Old Ilkeston Logo

A death at Hunger Hill

Hunger Hill.

Hunger Hill was afterwards Kensington and appears in several ‘guises’ such as Hungerhill or Hungar Hill — with or without a ‘Yard’.

The name might derive from an Old English/Norse word ‘Hangra’ meaning a wood on a steep slope.
Or the name is common for bleak and bare hills, from the Old English ‘hungor’ meaning sparse pasturage.

Writing a letter to the Pioneer in June 1875, ‘Reformation’ was of the opinion that this was an area of respectability save for the “dens of infamy and crime… resorts of sin and wickedness in its most revolting shapes”, which the police and other authorities were turning a blind eye to.
This was also an area of very poor housing.

Thomas Frost

Here in February 1881, during an exceptionally cold winter — the most severe in living memory according to many Ilkestonians — in one room in an old framework-knitter’s shop lived former farm labourer Thomas Frost, aged 73.
He earned his meagre living doing odd jobs like hedge-cutting, but received a weekly allowance from his children most of which he spent on drink.
And he insisted upon living on his own, spurning offers of accommodation from his sons.
Most of the glass in his window was broken and the floor was in disrepair.
Just before his death in that bitterly cold winter, neighbour Ann Topley had taken him some fire embers as he had none. She found a little bread and some tea in the room, and the bench on which he was sitting was also his bed.
Warned of the old man’s destitution the Inspector of Nuisances, Charles Haslam, visited Thomas the next day and found him, sitting erect on his wooden bench, quite stiff and dead…. ‘from syncope, accelerated by the recent cold weather and his mode of life’.
The bread and tea, now cold, were still there, along with a tub and a plate. No clothing and no bedding were found.
At the inquest into the death the Coroner urged the Inspector to get these ‘wretched hovels’ closed up.

My thanks to Alan Smith who has compiled much of what follows on the family history of the Frosts of Hunger Hill.