The Slums of Derby

Willow Row, Old Derby

If you lived in the West End of Derby in the 19th century, you were considered to live in the slums.  It is here that the families I’ve researched lived mainly in what was known as court housing (see Discover Liverpool for a good explanation of this type of housing).

An article on the Derby Telegraph site mentions that this area was part of an 1849 report to the General Board of Health on “The Sewerage, Drainage and Supply of Water and the Sanitary Conditions of the Inhabitants of Derby”;

 In Willow Row, Court 1, 103 inhabitants shared two privies and residents reported that milk would turn to curd when mixed with water from the communal pump…

Observations of Walker Lane, where 75 cases of typhus fever were reported between June 15 and September 14, 1847, were: “The houses are of the most inferior description and the inhabitants of a piece with their houses; to crown all, there are lodging houses, which are the principal headquarters of vagrants, and of those comers and goers who, for reasons best known to themselves, prefer darkness to light.”

Model of Court Housing via National Museums Liverpool

It is in these conditions that Hannah Bates, William Lamb (& their families) lived most of their lives.  The slum clearances of the 1930s mean that the court housing is now long gone but it’s important to keep these living conditions in mind when researching the people of the area and trying to understand their lives.

2016 map of Derby (old street layout  in black)



39 thoughts on “The Slums of Derby”

  1. Hello – I’m interested in learning more about the old West End of Derby and the slum clearances of the 1960s. Do you have any information. In particular, Goodwin Street, Chapel Street and Brook Street. Thanks, Tom

    • Hi my dad was born in 1935 and lived in Goodwin street as a baby until he came out the army Sept 1955. By then he said half of the area had been demolished. His house was still standing though until the moved to Addison which was about the end of 1955.

  2. Hi Tom,
    I, too, am interested in learning more but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available (not online at least). When I was at the Derby Local Studies Library last year, one of the (very helpful) workers there seemed to have knowledge on this subject so if you’re nearby you could ask there.
    All I know is in this post (and the links) but I’m particularly interested in Goodwin Street as well so please let me know if you find out anything!

  3. I was born in little Watson Street in 1941 that was a slum but goodwin st willow row was even worse that is what we were led to believe all of westernd was a slum but still got nice memories

    • Hi, I live on Watson Street, 52 to be exact. (I am leaving soon so I don’t mind who knows) I was born here.
      I have always wondered what it was like to live here back then. I think one of the occupants of my house in particular had a decent amount of money and good jobs. They acquired my neighbors house and made it into one large house. My bathroom was also fitted quite early on in the houses history. My house was extended with 2 floors at some point around 1920 (I assume by the better off family) at which point a bathroom was fitted. My house and my neighbors house are 2 separate dwellings again, I am not sure when this occurred.

      However, before this, it used to be a shop, but they went bankrupt in the early 1900’s (acquired from the newspaper archives) during the time it was a shop it was a 4 room house (including the shop area + an outhouse) there was a girl living here, she was 25, working in the mill as a tape weaver and looking after her niece and nephew there was also a lodger there may have been someone else here, I can’t recall. In comparison to some of the houses in this area I don’t think it would have been that bad. Obviously, I cant say for sure.

      We still have the old gas pipes in the attic which would have lit the house.

      When we moved in 26 years ago, the old toilet was in the shed too 🙂 I love my house, it’s history and the area, I will miss it very much.

    • I’m not local so I’m not sure but I found this info on – “The West End of Derby is an inner city area in the city of Derby, between Kedleston and Ashbourne Roads. It was previously an area of heavy industry, most notably Britannia Mill and Leaper Street Mill.”
      Sounds like you might be right! 🙂

    • The Old West End was considered to be from Walker Lane to Mackworth Road (inc Redshaw Street) and Ashbourne Road to Kedleston Road.

        • Although many of the old streets have been demolished I don’t think the boundaries have changed much – although the top end of Walker Lane is now classed as Cathedral Road. And its just called the West End now – not the New West End.

    • The area that became known as the West End of Derby was /is situated on what initially King’s Mead, then Nuns Green – an area that stretched from to Kedleston Road. It was known as Nuns Green after the Nunnery of St Mary de Pratis was founded on King’s Mead c 1160. Th area was sold in two phases: 1768 when the north side of Friargate was created, then the remaining part in 1792.

