Scene: Ilkeston illuminates and improves.
“apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order …” (from ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’).
Under the aegis of the Local Board, Ilkeston was provided with a new Town Hall, a more effective sewage disposal system, improved gas and water supplies, ….
In August 1867, after a fire virtually destroyed a haystack at Pewit belonging to Alexander Mellor Barker, — a fire only put out by the efforts of local helpers — the Pioneer posed a question;
“When will our Local Board and the Fire offices see after the purchase of a fire engine, and enlist the services of the volunteer brigade so handsomely offered a short time ago?
When a church, chapel, factory, or a row of shops have fallen by fire, we may perhaps expect to see some movement by our authorities for the safety of property in the town. Why not act at once, be ready for such emergencies?”
Don’t hold your breath!
The Pioneer – and the rest of Ilkeston – had to wait almost a decade before its wish was fulfilled.
In late 1876 it was decided to provide the town with its own Fire Brigade, with an engine and appliances complete with “two lengths of suction pipe, one double connecting screw with stopcock, two goose necks and one portable canvas cistern”. The cost of the engine, made by Messrs. Shand, Mason, and Co. of London, with all the necessary appliances was £329 and it was bought and delivered in May 1877.
Drilled by Superintendent Knight of the Nottingham Brigade, members of the Ilkeston brigade were initially kitted out with tunic, trousers, helmet, belt and axe.
Mr. G. Proctor of Ilkeston was chosen to make the tunics and trousers – at 44s 6d per pair.
There were helmets and hatchets for a dozen firemen and it was intended that the brigade crew should number 15.
A stable at the rear of the Town Hall was converted into a fire engine house with sheds, housing and new stables built on Local Board land in Pimlico, by William Warner 1877-1878.
The cart sheds in Pimlico were built by bricklayer/builder Henry Walter Flint of Bath Street.
Two cottages with a boundary wall were to be built in Pimlico for the horse keepers.
The Board felt that it would be unfair to call upon ratepayers to pay for part of this expenditure so it tried to raise the finance for the fire engine and its buildings through public subscription. A great number of requests were sent to employers, landowners, insurance societies and tradesmen throughout the area but only two replies were received. Consequently a loan of nearly £1200 was secured, though not all of it was needed.
A correspondent to the Nottinghamshire Guardian noted that a significant difficulty might now arise, viz… Ilkeston’s great scarcity of water. The Local Board had been long negotiating to buy the Waterworks from its shareholders with a view to extending the provision of water in the town but so far the owners had not been satisfied by the Board’s offer.
“It remains to be seen whether the Board will increase their offer or purchase a fire-engine to extinguish fires without water”.
Members of the first Volunteer Fire Brigade of Ilkeston (August 1877).
Superintendent; George Haslam, surveyor and architect of 5 East Street.
Foreman; Benjamin Cordon, plumber and glazier of 87 Nottingham Road.
Engineer; William Gregory, butcher of 13 Burr Lane.
Sub-engineer; Gilbert Wilkinson, pork butcher of 26 Granby Street.
Crew; E(dward?) Attenborough, George Andrew, J. Beardsley, Henry Clay (junior?), William Flint, Robert Fretwell, Henry Higgitt, Frederick Shaw, A. Sudbury, H. Smith, W. Wilkinson, J. Wilkinson, Charles J. Walker, G.H. Wright, George Whitehouse.
Secretary; George Swanwick.
Surgeon; Henry George Brigham esq..
Person to be warned in case of a fire; Inspector Cowley at the Police Station.
(Notice that the number in the force had swollen from the original quoted).
In late 1878 the brigade attended a night fire and had difficulty in operating in the dark.
The same fire was also attended by the Derby Brigade and the Ilkeston lads noticed a significant difference between the two forces – all the members of the Derby Brigade had Bull’s Eye lamps!!
Consequently in November 1878 the equipment of the Ilkeston Fire Brigade was upgraded.
The new fire engine was first ‘used in anger’ in October 1877.
At about midnight farmer William Hollingworth of the Grove Farm in Stanton by Dale smelled burning and, gazing out of his window, saw a large haystack — about 40 tons of hay — burning brightly and lighting up the whole neighbourhood. While locals did what they could to help put out the fire, messengers on horseback were dispatched to both Derby and Ilkeston to raise the alarm and call on the fire brigades there. Naturally the Ilkeston brigade arrived first and had the fire under control before the Derby engine reached the scene.
The brigade “conducted itself in a manner exceeding the most sanguine expectations”.
Perhaps the Brigade’s expectations were sanguine when they formed a Cricket team to play the Ilkeston Amateur C.C. in May 1879. Whatever their hopes, they did pull off a win though only two of the team – George Swanwick and William Flint — scored double figures.
I am unsure how often the team played after this.
