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Andrew Saxton

My father Ernest Saxton was the youngest son of Vincent Saxton of Mapperley and Agnes Cooling of Derby.  My dad died a few years ago in Breadsall, and his widow Vera now lives in West Hallam.  My dad was a great influence on me and we cycled and walked and caught buses all over Derbyshire – he encouraged my interest in history, and told me stories of his childhood in Ilkeston. 

I remember my granddad Saxton, Vincent, as a portly, affectionate old man, who played the mouth organ and loved to sing along to hymns.  He always wore a three piece suit, with a pocket watch, and a flat cap.  When he went to the seaside, he took off his jacket (but not his cap – he was bald as a bead), and paddled with his trousers rolled up.  I remember that he pronounced the 'e' in Derby (‘Durby’).

Vincent Saxton was born in Mapperley in 1891 and his first job had been as bootblack to the Head Gardener at Shipley Hall.   There were tales of half-crowns being left lying to test his honesty.  He came straight home and told his mother, who marched down to the hall to complain and warn the staff never to try and tempt him in this way again.   He was later a miner at Mapperley pit.  Then, when he married, he moved to Ilkeston, where my father was born in Mundy Street, and then to Cotmanhay Road.  My grandmother, Agnes, was deaf, and she was walking up to Ilkeston Hospital for an appointment one January day in 1950, when she was hit by a lorry and killed on the zebra crossing.  The lorry was coming down the hill to deliver slack from Shipley Colliery.  After that trauma, my bereft and inconsolable granddad lived with his daughter Ethel in Kirk Hallam. 

When Vincent married Agnes in 1916 he lived at 35 Coronation Road in Mapperley.  They had six children.  The eldest, Bill, was a football referee and worked for the electricity board as a meter reader.  He lived in Depedale Avenue in Kirk Hallam with his wife Gladys (nee Harrison). 

Then came Annie in 1918.  She died aged 15 of rheumatic fever – it was always believed that the unhealthy conditions of her work at the Raleigh bicycle factory has contributed to her illness.

Vincent’s second daughter, Gladys Saxton,  trained to be a nurse in Hucknall, and worked in the Dukeries, and at Newark,  Watnall and Kimberley, before moving away to Warwickshire and then to the south west where she was a district nurse in Weston-super-Mare for many years.  She told me stories of the Duchess of Portland and her good works for the miners of the district, she spoke of old dowagers with ear trumpets and expensive cold creams being flown in from Switzerland for aristocratic hostesses, and of the contrasting hard life that miners faced.  She would never speak of the war, and it obviously affected her very much, and I am sure that she had seen terrible things.  She also knew Miss Evans at Strelley Hall who was involved in charitable works.  It was my aunty Gladys that told me how upset Granddad Saxton was when the horses were shot after the pit was closed.

Eva arrived in 1921.  She married Ron Parkins of Heanor, and moved away to Preston, where she kept a shop on Blackpool Road.
Ethel was born in 1923. She married Joe Smith, who worked at Stanton.  They first lived in an old cottage in Stanton village that belonged to the ironworks, but later moved to Kirk Hallam.  Ethel and Joe both died of cancer in their forties.

My father Erny was born in 1926.  He never wanted to go down the mines, and he was fortunate to get a scholarship to Ilkeston Grammar School.  On leaving school he worked his entire life as a draughtsman at International Combustion in Derby, cycling every day from Breadsall.  He had met my mother Vera, who had come to Stanton from Londonderry, to work in the offices.  My mother and father married in Bath Street Methodist church, and lived in West Hallam, Stanley Common and then Breadsall village.

My grandmother lost her youngest child, Dennis, in 1929.  He died at 13 Mundy Street in Ilkeston, of influenza and convulsions at the age of one.


My granddad was the son of William Saxton and Annie Sophia Hartshorne, daughter of Solomon (both living at Bellar Gate in Nottingham at the time of their marriage).  I believe Annie Hartshorne was from West Hallam.  I always had difficulties when searching for information about the Hartshorn(e)s, partly because there seemed to be different families of the same name who were related by marriage, and also, they sometimes called themselves Hart instead.  William Saxton was born in 1865 and died a widower in the 1920s.  My granddad’s mother, Annie, had already died in 1910, so he was only 19 when he lost her.  She was only 51 when she died, after ‘three years of paraplegia and general debility’ - what a hard life.  Vincent’s widowed father went on to marry Mrs Elizabeth Hartshorn, (nee Mason), widow of Samuel Hartshorn.  When William died, Vincent’s stepmother married John Harvey, and this matriarch was always known to my father’s generation as Grandma Harvey.  She was no blood relation, but the family loved and remembered her with affection.
William and Annie Saxton had five sons and a daughter.  The eldest son was another Ernest, who married Alice Hobson. 
Annie Mary was also known as Polly.  I think she died in 1919.

