Letter 14

Continued from Letter 13

July 15th, 1938.

Ilkeston being a small town, two doctors were sufficient to look after the health and well-being of the inhabitants. Dr. Murray at that time was our family doctor. He lived in the house in the Market Place, that was afterwards occupied by the late Dr. Wood. Dr. Murray brought my sister and myself into the world, and I have in my possession the receipt for professional services that he gave to my parents at my birth.

Dr. Murray was unfortunately drowned when returning from Ireland, where he had been on holiday. This was in 1858 or 9.

Dr. Gill succeeded Dr. Murray, but not being strong, soon retired, and took rooms at Mrs. Thomas Severn’s, in the Gardens below High Street. He was a genial little man, but was handicapped by poor health. He died later of consumption.

Dr. George Blake Norman lived at Dalby House. He was born in the old house in the field below the Park, leading on to the present Station Road. He married Miss Potter, sister to the late Samuel and Philip Potter, the noted cricketers. The doctor made several alterations to the house, as well as enlarging it. The surgery, which was in the yard approached from Anchor Row, was a dark, cheerless room. When I have gone sometimes on Thursday morning for medicine I have seen women sitting on forms round the surgery, waiting for Dr. Norman, who was the Public Vaccinator, to vaccinate their babies.

Dr. and Mrs. Norman had several children. Allan, the eldest, was a doctor. He married Miss Mason, ward of the Rev. James Horsburgh, who was at that time Vicar of St. Mary’s. They went to live at Monmouth, and I believe Mrs. Allan Norman died when her first baby was born. Blake, the second son, was also a doctor, and was assistant to his father. He married his cousin Florrie Potter, of the Park, youngest daughter of Sam Potter, the cricketer. Reginald and Everard, the two youngest sons, went one evening to bathe in the Open Hole at Stanton; Everard was seized with cramp and was drowned. Mr W. Campbell, the toll bar keeper, made an acrostic on Everard which was printed in the local paper. Edith was the youngest child. There had been other children, one girl, I think her name was Constance, died in an epidemic when about sixteen years old. Dr. Norman always rode on horseback when visiting his patients.

Dr. Norman was the first chairman of the Local Board, and at one of the meetings, held at the Cricket Ground Chapel, a quarrel arose, and a free fight took place outside the chapel. It was a sad sight to see men holding prominent positions fighting like savages. The next morning the townspeople were shocked to learn that Dr. Norman had been seized with illness. He was incapacitated and never again followed his profession. It was always thought that the stroke was caused by the disturbance of the previous night. Dr. Norman and his family left Ilkeston sometime later, and Dr.Brigham was the next doctor at Dalby House.


We had one church, St. Mary’s on the Hill, and our Vicar was Canon Searl Ebsworth. He was well liked by his parishioners, also by many of the Nonconformists. He was a great worker and it was through his instrumentality that the church of St. Mary is what it is today. There was a succession of curates, Revs. Moxon, J. H. Green, Jowett, etc.

The Independent Chapel in Pimlico had resident ministers, Revs. Heron, Allsebrooke and later on Rev. Bonser. The other denominations depended on local talent. The first resident minister for South Street was Rev. George Haywood. He, with his wife, daughter Sarah, and wife’s sister Miss Bennett, lived in the first cottage in Pleasant Place, off South Street. Rent, two and sixpence per week.. Miss Bennett worked a stocking frame at Carrier’s. I have gone with Sarah Haywood to see her auntie, who worked at a frame in the north-east of the shop under the archway leading to the engine house. Later Rev. Haywood and family removed to the Bacup Circuit.

The Rev. John Baron was the next minister. Meanwhile, a house had been built at the rear of South Street Chapel. The Rev. Baron and family lived in it. He had two sons, George and John; both became clever telegraphists. The rev. gentleman unfortunately contracted an illness to which he succumbed. He was buried at Long Eaton, and a special train was chartered for members and friends to attend the funeral.


In the fifties Ilkeston was a working-class town. There were no residential gentry. Certainly a few had more to live upon than others, but all had to work in some way or other. When trade was bad the poorest had a very lean time, and had to have assistance from the parish. At that time the parish pay – now called the dole – and the loaves of bread were distributed at the old Cricket Ground Chapel on Thursday mornings. Rents were low, and so were the wages, but people in those days were more easily satisfied with what they earned, also with what their money could purchase for them. There were no amusements, fashions were simple, foodstuffs restricted in number, and home life was looked upon as the chief thing.


Going down Bath Street on the East side, the first private houses were in Jack Lee’s yard, now called Albion Place. Mr. Hemingway, a decorator, his wife and little daughter lived in the first house, and Isaac Aldred, a machinist at Carrier’s, in the second. He was married and had two or three children. One evening Isaac was at the Wine Vaults in East Street, when a quarrel took place. Isaac was kicked in a vital part, and the result was a long and painful illness which ended in death. I remember going with a message from my father to Mrs. Aldred – who, by the way, was very deaf – and when the door was opened, the first thing I saw was the coffin standing in the living room. These houses had only one room upstairs and down, so the coffin was obliged to be in the room with the wife and children until taken away for burial. Jim and Jack Noon, father and son, who were cobblers, lived in the third house. At one time Jack Lee’s yard was divided from Albion Place by a hedge. Who Jack Lee was I do not know, but this yard was always called by his name. Below Jack Lee’s yard and up some steps were the old Alms Houses. Mrs. Widdowson, or ‘Weeping Mary’ as she was familiarly called, lived in one; a tall old lady – I forget her name – lived in another. To eke out her tiny income, she made small custards which she sold in the Market Place on Saturday nights. Her little stall was next to Charles Chadwick’s, the greengrocer. Her custards were much appreciated, and she usually disposed of her stock early in the evening. Below Isaac Gregory’s Riley’s, and Scales & Salter’s

(This last section was repeated as the first section of Part 15).

Continued in Letter 15