not far from Ebenezer Chapel …..
Producing mainly stoneware bottles, Ilkeston Pottery had been established in 1807 by Richard Evan’s father, George, pot-maker of Belper, though 1809 is when there is evidence of George in Ilkeston. In that year he built a house and pottery works on a piece of land on the east side of the Erewash Canal, just south of Coal Pit Lane (now Awsworth Road), living there with his wife and children.
In July 1805 George had married Mary Hives, aunt to Thomas Hives of the Rutland Hotel.
The father was aided in the business by his son, Richard, and when the former died in May 1835, Richard and his elder brother George junior continued the trade.
Later in the same year Richard married Elizabeth Floyd, daughter of Charles and Elizabeth (nee Sheldon).
As the area developed, it was referred to as ‘Pottery’ or ‘The Potteries, or ‘Canal Side’, with its own row of ‘Evans Cottages’ — sometimes referred to as ‘Evans Row’ though not to be confused with the yard of the same name at White Lion Square — and ‘Evans Shops’ (or workshops?).
And just south of the Pottery Richard laid out his ornamental gardens with glasshouses and fish ponds, the whole of which an ‘Old Resident ‘ (1917) recalls were “one of the sights of the town”.
The same writer described Richard as “an aristocratic-looking man, with a rubicund countenance, and of good appearance, who was never known to wear any other headgear than a tall, stylish white hat, with a fairly broad black band.
He was usually referred to by those who knew him well as ‘Honest Dick’. He enjoyed the distinction of being the only man in the town to drive in his carriage, (with Mrs. Evans and a lady companion) to service at St. Mary’s Church on Sunday evenings, where he attended very regularly”.
Giving evidence to the Children’s Employment Commission of 1842, Richard Evans declared that he employed two children under 13 and four young people under 18.
The children worked from 9am to 7pm, and were allowed one hour to go home for dinner, and half an hour for tea, on the premises. The young people worked from 6am to 6pm, with half an hour for breakfast and one hour for dinner.
He had seen no effect on the children’s health caused by their work, which was either turning the potter’s wheel or forming clay balls, to be later made into bottles.
He was attentive to their morals and allowed no swearing or wickedness at the works.
Most of the children attended the Sunday-schools and some an evening school.
How effective this schooling was, might be gauged by the evidence of Esther Ann Eley, aged 8, who turned a potter’s wheel and had been to school in Cotmanhay where ‘they ne’er taught her aught’.
Certainly not to write her name — at each of her three marriages, in 1848, 1851 and 1865, she made her mark on the register entry.
William Farnsworth, aged 15, did the same type of work as Esther Ann, had been to Sunday-school for about five years and had been taught to read (indifferently) but ‘they did not teach writing at the schools’.
His brother, Frederick Farnsworth, aged 8, had been to a school for four years but now attended only a Sunday-school. His education had also enabled him to read ‘the Testament’ but not to write. Perhaps Frederick’s motivation for academic achievement was questionable…he admitted enjoying his work of making clay balls better than school.
The Farnsworths lived at Evans Row, at the north end of what is now Stanton Road, before moving to ‘Pottery’.
Prior to arriving in Ilkeston, the Farnsworths travelled from Gibraltar (where William was born) to Guernsey (the birth place of Frederick) while their father John was serving in the Royal Artillery. Born about 1798 he had enlisted at the age of 17, had served for almost 25 years and left in 1840 with three Badges of Distinction for good conduct, rheumatism and bad case of asthma.
In 1843 the Evans brothers divided their business.
Richard now made stone bottles only, while George was responsible for the earthenware manufacturing side.
The latter brother seems to have moved premises in the 1850’s and the 1855 Post Office Directory shows George, in Chapel Street, as does the 1861 census. And around this time he is variously described as “shopkeeper, beer retailer, chimney, sea-kale and garden pot manufacturer, maker of sanitary pipes and border tiles”.
(Was he at the Flower Pot beerhouse?)
In 1858 Richard was present at Smalley Petty Sessions when Sarah Bramley (nee Baker), and her 12-year-old daughter Mary – one of Richard’s workers — were charged with stealing articles of earthenware from the Pottery, articles which Sarah maintained had been given to her daughter ‘as wasters’.
The ‘theft’ came to light when Mary had taken an inkstand from the Potteries to her grandaunt Ann Holmes (nee Wright) who lived next door to her. The grandaunt advised the child to return it …which she did.
Other ‘stray’ items were then found in the Bramley home and the subsequent court case was not going well for mother and child until Richard intervened.
He spoke on behalf of Mary, thinking that she had been led into her crime by her mother, against whom he thought there was not sufficient evidence. He therefore requested the charges be withdrawn rather than see Mary punished — a request which the magistrates allowed — but not before severely chastising Sarah.
She was advised to thank Richard for his kindness.
It seems however that she was not impressed and showed little gratitude.
At the same Petty Sessions, while the magistrates were hearing this and other cases, one member of the attending public was unknowingly relieved of £3, despite the presence of several police constables.
