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Market Harboro\ The inquiry before the Committee
of the House of Commons lasted a week ; and when
the express-rider reached Derby on February 9th
with the result, he was carried around the town in
triumph, whilst the bells commenced a peal, which
continued day after day, until the successful Mr.
Daniel Parker Coke himself arrived on the fifteenth.
It is clear, from a letter in the Mercury, that party
feeling ran high, and that the sound of the bells not
only expressed the delight of the victors* but was

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u6 Derby: Its Rise and Progress

intended as a constant reminder of defeat to the

Mr. Coke arrived about noon, accompanied by a
crowd of friends who went out as far as Shardlow
to meet and accompany him into town. A proces-
sion was then formed, which marched through the
principal streets, led by marshals on horseback
bearing blue flags ; the wool-combers, decked out in
combings of all colours; people from the Old Silk
Mill, in silk streamers; butchers from Nottingham
mounted on horseback; and trumpeters, preceding
the hero of the hour, Mr. Coke, who was carried aloft
in a magnificent chair, and followed by a carriage
with Sir Henry Harpur, to whose energy and deter-
mination the triumph was greatly due. Then came
the dinner at the King's Head Inn, after which six
of the Nottingham butchers astonished the Derby
people by ringing a peal on their cleavers. On the
Tuesday following, two oxen were distributed to
Mr. Coke's burgesses, in pieces of fourteen pounds
weight, along with shilling loaves. The Whig
faction, however, always the predominating influence
In Derby politics, soon regained the position, which
they continued to hold almost uncontested until the
Reform Bill extended the franchise.

This Whig influence, wielded somewhat unscru-
pulously by the Cavendish family, was not altogether
without beneficial effect both on the political and
religious life of the town. The Church was ultra-
Tory and intolerant of Dissent, whUsT the^Caven-
dishes consistently opposed both these policies. In
Derby, therefore, their powerful influence softened
the asperities of political life, and to some extent

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Church and Dissent 117

shielded the Dissenters from persecution; although
to the poor the question of Church versus Dissent,
when regarded from the point of view of doles and
charities, was very one-sided. The gentry of the
town might be divided into Whigs and Tories, but
both parties went to church on Sundays; and the
Mayor, as already shown, distributed town-money
in time of distress through the churchwardens, who
would scarcely be likely to remember many of the
poor Dissenters. In March, 1736, the bells rang
at all the churches during most of the afternoon, on
receiving news that "the Dissenters had miscarried
in their endeavour to get the Corporation and Test
Acts repealed," whereby they would have been able
to take public office in the town. Hutton tells us
that he was the only Dissenter among the boys
at the silk mill, and one of the clerks, anxious to
make a convert, offered him the bribe of a half-
penny for each Sunday that he would go to church.
Hutton, with whom half-pence in those days were
scarce, took the bait, and spent his time in a remote
pew with the other boys, playing pushpin. The
influence of the Church was evidently strong, and
even the poor, although they might seldom attend
service, received their share of its benefactions* and
looked askance at the sectaries outside the pale.

In. March, 1764, the Rev. John Wesley, then
engagecTiri fiis religious work among the masses of
the people, came to Derby. With his wonted energy,
he had that day ridden from Walsall, a distance of
some thirty miles, and about five o'clock, "attended
by a great number of his followers," says the Mercury,
"he attempted to preach in the Market Place, but

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n8 Derby: Its Rise and Progress

was so much insulted by the mob that he was obliged
to desist." Wesley, in his Journal, says that there
" seemed a general inclination, even among people
of fashion," to hear him, the Mayor having offered
to preserve order; but it is clear that the mob at
Derby, as at other places, ruled on this occasion, and
it would almost appear from Wesley's account that
there was a preconcerted arrangement to make their
opposition effective. "They were pretty quiet until
I named the text," he says. " Then ' the beasts of
the people ' lifted up their voice, hallooing and shout-
ing on every side. As it was impossible to be heard,
I walked softly away." The crowd followed, throwing
a few stones, but without effect, and Wesley, having
reached Mr. Dobinson's house, at which he was
staying, the mob soon dispersed. In the following
March, however, Wesley returned to open a Methodist
conventicle, when he preached to a numerous

