On April 2nd, 1937 the weekly Ilkeston Advertiser printed a letter in its ‘Correspondence’ column, under the title of ‘Memories of Old Ilkeston’, written by Adeline Wells of Eastbourne and prompted by an article which had appeared in the same newspaper two weeks earlier.
The letter began….
The letter continued to describe some of the history of Adeline’s first home in Ilkeston, particularly its use as a polling station. She then added a postscript…
The Editor replied that he would be pleased to receive such contributions.
Adeline had contacted the same newspaper a few years earlier when she wrote a few short articles on her memories of Bath Street, South Street and Weaver Row, as well as writing several letters on other issues.
And true to her word, she did subsequently submit a series of further recollections, each one under the heading of ‘Ilkeston and its inhabitants in the Fifties of last century’, the first one appearing on June 11th, 1937.
The articles were of varying length and appeared at irregular intervals in the Advertiser until January 6th, 1939 when the last one was published. At some times they appeared weekly while occasionally several months passed between one instalment and the next.
In total Adeline submitted 17 accounts.
No introduction to the series was provided by either the Advertiser or by Adeline, and no background information on the author appeared. Nor were there any concluding remarks.
The articles were allowed to appear, presumably as they had been written. Therefore, at first glance, it is difficult to judge how accurate or reliable the contents are, although hopefully this may become more apparent later. What is clear, however, is that Adeline seemed to have a remarkable recollection of people she had known and encountered in her life at Ilkeston, and of events that surrounded them.
The title for the articles – ‘Ilkeston and its inhabitants in the Fifties of last century’ — is somewhat misleading.
Adeline was born in 1854 and many of the people, places and events that she describes relate more specifically to the 1860’s and 1870’s.
The people she is familiar with tend to be tradespeople and their families, artisans, shopkeepers, tavern proprietors, factory owners and their managers, gentry — the sort of people whose names tend to appear in trade directories of the time.
Theses people inhabit the main thoroughfares of the town — South Street and Bath Street, and several of the streets off them.
Adeline’s memories of the extremities of the town are brief and sketchy. How many times would she have wandered beyond the bottom of Bath Street (its north end), onto the Common and into Cotmanhay, up Workhouse Hill (Heanor Road), or past Hunger Hill (Kensington area) and further down Nottingham Road? One suspects that these were places she wouldn’t spend much time in. Although she does mention their inhabitants occasionally, they are not major characters in her accounts.
Adeline’s recollections – her words appear in bold type — are the basis for this part of the site.
The content of her letters has been rearranged in an attempt to avoid overlap, to develop continuity and to fit a geographical sequence. Information from Adeline’s earlier articles on Bath Street, South Street and Weaver Row has been incorporated into the main narrative at appropriate places.