Ilkeston’s workhouse had links with the Holy Trinity Mission.
An article in the Pioneer of 1889 charting the history of the Holy Trinity Parish stated that in 1860 the Rev. George Searl Ebsworth had founded a Sunday School in an upper clubroom of the Jolly Boatman Inn, which stood behind the later Victoria Hotel on Awsworth Road.
Shortly after, the vicar moved to the former workhouse rooms built in 1790 on Heanor Road (then called Workhouse Hill) to use them as a meeting house, a ‘Mission on the Common’.
It met with success and Sunday evening services were well attended.
“It was in this old humble-looking building, with its windows of diamond-shaped panes and its whitewashed walls, with here and there a Scriptural text by way of adornment, that the foundation was laid for the far more noble-looking House of God which has reared its head in the immediate vicinity”.
The last vestiges of the workhouse were swept away during the construction of the Great Northern Railway in 1875-1878 and around 1875 the Mission moved into the newly-built Holy Trinity Church School in Factory Lane.
Still under the ministerial supervision of the curates of St. Mary’s Church, this school was used for services until the Mission moved to the new Temperance Hall in Lower Granby Street in April 1878. This Hall had been erected by lacemaker William Hewitt at a cost of about £1500 and presented to the Temperance Society, the Secretary of which was joiner Joseph Scattergood of Market Street.
It had opened in August 1877, after an afternoon parade from the Market Place to the hall by about 100 members of the temperance lodges, led by the Nottingham Sax-Tuba Band.
On its ground floor were coffee and reading rooms, and a large lodge room, “with a dwelling-house attached, so that the person providing the refreshments will be able to reside upon the premises”. (IP) On the upper floor was a spacious hall for public meetings.
So, in April 1878, after a short service of dedication, the Hall became a place of worship, almost immediately celebrating a Holy Communion and three festivals, attended by a choir robed in cassocks and surplices. The heightened ‘ritualistic’ nature of these services seems to have evoked strong comments, both from those who attended them and those who didn’t ! A ‘sacristy’ was set up at one end of the Hall while a large wooden cross was fixed to the reredos, either side of which were vases of flowers and wax candles … and the congregation stood. “The building is not even consecrated or licensed for the purpose of conducting Divine service therein”. (IP Apr 25th 1878).
Again this move to another meeting place did not diminish the enthusiasm of the locals.
Attracting a large congregation, “the services carried out in the temporary Mission Room… were frequent and hearty, and the ritual, though imposing, was not extreme’. Despite this success there was still a desire among the populace of the district for a more permanent home.
A new church needed ?
On October 9th 1879 the Pioneer published the following Memorial, written by parishioners of the Holy Trinity District, setting out in detail the successful history of the Mission there and their desire for a new Church and Parsonage to be built in the area.
Copy of Working Men’s Memorial to be forwarded to the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, from those connected with the Holy Trinity Mission, Ilkeston:
MY LORD, MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP,
We, the undersigned, working men, communicants of the Temporary Church of the Holy Trinity, Ilkeston, beg most respectfully to lay before your Lordship the following particulars relative to the above Mission, and in doing so would humbly desire your Lordship to give the matter your most serious consideration.
The Mission was commenced by the Rev. G.S. Ebsworth, then Vicar of Ilkeston, in 1859. The years of its infancy are thus described by the Rev. Gentleman himself: —
“I had been for several years endeavouring to obtain a room for school and service near Barker’s Bridge*, in order to be an introduction to the Church. I proposed to build on the spot of ground where Bailey’s factory** was afterwards built: but I was unable to obtain any place till July, 1859, when I was able to hire a room at Marson’s,° which was used by a pipe maker during the week. This continued till July, 1860, when the room could no longer be spared.
At the death of one of the inmates of the old workhouse yard°°, I was granted a small room, and at the death of a second inmate another room was added.
My curates, Mr. Jowitt and Mr. Leggatt sometimes did the duty at Marson’s, but as the congregation did not increase in consequence of the inconvenient room and position, they requested me not to require them to attend, and eventually I did all the duty there, and Mr. Jowitt took the Evening Service at the Parish Church.
