After Warner’s Yard then ….
Let us pause here to consider the Cricket Ground, the area around it and the activities upon it.
A new ‘Cricket Ground’.
In April 1876 the Nottinghamshire Guardian reported that the old Cricket Ground area was now assuming the appearance of a wilderness. The new National Schools had been built and the hoarding which had surrounded the old ground had been taken down. Turf was now being removed and transported to the new levelled cricket ground in Pimlico, a gift from the Duke of Rutland and at a cost of over £800.
The annual exhibition of the Ilkeston and Shipley Floral and Horticultural Society then moved to the new Pimlico cricket ground. On the two days of the August Gala of 1876 the Pioneer estimated an attendance of 10,000 visitors.
At that time ‘Tatler’, in his Pioneer gossip column, reflected upon the good fortune of Ilkeston in having the Duke of Rutland for Lord of the Manor and in benefiting so much from His Grace’s generosity.
“To our children (the new Recreation Ground) will be especially welcome as a delightful playground, and as a means of rescuing hundreds from the dirt-pie and gutter form of amusement … the town must benefit from possessing what I propose should be called the Rutland Recreation Ground”.
The Committee of that Society had charge of the ground until, in the summer of 1877, it was opened to the general public.
One of the Society’s first decisions was to limit the annual floral and horticultural exhibition to one day from two.
In April 1878 Sanger’s Circus had booked a pitch for its pavilion at the Old Cricket Ground, followed on August Bank Holiday by Keith’s Circus.
And finally – almost — back to Professor Jackson who in late August 1881 was out of luck once more when he was booked to appear at the annual Ilkeston Gala and Athletic Sports held at the new Recreation Ground in Pimlico.
He was the main attraction, due to make his ascent at six o’clock in the evening, and many people made their way to the ground solely to catch a view of the event.
Ilkeston… we have a problem!! Unfortunately the Prof had prematurely opened a valve in his balloon and allowed a large quantity of gas to escape. It was impossible now to reflate the balloon before the designated time of his ascent and the aeronaut decided to abort his mission.
This did not go down well with the assembled crowd, many of whose members became agitated and enraged, ‘and a tremendous rush was made for the prostrate monster which was seized and trampled underfoot’ amid much hooting and yelling. The intentions of the crowd were clear but — in true Western style — the policemen present formed a defensive circle around Mr. Jackson and his balloon. At one time aeronaut and balloon — now both severely deflated — were on the floor covered by the protective shield of Ilkeston’s brave constabulary while the surrounding mob attempted to smother the former in the ‘capacious folds’ of his flaccid partner.
Only with great difficulty did the police manage to restrain the onlookers from tearing the balloon to pieces as well as its illustrious owner.
Amidst a “surging crowd of angry and excited roughs” the Professor and balloon were dragged towards the ticket office by the attendant police, who were forced to stop frequently to repel the mob’s ringleaders. Eventually the sanctuary of the office was reached and a carriage called to transport the aeronaut to a more secure location.
Needless to state — but I’ll state it anyway — Professor Jackson was not impressed by his treatment at the hands of the irate Ilkeston mob, made up mainly of colliers. Never in his aeronautical experience had he encountered such treatment or hostility, and only the timely intervention of the law had rescued his balloon to fly once more.
However the Professor did have ‘form; this was not the first time that he had disappointed an Ilkeston crowd and this might have accounted for the ‘outbreak of popular vindictiveness’ on this occasion.
More sedate events at this Gala included handicap flat and hurdle races, a sack race, a running high jump and long jump, throwing the cricket ball, a one-mile bicycle race, and donkey and pony races.
Reminiscing in 1901, Alderman Sudbury remarked that the old Cricket Ground used to be where his own factory now stood. The building of this factory, belonging to Messrs. Charles and Francis Sudbury, glove and hosiery manufacturers, was begun about September 1880 and undertaken by William Warner.
In August 1881, while the factory was under construction, William was warned that a gang of lads was attempting to pull down the scaffolding erected around the building works.
He left his nearby home – and his dinner – to rush to the Cricket Ground where he discovered that the lads had grabbed a pully rope in an effort to dislodge the scaffolding. A pole had been broken and the scaffold loosened.
This was not the first time that such juveniles had given him trouble there and delayed his work.
Talking to them had proved futile — they needed to be taught a stern lesson, preferably by the law — and so he took them to court.
But the lads had hired ‘a brief’ who skilfully tried to show that the builder was at fault!!
William had been negligent in not erecting a fence around the partially complete building as the law required. The boys had just come out of school and merely pulled on the rope as a prank, with no malicious intent.
The magistrates pondered – and pondered – but could not agree on whether the actions of the lads were ‘malicious’ as defined by the law. So they could not convict.
One of the gang of lads was future Mayor of Ilkeston 12-year-old Horace Moss, son of South Street pawnbroker John and Mary (nee Scattergood).
Amusements were very few. There would be a party or two at friends’ houses at Christmas time, and perhaps a concert in the Cricket Ground chapel…. but it rested on the mother to keep her children interested and entertained during the long dark winter evenings.
Born in 1864, writing in 1933 about life in the 1870’s, Richard Benjamin Hithersay agreed with this short assessment.
The monotony in the town would be broken by the annual Flower Show, the ‘Wakes’ and the ‘Statutes’, outings associated with religious bodies and an occasional concert in the Town Hall, though the ‘busy and often rowdy’ Market at the end of the week offered a welcome change to many.
‘Those who wanted music-halls, theatres, or ‘life’, as it is generally understood, had to go to Nottingham or Derby to gratify their aspirations. Cheap railway return tickets on the market days of these respective places enabled them to do so at small cost for transport, and the exodus from Ilkeston on these occasions was always very big’.
Amusement centres of occasional attraction included the Old Harrow Inn yard, Woodroffe’s Croft, the ‘Junction’ and the Cricket Ground.