An effort at religious revival was also made at this
period by the Quakers, the novelty of their women-
preachers attracting much attention. In July, 1739,
Mrs. Drummond, a Quakeress, was drawn from the
King's Head Inn in a chariot to the County Hall,
where she addressed great crowds both morning and
evening. Again, in August, 1774, there was a large
meeting of the Quakers in the Town Hall, many of
them coming from a great distance. The audience
was addressed by three women, one of whom, Tobiah
Darby, spoke so effectively as to move her hearers to

One denomination which must have been very
unobtrusive in Derby in those days was the Roman

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The Roman Catholics 119

Catholic. Even the Mercury, which could tolerate
Methodists and other Dissenters, does not hesitate
occasionally to publish verses in which the trickery of
priests and the knavery of popes are made prominent
In August, 1734, o ne John Smith was hanged for
housebreakin g, who informed the crowd almost with
his last breath that he died "a Catholic." He had
been waited upon in gaol by the town clergy after
the usual fashion, and it was understood that he had
"made his peace" through them; but, according to
the Mercury, he had also been privately visited by
some interfering persons, who received him into the
Church of Rome. " Catholic," so insinuates the
Mercury, could only have one meaning. Its readers
probably inserted "Jacobite." On the fifth of
November, 1747, the usual bell-ringing and bonfires
received point from a string of scurrilous verses
in the Mercury narrating a conversation between the
Pope and his Satanic Majesty. On the other hand,
there was a strong protest against the town boys,
who startled quiet people with their squibs and small
cannon, as they have continued to do down to
modern times.

Clearly, any one of the common people who
declared himself a Papist in Derby in those days
would have been ostracised ; and as late as the
middle of the next century the Roman Catholic
gentry closed their shutters early in the evening on
the fifth of November.

The Established Church, although it might be
thought inert and apathetic, was yet a centre of some
culture and musical display. Organs were becoming
more general, and Oratorios, which afterwards

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developed into an important feature of Derby town
life, were becoming known, one being announced to
take place in St Werburgh's Church in May, 1772.

The various contributions to the columns of the
Mercury also show a better taste for poetry, and
literature in general ; and it is evident that education
among the wealthy was at no mean level The
Grammar School presented no sign of the lethargy
of the next century; its scholars were numerous,
and capable of distinguishing themselves. In March,
1753, ten of the students took part in the play of
"Cato," performed for the benefit of the orphans
of the late usher, when the spectacle was witnessed
by a large and select company, the dresses and
appointments being elaborate. The prologue is
stated by the Mercury to have been written by one
of the scholar-actors, a youth of sixteen.*

Poetry, more or less readable, was common in the
pages of the Mercury. Now, we are informed that a
gentleman has composed some verses on the " Happi-
ness of Virtue," and that Mr. Drewry has been
instructed to print a hundred copies on fine paper for
the writer to distribute amongst his friends; now it

*No Garrick here majestic treads the stage,
No Quin, your whole attention to engage,
No practised actor, here, the scene employs,
But a raw parcel of unskilful boys.

As when some peasant, who to treat his lord,
Brings out his little stock and decks his board
With what his ill-stor'd cupboard will afford,
With awkward bows, and ill-placed rustic airs
To make excuses for his feast prepares;
So we, with tremor mix'd with vast delight,
View the bright audience which appears to-night,
And conscious of its meanness, hardly dare
To bid you welcome to our homely fare.

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Genteel Manners and Customs 121

is a long eulogy in verse on the occasion of the
death of Dr. Almond, of the Grammar School ; and
again it is a sonnet by a love-sick poet who was
smitten at the Assembly, and who indites a " woeful
ballad made to his mistress* eyebrow," under the

heading, " On seeing K y B - 1 - - y at an

Assembly in Derby." Probably all the town knew
the fair Catharina, and the quizzing and the merri-
ment would be general ; for people in those days did
not hide their feelings, as modern etiquette requires
— they laughed heartily and wept copiously. They
courted the public gaze rather than avoided it, and
loved display in dress and pageant. In July, 1737,
when the Earl of Exeter and his lady came to
Derby for a stay at their town house, the bells were
rung in their honour; and in March, 1744, when his
lordship and his household were expected from Stam-
ford, the family tradesmen rode out some distance to
meet them, and escorted them into town with great

