Around Oakwell Fields

From The Hollis household ….

The Ilkeston Colliery Company Ltd.

“Passing Oak Well Fields was another row of houses.”

By the later 1870’s this row was between the Ilkeston Colliery premises and Belper Street.

By the end of 1873 the Oakwell Colliery Company, ‘a small partnership affair for working the shallow coal on the estate of Lord Belper’, had taken in a large number of shareholders, thus forming a ‘strong and influential‘ Limited Liability Company  (the latter being a business vehicle for attracting extra investment capital without the investors incurring huge risks). With this extra financial investment the Company had brought powerful machinery into the Derby Road site, to work the Kilburn seam there.

In 1874 the Ilkeston Colliery Company was formed from the Oakwell Colliery Company and further developed the Oakwell Colliery site, opposite to the house of Kester Harrison – as was !
At the end of February 1874 the Belper pit and a new Oakwell pit were opened on the land of Lord Belper when his lordship’s youngest son turned the first sod.

“The ceremony of ‘christening’ in champagne, which followed, resulted in the naming of the two main shafts ‘Belper pit’, after the owner of the estate, and ‘Oakwell pit’, after a spring of excellent water of much local celebrity and which gives its name to the farm on which it is situated. … The sinkers have since commenced work, and are now in active operation. The shafts will be 250 yards deep, at which depth it is expected to reach the celebrated Kilburn seam. It is estimated that it will take two years to complete the sinking. In the mean time a shallower seam is being worked. This is the only colliery in the locality, it is believed, whose proprietors are liberal in politics, a circumstance not without future significance”. (IT Feb 28th 1874)

The proprietors were William Sudbury, Harry Bostock, George Swanwick and William Hewitt.

In 1878 William Sudbury was the managing director of the Ilkeston Colliery Company.

Thomas Potter.

Thomas Potter, warper at Carriers, lived in the first one.

Born in 1829 Thomas Potter was one of the dozen children of William and Sarah (nee Rice) (See Frank Hallam’s Row).
On the 1861 census he appears as a lace warper in Moors Bridge Lane.

In June 1854 he had married Jane, the daughter of coalminer Benjamin Rigley and Mary (nee Tomlinson), also of Moors Bridge Lane, and from that time and at regular intervals until her death, aged 37, in December 1872, Jane gave birth to a total of 11 children.

Nahum Ironmonger.

Ironmonger, shoemaker, in another.

In 1871 this was 12 Derby Road.

Boot and shoemaker Nahum Hargraves was born in Castle Donington in 1839, the illegitimate child of Mary, who married lacemaker Thomas Ironmonger a short time later.
Thomas was possibly Nahum’s natural father and the child was given the Ironmonger name after the marriage.
The family continued to live and grow in Castle Donington until it eventually came to Ilkeston about 1854.
In that year and in this town Nahum was baptised with his five siblings, all with the family name.
Later children William and Harriet Ironmonger were born in Ilkeston.
After its arrival here the family lived in Brussels Terrace for a period before settling in Park Road.

Nahum later left to work in Derby where in 1860 he married Sarah Smith, daughter of labourer John and Elizabeth, and continued to live there before returning to Ilkeston at the end of the decade with his wife and three children.
They lived at 15 Derby Road and then in the later 1880’s moved into South Street where Nahum had had a shop for several years.
Sarah Ironmonger died in South Street in January 1909, aged 71.

Betsy Ironmonger.

Almost a year after the death in infancy of her illegitimate daughter Annie Maria, Nahum’s younger sister Betsy married miner Samuel Grebby in March 1877, a union which very soon proved to be unhappy — at least for Betsy.
After the marriage the couple lived with Samuel’s parents, Henry and Rebecca Charlotte (nee Stevens) at Little Hallam and frequently quarrelled. Betsy claimed that her husband had, on occasions, struck her and at one time broken two of her teeth.
In July 1879 the arguments resulted in her mother-in-law ordering Betsy out of the house and having failed to be granted a place at the Basford Workhouse she was later forced to return to the hostile environment of the Grebby family home.

What could she now do?
Early Victorian divorces usually required application to Parliament for a private act, an expensive process beyond the means of most ordinary people — before 1857 only four women had achieved divorce in this way. However the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act for the first time allowed secular divorce in a new civil Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes and enhanced the rights of women in marriage and divorce.

A divorced or legally separated woman could now be awarded maintenance and be granted the property rights of a single woman so that she could bequeath or inherit her own property. Also if a man deserted his wife he now had no claim to her earnings. However whereas a man only had to prove his wife’s adultery, a woman had to prove that her husband had committed an adultery but also that it had been aggravated by incest, bigamy, cruelty or desertion. And the process was still very expensive such that there were only about 150 divorces each year within the next ten years.
An 1878 amendment to the 1857 Act allowed local magistrates to grant a woman an order for separation on the grounds of her husband’s cruelty, and to allow her to claim maintenance and custody of any children.

When Betsy was further assaulted by Samuel, this new 1878 law allowed her to raise the issue of separation and maintenance at Ilkeston Petty Sessions. Although Samuel was fined for his behaviour, the couple did stay together living in the Little Hallam area, away from Betsy’s in-laws and increasing the size of their family.
Their last child was born in 1889 before Samuel died at Little Hallam in February 1891, aged 37.
Betsy died there seven years later, aged 47.

