Ilkeston schooling

Although this letter was anonymous several parts strongly suggest that its writer was Adeline.
It was printed in the ‘Tilkestune’ column of the Ilkeston Advertiser of October 18th 1929….. from ‘a lady in Sussex who wishes to remain anonymous’ .
It was in response to an article which had appeared in the Advertiser in September of the same year.


Having read with interest your article on ‘Ilkeston Schooling a Century Ago’, I thought that I would give you a few items that might be of use to you in some way. I am not a centenarian by any means, but I have heard my father and other people talk of things that happened in Ilkeston a many years ago.

I remember when I was quite a child say, seventy years ago, knowing a school for girls just below Mount Street. The mistresses’ name was Miss Boys. Also there was school for girls in a house in Bath Street opposite the business establishment of Mr. Woolliscroft; the two ladies conducting this school were named Straw; they lived at Straw’s Brig.

A school was started I think about 1859 or 1860 at the top of Bath Street on the left hand side going to the church in a house now converted or turned into a public house. It had a shop front in those days and a building at the side in the yard. The three ladies of this establishment were the Misses Harriett, Minnie and Lizzie Doxey. They afterwards went into one of the two new houses built by Joseph Carrier, grocer and draper. After a time here they went to Albion House against Ball’s factory.

A Mr. Long came to Ilkeston when I was a child and started an Academy for boys. He lived in Wilton Place and had for his schoolroom the old Baptist Chapel in South Street. I remember seeing the boys marching two by two from Wilton Place to the Schoolroom. Mr. Long died rather suddenly and only the British and Church Schools were left.

Later on a Mr. Horsley started a school for boys. He lived in East-street nearly opposite the late Mrs. Bennett’s Wine Vaults in one of two tall houses. For schoolroom he had a large vestry in the South-street School. He had a many pupils, and I believe death was the cause of the closing of the school.

Mrs. Long started a girls’ school in Wilton-place. After Mr. Long’s death the family removed to a smaller house in Wilton-place, and Mrs. Woolliscroft acquired the house they had moved from.

I do not think there were any other schools than those I have mentioned or I should have heard my father talk of them, as he was very great on education.

Mr. Holroyd was, I feel sure the first schoolmaster at the British School, and Mr. Spendlove was an early master, if not the first, at the Church School. He died after a short illness, and was followed by Mr. Frost. Mr. Lissett succeeded Mr. Holroyd at the British School.

I should say that Miss Boys’ school was the one mentioned by the lady in ‘Tilkestune’s’ article; of course Miss Boys might have had a predecessor. The school was discontinued, I think, about 1860 or thereabouts.

There was a Dame’s school in a house on Stanton Road, two doors from the Old Toll Bar, kept by Mrs. Straw. Also a little school kept in a cottage in Burr Lane, opposite the road leading to Hilly Holies, or now the Park. Miss Walls, who kept it, was at one time turned out of the cottage, being a Unitarian. The powers that were at that time allowed her to live in one of the box pews then in vogue, and to have her school in another box pew. This is perfectly true.

I remember when Ilkeston was such a quiet countrified place that I could say who lived in every house in Bath Street and South Street. Alas! it is very much altered, and I think, if poor old Whitehead, the old parish clerk, who lived on the left hand side of Bath Street in a tiny cottage in its own garden, could see Ilkeston today he would shake his head and wonder where he had got to.

I trust you will excuse my writing to you, but I have the ‘Ilkeston Advertiser’ every week, and have read ‘Tilkestune’ as well as ‘Town Talk’ with great pleasure.


‘Tilkestune’ expressed his gratitude for the letter and added some of his own notes after it.

‘The lady who lived in a Pew’ is a find indeed. These box-pews were in the original High Street Chapel, and they are still to be found in some of those old Presbyterian chapels, not merely in towns and cities, but sometimes are even now to be found in rural districts; the latter are very rare. In my wanderings thirty or more years ago I found three or four.

One was at Knutsford, where I went to see the town about which Cranford was written by the wife of a former Unitarian minister; another was at Hale, near Altrincham; another was at Ainsworth, near Bolton; and a fourth at Chowbent. Regarding these as relics of the Revolution of 1688, I felt they represented the spirit which produced it. That spirit was, of course, a dissenting spirit. These chapels had box-pews and high pulpits. I consider it remarkable that after a lapse of thirty years I visited a small parish church the other week in an agricultural village, and there to my surprise and pleasure were the old box-pews and the high pulpits of the seventeenth century. One pulpit was for the clergyman and the other for the parish clerk. This church had also not been stripped by the modern restoration imp, and left like a barn with bare stones to chill the heart and the artist in one, but looked adorably white, spiritually clean and wholesome. Here was an antique indeed; white pillars and walls, lovely early English windows with a dense almost opaque glass, contrasting strongly with the dark, almost black, oak pews and pulpits through which the aisles ran like little lanes. My heart leapt at the sight. I was looking at the old box-pews again, the witness to the family worship of seventeenth century Puritans, whether Episcopalian or Presbyterian.

There are two churches in Derbyshire I have visited containing box-pews, Alstonefield in or by Dovedale, and Mayfield, some miles lower down. Alstonefield was the church in which Cotton, the Derbyshire poet of the seventeenth century, worshipped. In Mayfield parish Tom Moore lived in a cottage for some time. The churches are well worth a visit’.



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