The funerals of the period were also occasions for
much pomp and ceremonial, the obsequies generally
taking place in the darkness of the evening, when
flambeaux or large candles carried by the mourners
added to the weirdness and gloom. In December,
1760 , the funeral of Thomas Gisborne, Esq., J.P.,
took place at night, the hearse being followed from
his house to St. Alkmund's Church by the Mayor and
Corporation, with the gentry, relations and servants,
all provided with "hatbands, scarves and gloves."
On April 6th, 1763, Thomas Rivett, Esq., who had
filled the posts of Mayor, Justice of the Peace, High
Sheriff, and Member for the Borough, died at Bath,

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his remains being brought to his native town for
burial. On the thirteenth, the hearse was met at the
outskirts in the evening by the gentry and trades-
people of the town on horseback, and escorted to
All Saints' Church.

On the other hand, when the Duke of Devonshire
was brought to Derby for burial, in October, 1764, all
pomp and display were dispensed with, only the
family custom of distributing a hundred pounds
among the poor being retained ; for the Cavendishes
were above criticism, and could ignore local custom
and prejudice with impunity. Their exalted position
commanded the deference and attention of every
faction in the town; and in any local disagreement
on ways and means, the presence of the Duke
silenced all sections, and the business in hand was
soon adjusted. The case of the Cavendish bridge at
Shardlow has already been noticed; and the New
Assembly Rooms, built at this period, owed their
existence in great measure to Cavendish liberality.
In February, 1763, the Blackamore's Head in the
Market Place began to be demolished, to form a
site for this new structure, and on September 10th,'
1765, the present noble building was opened, the
Duke and his two uncles being present at a brilliant
assembly of the gentry of the town and neighbour-

Another valuable improvement at this period was
the demolition of the damp and antiquated prison
over the brook in the Corn Market, where so many
generations of felons, martyrs and political offenders
had made their moan. In May, 1756, the old struc-
ture had almost disappeared, and much of the material

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Town Improvements 123

carted to Nun's Green, to be used in building the
new gaol where "the ground had been marked out
near the Cross* on the road leading to Ash-

There was also a movement on foot for the general
improvement of the town, and a meeting was held
at the Town Hall in November, 1774, to consider
the question of gaving and lighting" the streets, but
it was some years before a practical solution was
reached. The brook-course also attracted attention
occasionally through the Press, the dangerous nature
of the unguarded stream, with its pools and side
ditches, causing many disasters. Children sometimes
fell into the water and were drowned; one, rescued
after a considerable interval, revived, we are told,
after a vigorous rubbing with salt. Now a person
is reported to have been drowned in the pool at
Nunls Mill ; again a tradesman, supposed to have been
" in drink," missed the footpath at the Gaol Bridge
and staggered into the stream. The neighbours
heard the splash, but nothing could be done in the
darkness, and he sank. On another occasion two
wool-combers, reeling out of the foot of Walker Lane,
" in drink," and unable to keep the narrow path
which bounded " the ditch," stumbled in, one of them
being drowned.

Periodically, the brook rose, and worked ruin along
its course. Minor floods, in which "the streets were
under water," were not uncommon, but several times
in a century the event was one to be remembered

j *This was the Headless Cross, or "The Plague-stone," now in the
I Arboretum, but standing (within living memory) built up in part
• of the wall of the Gaol in Friargate.

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124 Derby : Its Rise and Progress

In January, 1774, there was a flood on market day,
interfering seriously with business* when many
persons from villages along the Markeaton valley
found difficulty in returning home, boats being
required at several points. On the following Monday,
the flood rose again, higher than before, reaching its
worst about seven in the evening, the current pouring
through the town in the darkness, terrifying the
householders in the valley, washing down the wall
of St Werburgh's churchyard, and carrying away the
wooden bridge at Bold Lane. In the Cora Market
the water extended as far as the Rotten Row.