  4. My grandparents had a public house in Quarn Street, the Quarn Tavern, near Chadwicks Chip Shop and Mrs Powell’s corner shop. There was another corner shop Bridges and a Betting Shop. A few family names I remember, Castledine, Mosley, Donlon, Goffey, Tassell, Scattergood the Butcher, Billy Upton had a toy shop on Kedleston Road, I remember the West End as an old area with entry ways, deep guttered and blue bricked pavements but not a slum. I remember my grandparents had a TV and most of the neighbours came in to watch the Coronation. There was also a Street party, my grandfather supplying large jugs of beer. There was a modern toilet block in the backyard and two out of use brew houses. The pub formerly owned before my Grandfather by a Johnny Ayres a Melbourne brewer, they use to brew at the Quarn Tavern too. The brewer then was a guy Mr. Mason I met him years later when an old man. My grandmother would walk to Derby market or catch a trolley bus, often go along to Mad Harry a market trader in the Morledge? We often walked her mini- dachshund and spaniels to Markeaton Park eyeing up the Matchbox toy cars in Billy Uptons shop window or calling in to Scattergoods the Butchers to feed the goldfish he kept in large tanks around his shop.

    • Allan. It was George Upton who owned the hardware store on Kedleston Road. He was my great uncle (my grandmother was Amy Upton before she married my grandad and then became Amy Smith. They lived at 40 Walter Street). My other great uncle was Jim Upton who had a builder’s yard off Leyland Street. I also remember the Scattergoods. I went to school with the stepdaughter of one of them. Sadly, neither my uncle George’s shop, nor Scattergood’s butchers are there any longer.

    • Thank you for your memory, Allan. From what you’ve written, ‘Clearing the slums’ in the 1930s obviously led to better living conditions for future residents.
      Was the ‘modern toilet block’ for the use of the whole street?
      I’m also curious about the brew houses as another LAMB ran The Shamrock on Goodwin Street (circa 1870s) which I think was probably brewed at home or on the premises.

      • I haven’t heard of a Shamrock Pub on Goodwin Street? My family ran The Duke of Devonshire Inn on the corner of Goodwin and Wright Street.

        • I’ve been meaning to make a post about ‘The Shamrock’ – I guess the time is now!
          In which time period did your family run ‘The Duke of Devonshire Inn’?

          edit: post is now up

          Funnily enough, while writing that post I came across a mention of the Duke of Devonshire in one of the newspapers 🙂

        • Hi Isabella my dad used to live opposite the Duke of Devonshire. His dad used to go in there quite a lot as did my dad when he became of age. My dad seemed to recall the licensees taking over a pub in Sadler gate?

    • Allan interesting you know the name Mosley. My grandparents Thomas (Tucker) and Amy lived on Mundy Street. My grandfather died as a POW during the war in Burma. They had two sons Thomas and Keith (my father). I was born in 1960 and until 1962 lived also on Monday Street I believe number 22 next door to my Gran (not that I can remember). My gran remarried to Fred May and and had two further children (Sandra & Melvyn), when the area was cleared Amy and Fred were moved to Reigate Drive in Mackworth. My dad and mum (Sylvia) went to a new build in Chaddesden on the site of the old Racecourse Stables.

      If you have any memories of my family at that time I would be vert interested as I have been trying to research more about the family and especially my grandfather I would be extremely interested?

      • hi Russell , my names tom games , your granddad tucker was in Burma with my dad Thomas,both working on the Burma railway .I was born in waterhouses leaper st , markeaton brook ran behind our backyard .I spent many hours fishing it when I was there. I never new my uncle tucker, but dad spoke of him with great respect I can remember aunty amy ,fred her second husband, and Melvyn Sandra ,keith and big tucker as we used to call him,

    • Mad Harry’s was on cockpit hill, Scattergoods had a talking jackdaw, I lived in about the middle of Parker St. There was a cobbler on Elm St Parker St corner opp. Bridges shop and just down Parker St. from Bridges shop was a paper shop Mrs. Smiths, I remember the Quarn tavern well the Ride family live just down from it they had four lads Billy, John, David and Raymond. I live at 119 Parker St.

  5. Allan, my family lived at 41 Quarn street, next to the bookies, opposite The Quarn as I remember it.
    We lived there from 1950 to 1961
    My mum used to stand on the step of the pub, with half a pint of beer so she could watch the house. Our house was never a slum, we did have an outside toilet for a while but we then had the loft converted into a bathroom / toilet a few years before we moved. We never had a lot of money though, our clothes were from jumble sales, but my dad worked every hour God sent, having 5 jobs at one time, and we always he’d food on the table. Our name was Windsor, my mum and dad were Walter and Phyllis, my sister was Christine my brothers James and Mark.
    I remember Mrs Powell well, never happy. My mum spent a lot of time in hospital, if it hadn’t been for the neighbours we would have had to go into a home.
    Hard times I must admit, but no slum on Quarn street. Heather x