After the opening of the room at the workhouse yard, we had service on Friday evenings and Sunday evenings, and the congregations increased to such a degree that we sometimes preached at the doorway, so that those inside and those in the yard might hear the better.
Mr. Jowitt left in December, 1862, and in a few weeks after my other curate became too ill for duty, so that having three services on Sunday and one on Wednesday evening at the Parish Church, I was compelled to have only a Friday evening service at the Mission Room, until Trinity Sunday, 1863, when I was able to obtain assistance. But I left after the beginning of August”.
The Rev. J. Horsburgh, Mr. Ebsworth’s successor to the vicarage of Ilkeston, efficiently carried on the work of the Mission during the ten years he laboured in the parish, and thus speaks of the results of his exertions: —
“I have no hesitation in saying that the character of the whole north side of the town was altered by our Mission Services. When I left there was an excellent room, where there was a crowded attendance on Sundays, and twenty or thirty on a Wednesday evening. Besides how can I forget the Sunday School we established there; I think there were 100 children. I must say this, though I take little credit for the great work done at the Mission Room, for it was owing to the labour of my curates, and the kind help that I received from you all, that, as I look back on my ten year’s work at Ilkeston, I cannot help feeling that the work at the north end of the town showed more fruit than I elsewhere was permitted to see when I resigned”.
The Rev. J.F.N. Eyre, the present vicar, succeeded Mr. Horsburgh in his ministrations at Ilkeston, and promised your Lordship’s lamented predecessor to vigorously carry on the work in this part of the town.
Services were successfully continued at the Mission Room by his curates, and after much exertion on the part of those connected with the movement, and liberal aid from outside friends, suitable schools, capable of accommodating 300 children, were erected on land kindly given by His Grace the Duke of Rutland, who also generously promised another site, together with £500 towards the erection of a church.
Upon the completion of the schools, the largest room was brought into requisition for the Sunday and Weekday services, under the ministrations of the Rev. T.A. Taggart, curate at the Parish Church, who laboured incessantly, and continued to draw together an increasing congregation from amongst the working classes of the district.
About this time a Memorial was forwarded to the late Bishop from the congregation, praying for his Lordship to assist them in the formation of a New District and the erection of a Church and Parsonage. To this a prompt reply was received, favourable to the scheme, and instructions given for the Memorialists to prepare a map of that portion of the parish, showing the proposed New District, the spot where the church was to be erected, and the distance from the Parish Church, to lay before the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This was at once procured and forwarded to that body for their approval. The promoters of the movement now looked upon the erection of a Church as a certainty, plans were prepared, a Building Committee formed, with the Vicar of Ilkeston as Chairman, and liberal subscriptions promised.
At this point matters remained when the Rev. T. A. Taggart resigned his curacy, and the Rev. F. L. Ware, our present priest, was appointed to the Mission, upon the distinct understanding that the proposed scheme would be at once proceeded with. Even the School-room was now found to be altogether inadequate to accommodate the increasing congregation, consequently the large Room at the Temperance Hall was rented and fitted up as a temporary Church, as your Lordship will see from the accompanying photograph. The Rev. F. L. Ware immediately used every exertion to proceed at once with the proposed scheme for the erection of the Church and Parsonage, but owing to a stagnation in trade, and other matters over which we have no control, the project was for a time abandoned, in the hope that with renewed prosperity in trade the matter would be taken up with increased vigour.
In the course of a few months however, the temporary Church proved even too small for our requirements, numbers having frequently to be turned away for want of accommodation. It was now considered advisable to revive the former project, and a meeting of the congregation was held in the school-room on the 16th September, 1878, to consider what steps should be taken to forward the scheme, when it was unanimously resolved that two Memorials should be prepared (one for presentation to your Lordship, the other to His Grace the Duke of Rutland), praying that the formation of the New District and the erection of Church and Parsonage be at once proceeded with. The Memorial, accompanied by over 1000 signatures, together with the copy of the letter from the late Bishop, was duly forwarded to your Lordship, on the 17th of October. On the 22nd October, a reply was forwarded to us, from your Lordship, and asking whether a map as recommended by the late Bishop had been prepared, promising when such had been forwarded for your inspection to lay the matter before the Commissioners. We then informed your Lordship that such steps as recommended had been taken, and that the necessary map had been procured and forwarded to the Commissioners by the Rev. T. A. Taggatt (sic) during his ministry here. To this your Lordship replied on December 2nd, that the map had been found, but that the Commissioners required a certificate from a competent Mining Engineer as to the state of the land upon which the Church was proposed to be erected.