Nevertheless, the brook served one useful purpose,
being always available in case of fire, especially in
winter time, when pumps and cisterns were hard
frozen. In December, 1767, a servant at the White
Lion Inn attempted to thaw the pump in the yard
by the aid of some lighted straw, causing a serious
Are, with much destruction and confusion. In a
short time the helpers were numerous, passing the
buckets along to feed the engines with water, but
more, as usual, was wasted than used, for the inn
yard was flooded, the pumpers " standing in the
water up to their knees."

The parish engines were destined to undergo
little alteration for many years, although mechanical
improvement in other directions was becoming con-
spicuous. Steam as a motive power was superseding
the old methods, and about the middle of the century
"fire-engines" (steam engines) were coming into use
for pumping purposes at the neighbouring collieries.
Nevertheless, wind and water still turned the town
corn mills, or a horse walked his round at the mill

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Local Men of Genius 125

in St. Peter's Street In the Holmes, a water-wheel
turned the machinery where iron and copper plates
were rolled and fashioned at the Slitting Mill.

Local vehicular traffic, also, was growing, and
chariots and family coaches gave employment to
carriage-builders and allied trades. In the houses,
sash-windows were beginning to be seen, in place of
small casements, and leaden down-spouts " were fitted
to the best houses some years before the town bye-
law made them general. Men of genius and enter-
prise were not lacking in the town. Whitehurst was
making a name with his clock-building, Strutt was
busy with his new stocking-frame, and Duesbury
was establishing the china industry. In December,
1752, Benjamin Yates announced that he intended
to continue the iron-gate work of his old master,
Robert Bakewell, lately deceased, whose artistic
hammer-work may still be seen in All Saints' Church.*

Occasionally, an obituary brings to notice some
prominent townsman. In February, 1770, Thomas
Bennett, who for forty-six years managed the silk
mill, died, aged seventy-six, having been the greatest
employer of labour in the town. In March, 1764,
died William Butts, the proprietor of the pot-works
on Cockpit Hill, a business which preceded the
more artistic work of Duesbury, recently established.

In September, 1767, Thomas Smith, an artist,
generally alluded to as " Smith, of Derby," was
widely celebrated for his landscape paintings, and

•Id the alterations which took place in 1873-4, much of Bake-
well's artist-work in hammered iron was most improperly taken
down and sold. The old engravings of the interior and exterior of
All Saints' Church bear testimony to the loss that Derby has
sustained in this respect.

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buried at St. AlkmuncTs Church, having died at Bath *
In November, 1763, Dr. Almond, headmaster of the
Grammar School for many years, died at his house
in St. Peter's Churchyard, and was succeeded by his
head assistant, the Rev. Thomas Manlove, M.A.,
under whose joint management the school had
attained to a high degree of efficiency. On
August 7th, 1769, Samuel Drewry, who for thirty-
seven years constituted himself the local historian,
died at the age of sixty-four, leaving the conduct
of the Mercury to John Drewry, his nephew.

Part II.— 1776- 1840

Derby, in the early part of the reign of George III.,
was a small closely-built town, consisting of a
number of narrow, crooked streets, of which Sadler
Gate still remains as an example. During the
century, new buildings arose, among which the
Town Hall and the Assembly Rooms were
the most artistic, but there had been little, if any,
extension of the town limits, and Speed's map of
Derby in 1610 required but few additions.
St Helen's House bounded the town on the north,
the Spot formed the southern limit, whilst cross-
wise it extended from the river to the county Prison
on Nun's Green. Many local names have disap-
peared in the town alterations of a century, and

* He left a son, John Raphael Smith, who, as a mezzotint
engraver, was no less celebrated than his father. Thomas Smith
was a self-taught artist, many of whose landscapes were engraved
by Vivares and others. He also used the etching-needle with

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When George III. was King 127

it would puzzle the present generation to find Cross
Lanes, The Twitchell, Dayson's Lane, Cuckold's
Alley, Hewitt's Barn, or the Apple Market. The
Markeaton brook meandered through the town,
crossed by ten narrow bridges, but the stream was not
so clear as it appeared to Camden at the close of the
Tudor age. The streets were unpaved, and without
side-walks, and the rain fell in cascades from the
eave-spouts of the houses. Pumps for public use
were generally surrounded by a quagmire, and people
of cleanly, disposition clattered _<along in pattens,
patten-making being one of the town trades. Until
1792 there were no street lamps, and persons moving
abroad after nightfall without a lantern were in
danger of stumbling over a cart or other obstacle
left out for the night. Public performances began
early, so as to enable the audience to reach home
before the streets became too lonely to be safe ;
for there were no town watchmen, and cases of street
robbery not unfrequently occurred, the thief hastening
away into the darkness with impunity.

