The definitive source for this period of Ilkeston Town Council’s history is “Ilkeston as a Borough” (1974) by Cyril Hargreaves. However there might be something in the following collection of anecdotes which may be of interest, and not covered by Cyril.
1888 marked the tricentenary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the bicentenary of the Glorious Revolution, the centenary of the Regency Crisis, and was the year in which the people of Ilkeston could inspect their first two Mayors … though not simultaneously.
Public Baths for the town ?
By June 1887 the Council had decided to sell off the Pumping Station at the bottom of Queen Street, with its “engine, boiler, pumps, engine house, dwelling house and surrounding land of 900 yards“. It suggested that the property would be ideal as a brewery or an aerated water manufactory; the pump, fixed in a shaft, was able to extract 1500 gallons and upwards of water per day. But then, in that month, Charles Mitchell raised an idea originally put forward by Samuel Beardsley for erecting public baths on the site; it was supported by Walter Tatham and George Haslam. A committee was formed and the whole area of the old Waterworks was carefully examined as a possible site. More land around the waterworks would be needed and this was owned by the Duke of Rutland and the Trustees of the Cossall Hospital. The Duke gave his permission to use his piece of land but the ‘red-tapeism’ of the Cossall trustees was holding up the process. So, a publice meeting was held in the Market Place (I presume at the Market Hall) at which Councillor Joseph Scattergood presided. He pointed out both the physical and social benefits of such a scheme, while the danger and nuisance of canal-bathing, especially by juveniles, could be avoided. He explained the progress (or lack of it) made by the Council but was very confident that every obstacle could be overcome. Others then spoke about possible sites (in Bath Street or behind the Church Institute) and who really thought of the idea in the first place !! (loudly claimed by Walter Tatham). Finally a resolution was passed:– “that this meeting is of the opinion that public baths should be erected in Ilkeston in as convenient a position as possible”.
However, as the Mayor at the time pointed out “these sort of things take time” … and how accurate he was; the town had to wait until August 31st 1921 before the swimming baths (just up the road from Albert Srreet) in Wharncliffe Road were opened — on the site of the Town Hall reservoir.
The Town Hall about 1980, viewed from Wharncliffe Road showing the new extension buildings at the rear. (C. I. Parry of EBC)
The site of the reservoir, mentioned above, which later was the site of the new simming baths, was at the end of the extension, behind the trees on the left.
Who owns the Market Place ?
As early as July 1887, the newly-formed Town Council had discussed the Market Place issue, Some councillors were keen on reviving the Thursday market held there, and the idea of purchasing the area from the Duke of Rutland therefore surfaced. However his price was far too high for the Councillors and so their negotiations turned towards renting the Market Place.
At the end of February 1888, the Duke of Rutland offered the use of the Market Place for an anual rental fee of £100; the Market Hall, which stood there (it used to be the Girls’ Church School) was now the home of John Fish, the Market Superintendent, and he should be allowed to continue to live there, rent-free, for the remainder of his life, and be granted a compensation of £150.
And just in time !! … the Duke died a few days later, on March 4th.
And so, on March 26th, 1888 the Council became the tenants of the Market Place and its rights. (It wasn’t until 1920 that it managed to purchase outright the area).
Thus, when the October Statutes of 1888 arrived in Ilkeston, it was the first time that the Market Place was in the hands of the Corporation. Market Street was shut off for three days and shows were allowed to set up there….. “and there were plenty of shows — some of questionable character, roundabouts, etc., and judging by the throng and din on Thursday night they must have reaped a good harvest”. (Long Eaton Advertiser Oct 27th)
The Derbyshire Courier (Dec 8th 1888) reported that — A movement is on foot at Ilkeston to present the Town Council with a portrait in oils, from the brush of Mr. Redgate, of Nottingham, of the first Mayor of Derbyshire’s newest borough, Mr. Alderman Francis Sudbury, J.P., to wit. This gentleman was one of those who worked the hardest in getting the town incorporated, and the compliment it is proposed to pay him is as graceful as it is well-deserved.
A committee was formed — (as always ?!!) — to collect subscriptions to pay for the portrait which was destined to hang on a wall of the Town Hall.
The result you can see left.
In March 1889, at a complimentary dinner attended by all of the town’s ‘great and good’, the finished portrait, by Nottingham artist Sylvanus Redgate, was presented to the municipality.
It was accepted by the second Mayor of Ilkeston, William Wade, on behalf of the people of the town.
