The old Market Hall

In the lower Market Place stood a block of buildings formed from the Butter Market and the National Schools, and also containing the local Lock-up called the ‘Round House’ — which was square !! — where accused persons would spend the night before being transported to the Petty Sessions at Smalley, or to Derby. (Number 8 on the map)
This block stood under the north Church wall, approximately on the site now occupied by the present-day toilet building and was directly opposite Thomas Merry’s business premises. It was open along its front, protected only by iron railings. In front of the Butter Market, for a time, stood the stocks, which were removed in the mid-1840’s.


This Market Hall achieved prominence in May 1842 when the issue of building a Town Hall for Ilkeston arose amidst the agitation of the Ant-Corn Law movement when the Dissenters of the town couldn’t find a place to meet and discuss their grievances. The Duke of Rutland had refused the use of his land and property for ‘political purposes’ and so a public open-air meeting was called in the lower Market Place at the end of May.
Matthew Hobson was present and Henry Carrier senior chaired the meeting, The latter explained the need for the new Town hall and School Room “for the use of all, not for political, not for party purposes only, but for ourselves and our prosperity after us, for every useful purpose”. He then gave way to Bath Street grocer John Ross, another Wesleyan, who read out a resolution that “the people of England had a right to meet and discuss subjects that engaged the attention of the Legislature and affected the people’s welfare, and of course had a right to have a building to assemble in”.
John was followed by Joseph Bailey, lacemaker of Workhouse Hill, who pointed out that the present “Town Hall” had been financed partly by public subscription (two-thirds, he claimed) and this was not backed nor influenced by any political or religious bodies. “It was erected by the voluntary contributions of parties of all denominations … and was clearly built for public purposes, and as a Sunday School for children of all denominations”. But over time, the Sunday teachers had come to be paid, which many Dissenters disapproved of; they consequently opened their own schools at their own expense for their own children. The Duke of Rutland paid three guineas per annum as payment for the school’s tutor and then felt justified in asking the official parties of the parish (the Vestry ?) to relinquish their ‘ownership’ of the Hall. They had done so, yet had no right to do so, as they only held it in trust. And now the people of Ilkeston were being refused the use of that same Town Hall when they wished to protest against the iniquitous Corn Laws. The building was being unjustly claimed by the Duke and by the Church of England as their property.
Joseph continued that if the Duke repaid to them the two-thirds they had subscribed towards the original Town Hall, then they could build a new one with that money. Alternatively they would pay the Duke the one-third he had contributed and in this way they would own the whole building to do as they liked with it.
The Rev. Daniel Davis of the Independent Chapel then spoke to propose that the town should also provide a school where all its children irrespective of their religion, perhaps in the same ‘Town Hall’ building.
All the speakers were received with loud applause and of course no meeting could conclude without a provisional committee being formed.

What should be noticed is that this discontent was inspired by the Liberal community within the town, and by the end of that year (1842) the Tory local press were rejoicing in the knowledge that the issue seemed to have been lost and forgotten. The reason ascribed to the ‘failure’ was a lack of money …. or more precisely, the Liberals’ reluctance to subscribe to the costs of the venture. However, this negative view was countered by Dr. George Lucas, secretary of the recently established ‘provisional committee’ who, in the same press, argued that the project was still very much alive and subscriptions were certainly being taken. Perhaps it was the premature death of Dr. Lucas, on September 12th, 1847, which halted the project’s progress for some significant time.

Writing in the Ilkeston Advertiser in 1917, Gisborne Brown – born in 1842, the very year of this meeting — recalled that the Roundhouse was “an oblong building, consisting of two rooms, the first one unfurnished, 8 or 9 feet long and 7 feet wide; the second ditto, with the exception of there being a piece of wood, about 4 or 5 inches thick, securely fastened to the wall on the west side, which answered as a parlour and bedroom as well. Sometimes, during school hours, George Small (the only constable in the town at that time) had brought in a drunken man and he would be asleep when we lads came out of school…..we used to knock and shout and kick the door, knowing that he could not get at us, the door being a very heavy one, and studded with octagonal-headed studs; so we plagued him until we were tired and went home”.

Butter Market 002

Sketch from Trueman and Marston.

‘Tilkestune’ (IA 1929) recalls it somewhat differently: “In the centre was the old butter market-house, and at each side was a square room with a strong, iron-banded door at the end. No windows were to be seen in these rooms. They were black holes, indeed, and into them used to be thrust the thief, the intoxicated, and the common brawler, the women in the ‘black hole’ at one end, and the men in that at the other”.

Above its door was a half-circle of sheet iron, perforated with holes. On one occasion a thirsty ‘resident’ of the Roundhouse was ‘supplied by his friends with a quart of beer, which was drawn through a long straw, pushed through one of the holes in the plate’. (Old Resident)

Sheddie Kyme described the whole building as “dilapidated and evil-smelling….its damp walls crumbling with decay, and savouring more of a vault than a place for the market accommodation of those picturesque and cleanly dames who came from the country around to dispose of their butter and eggs”.

