Muckram and Pennytown
HISTORY OF MUCKRAM, LOWER BIRCHWOOD
1. Early References
Probably the earliest date for a reference to Muckram is from the “Particulars for the sale of the Chantry of the Blessed Mary in Alfreton” and the grant to Thomas Babbington in 1549. Reginald Johnson, in his book “The History of Alfreton” lists the “Particulars for the Sale” which included the entry: “The Manor House of the Chantry Keeper with land and a close called Flowery Lees and one called Cockram Hole [Although the exact site of the Chantry House is not known, the Grant refers to Cockram Hole, which would appear to be a reference to what became known as Muckram Hole].
Another early reference to Muckram appears in a “Release and QuitClaim” document by John Zouch of Codnor Castle. This document mentions various people in the Alfreton area, including Edmund Meymott of Alfreton. In the same document it is stated that “…Edmund Meymott owns a messuage at Somercotes, a close at Alfreton known as Mockerome Hole and a close at Somercotes known as Lee Close…”. The place described as “Mockerome Hole” almost certainly refers to the area known as Muckram.
In 1835, The Ecclesiastical Commissioners responsible for the division of Alfreton Parish to create the Parish of Riddings referred in their report to a place known as Muckram Noll [sic], which bordered the boundary with the Parish of Pinxton. [Please refer to the 18th & 19th Centuries Tab for the full transcript]. An 1844 map of Upper or Over Birchwood, just over the parish boundary, shows the field names of Little Muckroom, Long Muckroom and Great Muckroom. These are almost certainly ancient field names, although the names may have become bastardised over the centuries.
Putting all of the above references together, it can be seen that Muckram was a small area of land that was eventually split by the parish boundary. Although known as Muckram to the locals, by the 20th century the area had become known as New Birchwood, in part perhaps due to the official name of Shady Colliery, which had changed to that name previously.
2. The Hamlet of Muckram [by Judith Fitzhugh]
Lower Birchwood, Somercotes, was discovered to be an area rich in coal seams as far back as the twelfth century when monks mined for coal at Smotherfly. Since then many shafts were sunk through the ages in the Birchwood and Smotherfly areas. Several Birchwood Collieries, including Shady Colliery, to give it the local name, were sunk in the early 1800’s. These eventually came under the ownership of Charles Seely, a Nottinghamshire industrialist. Seely was an important coal master in the nineteenth century and owned many collieries, especially in Nottinghamshire. These included Cinderhill, Babbington, Newcastle, Broxtowe, Kimberley and Bulwell along with Tibshelf and Lower Birchwood in Derbyshire.
In several of these areas Seely provided cottages for his workforce to assist the expansion of his coal businesses. In Somercotes he funded the long row of terraced houses on Somercotes Common called Seely Terrace. At Muckram twenty-six houses were built as a small hamlet, possibly for the workers at Shady Pit. The colliery was quite large and a significant number of men worked underground on different mining tasks supported by surface workers such as blacksmiths, horse fettlers, sawyers and engine men. The majority of the workers lived in Muckram, along Seely Terrace or in the immediate Birchwood area within close walking distance to the colliery.
At Muckram the colliery site and railway buildings spread over approximately thirty acres and the twenty-six small houses were built and arranged economically very close to the colliery, its workshops and pit chimney. All of them were brick built terraced houses with tiled roofs. A few of the cottages had three rooms but most had four consisting of a wash kitchen with a pantry, a living room and two bedrooms. There were mains cold water and gas provision but no running hot water, no electricity, no bathrooms and no indoor flushing toilets. Light was from fishtail gas lamps supplied with gas generated at the colliery’s Gas Chamber, but candles and paraffin lamps supplemented the supply. Cooking and heating was done using the concessionary coal from each miner’s allocations of one ton per month. Rent was deducted from each miner’s wages before he received it.
There were two main sections of houses in the hamlet of Muckram. The first group, numbering 1-10 and 21-26, were situated on Muckram Lane and were the houses on the bottom field. Locals called it the Bottom Stile. Each of these houses had a wash kitchen in the form of a “Lean-to” structure that housed a copper for heating water. The other houses on Long Row, numbers 11-20, were sited on the Top Stile near to the large mound called Johnson’s Hill. These houses had no wash kitchens so when they needed large amounts of hot water such as on wash days or for baths they had to light fires outside and boil water on them.
Every house in Muckram had a small garden plot for growing vegetables and a pig-sty adjoining an outside toilet. The toilets were called “Middens” and they had no flush systems. These “Pan lavatories” were emptied once a week by local council workers and the effluent was spread on the fields of the local farms. Despite having a pig-sty, not everyone kept a pig. Some families kept a few hens or rabbits while others kept ferrets or pigeons. The pig -sties were also used for storage. To-day the houses would not be considered suitable for family accommodation.
Muckram was a dirty, noisy, harsh place to live and it was usual for families then to have at least six or more children. Life was hard for the men who had to work very long hours in dangerous, unhealthy conditions at the colliery. It was hard too for their wives who had the constant drudge to care for their families and to keep them clean, safe and well-nourished. Their houses were totally dominated by the colliery with its hundred-foot chimney, slag heap and noisy workshops and hemmed in by railway lines and sidings.
There was one other house in the hamlet that was entirely different to all the rest and it stood alone. Number 27 was situated in its own private garden with a cart entrance off the access road. Swiss Cottage was so called because it was built in the style of a Swiss chalet. It had originally been built for the son of an earlier owner of the land prior to Charles Seely. After he acquired the land, Swiss Cottage was inhabited by the Under-managers of the pit for many years. It was a large house having a parlour, a living room with a cooking range, a pantry, three bedrooms, a wash house, a coal place and an earth closet. It was the first house on the right on Muckram Lane along a private drive. It is still there now.