The Justice Rooms were packed at the time and suspicion later fell on some ‘smiling and well-known rogues’ who were free to spectate like anyone else.
Only a few months earlier these same rogues had been found guilty of felony in the same court and were fined.
Perhaps they were trying to reclaim their fine?
In 1862 a pregnant ‘poor woman named Jarvis’ was helping her son at the Pottery.
She needed to rest at the top of steps up which she had just carried a ball of clay when her dress caught in machinery.
Steam-powered wheels entangled her with fatal consequences.
The resulting inquest blamed no-one, recorded a verdict of accidental death but suggested proper guards to the machinery should be installed, a recommendation duly adopted by the owner.
Richard also bore the costs of the resulting funeral.
In 1864 Richard undertook some internal improvements at his home when he decided to have encaustic tiles laid in his hall and passage.
He was quoted a price for the work by builder Isaac Warner which was accepted.
The tiles were ordered and delivered, but when Isaac eventually turned up to do the job he was told that his services were no longer required. Richard was moving to Beeston and the ‘makeover’ was thus cancelled.
Understandably Isaac was peeved especially when Richard refused to pay for the redundant tiles.
Isaac sued the potter at Belper County Court for their cost. However the ‘facts’ of the case were clouded when Richard declared that he had not cancelled the job at all but had questioned the initial estimated price of the work compared with the final quote. He was also unhappy about the length of time it was taking Isaac to start the improvements and his testimony, and that of his wife and niece, seem to have been persuasive.
The Judge decided in his favour.
It appears that in late 1864 Richard did depart for Beeston but the move was not permanent.
On a Saturday morning in August 1875 heavy thunderstorms and torrential rain, ‘unprecedented since 1830’, swept along the Erewash Valley (and throughout the East Midlands and into Yorkshire).
Low lying as it was, Richard’s house was soon several feet under flood water with his gardens entirely covered.
The ground floors of houses in the nearby Potteries were uninhabitable while their occupants escaped into the bedrooms, at times accompanied by their family pigs.
Haystacks in adjacent meadows were destroyed and sheep, lambs, pigs and at least one horse were lost in the area up towards Twells Field on the east side of lower Bath Street.
At the Rutland Arms, Bath Street was converted into a river, while across the road and down Slack Lane (Rutland Street), the work at Adlington’s steam corn mills was brought to a halt — the water rushed in and extinguished the fires there.
Traffic at Ilkeston Junction station at the bottom of Station Road was interrupted as earth beneath the lines was washed away.
Spouts on St. Mary’s church tower could not release the rain water sufficiently quickly enough and it burst down the steps to the tower’s base ‘like a weir’.
Thousands of bricks in the drying sheds at Gallows Inn brickyard were lying under water all day and ‘were again converted into shapeless clay’. Flood waters rose sufficiently high as to extinguish the blast furnace fires at the Bennerley and Erewash Valley Iron Companies.
By Monday the floods had almost completely disappeared.
In August 1876, “with his usual thoughtfulness and liberality” Richard donated a beautiful hand-bell to the parish Sunday-schools. (IP)
In June 1879 ill health forced Richard to put up the Potteries for let.
There was also a lease of coal and clay on nearby land, connected by a tramway to the Erewash Canal and thus to Richard’s works.
The pottery had closed by 1880 when Richard retired.
His gardens and greenhouses adjoined the row of Pottery cottages and in late January 1881 one of these cottages, thankfully unoccupied, was set on fire through the over-heating of a flue in one of the greenhouses. Several men rushed to the spot, broke the ice over the canal to gain access to the water and the fire was quickly contained, gutting only the first cottage.
Richard died at Brook House at the Potteries in June 1887, aged 77.
His widow Elizabeth continued to live at the Potteries and died at the same house in March 1895, aged 81.
Brother George Evans …
Richard’s elder brother George had married Diana Shaw, daughter of collier John and Hannah (nee Jackson) in October 1828.
Unlike Richard and his wife who were childless, George and Diana had at least six children.
Also born to Diana in October 1827 was her illegitimate son, John Evans Shaw alias John Evans, also later a pot maker.
After the death of George in December 1870, John lived briefly with his mother and his wife, Ann (nee Musson) at 60 Awsworth Road.
He died in April 1871.
Diana died at her Awsworth Road home in September 1887, aged 78.
… and brother John
Richard and George had an older brother John, born at Belper in 1806, who married Alice Blount, daughter of West Hallam-born Joseph and Sarah (nee Musson) in October 1827.
He appears as a potter and bottle maker, then boatman, and later as a contractor, living nearly all his life at the Pottery.
He died at Canal Side in October 1884, aged 78, three years after his wife.
Most of the Evans family are buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s.
In 1899 Ilkeston Laundry was established on the site of Ilkeston Pottery before the premises were demolished in 1913. The laundry lasted until the Second World War.
And finally we take a walk to the tow path of the Erewash Canal to meet the Dawson family.