The People

Performers are well-represented in the cemetery, though they are rarely in marked graves. Major Mite lias Walter William Fox is buried in an unmarked third class grave, having died of heart failure aged 31 years on 11th September 1896, in his bed at the Harrow Inn (now the Roundhouse) where he and his wife had been working. They were travelling professional midgets, hired by publicans as a novelty act to sing and attract drinkers. On the night he died, Major Mite had eaten a supper of mutton, with a small Scotch whisky. Perhaps his death was a result of unhealthy eating: though he was only 3 feet 7 inches high, he weighed 9 stone 3 lbs.

Joseph Wardle was employed at Tatham's factory on Belper Street at the time of his death, when he was only 44 years old. He was a needlemaker, like his father, and also a talented musician. He played the violin, was first cornet and leader of the Ilkeston Brass Band and was involved with the Harmonic Society. At his funeral (the Ilkeston Pioneer believed he died from exhaustion caused by his many commitments) the Ilkeston Brass Band played Handel's Dean March on the procession to the Queen Street Baptist Chapel and the hymn Before Jehovah's Awful Throne, with music composed by Wardle himself, was sung at the graveside (D147).

Chris Benson, whose grave is also unmarked, was a rising music hall performer when he died, aged 39, in his lodgings at 38 Carr Street in August 1889. With his wife, Bertha Athey (who was billed as 'the Modern Jenny Lind'), he had come at the beginning of the week from Bristol looking for work in one of the music halls. Benson was taken ill on Tuesday and died on Wednesday. It was the doctor's opinion that he had died from exhaustion due to diarrhoea and very little to eat.

At 7 feet 6 inches, Samuel Taylor's great height is shown on his grave (A361) by a foot-stone marked 'S.T..'. The Ilkeston Gint was born at Little Hallam, entering the showbusiness when he was sixteen and marrying a travelling glass-blower.

In 1869, he visited Ilkeston Statutes (hiring fair) with his own show which included a Golden Boa Constrictor, a Crying Crocodile and Mrs. Taylor's Glass-Blowing Exhibition. He died in 1875, aged 59, in Manchester Infirmary, having fractured his hip. His body was met at the railway station by the Ilkeston Brass Band, the bells of St. Mary's Church ringing a muffled peal.

There are many publicans in the cemetery. In fact, two landlords of the Old Wine Vaults on East Street are found close together. William Bennett was one of the earliest owners of the public house, his wife Elizabeth succeeding him when he died in 1852. Mrs. Bennett was remembered as a 'homely woman', distinctive in her frilled cap (D37). Charles Hiram Gregory, the Captain, took over the Old Wine Vaults in 1873 (D20). He had a career as a merchant seaman and was famous for his colourful stories, and for his boast that, even in the coldest weather, he never wore an overcoat. Aaron Aldred, the landlord of the Queen's Head on Bath Street was 84 years old when he died (A36), though Jabez Barber who kept the Poplar Inn was only 46 years old.

Many of the deceased in the cemetery were victims of what, these days, would be termed industrial accidents; Thomas Smith of Little Hallam Hall, for example, a farmer, aged 77, died of blood poisoning as a result of a wound from a rusty nail (A294). John Pollard was a foreman plate-layer with the Great Northern Railway when he was killed in September 1902. His responsibility was to check the line between Ilkeston and Awsworth Junction. It was a foggy morning and he did not see or hear the goods train travelling towards him until it was too late. He was decapitated.


As might be expected the colliery industry is represented in the cemetery. Injuries were common, and deaths all too frequent. Arthur Norman was only 19 years old when he was killed in January 1891. He lived with his parents at 1, Bethel Street and had been working at the Oakwell Colliery for just 14 months. As he brought the empty wagons to the face to be loaded, part of the roof support, the bind, came away and knocked him down, causing him to fall head-first on to the rails (B158). Alfred Potter, son of John Potter of Albert Street, was working at the West Hallam Colliery when, in May 1887, he was crushed by a coal truck underground. William Halton was similarly young, only 21 years old, when he was killed in a pit accident in October 1873. But he was away from home, working in a mine in Stanley, near Wakefield, and his grave was paid for by "Friends".

Eighteen-year old Elijah Jackson was called by the Coroner to give evidence at the inquest into the death of his father at the Manners Colliery in July 1885. Jacob Jackson was an engineer employed to maintain the pumps, which were lodged at the bottom of a narrow shaft. He was regularly let down the shaft on a horse, a seat hanging in chains, in order to do his work. This was a hazardous process because the shaft was narrow in places and also because Jackson insisted that the pumps be kept working. He was found at the bottom of the shaft on the scaffold, where there were indication that he had fallen or been knocked out of the horse, perhaps by the pump rods, and had fallen to his death (A179).