There were no shops in Muckram, the nearest shop being a small “Shed-shop” at the bottom of Birchwood Lane which stocked most every-day items. A lot of traders, however, brought their goods to the hamlet, as described by Les Burt in his “Tales of a Muckram Lad”: “Friday was pay day at Shady. It was also the day when most of the traders came. Bill Grice and Sam Burton drove in with Abbott’s van bringing a wide selection of groceries, while Walter Mason’s “paraffin” cart had everything from a tin bath to a box of matches. On Saturday there was the butcher, Harold Pidcock, and our greengrocers were Mrs Hilton and Joe Glenn, who also came mid-week with fish. We could hear the distinctive cry of “Apple Ripe!” long before his cart rumbled in. Fred Dawes called on Tuesday, his van loaded with household needs. Leonard Miles sold pots and pans from a dray long before he ventured into the furniture trade and in later years Cyril Swain washed the coal dust from his lorry and loaded up with greengrocery.”
In contrast to the man-made industrialisation of Muckram, the surrounding countryside provided a wealth of beauty. Birchwood Brook which ran through the hamlet near to the railway line was the watershed for all the local streams and never ran dry. The water was naturally clear and sparkling. There were thick woods with glades of anemones and celandines while bulrushes and yellow king cups grew in abundance in or near the local Penny Town ponds. Bluebells and red Campion’s carpeted the woods near to Red Bridge and the Plantation, the area just north of the Muckram was full of shrubs and hedgerows with rich fruits such as elderberries, blackberries and rose hips.
As previously stated it was normal for families to have far more children than families now. Due to the hard life that was led for working-class people and the poor living conditions many children died as babies or in early infancy. Most women had their babies delivered at home and doctors had to be paid for as there was no N.H.S. then. Add to this the lack of sanitation, the poor diet and the sheer number of children who had to be looked after plus the fact that women had babies in quick succession, it is not hard to understand why the infant mortality rate was so high. The 1911 Census for the hamlet showed that 22 out of the 27 families had children. From these 22 families 9 families reported that one child had died and two families reported that they had lost three children at young ages. Equally, many women died at relatively young ages for the same reasons.
3. The Mission Chapel
The first Anglican Church service at Birchwood seems to have taken place as early as 1840. The Parish Church of St. Thomas’ 150th Anniversary Magazine records that “In 1840 the Bishop of Lichfield granted permission to the Vicar of Riddings to perform and celebrate Divine Service in a building situate at Birchwood”. This pre-dates both the Church of St. Thomas and the Birchwood United Methodist Chapel. It is not known exactly where on Birchwood Lane this building was located, or for how many years it may have continued as a place of worship. The fact that such a service did take place acknowledged the growing need to provide some form of worship for the small but flourishing community. It was not until much later, however, that a dedicated building was erected.
In the early 1890’s the Church approached Sir Charles Seely to ask if he would provide a place of worship at Lower Birchwood for the local population. At the time Sir Charles was head of the Babbington Coal Company, which operated the Birchwood Collieries and owned much of the surrounding estate. It was common in such circumstances for the Church to lease or rent the land for a nominal sum and Sir Charles Seely provided approximately one acre of land to that effect. It was situated off Muckram Lane and was the site of a former brickworks. Sir Charles also defrayed half the cost of the building itself.
The Mission Church opened on 22 March 1893. Details of the opening service were reported in the Derbyshire Courier, published on 25 March, which read: “On Wednesday evening the opening of the Mission Church took place. The choir at the parish church, robed at Mr. Merriman's, sang in procession the hymn ‘Through the night of doubt and sorrow.’ The service was fully choral. A passage of scripture was read by Mr. T. L. Luff Mr. Towson, the licensed lay readers, upon whom the conducting of the services will mainly depend. An address was delivered by the Rev. R. B. Davies, curate-in-charge. The total cost of the building, which is pleasantly situated, is £6O. The Babbington Coal Company have given half the money, and also found labour to erect the structure, the dimensions of which is 35 feet by 15 feet. Other subscriptions have been given, until the debt prior to opening was £9. The offertory at the service realised £l. The building was supplied by Messrs. Boulton and Paul, of Norwich.”
The decision had been made to purchase a prefabricated mission hall from the company of Boulton & Paul, who by the 1890’s were producing a range of buildings which were manufactured in sections that could be easily assembled on site. It was a quick and inexpensive way to erect a variety of buildings. Their range included standardised churches, chapels, mission and gospel halls as well as hospitals and school rooms. The chapels often became known as “Tin Tabernacles”. The new churches were usually sited on rudimentary brick or rubble-and-mortar foundations; they had a bolt-together wooden frame, an inside wall lined with tongue-and-groove match-board pine and the roof and outer walls were clad with corrugated iron sheeting.
The finished building at Muckram probably looked similar to the church erected at the Butterley Railway Museum for the Midland Railway Trust, and comparable to the St. Barnabas Mission Room that had been opened at Pye Bridge in 1887. It was lit by three hanging paraffin lamps and was heated by a large combustion stove. The Altar was a small draped table and there was a lectern and a harmonium. It had seating for 100 worshipers, although the average attendance in the 1850’s was 40.
PHOTO: The Mission Chapel at Butterley
The Chapel is recalled in a book titled “Farewell to a Muckram Lad” by Les Burt. In this book he describes the chapel as the “Mittie”, which was made from corrugated iron, painted with red oxide and lined inside with varnished boards.
