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Old Ilson Blog 1855


Jan 3rd

Yesterday the bankruptcy case of Henry Mantle Hitchcock, Ilkeston miller, continued, once more, at Nottingham Bankruptcy Court …. and once more it was postponed !! ….. (see last year !!)
It now appears that there is some suspicion that Henry has tried to conceal property from the court — the items in question include two patchwork chairs and a parrot, made by his wife, two dozen bottles of sherry, six silver spoons and some electro-plated forks, and a collection of dogs.
All of this was either denied or disputed; hopefully the truth will emerge on the 23rd when the case will recommence.

Jan 24th

As expected, the saga of miller Hitchcock continued yesterday at Nottingham Bankruptcy Court when his history at Rutland Mill was revealed.
Henry Hitchcock came to Ilkeston about five years ago, taking over the steam corn mill, with no capital to back him, despite the fact that the business required at least £2000 to work. His father, who lived at Leicester, acted as his agent and had supported him financially — purchasing grain as and when required by his son. Soon a debt of over £8000 was owed by the son — the father gave a gift of £1000 and accepted a bond for the rest.

The Court was satisfied with the bankrupt’s explanation of his property and the final meeting was set for February 20th


Feb 15th

A couple of days ago the opening lecture for the season, of the Mechanics’ Library and Literary Institution, was given by our Baptist minister, the Rev. Thomas Roberts Stevenson, on the poetry of the late Thomas Hood. During it, many extracts from Mr. Hood’s finest poems were quoted. I was particularly moved by the first and last verses of what I consider his finest work … the verses almost identical, save for that vital extra line in the last stanza …

With fingers weary and worn,
    With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
    Plying her needle and thread—
        Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
    And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the “Song of the Shirt.”

With fingers weary and worn,
    With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
    Plying her needle and thread—
        Stitch! stitch! stitch!
    In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch—
Would that its tone could reach the Rich!
She sang this “Song of the Shirt!”

The title of the poem lies in the final line of each verse.

Feb 16th

Like many in his family, Charles Beardsley of Cotmanhay worked as a warp-hand, but also like many in his family he was recently having great difficulty finding employment in that trade. Consequently he looked elsewhere, and this led him to what he hoped was temporary employment at West Hallam iron works.

A few days ago he was engaged in removing spoil from the heaps, close to the iron pits — what Charles didn’t realise was that the large mass had been previously undermined and without warning, it collapsed onto him. He was severely injured; conveyed home but survived only a short time thereafter.

He had yet to reach forty years of age and leaves a widow, two young sons and one step-daughter.

Feb 21st

Yesterday Henry Mantle Hitchcock once more appeared at Nottingham Bankruptcy Court … and there were harsh words by the Commissioner for his behaviour, and the conduct of his accounts. Consequently protection was provided for only one month, after which time the bankrupt could apply for its renewal.

Feb 22nd

While the Parish Church of St. Mary is being restored, the girls’ National School in the Market Place has been licensed for public service.

Feb 27th

A week ago — on Shrove Tuesday — a concert was held at the Baptist Meeting House in South Street to welcome the arrival of the new organ, installed there. Particular credit must go to George Small West who trained and led the choir during the concert.


Mar 6th

Henry Mantle Hitchcock, lately a miller at Ilkeston, is a frequent subject of this blog. And it appears that his problems continue, and extend … they now have embraced his father Henry senior, also a miller, trading at Leicester.

The latter appeared yesterday at Leicester Nisi Prius Court, being sued by Market Harborough corn merchant Jacob Biddles over an unpaid bill for 57 quarts of wheat, valued in total at just over £187, and sold in August of last year.  Apparently Henry did not deny acquiring the wheat and not paying for it; however he claimed that the purchase was for his son, Henry Mantle, that he had handed the corn over to his son, and had informed Jacob that he should get payment from that same son. Unfortunately for Jacob, the son was now bankrupt; thus full payment would not be forthcoming.
The corn merchant however argued that he had sold the produce to the father and that, therefore, he was the one who should pay.
Though I was not present at Court, I am informed that there was much discussion and conflicting evidence over who said what to whom, over who was present to hear these conversations, and who promised what, and when.
In conclusion, the judge said that the members of the jury should base their decision upon the degree of credit they attached to the respective parties. They subsequently did —reaching their decision in just over a minute — and Jacob Biddles left the court a richer man, by £187.

As a post script, I learn that Henry Mantle has now left his home city of Leicester and is managing a business at Dunchurch. Meanwhile, if I need to remind you, his bankruptcy case has once more been postponed until the 20th of this month.

Mar 15th

What a surprise !!

A valuable corn-mill, powered by a 26-horse-power Condensing Steam engine, with two good boilers, is up for sale by auction in Ilkeston … recently occupied by guess who ??

