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Some recollections of bygone Ilkeston

This letter from Adeline Wells appeared in the Correspondence column (page 3) of the Ilkeston Advertiser, Friday, March 28th 1930.
Its content centres on the Wesleyan Chapels in Ilkeston, funerals and the Stanton Road Cemetery.
(A few changes have been made in order to correct typographical errors)


To the Editor,

Sir, — When I read in your paper of the doings, and also of the improvements taking place in Ilkeston, my thoughts often travel back to the old days when Ilkeston had a population of three thousand or thereabouts.

Amongst other things there is in my mind a picture of the old cricket ground. Seventy years’ ago it was an open space, with a walk around it. The side leading from the Market Place to Market Street had low wooden palings dividing the walk from the grass. A gate and costs were at the end against the Churchyard, also again at the entrance to Market Street. It was a favourite place for children as a playground, and many a pleasant and happy hour we youngsters spent in it. Now it is a busy centre with factories, schools, houses, etc., in it. When the cricket teams were having matches we could look through of over the palings, and everybody was free to walk about and see the play.*

And the Ilkeston players, who were they? The Potter brothers (The Park). Attenborough brothers, Whitehouse brothers (West Hallam Furnaces), Fletcher brothers (The Havelock). Mr. Paxton, Fred Flint (Tailor), and Mr. Jas. Fletcher.**

The public house in Market Street was at that time a private residence, but later on was converted into a public house by John Goddard. There was a small balcony on the side of the house overlooking the ground, and spectators would sit there with their refreshment watching the play. What a pity that the old ground could not be kept for an open space, but I suppose that the powers that were saw a great possibility of increasing their rent roll, and so the old cricket ground is merely a memory.

The Old Chapel – now I believe a joiner’s workshop – was called in those days “The Cricket Ground Chapel”. I was a scholar there, and I remember going to a concert when blind Mr. England, a music teacher in the town, was the pianist. I was seated in the front pew over the entrance and thoroughly enjoyed in my childish way watching Mr. England’s fingers travelling over the piano keys, and wondering, he being blind, how he found them all.

On Whit-Sunday morning we scholars from the chapel, after morning school, would go through the gate leading from Warner’s Yard on to the path and walk in procession round the cricket ground, then back to the chapel and down Warner’s Yard into South Street, on to South Street Chapel. In the afternoon most of the schools assembled in the various chapels, then processions were formed and all marched on to the old ground, when addresses were given by different preachers and laymen. The singing was a great feature, and needless to say it was not only for the children but for everyone concerned a great day. The meeting was in connection with the Band of Hope. In those days Mr. Samuel Carrier was superintendent one Sunday and Mr. Richard Daykin the other.

The Old Chapel was also used for the Local Board’s meetings, and some lively times took place in it. One regrettable incident was when the members turned out and had a free fight in front of the chapel. Next morning we heard that the Chairman of the Board – Dr. Norman – had been taken seriously ill, caused by the excitement of the previous evening. He never regained the use of his limbs.

The relieving officer also had the use of the Old Chapel on a Thursday morning for distributing the weekly sums and loaves of bread to the poor and aged people in the parish of Ilkeston.

South Street Chapel was built by the Wesleyans, but when the split took place the U.M. took over the chapel, and the remaining Wesleyans moved to a small chapel on the right side of Market Street, below Gladstone Street. When they built the Bath Street Church, or Chapel, and moved there the Methodist New Connexion took the small chapel in Market Street. But the chapel has disappeared. Another improvement, I suppose.

Until the U.M. took the South Street Chapel the preaching services as well as the School were held in the Cricket Ground Chapel. At that time my father lived at Mansfield, and very often came to Ilkeston as preacher for the day, staying in the nights, etc., at old Mr. Carrier’s house in East Street, nearly opposite Mrs. Bennett’s Wine Vaults; some time after he removed to Ilkeston, and did yeoman work for the U.M. cause.

In those days also all funerals took place on foot, and I remember the long procession coming up South Street from the Park when Mr. Sam Potter, senr., the cricketer, was buried. All the bearers wore black silk scarves fastened at the sides under the arm, also the male mourners wore black silk hatbands fastened at the back and flowing down. All funeral processions walked in the middle of the road. I wonder what motor cars, trams, buses, and all the other quick traffic would do if a long funeral procession appeared in their midst. But a great many changes have taken place, even in funerals, since that time.