Such buildings not only had a religious function, but often became the focal point of a community, as would have been the case for the people of Lower Birchwood and Muckram. During 1893 a coal dispute resulted in the miners being locked out of the colliery, causing hardship for families throughout the area. They resumed work in October that year and a special Harvest Festival was held at the newly erected Mission Church. The event was recorded in the Derbyshire Courier published on 21 October, which also followed the report with further information regarding the buildings use during the dispute: “BIRCHWOOD - Church Mission Room - A special service was conducted in this Mission Room on Sunday evening last by Mr. G. C. Towson, lay reader, on the occasion of the harvest festival. A novel feature among the offerings was barrow-full of newly got coal from the Bircbwood Colliery on the resumption of work. The interior of the building had been decorated with corn, flowers, etc., by the Misses Tomlinson, Mr. Tomlinson, and Mr. Mellors. There was a fair congregation, and the offertory realised 10s. 7½d which was most satisfactory considering the depressed circumstances of trade.” - “School For Pit Lads - During the miners’ lockout a number of pit lads applied for admission to the Somercotes Boys’ School. Mr. Hicking, the schoolmaster, took in as many as he could, to the number of 20, but was obliged to refuse admission to about ten more for whom he had no room. These went to the infant school and asked to be admitted there, but Miss Jones was unable to admit them as the school was already full. Accordingly the following morning, a temporary school for the pit lads was opened at the Birchwood Mission Room by the Rev. R. B, Davies, curate in-charge and 26 scholars were enrolled. By the end of the first week the number on the books was 84 and the average attendance for the week was 38. The school met five days week, from ten to twelve, and from two to four. The syllabus of instruction includes religious teaching, reading, writing, and occasional singing and drilling. Through the kindness of a friend a football has been provided for recreation three days a week, and illustrated papers which the lads can take home in the evening and change the following one. We believe that this is the first school of the kind that has been opened, and it speaks well for the lads of Somercotes that they should have thought of such good way of occupying their spare time.”
Over the years the building served as a place for children’s parties, as a school room, a place where Coroner’s Inquests were held and for many other events as well as for religious services. The caretakers were unpaid valuable members of the congregation. The Brocklehurst family were one time caretakers at the Mission Church and their eldest daughter, Maud, held weekly Saturday night dances there which became known as “Maud’s Sixpenny Hop”. Annie Gadsby, wife of a local farmer was also a caretaker and school teacher. Her funeral was reported in the Derbyshire Times & Chesterfield Herald on 12 January 1924: “BIRCHWOOD RESIDENTS FUNERAL - The interment of the late Mrs. Annie Gadsby, wife of Mr. Harry Gadsby of Shady Farm, Birchwood, took place at Swanwick Churchyard on Saturday. Deceased had been for many years an earnest worker and school teacher at the Birchwood Mission Church, where she will be sadly missed. The service was conducted by the Rev. R. Birtwistle”
The Somercotes Parish Magazine also printed various articles relating to the Mission Church, some of which are transcribed below:
October 1920: “On Sunday Sept. 12th Services were held in the above room. In the afternoon the Scouts made a good show and the children listened attentively to the Vicar’s address. In the evening, Mr. W. F. Croft of Tibshelf took the service and preached an excellent sermon. The room was full on both occasions, the collections were good and the children sung the hymns well.”
This was the first service that had been held at the Mission Church for several years, possibly due to the war effort depleting the congregation, although the exact reason is not known. The article continued:
“Many have pleasant memories of services in past years and we are looking forward to reviving them when more help is available.”
September 1925: “Progress is reported at the Mission Room. The services seem fairly well established now and we are looking forward to a happy winter session. Now the evenings are getting darker and the weather colder it will necessitate some provision of light and heat. To meet this need arrangements have been made to have gas put in, with a radiator for heat. This will make the room nice and comfortable, so we feel we can give a hearty invitation to all who join with us in our services of worship and prayer to Almighty God. Of course these improvements involve an outlay of money (about £15) and we should be glad to receive donations towards the same. These donations should be given to the Vicar or to Mr. Stirland Tomlinson.”
This article is interesting as previous to this date it was believed that the Babbington Coal Company provided coal for heating at no cost to the church. This was probably true in the early years of the Mission Chapel, but it seems that by 1926, some 33 years after its erection, heating and lighting was a problem and the building may have been in need of some repair and refurbishment. The gas was probably provided from the collieries own gas works, as was the houses at Muckram.
November 1926: “We are trying to beautify this little room by having a new Altar Table and Screen. The Screen has now been erected.”
July 1928: “As promised some time ago, the room has been renovated, painted and varnished and now is in a very good condition and looks well. We are grateful to the Babbington Coal Co. for another kindness added to the many which they have shown us in times gone by...”
By the mid-1930’s attendance at the Mission Church seems to have waned and its continued service to the community must have been in doubt. By the end of the 1930’s the situation became worse for the church as the Babbington Coal Company sold their entire Somercotes and Birchwood estate, including the Birchwood Collieries, to the Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company of Chesterfield in 1939. Whether or not this sale had any influence on the decision is not known, but the Mission Church closed its doors for good around this time.
The Mission Church building was dismantled and moved nearer to the colliery in 1940, where it was used as a canteen for the mine workers. Its later history is told by Les Burt in his book. Sheepbridge Iron & Coal Company closed the colliery in 1941 and their estate was sold at auction the following year. The building was sold and again dismantled and re-erected on land in Somercotes owned by John Bakewell, who ran both a bakery and plant nursery business. In the 1970’s the nursery was closed and the land sold for re-development to a builder. Some years later, the old Mission Church was used as a store by the builders during construction of the bungalows on Hilton Park Drive, and was eventually demolished in 1991 after almost one hundred years.