It looked no better to Venerable Whitehead, writing over 50 years earlier: “This public edifice, obtruding as it does, its ugly physiognomy on the face of beautiful St. Mary’s, looking like a great wen on the face of beauty?”

And the Ilkeston News of 1855 agreed, describing “an ugly excrescence, jutting out from one side of the restored church and completely marring its symmetry, occupying useful space (already reduced to the smallest possible compass by the recent enlargement of the grave yard) in the Market-place, and the reverse of an ornament to the latter”. (IN July 1855).

In April 1862 the roof and upper storey of the building were removed, the north wall of the churchyard was lowered and the area between that wall and the church was levelled. The reason seems to have been to present a better view of the Church from its north side.
These alterations were not to the satisfaction of everyone however and in May 1868 the Local Board was called upon to respond to a letter, dated May 5th 1868, from the Rev. James Horsburgh conveying the wish of the Duke of Rutland to have the Old Market Hall demolished at once.
And when in doubt, form a committee!! —  which is what the Board did.
‘Market Hall.  Messrs Moss, Ash, Ball, Clay, Carrier, Sudbury, Richards and Wade were appointed a committee to arrange for take down the Old Butter Market Hall, and for erecting another on the same, or some other site; also to ascertain whether the Boys’ School could be removed for the erection of a Market Hall there; and if so the conditions.
However it appears that the Butter Market survived the efforts of the Duke to demolish it and seven years later the local press was still complaining about it.

In October 1875 the ‘Local Gossip’ column of the Pioneer went back on the attack …
“It may interest many fair readers of the Pioneer to know that I have made an important discovery, and one that will tend to restore happiness to many households, whose peace has been disturbed by an over-weening confidence in — butter and eggs. I have found out that the source of complaint so frequently heard of late as to the quality of the dairy produce exhibited for sale in the Ilkeston Butter Market is distinctly traceable to the building in which these comestibles are retailed. What with the damp, dull, dingy, dark, dilapidated vault, the rusty railings, and the putrid atmosphere of the place which has for far too long done duty as a market-house, and its close proximity to the resting place of the departed worth, not to mention the reminiscences of days when it was used as a public gaol, and in neighbourly contact with its equally antiquated friend, yclept the stocks, no wonder that honest butter and eggs can’t stand that sort of treatment, and fall unwell – that is, go bad, — when exposed  to view in a place linked with such vile associations. The sooner our parochial magnates look to this, the better will it be for themselves and all around, if domestic peace and happiness is to be restored and maintained in the parish”.

The Pioneer seemed determined to get rid of the Butter Market once and for all.
It returned to the attack two months later, describing it as “a building in which many pig jobbers would object to house their swine”. It longed for someone to approach the Duke of Rutland, seeking a “more extensive and cleanly premises” to conduct market business.
And then, two weeks later, at the end of December 1875, ‘A Reader and Butter Buyer’ wrote his complaint to the editor of the Pioneer…
Sir, We Ilkeston people take an awful long time to do a good work. Years ago the Duke of Rutland gave instructions for the old Butter Market to be pulled down, but it stands yet in all its filth and ugliness. The place is a disgrace to the town!”
This correspondent had some ‘inside information’ and had learnt that a new Market Hall was to be made available in the upper Market Place (see the new National Schools on the Cricket Ground.) Couldn’t it also be used as a butter and eggs market too?
But the ambitions of the ‘Reader and Butter Buyer’ didn’t stop there and he began to get carried away by his grand plans.
“A reading and lecture-room over the new hall would be a great acquisition to the town. We have a great Town Hall, which gives no accommodation whatever for the reading public (no public library of course!) or the meeting of working men’s institutes, and the like. The Schools are too redolent of foul air to be agreeable. A good room over the new Market Hall is just the thing needed, and most earnestly do the Ilkeston people hope that the Duke of Rutland will do them this ‘good turn’. It will ‘pay’ infinitely better than a cricket ground, to say nothing of the moral benefits it would be the means of securing to the inhabitants of Ilkeston”.

The ‘inside information’ of the ‘Reader and Butter Buyer’ proved accurate.

In April, 1876 the following appeared in the Ilkeston Pioneer …
Notice is hereby given that the building lately used as a Girls’ School, situated in the Market Place, Ilkeston, will on Thursday April 13th 1876 be opened as a Market Hall in the place of the old building just taken down. By Order (of) John Fish, Market Superintendent and Collector

This would strongly suggest that the old Butter Market had at last disappeared — some time in the first three months of 1876 — and Ilkeston now had a new Market Hall, incorporating a butter market, in the upper Market Place. It was part of the old National Girls’ School there ( — a new school had been built on the old Cricket Ground). The Local Board had offered £70 pa. to lease the Hall for 21 years from the Duke of Rutland.

On the site of the Butter Market it was much later agreed to build a ‘public Convenience; the Town Council put its stamp of approval on this agreement in August 1896.


Now let’s examine the Church school at the Butter Market)