of this town, died 17th November 1787 aged 67.
Viewing Philip in a moral light the most prominent and remarkable feature
in his character were his real and invincible attachment to dogs and cats
and his unbounded benevolence towards them as well as towards his fellow
To the Critic
Seek not to show the devious paths Phil trode nor draw his frailties from
their dread abode. In modest sculpture let this tomb stone tell that much
esteemed he lived and much regretted fell.
Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded,
and copyright © 2010,
All Rights Reserved.