The premises include a dwelling house, granaries, stabling, coach-house, gardens, offices, &co., — there are also four acres of pasture land. It is held under a 21-year lease, dated from April 5th, 1850 — presumably the date when it was first occupied by its former tenant — under the terms of which, the lessor is bound to supply coal, free, to the wharf next to the mill, for the purposes of working the mill and its adjoining premises.

The mill is described as twenty yards from the Erewash Canal and a quarter of a mile from Ilkeston Station on the Midland Railway.

Mar 17th

Yesterday, to mark the departure of the Rev. John Charles Hall Deacon, Curate of St. Mary’s Church, from his post here and from the town, an elegant silver font, for private baptisms, was presented to him, by members of his congregation.

Mar 20th

I cannot yet confirm this story, but rumours abound that a week ago a remarkable discovery was made at our parish church.

As readers may well be aware the restoration of the church has begun, undertaken by the Leicester construction company of Lindley and Firn. Digging out the foundations for a new Chantry on the site of the old one, the workmen came to a bed of hard solid clay. This had to be removed to prepare a place for the new furnace room. Within this bed was discovered an ancient oak coffin, partially decayed but clearly placed there before the walls of the old chantry had been erected. On removing this coffin, another discovery inside it ! — a remarkably well-preserved body, with flesh still remaining on the bones !!

This was removed carefully into a hand-barrow and was immediately re-interred with appropriate decency.

The church is due for re-opening in October of this year, but work is progressing so well that it may be ready for use before that date.

Mar 23rd

Jonathan Henshaw is a young lad — I believe he is 19 years old — the son of another Jonathan.

Junior Henshaw works in a deep coal pit in the town and on January 9th of this year was involved in a very unfortunate accident there.
He was on the surface when three of his fellow workers, down in the mine, were preparing to return up the shaft. They gave the usual signal for ascending which was not heard by those at the top. The three then began their journey out of the mine, in their frame and had travelled about 70 yards upwards. Unaware that they were on their way to the surface, young Henshaw tossed a piece of wood, called a sprag, down the shaft — it struck George Starbuck, one of those in the frame, who was knocked from his position and died almost immediately.
Later my old friend, parish constable George Small interviewed the Henshaw lad — he was beside himself with remorse, admitted his offence but said that he had often seen men throw wood down the pit. Whether this is common practice, I cannot pass judgement on, having never worked in the mining trade.
Jonathan appeared at the Derby Assizes Court on the 20th of this month where he was convicted of manslaughter; mercy was recommended by the jury because of his youth and the prosecution concurred.
Sentencing was deferred until yesterday when he was warned to be more cautious and less reckless in the future; he was then sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Derby Jail.
Meanwhile George Starbuck is now six feet under.


Apr 6th

The renovation of the Parish Church continues to provide news items. This one  is generated by Observer who penned a letter to the Nottingham Journal, dated April 3rd, appearing in that paper two days later.

From the contents of this letter it appears that Observer is most concerned about the ‘enlargement of the Churchyard’ which is included in the planned alterations and improvements … he argues that while the National Government is making such strenuous efforts to improve the sanitary conditions of the country, it is astonishing that the community burial ground should be extended into the Market Place and into the midst of the local populace. Not only will this encroachment be ‘prejudicial to their health and comfort’ but will ‘cramp the social and trading interests of the increasing town of Ilkeston’.

The old church wall has been pulled down, with a replacement being built to the west of the original; Observer is left wondering who has given authority for this ‘un-christian’ aggressive act.

Apr 10th

And while the old church wall was pulled down, a new stone was yesterday laid … this was the foundation stone of the renewed church.

The event drew a large crowd, some involved in the later ceremony but the majority merely spectators, perhaps wanting to view this moment in the town’s history.

It was preceded by an evening divine service in the Girls’ National School, in the Market Place, now temporarily licensed for such ceremonies while the Parish Church is unavailable. After prayers, a procession was formed, headed by the architect and builders, responsible for the renovation, followed by Robert William Mills Nesfield, the agent for the Duke of Rutland; the churchwardens; the clergy; the building committee; and then 300 children of the Sunday and National Schools. Parishioners, visitors and friends then came behind … all in two-by-two … all making their way to the church and the previously-prepared stone. The wife of the vicar, the Rev. Searle Ebsworth, then placed coins of the present year in a plate-glass box, next to the stone, together with a bottle, containing details of the restoration of the church and events leading to it, subscriptions made, and details of the day’s events.

Then Dr. George Blake Norman presented a silver trowel to Mr. Nesfield. Apparently the latter wielded the instrument with ‘great dexterity’ — I cannot confirm this as I was not witness to the act — as he laid the stone in the north-east corner of the chantry. Speeches were made, after which the children were escorted into the Vicarage grounds where they each received their commemorative bun from Mrs. Ebsworth.

I reproduce here, some details of this new church which has been, or will be, significantly enlarged to accommodate 300 extra worshippers, without galleries. The description is taken from the Nottingham Journal , which cannot be described as a reluctant admirer !!