4. The 1911 Census Return for Muckram [by Judith Fitzhugh]
Muckram is referred to as New Birchwood in the Census Return of 1911. These are the 27 families who lived in Muckram at the time. The numbers refer to the house number they lived in and the first names are the householders who completed the Census.
1. Henry Sansam (44)
Henry Sansam was born in 1867 at Nuttall’s Park, Ripley, the oldest child of Samuel and Elizabeth Sansam. His father came from Lincolnshire and his mother was born in Ripley. In 1881 the Sansam family were living in Muckram where Samuel was a colliery labourer and Henry (14) was also listed as a coal miner. In 1886 Henry Sansam married Elizabeth Burt, a local girl, and they lived at Bonsall’s Row, Smotherfly. In 1889 the family received the news that Henry’s father had been killed by being run over by wagons at the colliery. Local newspapers at the time reported that Samuel Sansam (56) left a widow and seven children.
In 1911 Henry Sansam was 44 and employed as a Ganger at Shady Pit. The house was unusual in the hamlet as it had six rooms. Henry and Elizabeth declared on their Census form that they had been married for 24 years and of the ten children born, nine had survived. (Mary Elizabeth Sansam died at the age of 8 in 1895.) Also living with them was Ellen Frances Sansam, their daughter-in-law, who had been married for one year to James, their son, and William Burt (78), Elizabeth’s father. Their three oldest sons, James (22), Samuel (17) and Henry (14) all worked below ground at the colliery.
The Sansam family continued to live at 1, New Birchwood for many years. When the colliery closed and the site was sold in 1942 they were still living there, paying five shillings and seven pence each week in rent.
Henry Sansam died in 1947 aged 80.
2. George Mawdsley (32)
In 1911 John George Mawdsley, his wife, Charlotte, and their four children lived at No. 2, New Birchwood. It was the first house on the left off Muckram Lane in the bottom field. George Mawdsley came from Lancashire and was born about 1879 at Haydock, St. Helens. When he was growing up he knew about coal mining at first hand as his father, Henry was a Hewer in Stapenhill where they lived. In 1901 George also worked as a Hewer alongside his father and older brother, William. In 1911 the Mawdsleys had been married for 9 years and had four children, all of whom were born in Somercotes and still living. They were George Henry (7), William Francis (5), Gladys (3) and Lesley Arthur (1).
3. William Partridge (43)
William Edward Partridge was the oldest child of Isaac Partridge, an agricultural labourer, and his wife, Ann, who was a lace-maker. He was born in Bedfordshire around 1868 and by the age of 13 was working as an agricultural labourer alongside his father. With the decline of agriculture and the need for labour in the industrial areas of the country William Partridge moved from Bedfordshire to Derbyshire. In 1891 he was married and living with his wife, Louisa Elizabeth (n. Sandham) in New Birchwood. Louisa Partridge was born in Riddings and they probably met when he was employed as a labourer at Alfreton Foundry. They married in 1890.
In 1911 William Partridge was 43 and employed as a Stallman at Shady Colliery. At that time the couple had been married for 21 years and had a daughter, Florence aged 19, and three sons; John William (17), Albert Edward (10) and George (4).
The Partridges continued to live at 3. New Birchwood until they died. Louisa Partridge died in February 1937 while William survived her by three years, passing away in May 1940. They are buried at Birchwood Chapel on Birchwood Lane.
4. Charles Wade (32)
Charles Edward Wade lived all his life in New Birchwood, being born in 1878, the youngest child of William and Ann Wade. His father came from Stamford, Lincolnshire and his mother from Ilkeston. Growing up in New Birchwood Charles was familiar with the different jobs concerned with mining coal. William, his father, was an Engine Driver, his oldest brother, also called William, was a Blacksmith and when Charles left Somercotes National School aged 13 he went to work below ground at Shady Colliery. In 1903 Charles married Mary Elizabeth Woodcock at Birchwood Chapel. Tragically, they lost their first child and then Mary died in 1905 aged just 31 leaving Charles a widow with a baby son, George William. He had been married for only two years.
In 1911 Charles resided at 4, New Birchwood, a house with three rooms. He was employed as a Head Ganger at the pit and his young son, George, was six and at school. Charles Wade declared in the Census that he employed a housekeeper, Emma Smith, (48) who was widowed to look after the family. His father William Wade (60) lived nearby also in Muckram, at number 22 on Long Row.
5. William Ward (77)
William Ward was widowed and living alone in 1911. His cottage, number 5, had three rooms. William was born in South Normanton to Nathaniel and Hannah Ward in 1831. In 1841 he lived with his parents at Greenhill Lane, Riddings and his father was employed as a miner at a local colliery. By 1871 William was married and living with his wife, Ann, on the north side of the brook in New Birchwood. For a while in the 1880s the Ward family left Muckram and lived in Bramley Street. William was 52 by then and still working as a coal miner, while two of his sons were also employed, John (15) as a coal miner and Thomas (13) as a blacksmith. His mother-in-law, Emma Bayliss (73) who was a midwife, also lived with the family as did two male boarders, George Gallantry (Spring maker) and Thomas Truman (Foundry Labourer). In 1891 the Ward family returned to Muckram and lived at Number 5 as their children had grown up and left home. They had been married for fifty years. William continued to live alone there until 1915 when he died aged 75.
