Act 1, Scene 6: The Town Hall

Scene: Ilkeston in the Italianate style.

(Reform, economy, retrenchment and efficiency)

The issue of building a Town Hall for Ilkeston had arisen in May 1842 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 meeting was called in the 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. Almost 20 years !!

1866: Building the Town Hall 

The Local Board was responsible for the building of the Town Hall in the upper Market Place. Before its appearance the site of the Town Hall was occupied by three or four old thatched and white-washed cottages belonging to farmer Mr. John Taylor of the Manor House, at the north of the town. The premises had been with his family since the time of his grandfather. John sold the land for £800.

A sketch purporting to show the town hall cottages


By April 12th, 1866 the cottages had been demolished and auctioneer Fred Paling was trying to sell off what remained of them … timber, doors, windows, tiles, lead, ovens, boilers, etc. etc. At the same time, plans and specifications for the new Town Hall had been drawn up by the Nottingham architect Richard Charles Sutton and building tenders were being sought. In June 1866 Ilkeston builder William Warner had his tender of £2650 accepted and signed the contract to build it. Work started immediately. The Duke of Rutland was ‘booked’ to lay the foundation stone …. a preliminary date of Thursday, August 23rd was pencilled in but had to be changed to September 27th.

Laying the Foundation Stone(picture from Trueman and Marston)

Laying the Foundation Stone

Thus, on September 27th, 1866 the foundation stone was laid by the most noble Charles Cecil John Manners, Duke of Rutland K.G, Lord of the Manor of Ilkeston, and the building was complete in the following year.

Two men were standing outside the office of the ‘Pioneer’, reading the announcement of the stone-laying.
“What does the K.G. mean, Bill?” said one man to his companion.
This was a puzzler but Bill was unwilling to admit that he did not know, and so he replied…
“Why it means he goes around the country, laying foundation stones and such like!”
Both Bill and his mate might well have been impressed by the events leading up the stone-laying.

Flags, banners, bunting were flying from all principal buildings in the town. Arches of evergreens were over all the main streets but especially at the Harrow Inn Corner, at the Market Place post office, at the Toll Bar at the end of South Street, at the Rutland Hotel and at Gallows Inn. Placards were placed announcing welcome to the Duke.

The day before the ceremony the Duke, driving from Nottingham, was accompanied from Gallows Inn by 100 local horsemen, headed by Ilkeston Brass Band. Passing through the toll-bar at the southern end of South Street, no-one was charged; the toll-keeper and local poet, William Campbell, wrote to the Pioneer…
“The noble Duke and all his host … Passed through our tollgate free;
“And if the money must be paid … It shall be paid by me”.

The bells of St. Mary’s rang out and a large cannon belonging to William Ball of Dodson House and stationed on Rutland Cricket Ground was exercised. His first visit to Ilkeston, the Duke arrived at exactly six o’clock to stay the night at the Vicarage. Several hotels and other buildings were illuminated that evening.

Shortly after noon of the following day, a large crowd had gathered in the Market Place to watch the Duke leave the Vicarage and take the short walk to the site of the stone-laying, again led by Ilkeston Band. Following him were the members of the Local Board, the Town Committee, Richard Charles Sutton of Nottingham, the architect of the proposed Town Hall, and William Warner of Ilkeston, the chosen builder.
From the crowd stepped Emma Bell, aged 18, daughter of Phoebe (nee Riley), beerhouse keeper of White Lion Square. Grasping his hand she enquired “How are you, Mr Duke?”
“Very well, thank you, my dear!” was the reply.
A delighted Emma stepped back and the ceremony proceeded.

Speeches were made, several photographs were taken, and the customary bottle — containing a parchment account of the proceedings and a list of bye-laws —  was placed within a cavity in the foundation stone. A ceremonial mallet and engraved trowel were then presented to the Duke, the latter instrument made of silver and ivory and supplied by Joseph Haynes, ironmonger of New Street. (The engraving showed the Duke’s crest, below which it stated ‘Presented to His Grace the Duke of Rutland, K.G., on laying the foundation stone of the Town Hall, Ilkeston, September 27th 1866′.) After this the Brass Band led the illustrious company the short distance to the South Street Schoolroom where a public luncheon was provided. A limited number of the ‘general populace’ was also admitted to the feast — having paid 5s each for a ticket to enter.
This was too much for ‘A Working Man’ — literally and metaphorically — who had written to the Pioneer a week before the event to express his desire to celebrate the Duke’s visit, though 5s for a meal was beyond his means. He had suggested a ‘monster tea or roast’, or perhaps a ball, and a merry dance, for everyone to attend this memorable event in the history of Ilkeston. It appears that no-one acted upon his ideas.