On Friday, November 2nd 1888, in a private meeting of the Town Council, William Wade was nominated to succeed Francis Sudbury as Mayor of Ilkeston — and a further portrait had to be commissioned.
Alderman William Wade, second Mayor of Ilkeston (1888-89), by Sylvanus Redgate (held by Erewash Borough Council)
In October 1888 the Council put forward plans to improve some existing streets; several of the pavements were made of bricks which, over time, had become very uneven. Parts of Cotmanhay Road and Granby Street, Bath Street, South Street, Market Street and Nottingham Road were all listed for a ‘make-over’ with Victoria stone, new gutters and gullies.
Secondly the Council wished to better connect Hallam Fields to the centre of town, via Nottingham Road; this would involve building a new road from that outlying district to the bottom of Nottingham Road, at Gallows Inn. It would be curbed and channelled, fenced in by iron railings on both sides, and would be lit when the gas mains had been laid. The scheme had been supported by the owners of Stanton Ironworks and by the residents of Hallam Fields and Nottingham Road.
The Council wished for permission to borrow £4000 to finance the work and so had to apply to the Local Government Board.
This was the birth of Corporation Road.
Not more elections ?!
On November 1st 1888 polling took place for the Council seats of the six ‘retiring’ councillors — two in each of the three wards — and by 9am of the following day the results were known.
In the Central Ward, Samuel Robinson (Liberal) and Edwin Sutton (Independent) both retained their seats, the latter only just !!
In the North Ward, Samuel Bloor (Independent) kept his seat, although Frederick Beardsley lost his to Henry (?) Tomlinson (both Independent).
In the South Ward, Edwin Trueman (Independent) and John Moss (Liberal) were both elected as ‘new’ members of the Council; the one retiring member trying to retain his seat was Joseph Scattergood (Liberal) who was defeated by a clear margin.
Some of those standing for election chose to display clearly their political affiliation, while the Independents standing were those who decided to keep ‘party politics’ out of the contest. For example Edwin Trueman was a recognised and staunch Conservative but campaigned on the platform that he would serve as ‘a citizen of the borough’ and not of a political party. He headed the poll in his district — and after his victory was declared at the Town Hall, he was carried on the shoulders of his cheering supporters into the neighbouring Sir John Warren for a celebratory pint … or three.
The Local Government Act 1888
This Act of Parliament established county councils and county borough councils in England and Wales. It came into effect on 1 April 1889 though the first of the triennial elections for the new County Councillors took place in January 1889.
In Derbyshire, of the 60 elected members, 32 were ‘old and tried‘ magistrates, gentlemen of ‘capacity, energy and independent character’.
In Ilkeston, North Division, John Bamford Slack, a Gladstonian Liberal and solicitor of Netherlea in Pimlico Lane, defeated Councillor Edwin Sutton, auctioneer, standing as an Independent. In the South Division, Alderman William Tatham easily defeated Councillor Charles Mitchell, grocer of Hallam Fields.
Votes for Women !
At the monthly meeting of the Town Council in April 1889, it was decided the the Mayor, on behalf of the Council, should sign a petition to Parliament in favour of extending the franchise to women.
A new water fountain 1889
In the spring of 1889 the Council financed an iron fountain “of handsome design” in the open space in front of the Sir John Warren hotel. The base was of Aberdeen granite while the iron work was suppied by Andrew Handyside & Co of the Britannia Iron Works in Derby. It was approximately 18 feet tall and surmounted by three lamps, with a basin for the use of the people and a trough for horses and cattle.
On Saturday afternoon, April 20th 1889, in a very formal ceremony, the fountain was switched on for the first time, by Alderman Francis Sudbury. No speeches were made.
And it was nearly a very short-lived life for the fountain !! About two o’clock in the afternoon of January 27th 1890, Arthur Tinsley, the proprietor of the Sir John Warren hotel, went down into his cellar and struck a match to light the gas jets; the result was a loud explosion. Outside, in the Market Place, some men were blown off their feet; part of the paving outside the hotel, close to the fountain, was damaged; its lamps were shattered; its base stonework shifted several inches; and for a time smoke could be seen coming from a crack close to the fountain’s gas tap. Since the beginning of the year people had detected a smell of gas in this area and this explosion appears to have been the result of a build-up of gas in a reservoir under the fountain.