6. Stephen Lee (29)
Stephen Henry Lee, aged 29, was unmarried in 1911 and supported his widowed mother, Hannah Lee, at 6, New Birchwood. He was employed as a colliery surface Banksman. Records show that the family had lived in Muckram for more than twenty years although Stephen was born in Pentrich. Stephen’s father, Thomas, died in 1885 when Stephen was only three years old and so it is probable that Stephen could not remember his father. Stephen was Hannah Lee’s younger child, his sister, Ada, being two years older. In 1911 Stephen and Hannah Lee were the only family members living at Number 5. Stephen Lee died at the relatively young age of 44 in 1926.
7. James Wray (24)
James Wray (24) and his wife, Bertha (25), were one of the youngest families living in Muckram in 1911.James was not a local man, having been born in Nottingham, where his father, who was also called James, was a Lace Machine Labourer. On leaving school James Wray (14) started his working life as a Harness Maker. Sometime in the early part of the twentieth century James met Bertha Froggatt, who came from a family of girls in Birchwood Lane. Her father, George Froggatt, was a miner. The couple married at Saint Thomas’ Church, Somercotes on February 20th 1909 and settled in Somercotes. The 1911 Census showed that they lived at 7, New Birchwood on Muckram Lane. The house had four rooms. The couple had been married for two years and had two children safely delivered. However, only one child, Ida, aged one, survived. James was a Hewer at Lower Birchwood Colliery.
8. Herbert Burt (36)
There is a lot of information about Herbert Burt and his family because one of his children, Herbert Lesley Burt, wrote about the family and their life at Muckram in three small books.
Herbert Burt was born in Lower Birchwood when his parents John and Sarah Ann Burt, came to Derbyshire from Lincolnshire around 1870. In 1891 Herbert (16) worked at Shady Colliery alongside his two older brothers Walter (20) and Frank (18) as well as his father, John (56). Close to where the Burt family lived in Lower Birchwood were the Hollingworth family. In 1899 Herbert Burt married Jane Hollingworth. Herbert’s family followed the Catholic faith while Jane’s family were Methodists. In 1911 Herbert Burt was a Gas Stoker at New Birchwood Colliery. He lived with his wife, Jane (30) at the four-roomed house that was 8, New Birchwood.
Family records show that Herbert and Jane had the following children:
In 1932 Herbert Burt lost a leg in an accident at Shady Pit. It was reported in the “Ripley and Heanor News” on February 12th 1932 that “Herbert Burt, married, of Lower Birchwood had a leg crushed on Saturday by a truck. He was admitted to the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary on February 5th 1932.He was administered first aid by Albert Winfield (Shunter) of Quarry Road, St John’s Ambulance”.
Jane Burt died before her husband in 1944. Her husband lived for another twenty years dying at the age of 88 in 1964. They are both buried at Birchwood Chapel.
PHOTO: A photograph taken at Muckram c.1911 [read below]
9. George Howitt (42)
George Howitt was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire but in 1891 was a boarder in the household of William Ward West in Birchwood. Also living at the house at the same time was a servant, Honorah Frizelle, who came from new Ross in Ireland. Many Irish people emigrated to England as well as other parts of the world in the middle of the nineteenth century and especially after the Irish potato famine. While he was a boarder in Lower Birchwood George Howitt met Honorah Frizelles’s sister, Annie Teresa Frizelle. The couple were married at Birchwood Chapel on June 28th 1892. In 1901 George and Annie Howitt lived with their three children at 9, New Birchwood. Also living with them was Annie’s brother, Thomas. By 1911 George and Annie Howitt still lived in the same house. Their census form showed that they had been married for 19 years and had 8 children 7 of whom survived. George was a Loader at Shady Pit as was his oldest son, William, (18).
Annie’s sister. Honorah Frizelle, married James Young in February 1892 and they lived in Sutton-in-Ashfield. Her brother, Thomas, also remained in Muckram when he married. One of the few photographs taken in Muckram that still survives is of children from the Howitt, Young and Frizelle families. It was taken outside 24, New Birchwood.
10. Thomas Bexton (49)
Thomas Bexton was born in Birchwood and like his father before him was a coal miner. His parents had lived in Pinxton and Alfreton prior to Thomas’s birth but by the time that Thomas was born in 1861 they had moved to Birchwood in Somercotes. Thomas married Elizabeth Ann Gibson when he was thirty-one years old at St. James’ Church Riddings. In 1901 the family were living at 10, New Birchwood, which was right on Muckram Lane almost opposite to the LandSale Office. Thomas was a Banksman at Shady Colliery. Ten years later Thomas stated on his Census data that he was a “ Loader Above Ground”. The Bextons had been married for 18 years with five children born and three. Thomas Bexton died in 1922 aged 61 while his wife, Elizabeth, lived for three more years. It is interesting to note that at the time of the 1942 Auction the Bexton family still occupied the same house. Miss E. Bexton, one of Thomas’ daughters lived there.
11. Ernest Leeson (59)
In 1911 Ernest Leeson was fifty-nine years old and a widower living with his three youngest children; Joseph (25), Isabel (22) and Dora (15). Their house, at 11, Long Row, was in the Top Stile at Muckram nearest to the colliery. Ernest Leeson was employed as an Ostler, or Horse Keeper below ground there. Records show that Ernest Leeson and his wife, Mary, had lived in Muckram for at least twenty years in 1911. Before that they had lived firstly in Matlock and then Basford, Nottinghamshire, where Ernest had worked on coal mines. As a very young man he had been a pedlar in Warwickshire.