Next was Samuel, husband to Emma Hawley.  I think it was this Aunty Emma that my dad remembers visiting in the gate lodge to the hall.  The bay window was hidden behind a fireplace, and those who lived in the lodge had to look out to make sure coaches or cars coming from the hall didn’t have to wait as they left the estate.  Emma had to get out fast and open the gates!  Samuel and Emma had four children, I think.  I remember meeting Doris (Davies) in Mapperley with my dad over 30 years ago.  How time flies.

My grandfather Vincent came in 1891, and was followed by Jack four years later.  He married Hilda Bethel.  Youngest was Harold, who married Florence Stevenson. 

When the widowed William Saxton married Mrs Hartshorn in 1911, they had two further children, Bill Saxton who married Nell, and Polly, half brother and sister to my granddad.  Elizabeth brought her own four children to the family, who became step-siblings to my granddad.  I met one of the daughters, either Hilda or Dot, in Derby, and she enlightened us as to the identity of William Saxton’s father, a Mr Oates, of which more later…  Elizabeth Mason/Hartshorn/Saxton/Harvey kept the Candlestick pub.  My granddad fell out with some of his brothers.  It was a mystery to me, but I imagine it could have related to money.


I am confused about the Aunty Pollies!  There was an aunty Polly who died at 30 in 1919, who I think was Vincent’s sister, but I am very unsure about this and would be grateful for any information known to old Mapperley folk.  My dad was very vague about two Aunty Pollies he remembered, one Polly Wright, and one Polly Boam.  It may become clear which is which – one married Ben Wright and was not happy with her coalminer husband, and went to work as housekeeper for a colonel in the Park in Nottingham.  The other was wife of Cornelius Boam, and I think it was she who kept the post office.  I believe she was the daughter of Solomon Hart(shorn), so my grandfather’s maternal aunt.  Her husband apparently ran a bus service.  I may be completely wrong about this connection.  There is a reference to a Cornelius Boam in 1901.  He is from Selston Common, and his wife is Hannah, born in Shipley, and they have a family of eight.  This may be a different man.


William Saxton’s mother was Mary Ann Saxton, born in Mapperley in 1849.  William was the elder of Mary Ann’s children with William Oates of Horsley Woodhouse.  The Oateses came to the area as miners from Welbeck, but were originally woodsmen on the estate there, and William Oates’s mother was Elizabeth Smith from Lincolnshire.  William Saxton had a sister, I think called Martha Mary Ann (Polly), and I believe she married Ben Wright - she was said to have died in 1940.  My aunt always said that Aunty Polly had a complex about being illegitimate, and you can imagine that at the time it may have been frowned on.  However, the more I look into family history, the more I realise that families were nearly as fluid as today, with step-brothers, half-sisters, and children often conceived outside of marriage, and widowers remarrying very quickly so that their children had a mother.

William Oates left his family in Mapperley, and went to keep the Coach and Horses pub in Horsley.  He married there and had a large family.  Many of the Oateses in Horsley appeared not to have known about their father’s family, but I feel sure that my great-grandfather knew about the Horsley family.

Mary Ann Saxton and her two children were subsequently taken on when she married John Watchorn of Leicestershire, and their family, Thomas, Sarah (Minnie Moon), James and Samuel would have been half-siblings to my great grandfather.  They were related by marriage to Cooks, Readers, and Hills.


Mary Ann was the daughter of Samuel Saxton and his wife Mary Anne Fletcher.  Samuel was a miner, born in Stanley Common in 1818.  Mary Anne was born in 1810, so we are back to the reign of Farmer George, King George III.  The two were living in Town Street in 1851, with three children: Mary Ann had an older ‘brother’ called Willoughby Cope and a sister named Henrietta Fletcher.  My father remembers a boy called Willoughby Cope in Ilkeston, and he must surely have been related with such a memorable name!  Those who worked for landed families sometimes used the family name in baptising their children, so maybe Willoughby’s ancestors had worked at Wollaton Hall? Willoughby may have been the son of Samuel by another mother, and the daughter Henrietta may have been Mary Anne’s own natural daughter.

