Bygone Farming And Other Memories
By George Wood
Kirk Hallam was my holiday venue each August when I would come down here by train from the smoke and grime of the industrial north and spend a very happy two or three weeks with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins during my school holidays. Then, in 1935, I came to live down here permanently, in the first of the four ancient cottages right at the western end of the village which were known as Bunkers Hill Cottages. The rent then was 7/6d per week, and our landlord was Samuel Wilkinson, the farmer who owned Poplar Farm, and I still have the original rent book in my possession. In those days, if we look at the map of 1938, Kirk Hallam consisted of a single road right through the village from east to west, with houses on either side of the road, 49 in all, with the ancient church of All Saints, and four thriving farms which had stood there for generations, ie Vine Farm, Poplar Farm, Spring Farm and Bridge House Farm. In addition to those, there were three more farms on the outskirts, Sowbrook, Ladywood, and Thacker Barn, which altogether formed a close knit farming community around which the whole village life revolved. There was ample grazing land for cattle and horses, and the whole area comprised of excellent crop-bearing fields too, which annually produced wheat, oats and barley. To those born in Kirk Hallam, the annual cycle of events on the farms were taken for granted, whereas to my young mind, as a former city dweller, it was all new to me and something wonderful to behold. My childhood memories of village life was of the old weather-beaten farm labourers plodding down the fields behind the huge cart-horses pulling the ploughs through the rich fertile soil, and then afterwards I would watch them sowing the seed by hand as they walked up and down the field with arms swinging rhythmically alternately from side to side, scattering the grain by handfuls. As the months rolled by, I watched the grass growing taller ready for mowing, the golden fields of corn ripening in the glorious sunshine we used to enjoy in those by-gone summers, and the oats and barley swaying in the breeze giving the visual effect of waves rippling across the vast open fields.
Then came the harvest time, and once again I would watch those magnificent great horses pulling mowing machines, rakes and swath turners across the fields, and reapers and binders tying the crops into bundles; the culmination of the harvest time was the actual gathering in of the hay on to huge hay-carts by means of long forks and the subsequent stacking of it into the huge Dutch barns with their semi-circular steel roofs in the farm stackyards; the crop-bearing fields yielded up their produce to the giant threshing machines driven by a traction engine, separating the corn from the chaff. The children of the village attended the old school at the bottom of the hill, ably managed by Mrs Francis Bramwell, and then as they grew older, they would be sent further afield to finish their education at either Kensington, Cavendish, Hallcroft or Grammar School. There was just one small shop in the village run by the Chadwick family in their home, where I would frequently pop in to buy a pennyworth of Palm toffee, or two large white loaves for 4½d! We used to get our milk daily from an old lady, Mrs Camp, who used to come down from Ockbrook in a pony and trap, and we would listen for the clip-clop of the pony’s hooves as it came down the hill from Ladywood and pulled up at Bunkers, where she would measure out a gill of milk from a huge milk churn stood in the trap, and then off she would go down the village. The Ilkeston Co-op used to send a butchery van to the village two or three times a week, and a bakery van, whilst Bramleys of White Lion Square used to come round with a lorry loaded up with all items of household goods and utensils, and as he used to deliver paraffin too, to refill the lamps we had to use before electricity reached Kirk Hallam, he was always known as “The Paraffin Man”.
Back in the 1930’s, we were just getting electricity supplies to our village to supersede the paraffin lamp era, but up at Bunkers Hill we never did get a sewerage system installed, right up to the demolition of the cottages in 1953. Sanitation was extremely basic, with outside privies and no flushing facilities at all, just sprinklings of disinfectant powder. Bath night was accomplished with a galvanised tin bath on the hearth in front of the fire and keeping one’s fingers crossed that no female company would arrive unexpectedly! There were no gas or electric cookers, so all cooking and food preparation had to be done on the old open ranges and ovens, and ironing was done with the old flat irons heated in front of the fire. Hot water bottles were not in production, so fire bricks heated in the fire and wrapped in cloths were a cheap substitute to warm our beds. Fridges had not come into being, but in our house at Bunkers we had an underground cellar where food could be kept nice and cool. Ours was the only one which had a cellar, and it had been handed down by word of mouth that in years gone by, no. 1 Bunkers Hill, had been an ale house, a fact which I have tried unsuccessfully to verify with County Records at Matlock. From the door of our house at Bunkers, there was nothing but fields all the way to Derby Road, with Shipley Wood in the distance, the only sign of habitation was Thacker Barn Farm, and on a clear night, it was possible to see the light flashing on top of the Sherwood Foresters memorial tower at Crich Stand.
During the summer, we used to see scores of people and lots of kiddies strolling past and heading up the hill towards Ladywood, either to pick bluebells or to carry on to Dale Abbey to picnic there, and on their return we would always get many requests for a glass of water to quench their thirst. We used to get lovely hot summers back in the 1930’s, year after year, without fail, but we also used to get quite severe winters too, and many’s the time we had two to three feet deep snow drifts and had to dig ourselves out of the house each morning. I used to feel heartily sorry for some school children who lived at Dale Abbey, and who had to walk all the way to Ilkeston each day to go to school, and then walk all the way back at night, ploughing through snow-drifts up to their hips all the way, as there were no buses for them, and if there had been, they would have been too poor to pay bus fare. One of them was in my class at Cavendish. A few of us lads used to go down the fields towards Derby Road armed with small fishing nets and jam jars to catch sticklebacks in the canal. One day, I remember one lad catching a pike which was trapped in a pool, and he hit it on the head with a stick as it was too large for our nets, that was his tea that night. Kirk Hallam was a bird watcher’s paradise, as we had so many different types in the area. Just off-hand, I can name the more common birds we used to see daily - house sparrows, hedge sparrows, robins, blackbirds, thrushes, blue tits, great tits, wagtails, magpies, chaffinches, bullfinches, wood pigeons, swallows, corncrakes, yellow hammers, crows, rooks, plovers, skylarks, starlings and the cuckoo. The ancient Church of All Saints was, of course, the focal point of our small village. The Vicar in those days was the Reverend John Edward Dallimore, whose initials J.E.D. prompted us young ‘uns to call him “Jeddy”!