At this stage matters have remained up to the present time. Our Memorial to His Grace the Duke of Rutland, forwarded by us last October, was favourably received, His Grace adhering to his former kind promise of a site together with a liberal subscription. Owing, however, to the progress of mining operations underneath the whole of the land belonging to His Grace in this part of the parish, no site at that time could be found available for the purpose. But we believe this difficulty could now be obviated.
We now learn that the Rev. F. L. Ware is about to leave us, and that in all probability the Mission will then be closed. That such a calamity may be avoided is our most earnest prayer, and must be our apology for again troubling your Lordship in this matter. We cannot speak too highly of the labours of our present Priest, who by his good example and teaching has endeared himself to all of us. Your Lordship will be best able to form an estimate of his labours here by the following extract from a report published by him last Easter: —
“During the year from Easter, 1878, to Easter, 1879, there have been held 550 services. The Holy Eucharist has been offered 128 times, and there have been 615 Communions made. The number of Communicants at Easter last year was 49; at Christmas, 35; and this Easter, 55. There have been 54 baptisms, of which 11 were private, and 2 adult”
From this your Lordship cannot fail to see the steady increase of the Mission, and the attempts that from time to time have been made to provide for the spiritual wants of the large population within the proposed new district, at present numbering about 5000 souls, almost exclusively, of the labouring class who, if the mission is closed, will be left in a state of utter spiritual destitution.
Your Lordship is no doubt aware of the hopeless state of affairs at the Parish Church, and we feel assured will sympathise with us in our endeavour to revive Church work in this parish. This Memorial is signed by bone fide working men only, many of whom have laboured long and earnestly in the service of Christ, and have used every exertion to promote the extension of His Church in this parish.
This brief history of our Mission is no common one. We have struggled on for 20 years, ever endeavouring to strengthen the hands of the various clergy who have laboured amongst us. Our Sunday Schools are unequalled in the parish, and the amount of loving labour bestowed upon the children is amply testified by the large number who attend them. If the Mission is closed, we feel that this important branch of our work must necessarily be given up.
The population of the district is daily increasing, and we fear that to take away from them the various means of grace the Church affords would be a further blot upon the work of the Church in this parish.
We feel that in thus endeavouring to lay this matter clearly and fully before your Lordship we are not in any way overstepping our duty, feeling assured you will be pleased to give it your most earnest consideration, and may see fit to help us, that this calamity to the Church in this parish may be averted. In the meantime we can assure your Lordship that our labours will be zealously continued in the cause of the Catholic Church, earnestly trusting that our efforts will not be in vain.
Trusting your Lordship will kindly consider our Memorial, and the great blessing you will confer upon this, one of the most important parishes in your diocese, and endeavour to assist us in this important matter.
We remain, Your Lordship’s most humble and obedient servants,
* Barker’s Bridge allowed Awsworth Road to cross the Erewash Canal. John Barker was the keeper of the beerhouse there in 1859.
** Bailey’s factory was at the bottom of Heanor Road, east side.
° Marson’s was The Jolly Boatman Inn on Awsworth Road where Thomas Marson was landlord in 1859.
°° The old workhouse yard was approximately where the later Great Northern Railway Station was built, on the west side of Heanor Road.
A close reading of this Memorial – mentioning “the hopeless state of affairs at the Parish Church” – reveals an implied criticism of the then Vicar – John Francis Nash Eyre — an inability to live up to promises he had made, and, in contrast, much faith in the work of his recent curates, especially the ‘present priest’, the Rev. Ware.
At the time that this Memorial was printed, the Vicar of St. Mary’s was not receiving a very favourable press in many quarters.
A few snide remarks had been made about his ‘domestic arrangements’ and personal relationships in the Pioneer and there were criticisms about the state of affairs at the Parish Church.