In this crowded community, various, noisome trades
and occupations were carried on without restraint,
much as they used to be in the Middle Ages. The
rain occasionally washed the accumulated refuse
down the centre channel of the street to the brook
and tfie river, and this was the extent of the
cleansing, for the sanitary arrangements were without
any municipal control. Amongst other nuisances, a
fellmonger's yard lay beneath the windows of
Wesley's chapel in St. Michael's Lane, the stench
eventually proving too strong for ardent Methodism,
and the members migrated to the outskirts.

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By improved means of transit, Derby was now
coming more into touch with the outer world.
The town thoroughfares were being modernised to
suit the fast increasing traffic, and the medieval
pack-horse bridge over the Derwent gave place,
about 1791, to the present structure. "The Derby
Dilly," carrying six insides, was becoming a thing
of the past ; travellers had begun to trust themselves
to the coach roof, and Palmer's coaches* were open-
ing a new era in travelling. Canals, also, were being
constructed in all directions, and Derby became
connected with the larger " navigations," the terminus
being at the old Derwent Wharf. Railways were
yet in the distant future, but the " gang-road," which
the canal company laid down, and which can still
be seen at Little Eaton, may be considered a pioneer
of the modern system.

The gentry lived on the fringe of the town, as
detached houses beyond the outskirts would have
debarred them from attending the concerts and
Assemblies in the dark winter evenings. The town
was their little world, where they knew the
"pedigree" of every one of their own station and
of their superiors, and where they dispensed charity,
and received the bows and courtseys of their
dependents. Their speech was provincial ; they

* Mr. John Palmer, of Bath, first started mail-coaches for the con-
veyance of letters, August 2nd, 1784. A curious copper medal or token,
rarely met with now, was struck to commemorate the feet, although,
by an oversight, it is undated. It is styled a " Mail Coach Halfpenny.
Payable in London," and presents a galloping coach-and-four, with
its guard, and the motto, " To Trade, expedition ; and to Property,
protection." On the reverse, " To J. Palmer, Esq., this is inscribed as
a token of gratitude for benefits rece d from the establishment of
Mail Coaches— J. F."

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St. Mary's from the Bridge.

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When George III. was King 129

said "Warbro's" for "Werburgh," and "poonsh"
for "punch," and spoke their minds loudly and
expressively in the street, as their preachers did in
the pulpit They had acquired their education at
the Grammar School in St. Peter's Churchyard, where
they divided their time between poring over the
Latin grammar and writhing under the strokes of
the birch. The old school-house still stands, its
wainscots scored with the initials of many genera-
tions, but its scholars have long since departed ; and
the rising generation are trained in St Helen's House,
where modern ideas of education are carried out

Academies, in which a commercial education was
given, were on the increase, also the schools where \
young ladies were taught etiquette, deportment, and
the working of samplers, with only a little arithmetic
On one occasion, the secretary of the Assembly sent
in her account-book incomplete, with the excuse that
such tasks were unsuitable for a lady. Nevertheless,
they were proficient with the needle, they could
dance a minuet, and sing in the chorus at the
musical festivals. Dress and fashion offered an
ever-absorbing question, and on great occasions,
London experts in hair-dressing came to Derby to
construct those high head-dresses, stuffed with wool,
which we see in the portraits of the period For
the gentlemen, there was the Philosophical Society,
founded by Dr. Darwin in 1783 ; there was the
political club, with an occasional dinner; there were
meetings to protest against the slave trade, or to
promote town improvements, and one's name might
occasionally appear in the list of visitors at Buxton.
If a man cared for none of these things, he might

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130 Derby: Its Rise and Progress

gamble at the races, or at a cockfight, and drink too
much wine, and quarrel, and meet his rival at dawn
on Nun's Green with pistols and a surgeoa

Online LibraryArthur William DavisonDerby: its rise and progress → online text (page 9 of 24)