At the side of the church was a large wooden hut known as the Parish Room, which was used for social evenings and wedding receptions. In the late 1930’s, a Mr Taylor came to live in the village, and he managed to persuade all the youth of Kirk Hallam and several from Little Hallam to form a Bible Class which met every Sunday afternoon in the Parish Room. One Christmas, the Bible Class performed a Nativity Play, which was very well received by the villagers, and I was one of King Herod’s guards in the play. I shall never forget watching with fascination our bell-ringer, Alfred Rice, whose parents owned Spring Farm, ringing the peal of three bells by pulling a rope with each hand and ringing the third by putting his foot in a loop of the rope - quite an achievement to keep up for a prolonged period. The church was always at its best when decorated for the annual Harvest Festival each summer. The interior of the church resembled a huge garden and allotment as every available space, window ledges, the font etc, were full of all the local produce from farms, gardens and orchards, and the old rafters would resound to the Harvest hymns sung with great gusto, “Come ye thankful people come”, “We plough the fields and scatter” or “Praise, O praise our God and King”. The produce was afterwards divided between the poor parishioners and Ilkeston Hospital, so I was told. On odd occasions, I used to pump the bellows of the organ for Mr Clay, our organist. A couple of amusing incidents I can recall, and they are perfectly true, as maybe some of our older parishioners could verify. One very bitterly cold Sunday morning in mid winter, the first hymn was “Rescue the Perishing”. I can assure you that most of the congregation that morning really were perishing! The other incident was at Evensong one winter, and as we commenced to sing the hymn, “Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom”, the whole church was plunged into darkness due to a power cut!
Rev Dallimore gave the solemn news that we were now at war with Germany
On the morning of Sunday, 3 September, 1939, we were all in church awaiting the start of the 11.00 am service, and Rev Dallimore had stayed behind in the Vicarage to listen to what the Prime Minister, Mr Chamberlain, had to announce in his scheduled broadcast. After a few minutes, Rev Dallimore came slowly into the church, climbed up into the pulpit, and gave the solemn news that we were now at war with Germany. Some of the older parishioners were already serving in H.M. Forces, but within a few years we teenagers joined the ranks of all three services. From our small village seventeen of us went to serve our country, and thankfully, sixteen of us returned home safely after the War. But alas, our beautiful, quiet, country village was soon torn asunder by post war development, so that now our village, which dated back to the Domesday era has been virtually obliterated. The four old farms, Bunkers Hill Cottages and my Aunt and Uncle’s home have all been wiped off the face of the earth, and if we look at a map of this area dated 1970, you have to use a lot of imagination to even find where Kirk Hallam used to be.
From The Parish Box
Tithes - June 12th 1837
The whole Parish of Kirk Hallam as aforesaid contains 712 acres 2 roods and 18 perches of Land statute measure.
The whole quantity of the Lands of the said parish which are subject to the payment of any kind of Tithes is 684 acres 0 roods and 9 perches statute measure, and the names of the respective owners thereof and the proportional sums at which such lands respectively are rated to the poor are as underwritten, that is to say:-
The whole quantity of land subject to tithes within the said parish which is cultivated as arable land is 275 acres 1 roods 16 perches statute measure.
The whole quantity of land subject to tithes within the said parish which is cultivated as meadow or pasture land is 400 acres 2 roods 33 perches statute measure. The whole quantity of Glebe land within the said parish is the Churchyard which contains 3 roods. There is no common land within the said Parish. There are no moduses (sic) compositions real or prescription customary payments in lieu of tithes within the said parish, but, The land cultivated as woodland within the said Parish is 27 acres 3 roods and 9 perches and has not paid tithes within the memory of man.
Walks Through Kirk Hallam
By George Pitchford
How well as a boy, then as a young man and later as a married man, I remember walking into Kirk Hallam over the railway bridge, up the hill and on the left, where there is now a housing estate, there was a stile where we walked across the fields, past the numerous fish ponds, on to what was always known as the Twelve Houses at the foot of Stanton village. Further up the hill and opposite Kirk Hallam church was a farm and entrance on each side to two farmhouses. Further along the road and on the left hand side there was a lovely duck pond, always full of ducks. There was always a story (not substantiated) when I was young, that at one of the farmhouses, opposite the church, George Eliot, the novelist, wrote “Mill on the Floss”. On along Ladywood Road, which, on a quiet summer’s day before the advent of the motor car, was a world on its own, and on to Ladywood and the turn to Dale Abbey village and the Carpenter’s Arms which in those days was a true village pub with a brick floor. From the foot of Dale village you could look across to Stoney Clouds where there was a series of caves. I often day dream of those halcyon days in and around the countryside which I knew so well.
From The Parish Box
Queen Anne’s Bounty to Kirk Hallam.
Mr. Hodgson presents his compliments to Mr. Parker and informs him that this Rectory was augmented by the Governors of Queen Anne’s Bounty in the years 1735, 1773 and 1792 with £200 in each of these years and that £200 part thereof was expended in 1737 in the purchase of 21 acres of land at Attenborough and that £400 further part thereof was expended in 1803 in the purchase of 9 acres 0 roods 25 perches of land in Sandiacre. The conveyance deeds of these Estates are deposited in this office, and may be inspected by any authorised person calling at this office with a letter from Mr. Parker and Extracts or Copies from either obtained on being pointed out what may be required.