Ernest’s wife, Mary Leeson, had died in 1910 aged 54 so his elder daughter. Isabel. Looked after the family home. His younger daughter, Dora, was an apprentice milliner and Joseph worked as a Hewer at the pit. Ernest’s older son, Arthur lived next door with his family.
Three years later when the First World War broke out Joseph Leeson enlisted in Nottingham, joining the Northumberland Fusiliers. The family received the tragic news of his Joseph’s death in Belgium in a letter to Isabel Leeson at New Birchwood. He was killed in action on June 3rd 1917 and is buried in Belgium.
12. Arthur Leeson (28)
Arthur Leeson (28) and his wife Mary (22) lived next door to his father at 12, Long Row, Muckram in 1911. Arthur had Mary Stafford at St. Thomas’ Church in Somercotes in 1909, a year before his mother’s death. In 1911 they had been married for two years and had two young children; Frank Oswald Leeson aged one year and Cyril aged four months. Arthur was employed at Shady Pit as a Loader. Arthur Leeson died prematurely in 1939 It is thought that he suffered a throat injury while he was ill with depression.
13. Griffin Burnham (35)
Griffin Burnham was born to Joseph and Emma Burnham in Tibshelf, Derbyshire in 1876. He was the oldest child in this coal-mining family. In 1881 they lived at Pilsley near Chesterfield, but by 1891 Joseph and Emma Burnham had moved to New Birchwood with their 8 children, possibly around 1886. Next door to the Burnham family lived the Hickinbotham family with their seven children. Griffin Burnham married their eldest daughter, Ada Annie Hickinbotham at Birchwood Chapel in 1901 and they set up their own home in New Birchwood, living close to both their families.
In 1911 Griffin and Ada Burnham had five children, four of whom still survived. They had Martha Annie (9), and three boys; Archie Griffin (7), Alan George (5) and Tom (1). Griffin’s brother, Tom (25), also boarded with them.
Griffin Burnham was a very talented musician and keen amateur footballer. He played the Euphonium in Leabrooks Orchestral Society and in the early 1900’s was Captain of Somercotes United Football Team. He was also the Band Master and Director of Birchwood Ambulance Band which often led local parades and processions.
The Burnham family continued to live at 13, Long Row, Muckram until 1942 when the hamlet was sold. Griffin Burnham died in 1944 aged 69 while Ada lived another ten years, dying in 1954 aged 77.
14. Isaiah Fantom (29)
Isaiah Fantom was one of the ten children born to Albert and Harriet Fantom (n. Bratby) in South Wingfield, Derbyshire. When he was growing up the family lived in Shirland and in 1901 they were in Wessington. Isaiah married Mabel Emily Eaglesfield in Mansfield in December 1906 and by 1911 they lived at 14, Long Row in New Birchwood as one of the youngest families in the hamlet. They had two daughters, Ida Fantom aged 2 and Linda Fantom, who was newly born. Isaiah was a Stallman at the colliery and remained living there until the houses were sold in 1942. He died in 1951 at the age of 68.
15.Herbert Fantom (23)
Herbert Fantom was born in 1889 in South Wingfield. He was the oldest child of John and Sarah Fantom and his father was a coal miner Hewer. As well as living next door to Isaiah Fantom he was possibly related to him although they were not brothers. Herbert Fantom married Beatrice Parramore in May 1907 in Pinxton. In 1911 they lived in their four-roomed cottage on Long Row with their two children; Annie Matilda (3) and Russell (1) along with Herbert’s brother James (20) who was Colliery Loader and boarded with them.
Herbert Fantom died in 1956.
16. Charles Smith (40)
Charles Smith was born in Somercotes in 1871 and lived all his life there. He was the oldest child of William and Eleanor Smith who was a coal miner in New Birchwood. By 1911 Charles had been married to his wife Emma Smith for 19 years and they had 11 children born of which 8 survived. Charles was a Hewer at the pit while his oldest son, Lawrence (13) was a Pony Driver.
Mrs C. Smith still lived in the house when the 1942 Auction took place, paying three shillings and nine pence rent every week.
17. Sarah Young (83)
In 1911 Sarah Young aged 83 was the oldest inhabitant in Muckram. She was a widow who lived with her son, George Young aged 60 in the four-roomed cottage. On her form which she completed for the Census she put that she had been married for 62 years and then had crossed it out, realising that she had made a mistake as this was no longer her situation. Sarah Young was born in Stapleford about 1836. She died in 1914 aged 85.
18. Sarah Hill (78)
Sarah Hill and her husband Alfred had both been born in Ticknall, South Derbyshire in 1833. They appear to have moved to New Birchwood around 1870 where they brought up their family. Sarah’s husband, Alfred, died in 1901 when he was 67. In 1911 Sarah’s oldest daughter, Martha, who was married to Arthur James, a Banksman at the pit, cared for her mother and they both lived with her. Sarah Hill died aged 80 in 1912, a year after the Census was taken.
19. Joseph Ward (52)
It seems that Joseph Ward was married twice. In 1881 his parents lived at New Birchwood with their relatives, the Stanfield family while Joseph (22) lived with his first wife, Elizabeth, and their baby daughter, Agnes, in Chesterfield. Sadly, Elizabeth Ward died in 1886 when she was 27 years old, her death being reported in “The Derbyshire Times” on August 18th 1886. In 1891 Joseph Ward was also boarding with the Stanfield family and he lived with them until he remarried in 1896. His second wife was Sarah Frail (34) who lived locally. The 1911 Census showed that Joseph Ward worked as a Stallman and that he had been married to Sarah Ward for 15 years. They had two children; Nellie (14) and George (12). They lived at 19, Long Row, just in front of Johnson’s Hill at Muckram.