By 1871 Samuel was widowed and living at 136 Church Road, which address no longer seems to exist.  He was living with his daughter Mary Ann and son-in-law.


I have gone back further with the Saxtons, and the family have remained in the general area going back generations to the 17th century.  Sometimes they are known as Saxon, but the name changes.  I am very happy with the idea that Saxtons have lived in this modest, unpretentious corner of Derbyshire for nearly five hundred years.

Samuel had married Mary Anne Fletcher in Duffield, which is where she originated.  Samuel’s father Thomas Saxton was from West Hallam and had also married Samuel’s mother Elizabeth Shaw in Duffield, so there must have been a connection.  Thomas’s own father, another Thomas was from Heanor Wood, and his own parents Robert Saxon and Judith Abbot had married in St Peter’s church in Derby in 1748, just after Bonnie Prince Charlie came down.  Robert and Judith both died in Morley.  Robert Saxon’s parents, Charles Saxon and Mary Kerry were from Smalley and married in Morley.  Charles died in Horsley.  This gives a fascinating hint of the close connections across country in this neck of the woods.  Charles’s parents, Vincent and Elizabeth Saxon were also from Smalley, and this Vincent’s father, my nine-greats grandfather, like my own grandfather named Vincent Saxton, was born in Horsley Woodhouse in 1618, the year Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded.  I cannot help wondering how long it took the news to reach Derbyshire!


My granddad’s great-grandmother, Mary Anne Fletcher was the daughter of Hugh Fletcher of Duffield, whose grave lies close to the church in Mapperley.  She can be traced to her great-great grandfather Joseph Fletcher, and apart from her mother Mary Ivory, numbers among her ancestors George Hodgkinson, Elizabeth Ann Ashton and Martha Rippen.


Going back to my grandfather’s mother, Annie Sophia Hartshorn, her father is listed as Solomon Hart, whose grave stands nearly facing the church door in Mapperley.  Her mother Keziah Trueman, was born in Ilkeston in 1834, the year the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported.  Keziah’s father Elijah had married in Duffield, to her mother Hannah Lockington, of Cossall.

Solomon Hart’s father hedged his bets by being christened Samuel Hartshorn Hart in Ilkeston.  He married Anne Thorpe.  Samuel’s father Benjamin Hart was from Horsley and married Elizabeth Burgin in West Hallam.  Benjamin’s parents were Humphrey Hart of Stanley and Rebekah Slack of Spondon.  Humphrey’s father, also Humphrey was born in Uttoxeter, and married Dorothy Hambleton in Lichfield Cathedral in 1723.  Dorothy was the daughter of Thomas Hambleton and Ellen Cotterell, of Butterton by Hulme End in the Staffordshire Peak District, and her grandfather was Johannes Hambleton of Alstonefield.  Finally we reach back to Humphery (sic) Hart or Hartshorn who was born in Uttoxeter in 1650 just as King Charles II was arriving in Scotland.

This story betrays the obsessions of a genealogist, and it may not have held your attention, littered as it is with dates and names.  Richer and more powerful families can look at portraits, read diaries, visit former estates.  Working class people often left little evidence of their lives, but the records allow us to know where and when many of them were born, and how they died.  The census gives a snapshot of complicated households of very well extended families, step-families, half-brothers, lodgers and neighbours.  We may not be able to identify their homes, or find their graves, but we can try to imagine the sort of lives they lived.  I find it very hard to conceive what the life of a coalminer was like in the eighteenth century for the men and boys who wielded picks underground, and led pit ponies.  If I were ever tempted to complain of my lot, I would only need to imagine what my life would have been like had I lived through the industrial revolution. 
Mapperley was an important place for the Saxton family, the place people went back to.  Undoubtedly life was hard, even brutal at times, economically.  Miners led difficult lives, and my own granddad’s health never really recovered.  But Mapperley was a place of happy memories for my dad and aunts and uncle, and I’m sure also for the generations before.  People spoke about Squire Mundy, and my family’s lives were tied up with those of the Mundys, in that they worked for the family in one way or another and would pay their rent to the Shipley estate.  The quiet backwater that is Mapperley is all the more special today because of the development that has gone on around it, leaving it relatively untouched.  The modest but proud Victorian houses have a plain charm, with the Mundy initials emblazoned still.  There are no more Saxtons in Mapperley, but I still feel it is where we come from, even though I have never lived there.  I would encourage anyone to investigate their family history, and armed with names, dates and places, start to imagine the lives their ancestors lived.

By Andrew Saxton


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