‘An Aggrieved Parishioner’ expressed these concerns in the columns of the Pioneer (August 1879), writing of empty seats at church services, a fall in member numbers and a consequent decline in funds. Showing a lack of spirit, lethargic Churchmen (i.e. the Rev. Nash Eyre!!) had allowed the growth of a spiritual wilderness at St. Mary’s. Weekday services had been discontinued for several years, as had the Sunday afternoon service, and the Church remained locked from Sunday to Sunday (except for funerals). There were now just two services per week – on Sundays. And it was hinted that this torpor in ecclesiastical activity had begun and coincided with the arrival of the Rev. Nash Eyre, who had also neglected the Mission of Holy Trinity.
“Is the vicar of Ilkeston too overworked to provide a service, if only once a week, for this part of the parish?”
And what of the new Church at Holy Trinity, which had so long been discussed and promised, but not yet begun?
“Is the projected scheme abandoned because we have so many empty seats at the Parish Church which want filling?”
However, these were not universally held opinions either of the Rev. Nash Eyre — or of the Rev. Ware who to some was a man of ‘advanced views’, ritualistic vagaries’ and ‘Romanist tendencies’.
The Rev. Nash Eyre sought to defend himself and explain the apparent inactivity surrounding the new Church.
He argued that he had not neglected the Mission Church but his own time was taken with services and work at the Parish Church and extra-parochial duties, without any assistance from his two curates who were busy in Holy Trinity and Hallam Fields. The building of the projected Church at Holy Trinity had stalled through high cost, lack of subscriptions and problems over an available site.
And the Vicar received ‘reinforcements’ in the form of ‘A Bone Fide Working Man, attending St. Mary’s’ who instantly replied to the Workmen’s Memorial, describing it as “a feeble and pointless document” whose prime purpose was “to cast odium upon the Vicar of the parish”. To this writer the Vicar may have weaknesses but he was also “generous to a fault, liberal and forgiving in disposition, obliging beyond measure, and extremely tolerant to those who differ from him in opinion”.
When the Rev. W. White La Barte arrived in Ilkeston in October 1879, to substitute for the temporarily absent John Francis Nash Eyre, the Pioneer hoped to see an end to “the lamentable state of affairs from which the whole neighbourhood has so long and so grievously suffered”.
It had to wait for almost eight months for a more permanent solution to the ‘problem’, during which time the church was without a resident priest.
“Yet owing to the exertions made by the Ilkeston branch of the Church of England Working Men’s Society, services have been held during the whole of that period, conducted by some of the neighbouring clergy as well as others from a distance”.
Thus in May 1880 the Pioneer was able to announce;
“Trinity Sunday (May 23rd) 1880 will long be remembered as a red-letter day in the annals of the (Holy Trinity) Mission”.
That was the day when the congregation formally welcomed the Rev. John Harry Buchanan, for several years priest of Shearsby.
Now he was licensed to the Holy Trinity district, “bringing to his work a vigour and earnestness of purpose which won for him the hearty approval of the population of the locality” such that “it was soon after decided to complete the long conceived design of building a church”. (NG)
At the evening service “an elequant oration was delivered by Mr. Buchanan against atheism, which was listened to with rapt attention by the immense congregation which completely filled the (Temporary) Church”. (IP)
A new church begun
Thus in 1883 the foundation stone of the Holy Trinity Church was laid, on land donated by the Duke of Rutland.
Built by Frederick Shaw of the Manor House and designed by Messrs. Evans and Jolly of Nottingham, this church (consisting of a nave and south aisle) was opened at Christmas time of 1884. A north aisle was added by September 1886 and after further building, the church was consecrated in November 1887, on a day when “a thick fog hung like a pall over the town, and hid from view the Union Jack which floated from the tower of the Parish Church in honour of the important event”. (NG)
The Rev. Buchanan left Ilkeston in April 1892, appointed to the living of Shirebrook near Mansfield.
His place was taken at Holy Trinity by Rev. John Edward Hibbert Binney, coming from St. Andrew’s Church in Wolverhampton.
We are now firmly on Ilkeston Common, walking down Awsworth Road, approaching the River Erewash. Let us pause to take a broad view of the area, and one very unfortunate family living here in the 1860’s.