Updated 10 Feb 2010

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Hubert Harrison's Memoirs 1888-1977

Hello John
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.
Best Regards
Barry Cooper

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

  1. Luke Oakley tombstone
  2. Vagrant's Philosophy
    The Truth, the Whole Truth
  3. Tape Loom Inventors
  4. My Youthful Days
  5. Harrison Drive
  6. A Middleton Paragon
  7. Worthy Butchers of Wirksworth
  1. When wealth accumulates and men decay
  2. Interesting characters
  3. Useful street hawkers of Wirksworth
  4. The perfect charwoman
  5. Boyish pranks in days of yore
  6. Double miracle in a quarry accident
  7. Sholto, the Cycle Hirer
  8. Wirksworth Events
  1. Wirksworth Worthies of the Last century
    Wirksworth Worthies (2)
  2. Old-Time Electioneering
  3. Skeletons in the Vestry at Middleton Church
  4. Nonconformist Schooldays
  5. Plaque on the wall of Wirksworth Church


       1838               1840
       James      1862    Mahalah
       1908         |     1918
 |        |      |      |          |
1863     1867   1870   1873       1875
William  Isaac  James  Millicent  Mahala
1863               1864
William            Sarah
John       1886    Jane
        |          |
        |         1900
        |         Florence
       Hubert             Florrie
       J          1919    E

See the Census for: 1881 | 1891 | 1891 | 1901 | 1901 | 1901
See Tradesmen for: Harrison Bros.
See the Parish Register for HARRISONs


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.

In Loving Remembrance
Luke Oakley

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 Services.

To sum up in a few words, he was a genial, kindly modest Englishman and a brave soldier.

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]


Vagrant's Philosophy
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 their season.

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 invention.


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 deprivation.

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 very fragile.

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 Bench.


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 undisclosed.

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 in Paris.

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.


Interesting characters
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 their archives.

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 aged 90.


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 like again.

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 touch hole.

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 the rock.

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 today.

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 living.

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 Manchester.

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.


Wirksworth Events
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 local papers.

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 House, 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.

SAMUEL SHEPHERD 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 son, 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 1972.

JOHN BOWMER, 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 told me.

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 kindly character.

WILLIAM BRADSHAW, 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.

JOSEPH FRITCHLEY, 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.

WALKER BROTHERS, 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.

Another 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 memorial.

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 Corporation.


Old-Time Electioneering
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, Middleton-by-Wirksworth.

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 hands.

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 yet.

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. George Sheldon (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, Mrs Gregson, 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.


Nonconformist Schooldays
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 bigger stones.

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 the front.


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 creatures.

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.

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