The Borough Surveyor, Henry James Kilford, was soon on the spot, along with his workmen, who set about dismantling part of the fountain. The definitive cause of the accident was never really established but it was thought that lighting the gas jets in the cellar had perhaps ‘communicated‘ with the escaped gas in a hole going from that cellar, underneath the Market Place and known locally as ‘John o’Gaunt’s Hole’ (and said to pass under the Church and into fields several miles away !!) That fire might then have ignited gas under the fountain and caused the explosion. A lot of ‘mights’ and ‘perhapses’, but no-one was seriously injured and the fountain sustained only temporary damage.
And a new water supply ?
As we have seen above, by June 1887 the Town Council had decided to sell off the Pumping Station at the bottom of Queen Street
In August 1889 the issue of Ilkeston’s water supply once more reared its head. At this time the town’s people got their water from either the artificial lake at Little Hallam (‘the Beauty Spot’) or from a disused colliery at Kirk Hallam, or from the pumping station, erected in 1878, near the Peacock Colliery in Heanor Road. The Borough Surveyor, Henry Kilford, produced drafts to show that his new plans, based at the Kirk Hallam Pumping Station, with new engines, would use less coal, would need to be working fewer hours, with fewer workers, to supply more inhabitants, assuming larger mains would be laid. A sum of £7500 would need to be borrowed.
1889: Who’s next ?
Just as in the previous year, in a private meeting at the beginning of November, the new Mayor of the town was chosen — this time it was William Tatham (left).
The choice was confirmed at a full meeting of the Council shortly after, though not without some ‘choice words‘ being uttered !!
William was a member of the United Methodist Free Church and at his confirmation as Mayor, the Church bells of St. Mary remained stubbornly silent. (His predecessor was a ‘Churchman‘ and had thus been afforded the honour of a ‘vigorous peal’ at his confirmation)
And because he was doing such a fine job, William was unanimously re-elected Mayor by his colleagues, in November 1890.
1889; And a very merry Christmas to you all !!
Councillor Edwin Trueman (right) was not a member of the council’s General Works Committee but for the last 12 months had been allowed to attend the Committee’s meetings and view proceedings, — so that he could later inform his constituents of what matters had been discussed. Throughout that year he had not interfered in any way and had the permission of William Tatham, the chairman.
Suddenly, at the last meeting — in December 1889 — he had been asked to leave ! — and he refused !! — he claimed that it he had the right to be there !!! However the members of the Committee then voted to exclude him, and when he once more refused to go, a policeman was sent for. But they couldn’t find one !!
Edwin wanted the whole matter to be recorded in the committee’s minutes but this motion was defeated — Edwin did have allies, but not enough !!
In a minority of one … again !!!
The hostility between Councillor Charles Mitchell and Wright Lissett, the Town Clerk, had been simmering quite nicely for several years, when in May 1890, it bubbled over vigorously.
At the quarterly Town Council meeting Charles moved several resolutions, all aimed at curbing the role of the Town Clerk, several of them also implicitly criticising him, and one of them accusing Wright of ‘tampering’ with the Council Surveyor’s accounts. Several other Councillors and the Surveyor came to the Clerk’s defence but they were too late.
Wright Lissett (addressing Mr. Mitchell, heatedly): I have been a public servant in the town for 20 years. Now I am charged with tampering. What do you mean ? Tell me this minute, if you please, what you mean by the word ‘tamper’, or else hold your peace and let me alone !
Charles Mitchell: to alter the figures in a man’s books is ‘tampering’.
Wright Lissett: ‘tampering’ means nothing of the kind. It means to do something in secret. The figures were altered openly and put in red ink before the auditors in that way.
Charles Mitchell: did the surveyor ‘scrat’ them out again ?
Wright Lissett: he did so, improperly.
At this point only the last of Charles’s resolutions had been seconded (by Edwin Trueman) and so it was the only one that could be put to a vote. Charles found himself, once more, in a minority of one — even his seconder voted against him !! There was more to-ing and fro-ing before Councillor Edwin Sutton suggested (tongue in cheek) that perhaps Charles should be the Town Clerk for the next year !! (much laughter, but probably not from Charles)
And now, Wright Lissett was given the opportunity to reply to the accusations made by Councillor Mitchell — and he did so, in a lengthy and at times impassioned address. He suggested that the four resolutions were aimed directly at him, and were the culmination of a series of attacks upon him over several years. Their object was to hold him up to hatred, ridicule and contempt, and it had all arisen from malice and spite. Charles had long held a grudge against him, and was now using language of a defamatory character, if not actually slandering his good name — and he had never done Charles a single injury or wrong !! Tampering with the accounts was only the latest charge — in the past he had been accused of trying to influence an election , and with misappropriating the public water, all charges without a single foundation in fact.