Ilkeston Pioneer Oct 4th 1866


The new building

The Pioneer described the prospective building….
“It will be of two storeys, having a frontage of about 73 feet; will stand on the western side of the Market-place, and will thus occupy a capital site. The style of the building will be Italian, the materials used being brick with stone dressing; the front next the Market-place is composed of a centre and two wings, the latter receding about two feet from the line of the other position. The centre will comprise the main entrance, composed of three semi-circular arches, supported on piers; above those will be three large semicircular windows, the centre one opening on to an ornamental balcony, supported on large ornamental carved brackets; the wings have large semicircular-headed windows of like character with those in the central portion of the front; the whole will be surmounted with an ornamental cornice and balustrade. The building will be well diversified with horizontal string courses and mouldings; the interior will be occupied on the ground storey as offices, portions however being reserved for the residence of the police; cells and other arrangements for the police are provided at the rear of the building. On the upper storey a large room 60 feet by 30 feet is provided, with retiring rooms, &c., for the magistrates’ meetings, and will also be used as a hall for public purposes. The building will, for completeness and simple elegance, bear comparison with any other of a similar size, the design reflecting the highest credit on the architect, Mr. R. Chas. Sutton, of Bromley House, Nottingham”.

To finance the purchase of the land and buildings, and the erection of the Town Hall the Board took out a loan from the Royal Exchange Assurance Company of £3,500 at 5% repayable over a maximum of 30 years.

Ilkeston Town Hall in the 1890's

 The Town Hall in the 1890’s (courtesy of Ilkeston Reference Library)


The Town Hall comes into use.

The Town Hall was officially opened on 6th February 1868.

Sheddie Kyme, who was born in 1862, could not recollect the erection of the Town Hall but could “dimly call to mind as a boy the newness of its appearance, and by that judged it was of recent date. Like myself, it certainly looks a little more ancient now, but it is otherwise unchanged. Mr. William Attenborough, surveyor to the old Local Board, resided in the house at the side entrance to the hall, this being occupied later by Mr. (George) Blundell, the foreman roadman”.
The ‘William Attenborough’ mentioned above was the son of Mark and Alice, of the Sir John Warren Inn.

The old Police Station was located underneath the large room of the hall and between the Town Hall and the Sir John Warren Inn was the gated entrance to the police yard.
‘Tilkestune’ could recall that as a lad he had stood at those gates, watching a police sergeant “flicking the cat-o’-nine-tails about the exposed body of a boy who had been ordered to be birched for stealing”.
A crowd had gathered to watch the punishment, included in which was the father of the lad, in great distress.
A ‘sentry’ policeman spoke to the father: “You can come up and see it done, if you like”.
Red in the face, the man declined; he was close enough and wanted to be no nearer. After the birching the son was returned to the father and both promptly walked home. This was not an isolated event.
Was the lad Tommy Winfield in 1877? (See the Mundy Arms)

In its early days the Town Hall was to feature as a venue for “elections, political gatherings, bazaars, concerts, balls, teas, banquets, theatrical productions, lectures and other functions”. (Sheddie Kyme)

Shortly after its erection and opening in 1868, the new Town Hall was welcomed by the Pioneer as “the means of drawing many sources of amusement and instruction to this quiet and long-neglected town”.

During the early months of 1868 a number of events, designed to cater for the eclectic tastes of the populace, followed in quick succession…
…. A lecture on ‘Woman’ by the Rev. J. F. Moody, the Wesleyan minister of Nottingham.
…. A concert of sacred and secular music by the newly established Ilkeston Harmonic Society.
…. A performance by ‘the 14 Gentlemen Niggers of Derbyshire’ also known as the ‘Coloured Opera Troupe‘. Beginning at eight in the evening before a packed house of impatient Ilkestonians, the show was conducted by Signor Hardhitter, who also starred on piano, and included artistes Massas Bones, Pompey, Caesar, Snowdrop, Uncle Ned, the Infant Mackney, Cicero, Squashi and Jumbo, aided by violins, nick-nacks, a tambourine, banjo, cornet, a set of little bells and three pairs of bellows. In an attempt at humour the Pioneer concluded its review; “the niggers having all skedaddled, the ‘niggers with the black washed off’ skedaddled to their homes about ten o’clock”.
…. A second, companion lecture on ‘Man’ by the Rev. Moody, to a ‘respectable’ audience.
…. A musical and comic entertainment by the renowned ladies Sophia and Annie, “to a crowded and appreciative audience” and “from first to last a versatile and humorous performance”.
…. A musical concert by Dr. Mark’s celebrated orchestra of Little Men, a boys’ touring group based in Manchester, performed to a full house of children for the afternoon performance but a disappointing evening audience.

“Some famous artistes have appeared in that hall on various occasions.

“I remember Turner, of operatic fame, appearing there. It might have been before he became so popular, but in those days, when Sim Reeves was perhaps at his best, it was always considered he would have a great rival in Turner, and so it proved.

“Then, on one occasion at a concert provided by Lady Newdigate, such artistes as Marzeils and Santley, with others of some note. ‘A Summer Shower’ was one of the contributions of the former, and I believe this song was one of his own compositions

(Sheddie Kyme)

“Harry Liston, the famous comedian, was always sure of a good house when he paid a visit to Ilkeston”.
(Sheddie Kyme)

And one such appearance is noted by the Pioneer (right), April 27th 1882


The Town Hall as a Courtroom

In 1867 all of Ilkeston’s County Court business was held at Belper, a distance by road of ten miles and by train of 23 miles with two changes. To avoid this expense, inconvenience and hardship, Ilkeston Local Board, with the Committee of the Nottinghamshire and Midland Merchant’ and Traders’ Association, petitioned in April of that year for the town to be a separate district and have its own court. What followed was a curate’s egg.