20. Walter Burt (39)
Walter Burt (39) was the older brother of Herbert Burt and Frederick Burt who also lived in New Birchwood. The Burt family were well-known in the Birchwood area as they had lived there since 1881 and they had all been born there, living as children with their parents John and Ann. Walter Burt married Mary Moakes in 1895 at St. Thomas’ Church in Somercotes. In 1911 they had been married for 15 years with three children born and two surviving. Their children were Mary Ellen Burt (13) and Thomas George Burt (4). In the Census Walter Burt listed his job as Colliery Labourer above ground. He was in charge of the huge shire horses that did the heavy haulage on the pit colliery site, Walter’s nick-name was “Konker” and the horses were always referred to by the locals as “Konker’s hosses”.
Walter Burt died in November 1940 and his death was reported in “The Ripley and Heanor News” on November 15th: “There passed away last week a well-known Birchwood resident in Mr. Walter Burt after a week’s illness. He worked at Shady Pit for 26 years and was a Ganger at the Colliery in the colliery yard until kicked by a horse fifteen years ago and had done little work since. He leaves a widow, a son and a daughter. The funeral was at Birchwood Methodist Church”.
21. William Carrier (55)
William Carrier was born in Greetham, Oakden in Rutland in 1856 where his father was a shepherd. In 1871 William was am agricultural labourer boarding in Oakham. Sometime between 1871 and 1884 he moved to Somercotes, probably to work, and there he married Maria Spencer IN 1885. His agricultural background was put to good use when he became a colliery Horse Keeper. Maria Carrier died at the young age of 34 in 1897 and after her death William advertised for a housekeeper to look after the house, his five children and himself. He appointed Mary Gascoyne in 1900. By 1911 two of William’s children Frank and Elizabeth had left home, leaving William, as head of the house, with Ada (22), John Robert (21) and Sam (17) still living with him. During the Great War Samuel Carrier left his job as an Engine Driver at the pit and enrolled. He went missing, presumed killed in action in 1915 in Gallipoli, when he was 22.
William Carrier died in 1931 aged 75 his death being reported in the local newspaper as follows:
“DEATH OF SOMERCOTES RESIDENT - The late Mr. Carrier came to Somercotes 47 years ago, taking up the position of Colliery Horse Keeper and served the Babbington Coal Co. for 35 years at Shady Pit. He had been in failing health for over seven years and had not been able to follow his occupation for that time. For the last five years he had been a great sufferer of asthma and bronchitis. In his younger days he was a keen follower of cricket. He had been a widow for 33 years and leaves four children, two sons and two daughters, one son, Sam, being killed in the war in the Dardenelles. He was buried at Birchwood Methodist Church”
22. William Wade (60)
William Wade was born in 1851 in Stamford Lincolnshire, the oldest child of seven children. He was named, as was the custom for the oldest child then, after his father who was a policeman. By 1871 William Wade was a boarder with the Bowley family in Ilkeston and around that time he married his wife, Ann, who was born in Ilkeston. In 1881 the family were living in New Birchwood and William was working at the colliery as an “Engine Diver Stationary in Sawmill”. They had five children; George, Henry, William, Louisa and Charles. Ann Wade died in 1908 aged 64 and so William lived with his daughter, Louisa, at 22, New Birchwood while his youngest son, Charles lived nearby at Number 4. William was still doing the same job at the Colliery in 1911. He died five years later aged 66.
23. Albert Darrington (37)
Albert Darrington came from Cotes Park. As a child he lived at PennyTown with his parents, Ralph and Sarah Darrington and four siblings. By 1891 Sarah Darrington was left a widow with five children at home and Albert Darrington (17) was the oldest child at home. He and his brother, James (13) both worked at Shady Colliery.
In 1894 Albert Darrington married Emma Burnham, a local girl, and they lived in Mansfield for a short time but by 1911 Albert and Emma Darrington were living at 23, New Birchwood. They declared in the Census that they had been married for sixteen years and that six of the seven children born to them had survived and were living with them. Albert was employed as a Hewer while his oldest son, Frederick Henry (16), was a horse Driver at the pit. Albert Darrington died in the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary in 1943 aged 69. At the time he was living in Leabrooks.
24. Thomas Frizelle (37)
Thomas Frizelle originated from County Wexford, Ireland and was brother to Mrs Annie Howitt who lived at 9, New Birchwood. When he was a young man Thomas had boarded with the Howitt family and worked at Shady Colliery as a Labourer, below ground. In 1901 he married Louisa Godber and they lived in the first terraced house on the right -hand side of the Bottom Stile in Muckram, number 24. They had seven children in 1911 all of whom survived. Thomas was employed as a Miner Loader according to the Census information.
The photograph of the group of children in Muckram is taken just outside Thomas Frizelle’s house. All the children pictured are either siblings or cousins.
25. Frederick Burt (29)
Frederick William Burt lived at 25, New Birchwood in 1911 in one of the two houses that were situated close to Birchwood Brook and was down a narrow track away from the other terraced cottages. He was a single man living with his mother and was her youngest child. Two of his brothers Herbert and Walter also lived in the hamlet with their families. Like them Walter was employed at the local colliery and was a Labourer above ground. Frederick Burt married Annie Fletcher in Chesterfield in 1912. They were still living in the same cottage in 1942 when the hamlet was sold. Frederick Burt died in 1956 aged 75 leaving a widow, a son and a daughter. The funeral service was held at Alfreton Catholic Church before he was interred at Birchwood Chapel.