I remember going to a baby’s funeral, the four bearers wore white hoods and gloves. We started from Wilton Place, called at Bath Street Wesleyan Church for a short service, and then proceeded to Stanton Road Cemetery, where we left our precious burden. Some time ago I went into the Stanton Road Cemetery and I could not help contrasting its present appearance with how it looked years ago. There were only two seats that could be sat upon. Theses were in view of Stanton Road; the others were rotten and falling to pieces. The grass had been neglected, and the graves in most places did not appear to have been tended by loving hands. In the centre, or thereabouts, there was a great heap of rubbish, broken trees, etc. I wonder who is responsible for that neglect? Surely those who lie in that little cemetery have some friends left to give a little care to the last resting place of those gone before. I was pleased to see Mrs. Wall’s grave was in good condition, thanks to someone who takes a little interest in it, despite the fact that she has lain there for many years.

It is nice to talk of even to write sometimes of the past. Some of us are travelling on towards the goal and the future is not thought of  or about as it was when we were younger. We sit and think, and our thoughts go back with a swing to the days of our youth, yes, even to the days of our childhood, and some, if not all of them, have very precious memories for us. Indeed I think that a pleasant past to think or talk about is a glorious thing. So pleas, Mr. Editor, excuse my rambling letter.

ADELINE WELLS.

Eastbourne.

*In the Ilkeston Pioneer, November 20th 1908, Sheddie Kyme wrote an article on Famous Cricketers – one of a series of his “Reminiscences of Ilkeston”. The following extracts add detail to Adeline’s letter.

It is not pleasant to reflect that years ago, Ilkeston had a cricket team, which on more than one occasion tried conclusions with the All England eleven, and then draw a comparison of the merits of present-day players. But it is hardly to be expected that a man can become an accomplished batsman or bowler unless he has a good piece of turf on which to practice. And this, Ilkestonians have been denied ever since the old ground was utilised for building purposes. It was very generous on the part of the Duke of Rutland to give to the town, at considerable expense, the ground in Pimlico Lane, but the turf never equalled the old one, and as far as I can remember, it seemed as though a further expenditure of money was necessary to make it fit for good cricket.

It is very questionable, indeed, whether Ilkeston will ever again boast of a cricket ground to equal the old one – so conveniently situated as it was – for a nicer piece of turf could not be desired. I recollect that ground before it was fenced around, when it had the appearance of a village green, the only thing lacking to make it complete being the Maypole. There was a path down the wall side of Mr. Isaac Warner’s premises, which curved to the left by a cluster of trees, beneath the shade of which stood what was known as the parish pump, and let into that part of Market Street, by the Anchor Inn, the landlord of which was a Mr. Goddard. The path continued along side this then noted hostelry (in the garden of which flourished some famous poplars), as it does today. In the bottom corner of the ground, close by this path side, were two small hawthorn bushes, into which youngsters would hide in their play. Alongside the churchyard wall was a slightly raised bank of turf, and here spectators would lounge leisurely while intently watching the progress of a match. Another point from which spectators witnessed the games was a balcony on the ground side of the Anchor Inn, and anyone examining that building today may observe the point from which the balcony was in later years built up.

**Of the cricketers, Sheddie Kyme writes at some length, only part of which is reproduced here.

I remember several of these old players, including Paxton, who has been described as a very fast and deadly bowler in his day, and I have good reason for recollecting the day of his funeral. Ugh! How it rained! It fairly ran out of the top of your boots, and with it came the lightning and thunder. It was this which impressed this day so forcibly upon my mind. Coming to a later period, I recollect such players as  James Walker, A. Brand, G. Swanwick, W. Flint, J. Mather, J. Tilson (Bellows), and Allen Dodd. I could not write much concerning the merits of these players, but Allen Dodd always impressed me as having a very graceful style of using the willow. When the new ground in Pimlico Lane was opened, the Rutland Club made some little attempt at revival, but their efforts were not so successful as could have been desired, owing to the reasons I have previously stated…

The life of the Rutland Club at this period, seemed to centre in the Tilsons, and it was not until James, the youngest member, I believe, of that well-known family, was suddenly cut down – so sudden, in fact, that many could scarcely realise that his familiar figure would never again be seen on the field of play – that the downward tendency of the Club became more and more apparent. But the root of the mischief, I always believe, lay in the fact that the new ground was not fit for cricket, and this was more especially noticeable after a period of drought.

The Tilson family was well known for their abilities on the cricket field. John, Joseph, William and James, all being capable players, and if my memory does not fail me, I believe William once scored 30 for the colts against the county eleven. When in good health James was full of life and frolic, and the other members of the family felt his loss very keenly. Amid many manifestations of regret, his remains were interred in the Stanton Road cemetery, and anyone visiting his grave there may see a monument emblematic of the sport he loved so well – bat, ball, wicket and mittens.