From the Nottinghamshire Guardian July 12th, 1867….
“By an Order of Council of the 26th of June last Her Majesty has been pleased to direct that, from and after the 30th of September next, the County Court of Derbyshire holden at Belper shall be holden at Ilkeston as well as at Belper. Another Order of the same date directs that the parishes of Dale Abbey, Stanton-by-Dale, Sandiacre and West Hallam, the township of Kirk Hallam, and the chapelries of Risley and Stanley, now in the district of the County Court of Derbyshire, holden at Derby; and the parishes of Awsworth, Cossall, Eastwood, Greasley, Trawel (sic), and Stapleford, now in the district of the County Court of Nottinghamshire holden at Nottingham, shall be in the district of the County Court of Derbyshire holden at Belper and Ilkeston.
“The County Court will be held in the New Town  Hall every alternate month.
“Most of the places added to the district are immediately contiguous to and will of course transact their business at Ilkeston, where there will be a resident Clerk. The establishment of a County Court at Ilkeston will bring considerable business to the town, and will effect a saving of several hundreds of pounds a year to plaintiffs and defendants in this districts (sic)”.

Not all aspects of this Order of Council pleased the Merchants’ and Traders’ Committee, representing about 1200 members in the counties of Nottingham, Derby and Midland District.
The Committee welcomed the establishment of a County Court to be held at Ilkeston as well as at Belper.
However it pointed out that nearly all of the Nottinghamshire parishes mentioned in the Order did most of their trade with Nottingham and very little with Ilkeston. Several of the parishes were but a few miles from Nottingham and carriers’ vans ran regularly from them to the city; no such vans ran to Ilkeston which thus necessitated a special journey. Traders in Eastwood, Greasley and Stapleford would find it especially inconvenient if they had to take cases to Belper – a journey of 20 to 25 miles, with two changes of trains — rather than wait the two months between the Ilkeston courts.
Consequently the committee petitioned Baron Chelmsford, the Lord High Chancellor, to rescind the original order with respect to the Nottinghamshire parishes. Two months later and their pleas were partially answered when Stapleford, Greasley and Trowell were restored to the Nottingham Court; at the same time Sandiacre and Risley were restored to the Derby Court.

The first County Court held at Ilkeston was on Thursday, January 16th 1868.
Thereafter the court was held at Belper and Ilkeston every alternate month.
(The formal opening of the Town Hall took place in February 1868).

In 1877 County Court Judge Woodforde Ffooks-Woodforde was unimpressed by the disorderly state and behaviour within the Ilkeston court rooms. The bailiffs and officials at Ilkeston were the most inefficient at keeping order than at any other court he had attended. He longed for someone with ‘ordinary intelligence’ to come forward and assist them in the discharge of their duty.


Messrs Samuel Smith & Co., Bankers

A branch of this bank rented part of the Town Hall premises until it moved into Bath Street, at least by 1884. Then, early in 1885, Charles John Jackson, solicitor of Belper, rented the same premises for his firm’s use, for £20 p.a.

The Nottingham Joint Stock Bank also had a branch in this part of the Market Place, opened just before the Town Hall was constructed.
This bank was founded in Nottingham, opening for business from premises in Low Pavement on 1st September 1865, to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding lace and hosiery industries in that city. It quickly attracted account holders, and within a month had established new headquarters in Victoria Street. A branch was also opened in Ilkeston. By December, deposits had reached £150,000 and shareholders received a dividend of five per cent.
The next year was more difficult. The fledgling bank struggled to process such a large volume of business. A general trade depression started to hit, and there was a financial crisis with the collapse of the London discount bank, Overend, Gurney and Company. The firm survived this challenging period and, in 1875, moved to larger premises in Victoria Street and opened a new branch in Grantham. It was acquired by Midland Bank (now HSBC UK) in 1905. Midland Bank was acquired by HSBC Holdings plc in 1992.
(Adapted from HSBC website)

The Nottingham Joint Stock Bank established its Ilkeston branch in October 1865.

It is listed in the Harrod & Co Trade Directory of 1870, with its manager Percival Nuttall at “Bank House, Market Place“. Percival is also recorded on the 1871 census at 1 Market Place.

The bank moved into its new freehold Bath Street premises, also named ‘Bank House’, in December 1885. This was later 63 Bath Street.

The photo on the right shows the premises in 1899 (from the HSBC website). By this time the manager there was Thomas Blagg Marsh, who had taken over in 1895. He was the son-in-law, since 1891, of Dr. Robert Wood.


Here (below) is the Town Hall about 1880. You can see that the premises on the west side of it are occupied by the new Fire Brigade, while the Bank and County Court Offices offices (mentioned above) are on its east side. The Magistrates Rooms are between.


But what else was the Local Board responsible for?  What has the Local Board ever done for us?