26. Ann Elizabeth Burdett (68)
In 1911 Ann Elizabeth Burdett had lived in Muckram for thirty years. It was where she had raised her family. She was the widow of Charles Burdett. Ann Elizabeth Burdett took in boarders and in 1911 she had one boarder. He was John William Burkes (42) who was employed as a Labourer in an Iron Foundry and who had lived with the family for at least ten years. She died in Chesterfield aged 81 in 1921.
27. William Brocklehurst (53)
William Brocklehurst (53) and his wife, Henrietta (42) lived with their large family of 10 children in the biggest house in New Birchwood. It was called Swiss Cottage because it was modelled on the lines of a traditional Swiss house and it had six rooms. It was approached down its own private drive and was away from all the other houses in Muckram standing in large gardens. In 1911 William was employed as a Colliery Deputy at Shady Pit. By then the couple had been married for twenty-one years with thirteen children born and ten surviving.
Their children were: Harold (21) Colliery Labourer below Ground; Maud (20); Leonard (18) Colliery Surface Banksman; Florence 15; John James (13) School; Francis (12) School; Ada (10) School; Edgar (9); Henry (5); Mabel (2)
The Brocklehurst family took on extra responsibility in the hamlet as they were the caretakers of the Mission and lit the fires and kept the lamps topped up with paraffin as well as doing all the cleaning of the Mission.
William Brocklehurst died in 1935 aged 77. By then the family had lived in Swiss Cottage for thirty-five years and William had been a Deputy at the colliery for as many years. When he died he left behind a widow, five sons, six daughters, and nineteen grandchildren. His wife died two years later aged 67.
5. The Auction of 1942
By the time of the closure of the last of the Birchwood Collieries in 1941, the colliery grounds and the hamlet of Muckram was part of the estate owned by the Sheepbridge Coal & iron Company. Due to the closure of the collieries this company no longer had any interest in the estate and proceeded to dispose of their assets within the parish. The whole area became Lot 19 in the auction, which was held on 12 August 1942. Swiss Cottage, mentioned above was sold separately as Lot 18.
Lot 19 is interesting as it described the land and certain conditions with regard to the colliery site clearance. The description of Lot 19 (in part) is as follows: “The TWENTY SIX brick built and blue slated DWELLING HOUSES, outbuildings, Yards and Gardens thereto, known as Numbers 1 to 26 New Birchwood, together with the LAND forming the site of Lower Birchwood Colliery, also the access thereto from Birchwood Lane and Nottingham Road, also access to the siding of the L M & S Railway Main Line, the whole containing about 30 acres 1 Rood and 37 Perch”
The Lot was sold subject to the rights of user of the Accommodation Roads as was necessary for the purpose of removing the whole of the Plant, Machinery and Buildings at the time still standing on the colliery site.
Information to prospective buyers also included the names of the tenants and their weekly rent, many of whom had not changed since the 1911 census:
|1||J. Sansom||5s 7d|
|2||C Webster||3s 3d|
|3||A Partridge||3s 9d|
|4||C Webster||4s 1d|
|5||J W Wint||3s 9d|
|6||J Handbury||3s 9d|
|7||W T Yates||3s 9d|
|8||H Burt||5s 3d|
|9||A Hill||5s 3d|
|10||Miss E Bexton||5s 3d|
|11||A Webster||3s 9d|
|12||E Spencer||3s 9d|
|13||G Burnham||3s 9d|
|14||Miss E Leake||3s 9d|
|15||H Froggatt||3s 9d|
|16||Mrs C Smith||3s 9d|
|17||F Kirk||3s 9d|
|18||L Roberts||3s 9d|
|19||J Hartwell||7s 6d|
|20||J Hartwell||Incl In Above|
|21||Mrs F J Clarke||3s 9d|
|22||I Fantom||3s 9d|
|23||S Webster||3s 9d|
|24||J W Mills||3s 9d|
|25||F Burt||3s 9d|
|26||A Clarke||3s 9d|
As well as the occupiers of the hamlet, a breakdown of the land was also supplied, which included just over 20 acres for the colliery site.
On 12 August 1942, Lot 19 was purchased by W Bush & Sons of Alfreton.
6. Demolition of Muckram
Shortly after W Bush & Sons purchased Muckram and the old colliery site in 1942, major developments took place. By 1952, ten years later, the company was advertising their premises in the local telephone directory as “New Street, Alfreton” [where they had been established for many years], and at “Birchwood Colliery, Somercotes”. It is not known what had happened to the hamlet of Muckram at this time. Later, in 1958, the entry in the telephone directory for the two sites read “New Street, Alfreton” and “Birchwood Depot”.
After the end of the Second World War, Britain underwent a major housing overall. Many of the houses inspected up and down the country were deemed unfit for habitation and wholesale slum clearance began, which continued well into the 1960’s. Alfreton and its surrounding villages were no exception to this, and over a period of several decades whole rows of houses were demolished and replaced by the new council estates such as the Cottage Farm and South Spire estates in Somercotes.
It is likely that the houses were condemned under the slum clearance programme and slated for demolition, although the exact circumstances are not known. Certainly by the late 1960’s virtually all traces of the hamlet had disappeared and the recycling yard owned by W Bush & Sons had expanded to cover most of the area. One cottage was kept as an office but all others were demolished.
Swiss Cottage, actually considered part of Muckram but standing alone, was purchased separately. It was much larger and in the early 1840s it was the home of William Goodwin, the son of the mine owner, Humphrey Goodwin. It escaped demolition and still stands today. The area has now reverted to its original name, Lower Birchwood, which was displayed on maps from the early 19th century.