But where did all this malice eminate from ?
Wright then recounted a ‘little incident‘ several years previous, when his servant had taken a cart down to Hallam Fields — where Charles lived and owned a grocer’s shop — and had sold some potatoes at 2d a peck cheaper than Charles was selling them. And his servant was doing this without his knowledge. But since that time Charles had vowed to do everything he could to get him out of his office !! Wright then concluded by stating that his patience was now at an end — if Charles persisted in his attacks then he would be taken to court. Be warned !!
“Mr. Lissett sat down amid loud cheers”
So there you have it — several years of festering animosity caused by a few cheap potatoes ??
June 1890; new County magistrates for Ilkeston
Both the Mayor, William Tatham, and John Ball, lace manufacturer, were appointed as County magistrates … an announcement which “gave general satisfaction in the town, not only on account of the increase in size of the local bench, but also on account of the gentlemen upon whom the honour had devolved”
They both took their seats as County magistrates at the Petty Sessions of the following month.
September 1890; a momentous decision … two into one does go !!
On the evening of September 10th a public meeting of townspeople was held at the Town Hall, to consider holding the Wakes and Statutes pleasure fairs in the same week. This would therefore abolish the custom of holding them separately, one in the middle and one at the end of October. The proposal was to begin the joint holiday on the first Thursday after October 11th and to end on Saturday. This would mean three days of holiday, followed by a Sunday day of rest, and then ready for a new working week on Monday !!
Many spoke out in support of this resolution, though there were suggestions that the three-day holiday should begin on a Monday and back to work on Thursday. But then, after three days of ‘merriment’, would workers feel like going back to the factory or down the pit ? And if they did, how productive would they be ? Most felt that it would be much better to get three days work done and therefore have some wages to rely on, for their family and for the ‘holiday’.
This was an important issue, discussed at length, by those of political and economic influence within the town (but how many others ?) and eventually the meeting passed the resolution … “that all the employers of labour close their places of business during the last three days of the week called the Wakes Week, and that the Statutes and Wakes be observed on those days”
October 1890 : Ilkeston goes automatic
The Town Council gave permission to Balfour Co. Ltd. to install automatic machines supplying stamps and postcards by the side of pillar letter-boxes .. at £1 per year per machine rent. They were not P.O. machines.
“The Postcard and Stamped Letter Company in being granted a licence in 1884 had to agree to have a plate affixed to their machines stating that they had no link with the General Post Office. A later machine from c1890 was known as the Balfour and for one penny could dispense either a 1d stamp with paper and envelope or a onehalf penny stamp and a stamped postcard. To effect a dispense it was necessary to pull a handle until a bell rang”. (https://www.stampprinters.info/v13%20British%20SVM%20History.pdf)
November 26th 1890: the quest for a new cemetery
In 1881 the town’s population was recorded at 14,119 and now, almost ten years leter, it was estimated to be over 20,000 and growing !! More births, but more deaths too.
The provison of a new cemetery for Ilkeston had been raised at the beginning of 1888. Various sites around the town were at various times, considered — at the rear of South Street (where Albert Street was later laid out), at Hilly Holies, and in Heanor Road, And guess what ? A Committee had been formed to assess them all. It worked very slowly so that it was still deliberating by June of the following year. Now, more sites were identified and examined, the number wittled down until an area at Pewit, where West End Drive and West End Crescent now stand, was chosen. The land was owned by the Duke of Rutland who was prepared to sell the 15½ acres for a total of just over £3000. Together with the cost of a new road to the proposed cemetery, a loan of about £4000 would be needed by the Council and this was duly requested.
So, in November 1890, the request was considered at a local government inquiry which heard that the old parish churchyard was closed about 40 years ago, the new extension was so overcrowded that its walks and paths were being used for burials, the graveyard of Christ Church in Cotmanhay was full, while the General Cemetery in Stanton Road was two-thirds full.
At this point the Derby Daily Telegraph pointed out that the proposed site of the new cemetery drained into the Nutbrook which was the source of a public water supply. And because of this the request for a loan was denied.
The quest went on.