In the Ilkeston Pioneer of 1854, ‘Venerable Whitehead’ contributed one of a series of articles in which he reflected upon the military background of some of Ilkeston’s residents.
He wrote of the ‘Veteran Whitehead’, a ‘glorious old fellow‘ who climbs the old church tower twice a day ….
‘Octogenarian as he is, he wouldn’t mind again shouldering musket and marching against his country’s foe … There would be worse soldiers in the field than Serjeant Whitehead’.
(He was referring to Samuel Whitehead of Lower Bath Street, who was a corporal when discharged from the army in 1818 and who wasn’t quite an octogenarian in 1853. At that time he had been Parish Clerk for over ten years and was to remain thus for another ten years.)
In the same account Venerable Whitehead mentioned other renown captains, lieutenants and ensigns at Shipley (the Mundy family), at the Park (the Potters), and at Dalby House (the Norman family).
‘Hurray for the Ilkeston Volunteers !’ he exclaimed … ‘the Russian (Crimean) War may yet make demands on the regular troops which will render it necessary for true patriotism to manifest itself at home. Picks and maundrills may yet have to be turned into swords, and I’ll warrant that the brave miners of Ilkeston would use them’.
The Crimean War of 1853-1856 and the responsibility of policing a large Empire throughout the world had exposed the British Army to severe pressures in the 1850’s. When a worsening of Anglo-French relations in 1858 was followed by the outbreak of a Franco-Austrian War in 1859, the British Government feared a possible invasion by overwhelming French forces. Consequently in that year it sanctioned the formation of volunteer rifle corps.
Enter the 16th Derbyshire!! … the Ilkeston and Heanor Volunteer Rifle Corps.
** Reuben Harrison was the son of framework knitter William and Mary (nee Beardsley).
He attested for service with the 32nd Regiment of Foot on February 13th 1824 at Nottingham, aged 20, — Reuben made his mark — and on the following day was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Ilkeston, when his birth date was recorded as August 21st 1802.
His service lasted for nearly 22 years, half of that time abroad — eleven years in Canada and six months in the Ionian Islands.
He was discharged, as a private, at Athlone, Ireland, on November 3rd 1845, when his army records showed ‘a very good and efficient soldier, seldom in Hospital, trustworthy and sober (and) in possession of two distinguishing marks for good conduct’. His discharge was a consequence of chronic rheumatism and catarrh. By then he was 41¾ years of age — 5 feet 6½ inches tall, dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion.
Reuben returned to Ilkeston, taking up his original trade as a framework knitter, and almost a year later he married Frances ‘Fanny’ Severn, daughter of James and Elizabeth (nee Thornally) at All Saints Church, Kirk Hallam (October 13th 1846).
In July 1866 Reuben was working at the wharf of Potter’s Colliery, off Bath Street — ‘an old pensioner and a teacher in the Church Sunday school, and who is greatly respected in the town’ — when he stumbled over a piece of coal, fell with a hand on the rail, just as the trucks were passing. His hand was severely crushed, so severely that surgeon George Blake Norman had to amputate at the wrist. Suitably bandaged up, Reuben then walked to his Belper Street home, about a quarter of a mile, accompanied by the Vicar, James Horsburgh. (IP)
Did he return to work the following day ?!?
And before we move on, a final look around the Market Place.