Act 1, Scene 6: The Town Hall

Scene: Ilkeston in the Italianate style.

(Reform, economy, retrenchment and efficiency)

Laying the Foundation Stone; September 27th, 1866 (picture from Trueman and Marston)

The Local Board was responsible for the building of the Town Hall.
In June 1866 William Warner signed the contract for its erection, at a cost of £2650, and work started almost immediately. 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


Building the Town Hall

Before its building 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.

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.

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.


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