    • Thank you for this, Heather.
      I imagine the area was much improved in the 1950s from what is what like before the clearances in the 1930s. Having an indoor toilet must’ve felt so luxurious. 🙂

  6. Hi We lived Parker St our house was always kept clean & tidy. Windows, step and sill done every sat morning. My dad decorated on a regular basis. I went in and out of many house’s of friends and neighbours who’s home’s were the same. There was 7 children 2 adults and a greyhound in a 3 bedroom no bathroom house. Loo in the yard. My great grandad brewed beer for the Woodlark, Ram & Maypole. Judith x

    • Hi

      Do you remember the Russell’s, They lived on Parker Street and other Russell family members had the shop on the corner of Parker Street and Bridge Street. Trying to source bygone photos of the area for a funeral.

      Many thanks

  7. I lived in Parker St. Opp. Parker Place, born 1948 and left in 1960 l remember Mrs. Powell well grumpy lady, our toilet was in Gisborne St. and the bath hung on a nail on the kitchen wall which was separate from the house, there was a cobbler on the corner of Elm St. and Parker St. Opposite Mrs Bridges shop Mrs Smith had a shop a little lower down the street, there was a pub the Napoleon which brewed it’s our beer, we always had hops growing in our garden which blew in from the brewing. I was at the Street Coronation party and receive a spoon.

  8. I lived in Clover Street until 1972 when the houses were demolished and we moved as a family to the cavendish. The houses were fine. Small with outside toilets and no bathroom. But they could have been modernised and brought up to date as has happened to many other houses in different areas of the country. The community was completely destroyed and I think may people never recovered from being made to move house and from the total destruction of their homes and community life. I feel it was a false and short sighted economy which damaged the social fabric and infrastructure of the entire area and many peoples lives and well being.

  9. I was born in Bridge Street in The West End of Derby in 1930 in a house that used to be called The Northern Star Inn. Built in two sections with a yard in between which had an outside toilet and cold water tap, plus openings (covered with railway sleepers) here the beer barrels were lowered into the cellar.
    It never was used as a public house all the time our family lived there. However, it is shown on very early maps and is also listed on a layout showing all the pubs in the West End It, therefore, was approximately 200 years old.
    Mother produced 9 children of which one died in childbirth. I considered we had a frugal upbringing but thinking back it was a case of too many children for a man to look after who had to be a postman all his working life, with legs that had been ulcerated during his time in the 1914/18 war of which one eventually had to be amputated before he died.
    Mother also died at 41 years of age,- I leave that to the imagination.
    The area of the West End had a camaraderie second to none, however, the housing conditions were not good so the demolition in 1962 was a necessity

    • Good afternoon E.G Redfern,
      I am attempting to write a history of Bridge Street as my family lived on the west side at what became no. 109. It is very difficult to imagine what the street looked like, and I wonder if you could give me an idea of the appearance of the area from Brook Street to the Northern Star (a pub thought to be named from the Chartists’ Newspaper “The Northern Star”, and where Chartists meetings were held).
      If you are able to help it would be good, but it was interesting to read your post and gain a flavour of life on the street.

  10. Fascinated by all this discussion which I’ve come across whilst looking for photos and an idea where Chapel St (and Peggs Yard, Goodwin St) was. My gt-gt-grandparents (Hufton) lived there in 1891 after moving from a house next door to the Travellers Rest on Ashbourne Rd. I’m off to the Local Studies Library today for a look at maps.

  11. My Great Great Grandmother came to live and work as a young girl in one of Derby silk mills around the late 1840s. She was born Elizabeth Watson one of 9 children from Basingstoke, she came on her own and was lodging with an Isaac King and his family in the 1851 census. She later moved in with a Blacksmith George Bentley who was living in Mundy St having three children with him through the 1850s and a fourth in 1861 under her previous name of Watson in Lodge Lane. Her first child with George Bentley, William Bentley went on to live in Willow row running a shop selling tripe and also a house painter in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1862 Elizabeth along with her youngest child and my Great Grandfather moved out of this small area of Derby when she married John Marbrow from Newton Solney. I would be gratefull of any information regarding the area and people with in this time frame.

  12. Hi all, I wondered if anyone had read any books etc on this, as I’m looking to find a bit more info on the Derby from 1830 to 1930. Would the local studies be my best bet? Thanks, Sophie

    • I’ve not come across any books of this specific time and place (but would love to know if you find one!). I’m not local to Derby but when I visited the Local Studies, the staff were very helpful so I recommend you give it a try.
      Please let me know if you find any good resources.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.