P.S. Interestingly (?) Samuel Grebby was born on November 6th 1853, almost at the same time as his eldest brother, John Grebby alias Stevens, was registering the birth of his first child.

William Tunnicliffe, Parish Clerk or painter?

Then came old Tunnicliffe’s cottage.
In 1871 this was 13 Derby Road.

Framework knitter William Tunnicliffe senior was Parish Clerk from 1809 until 1842, the year before his death, when he was living in Moors Bridge Lane.

In her letters, Adeline describes an incident before her birth, involving ‘old Tunniclffe’ and the then curate at St. Marys,  Richard Moxon (who died in 1836)
One Sunday the Rev. Richard Moxon was preaching in the old Parish Church of St. Mary, his subject being Moses speaking to the children of Israel.
On reaching his peroration he called out, ‘And what did Moses say?’
Old Tunnicliffe had evidently been asleep, for he started up, and said ‘Hey sez they’ll be no moor candles till tothers ur peed fur.’
(The startled William was thinking that Richard was referring to Moses Mason chandler of Bath Street)

‘Progress’, a writer for the Ilkeston Pioneer in April 1853, recalls the same ‘old Tunnicliffe’ ….

‘…. with his audible voice, that could be distinctly heard all over the church, repeating the responses, and we boys, who were to read aloud along with him. Sometimes we got on too fast, and had done long before him; at other times we were all behind, which was the worst part of the business, as the minister had to begin before we had finished. Sometimes there were half a dozen voices to accompany the clerk; at other times only one, or none at all. I am afraid we were a sad lot, after all the pains taken with us, paying more attention to who was “asked” in Church than anything else’

Adeline could be referring to ‘Tunnicliffe senior’ though obviously not from personal experience … he would have been known to her father John who may well have spoken of his own recollections to her. Alternatively she could be writing of house painter William junior, who also lived in Moors Bridge Lane, later Derby Road, during the latter part of his life but died in Pedley Street at the home of his sister Rebecca in November 1875.

Born in 1807 William junior married Mary Rogers in September 1832 and had at least five children before Mary died in July 1843.

At this time the family was living in South Street and William’s subsequent liaison with Mary Hackett Daykin Toplis, also of South Street, resulted in the illegitimate birth of Arthur Toplis in June 1851. The eldest child of South Street basket maker George Toplis and Ann (nee Daykin), Mary had given birth to at least three more illegitimate children before Arthur. (See Burgin’s Yard and Row)

Just over a year after William junior’s death, his younger brother Joseph Tunnicliffe went missing.  He had worked as a brickmaker at the Gallows Inn brickyard but had recently moved to live near Nottingham, working as a stationary engine driver.
A fortnight before Christmas  Joseph was drinking at the White Cow beerhouse in Nottingham Road one foggy Thursday evening and rather worse for liquor, he started to walk back to Nottingham along the path of the Great Northern Canal, via Trowell and Wollaton. He never made it home.
By Sunday worried relatives were searching for him and found his hat and walking stick at the side of the Erewash River at Gallows Inn. The waterway was dragged by the police but no sign of Joseph. It was feared that recent flooding there might have washed a body several miles distant.
After three weeks there was still no sign of the brickmaker. Local people were certain that Joseph was not the sort of man to miss his way and walk into the river, in which case his hat and stick would have accompanied him.
Foul play was strongly suspected – some people were certain that Joseph had been brutally murdered and his body disposed of. The hat and the stick had been placed by the river to set a false trail for the police. Rumours circulated that he had in his possession several pounds of gold and silver which he had openly displayed in the public house before setting off home and which provided an obvious motive for his murder. It was said that Joseph had been seen mysteriously to enter a house at Gallows Inn and never come out again!  The inmates of said house left the house on the night of his disappearance.
About a month after the disappearance dragging operations were renewed, this time with the help of a hired boat.
A short distance from the bridge over the Erewash at Gallows Inn and 100 yards from where his hat and stick were discovered the body of Joseph was hauled from the river, together with his watch and chain, 14s 6d in a leather purse and 7½d loose change, tobacco, two pipes, a pocket knife and a few other personal articles. There were no signs of violence upon the body and the jury at the subsequent inquest returned a verdict of ‘Found drowned’.

The ‘Ilkeston Mystery’ was unravelled.


Traffic warning.    4pm. March 18th 1875.

William Bentley, landlord of the Black Horse Inn at Mapperley, with passenger John Fowkes, landlord of the New Inn at Horsley Woodhouse, was speeding home down Derby Road in his gig. As it passed the works of the Ilkeston Colliery Company a wheel caught that of a passing cart, heavily laden with bricks belonging to Manor House builder Frederick Shaw. A shaft of the gig snapped, the horse bolted, the two landlords were tossed out, the gig overturned, the other shaft snapped, the vehicle was wrecked and the horse disappeared into the distance.
A few nearby colliery labourers rushed to assist and found William with several bleeding wounds to his face and an injured arm, while John’s left leg was rendered useless and his hip was broken or dislocated.
Getting John home proved to be difficult. At first, a colliery cart, lined with straw, was used as transport but its jolting was too much for him to bear.
Then onto the scene came Mr. Harvey of  West Hallam with his light spring cart which proved more comfortable for the invalid and John was conveyed home.
The bolting horse was eventually stopped at High-lane in West Hallam.


Let us pause to gaze upon Oakwell Farm.