In October 1880 the Pioneer reported that “owing to some dissatisfaction a great many members of this newly-formed brigade have sent in their resignations so that at present it is far below its usual strength”.
Some months previously the Duke had been asked to effect this change but declined to intervene unless it could be shown by petition that the inhabitants were in favour of it.
But these new lamps were to bring new problems.
In 1867 Sarah Ann Meer, 11-year-old daughter of William and Mary (nee Harrison) of Park Road, was charged by the Board with damaging a lamp whilst using it for stone-throwing target practice. She faced a possible fine of two pounds or 14 days’ imprisonment but fortunately the case was settled out of court after a payment of six shillings. However as so many lamps had been attacked in this way, it appears that the Board was determined to seek the full penalty in any future case…so be warned! (Five years later Sarah Ann’s father and his mate, Thomas Smith, were in trouble with the same Board for causing an obstruction on the footpath in Market Place but escaped with a reprimand after apologising to the Board.)
In 1871 Arthur Davis, eight-year-old son of Isaac and Sarah (nee Trueman) of Cotmanhay Road appeared before the members of the Local Board and begged their pardon for climbing up a lamp-post and throwing stones at the Lamp-lighter. He promised to do so no more, was severely reprimanded by the Chairman of the Board, and forgiven.
Sir, — About a fortnight ago the street lamps were cleaned and the gas lighted, which gave to the streets a cheerful appearance in the evenings. Dull and dark nights have followed, and the lamps and streets have been in darkness.
It is said that the Local Board, in their wisdom, decided that the lamps should not be lighted on the evening of the moon’s eclipse*, less the brilliancy of the gas should mar the effect of the eclipse: but why the lamps were not lighted on Saturday night – a busy market night, when the heavens were clouded in darkness, and the rain came in torrents – has not yet transpired. Perhaps it was to save the jackets of two lamplighters: the convenience and comfort of thousands of market people form no matter of consideration for the Board.
So commonly have the lamps been lighted during moonlight, and non-lighted in the darkest of nights, it would seem agreeably startling now if any one of the well-paid servants of the Board had authority to and would light during exceptionally dark nights (when the moon refuses to shine, and could be made responsible for non-lighting, and the properly cleaning of lamps.
The present management of the lighting business augers badly for the Board undertaking the management of the Gas works altogether.
Yours respectfully, WATCHMAN. (August 30th 1877)
*There was a lunar eclipse on August 23rd 1877.
The Lamplighters continued to feel the full force of the Pioneer’s sarcastic wit !!
DUTIES OF LAMPLIGHTERS.
In the winter season, when nights are dark, do not light the lamps – certainly not until the moon has risen to light the path of the lighter.
In the summer season, especially at times when the moon shines full and clear, do not fail to light every lamp an hour or two before sunset.
These rules having been so implicitly observed during this year, the Board will probably consider the lighters, or those who have instructed them, entitled to a further advance of salary. (IP November 1880)
By July 1881 the town had 134 street lamps estimated to be worth £201.
As usual the Pioneer was the Board’s loudest critic.
This section began with that newspaper pouring scorn on the road-building skills of the Highway Board of the 1850’s.
An here is Tatler in the same newspaper, over 25 years later, writing about the Local Board.
“ … can anyone who is acquainted with the wretched condition of our streets and roads honestly aver that they are or have been as well attended as they ought? They are simply disgraceful, and are considerably more dangerous from the slovenly manner in which they have been mended (?) than if they had been let alone.
“I have before pointed out the folly of using furnace slag for repairing roads whereon there is heavy traffic, and the present condition of our thoroughfares fully confirms my views…. There is no toughness – no wear in it. But when it is thrown down anyhow, after the manner to be seen in our midst, and is composed chiefly of boulders and dust, no wonder that horses and pedestrians stumble over it, or have to wade ankle deep through troughs of mud…..
“Let (the Local Board) or their surveyor go and inspect some of the old coach roads that yet exist; or let them try, say fifty yards of Bath-street, with a twelve-inch layer of similar stone to what Macadam used, and they will never use furnace slag again.
“In the meantime, cannot they avail themselves of some of the superfluous labor that is standing idly at our street corners just to clear off the sludge which is lying about, and to smash up the dangerous lumps that refuse to be kicked to piece? Verb. sap. (A word to the wise is sufficient)”. (IP February 1879)
The Local Board puts its foot down !
Wanton Mischief at Ilkeston. (September 1876)
Of late, and especially on Saturday nights, it has been the custom of certain individuals to amuse themselves by taking gates off their hinges and carrying them away, and other similar foolish practices. They have also smashed the locks off the gates of the Local Board’s nightsoil depots, and at length their freaks have become so intolerable that the Local Board have issued a reward for the conviction of the offenders which, it is hoped, will have the effect desired. (NG)