The windows of the aisles are all of one pattern, which is unique, and peculiarly light and elegant. The screen, partly stone and partly polished marble, is the only one of the kind known to exist — it is marvellous for its lightness. The three lofty arches of the south arcade are of the date of Stephen and the mouldings of the capitals are very bold and excellent. Of the three arches separating the chancel from the chantry, which have already been re-erected, it is not too much to say that they are the best samples of the best period of the decorated. The horizontal section of each shaft is a richly foliated cross; the capitals are adorned with foliage, converted into whimsical heads. The windows of the north chantry (now being rebuilt on the foundation of an old one, which fell down in 1714), and the two eastern windows will, when finished, will be equal to anything in the midland counties, and will be faithful transcripts of the originals.

Apr 14th

The letter by Observer just over a week ago (April 6th) has provoked a reactive letter from Veritas, printed in the same newspaper. The latter correspondent points out that the part of the Market Place in question is not public but private property — it does not belong to the inhabitants of Ilkeston but to the Church, given to it by the Duke of Rutland — for the purpose to which it is now applied. It is in the power of the Church to do with the land as it wishes.

Veritas ends with his kind assessment of Observer — ‘I am afraid he is one of those — and there are more in Ilkeston — who saythey are advocates of improvement, yet oppose it to the utmost of their power if it originates with others than themselves’.

Apr 15th

The Directors of Ilkeston Water Works Company are seeking tenders for work to extend the water supply for the town. This will involve the construction of a new reservoir, as well as the laying and jointing of main pipes, fixing hydrants, sluice valves and services.
Separate tenders must be submitted for the two projects, the closing date for which is May 1st.
Bartholomew Wilson, the Secretary of this Company, has oversight of the tender process.

Apr 16th

Has the saga of Mr. Henry Mantle Hitchcock’s bankruptcy finally drawn to a close ??

I hear that a dividend of 1s 6d in the £, payable from today, has been declared.

Apr 25th

As you will be aware, the Woolliscroft family have their ‘new shop’ (opened last year I believe) on the east side of Bath Street, just north of New Street.
And I would like to remind readers that I receive no remuneration for including publicity ‘flyers’ like the one above.


May 1st

Wheatley Straw is the ground-bailiff of Samuel Potter, the coal-master who lives at Ilkeston Park hall. Yesterday he was engaged, with fellow workers, in the removal of an old boiler from a room at the coal works, when the chain being used to haul the boiler, slipped. Wheatley found himself trapped against a wall, in a very precarious position — the only way to extricate him was to knock down part of the wall.

Wheatley, who is about 50 years old, lives in Heanor Road .. he is injured but it is to be hoped that he makes a swift recovery.

May 15th

Henry Thompson, tailor, hatter and woollen draper of South Street, is in serious financial difficulty, and has, this month, become a declared bankrupt.

May 23rd

And it appears that Henry is not the only one with financial problems; the funds needed for the on-going improvements to the Parish Church are not sufficient to meet requirements.

Some time ago the Society for Promoting the Building, &Co., of Churches and Chapels, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was approached to increase the grant it had made to Ilkeston; it has just agreed to the requested enlargement.


Jun 2nd

Tenders are being sought for the erection of a new Wesleyan Methodist chapel in the town. The plans are being held at the home of the Rev. Abraham Watmough, in Pimlico.

I know little more than this, except that the possible location for the new chapel might be in the Market Street. The need for another place of Wesleyan worship comes about because of the split in that Church, which, although national, has become especially acrimonious in Ilkeston.

Jun 7th

The next time you travel to Nottingham, you might wander into Pepper Alley, close to Temple Court. The whole of this area has been converted and improved, with new houses and work places. But what is significant is that as you walk down the alley, you will be treading on Ilkeston Bricks, no less !! … renowned as the best for paving purposes — because of the clay from which they are made, they are hard and durable, impermeable to water, and soon dry after being wetted.

Jun 14th

And yet more building in Ilkeston !

Lace manufacturer Joseph Bailey, who has premises at the bottom of Bath Street, is expanding and has plans for a large new factory, four stories high, to be built in Workhouse Hill / Heanor Road. He is now anxiously seeking a builder to convert these plans into a reality.

Jun 19th

Yesterday was a most impressive disappointment for Mr. Thomas Hives, proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens, and for many of Ilkeston’s residents.

Thomas had paid for bills to be posted throughout the town, and had hired a cart (belonging to fishmonger William Henshaw, I believe) carrying a huge board with a full length portrait of ‘The Red Man of Agar’. …. this travelled about the streets to proclaim that June 18th would be a splendid day of entertainment at the Gardens, with dancing, fireworks exhibitions, and of course the appearance of ‘The Red Man’ himself, ‘whose feats of agility surpass belief‘.

Unfortunately the weather was most inclement and dampened the spirits of those present … a few rockets were sent skywards and ‘Red Man’ made a belated appearance, but ‘the whole affair was a decided failure’, (in the opinion of the Nottingham Journal).