Most people, of course, died in unremarkable circumstances. Monday, 4th July 1873 was rainy and Samuel Horridge, one of a long line of brickmakers in Cotmanhay, decided to clip his garden hedge rather than go to work. He was missed at dinner time, but his mother-in-law, with whom he lived, thought he had gone into Ilkeston. It was not until later in the afternoon that he was found in the garden by a neighbour. He died, a widower, at the age of 54, probably from heart failure (E191). James Tilson died suddenly of an inflammation of the brain. His coffin was covered in flowers and was followed by 40 members of the Rutland Cricket Club, in which he was a leading player. He was only 23 years old (A219).

Children, sadly make up the largest proportion of those buried in the cemetery, reminding us of the fragility of the young in the days before widespread preventative medicine, or even the very basics in accident prevention. Little Hannah Lee was four years old, and living in appalling conditions in Kensington (a settlement on Nottingham Road), when she died of convulsions in December 1881. A combination of insanitary housing and considerable neglect had contributed to her death. She is buried, like most of the children, in an unmarked grave.

Bonfire Night celebrations went sadly wrong in 1872, when James Wilkinson was killed. Though his grave inscription records that he was 'accidentally shot' he was in fact wounded by a gun which exploded. The boy, only 7 years old, went with other children to a bonfire, but had no fireworks. Robert Fairfield, a servant, fetched the gun in order to 'amuse the youngsters with a few discharges of powder.' Having cleaned the rusty weapon, gunpowder was loaded and it was fired, but it exploded into pieces, one of which was six inches long and struck James Wilkinson in the neck. The wound was deep and an infection set in which subsequently killed him (D280).

Hubert Brewer was the single fatality among sixteen terribly injured spectators when a magic lantern exploded in the chapel on Stamford Street. Only 15 years old, he was a messenger boy at Manners Colliery and had gone with his mother and brothers to Rev. Scattergood's magic lantern show (A289).

There is something awfully modern about the tragic death of thirteen year old Fanny Ball, the daughter of Thomas Ball, a pork butcher. After what seems to have been a teenage argument with her parents, she was forbidden to go out with her friends, and having gone to work on Saturday morning (she was a factory hand), she disappeared. Her distraught parents summoned the bellman, who was sent around the streets alerting people to her disappearance. Sadly, she was found in the Nutbrook Canal, fully-clothed and carrying only a comb and an empty purse. It was not thought that she had killed herself (D137).

In fact, many children died through drowning, many just playing too close to the water's edge. Ernest Potter, aged 9, was playing, with three other boys, with a ball in the water, knocking it along with sticks. Trying to get the ball out with his hands, he caught his foot on a stone and tripped, drowning in 9 feet of water (B62). Similarly Willliam Bonsall, aged 15, drowned near the lock-gates at West Hallam whilst swimming with his friends (D60). Perhaps more poignantly, a boy drowned in the Nutbrook Canal whilst out fishing with his father. William Freeman and his 12-year old son, fished together for a while but the boy 'became tired' and walked away back to Ilkeston. Mr. Freeman remained fishing until late in the evening, so it was not until he arrived home expecting to find his son already there that the alarm was raised. The boy had slipped and fallen into the canal only a short distance from where his father had been fishing.

Many members of the leading families in Ilkeston lie in Stanton Road Cemetery. When Herbert Tatham died in London, his remains were brought to the warehouse of the Belper Street needle factory where he was a partner. His coffin was then carried to the cemetery by his employees (D29). Buried in an adjacent grave is Dr. John Tobin, who was Ilkeston's Medical Office of Health (D30). Charles Wolliscroft had requested that his funeral procession pass his Bath Street drapers and outfitters shop when he died, aged 80, in 1910. A Magistrate and local Wesleyan preacher, he was well respected, and the Mayor, Francis Sudbury, followed the procession to the cemetery with employees. The grave (A260) had been lined with ivy and flowers, including violets, snowdrops and hyacinths from Wooliscroft's house, Inglewood, on West End Drive. Only 37 years old when he died, Ilkeston solicitor Abbot Thurman had only recently finished building his home, The Pines, which stands next door to the cemetery (D16).

Alll cemeteries have their special gravestones. In Stanton Road Cemetery it is that of the Frenchman, Leon Trouselle (FM) who died aged only 28 at Shipley Hall in November 1879. He was employed as a cook at the Hall. His mother had the gravestone erected, and it is sad to think of him dying in the cold of an English autumn so far from his home and family.

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