Edward Muirhead Evans

Edward Muirhead Evans (1849-1907) was vicar of St Marys Church, Ilkeston between 1887-1907, during which time there were modifications to his church, the vicarage was rebuilt, and St Johns Church in Nottingham Road was established.


On Sunday morning, May 1st 1887 the new vicar of St. Mary’s Church was formally inducted into the living of Ilkeston. The church was filled and the congregation was treated to a fully choral service. In the evening Edward preached his first sermon to a crowded congregation.

Within a few months of his arrival Edward was embroiled in a controversy all of his own making. The impetus for this was the death of two-year-old Arthur Bostock, son of Owen and Sarah (nee Trueman), following an attack of croup. Sarah was the daughter of John Trueman who owned the Horse and Groom at Gallows Inn and which was managed by his son-in-law. Edward visited the grieving parents, trying to persuade them to have the child buried at St. Mary’s. However Sarah wanted otherwise — she had written to the Rector of Trowell Church requesting that her son be buried at his church, just as her older son, John, had been buried there two years earlier. (Aged eight, John had drowned in the Nottingham Canal near the family’s Inn). And just as two years earlier, the Rector gave his consent.

At noon on the day of the funeral the Rector received a letter from his counterpart at St. Mary’s Church, threatening to report the Trowell incumbent to the bishop if he buried an unbaptised boy. And Arthur had not been baptised, though neither had his brother John. The Rector bowed to the threat — he couldn’t now permit a service to be held in the church before the burial, but offered the parents alternatives. The boy could be buried without a service, or have a Dissenting Minister conduct the service, or have a burial at the General Cemetery. The parents chose the first course.

The Nottingham Journal was not impressed: “this suggests the Vicar of Ilkeston might be better have refrained from any interference in the matter … the occurrance of such cases cannot fail to excite local irritation, and assuredly do not tend to the spread of true religion”.

And the episode was soon elevated to “Scandal” status !!

A few days after this episode Edward was shooting off another letter …. this one to the Town Council (September 1887), He asked that the Council illuminate the town clock in the parish church, and that the Corporation ‘assist’ in the repairs to the church bells (estimated at £196). The first request was met with some favourable consideration, but the ‘bell repair’ issue elicited incredulity; — “a remarkable piece of business: people must think the Council is a lunatic asylum to make such a request ” (Councillor Edwin Sutton)
“I presume the Council will be open to receive applications from people who want to build chapels or make alterations ?” (Councillor Charles Mitchell, sarcastically ?)


Adapted from the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald (September 17th 1887)

Of the actual foundation of any portion of this church or its adjuncts, no direct documentary evidence seems, as far as at present can be ascertained, to exist….
In the 45th year of Henry IIIrd’s reign, about 1261, the Manor of Ilkeston came by marriage into the possession of Nicolas de Cantilupe. One portion of the church now remaining must have been in existence prior to the Cantilupes becoming lords of the manor — namely the south arcade of the nave which dates back as far as Henry II (1154-1189) or Richard I (1189-1199), being of the transitional period (in the twelth century). The chancel is of the early part of the Geometrical and must have been built in the reign of Henry III and founded by Nicholas de Cantilupe, fourth son of the founder of that family and first of that family who was Lord of Ilkeston.
His tomb still remains. The arms on the shield of the effigy correspond with the Cantilupe arms in a tomb at the south end of the South Aisle of the Presbytery of Lincoln Cathederal, where was a chantry founded by Nicolas, Lord Cantilupe who died in 1372, grandson, or possibly great grandson of the founder of the Chancel of Ilkeston Church.
The nave was rebuilt about 1330 by Nicholas de Cantilupe, grandson of the founder of the Chancel, a princely benefactor of the church, founder of the Beauvale Monastery in his park at Greasley. A beautiful Chantry Chapel was added in 1360, by Joan, Relict of Nicholas de Cantilupe.
In 1854 was the last restoration — the rebuilding of the North and South Aisles, the rebuilding of the Chantry Chapel, adding clerestory and restoring Chancel Arch, recasing the Tower, and adding the Vestry — all at a cost of £4000.
The working classes of Ilkeston gave over £500, the Duke of Rutland £200, and the Vicar and his relatives over £1400.
The endowment of Ilkeston church is so ancient that its origin cannot now be traced. It consists of some 44 acres of glebe, and £100 tithe, paid by the Duke of Rutland’s land.

In January 1888 work was taking place in the Vicarage grounds when a rectangular brass plate was unearthed. It was about 1′ by 1’6”, and at its top was a coat of arms, showing a shield with floral decorations at both sides and above was the head of an animal (a leopard?). Beneath was an insription which read ……

Here are interred the remains of
Late of Arnold, in the County of Nottingham,
Who Departed this Life July 6, 1760,
Aged 94 years

Beneath this was a sonnet and then a further inscription …

Here lie also the Remains of Elizabeth, his second wife, a sincere Christian

This plate was to be found in the centre aisle of the Church in 1831 but somehow found its way into the Vicarage garden. There was conjecture that, when the work took place to restore the Church (1853-55), it was removed and perhaps, through carelessness, found a new ‘resting place’. Vicar Edward had it cleaned, intending to restore it to a safer  ‘home’.


In 1862 a new burial ground had been added to the Churchyard at St. Mary’s from land donated by the Duke of Rutland. The Ilkeston Pioneer (April 10th 1862) wrote about it …..

The new ground to be added to the Churchyard is situate at the east end of the Cricket ground, and will be ready for interments in June next. The promoters of this very necessary addition to the burying ground deserve the best thanks of the public, for their efforts will undoubtedly save the inhabitants a heavy yearly rate for twenty years to come, which must have been imposed to make and sustain a Cemetery, as at one time proposed. For several years past increased attention has been paid to the order and neatness of the Churchyard, and we have no doubt the new proportion of the ground will in a short time be rendered a beautiful repository for all that is mortal of departed friends.

The new burial ground had been consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield on Thursday May 29th of 1862. ‘An Aggrieved Churchman’, who wrote to the Pioneer in November 1875 described it as “more like a dung yard than a grave yard” – the dung being that of the 20 or 30 geese who felt at liberty to wander in the area. In the same paper ‘A Mourner’ had also spotted the geese as well as their companion ducks and a grazing horse in the burial ground.
“A dog is not even allowed in the Dissenters’  Cemetery on the Stanton-road, which is kept in a very tidy state: but in the sacred spot attached to the old Church animals of every description appear to be welcomed”.

Part of the old churchyard had already been closed, in 1856, and after the new burial ground was consecrated, the rest of the old ground was closed. However, in the summer of 1888, shortly after Edward’s arrival in Ilkeston, it was reported by Edwin Trueman that the old churchyard was once more being used. In July Dr. Hoffman of the Burials Acts Department of the Home Office descended upon the town to sort matters out. John Fish, the Parish Clerk, was on hand — he admitted that burials had recently taken place but that he was under the impression that the old churchyard had been closed for a period of 20 years only. Now that time was expired and it could be used once more. Dr. Hoffman quickly disavowed John’s claim; the Order was clear, that the closure was absolute and permanent. However John now thought that the matter was triffling and that some people — who could he possibly mean ? — had merely complained for the sake of stirring up a controversy.

Mr Hoffman left the town, promising to report back on his subsequent consultations with the Home Office. This he did in mid-September of 1888 when it was confirmed that no more burials in the old graveyard were to be permitted — except in existing vaults.