Local Obscurities, People, Places and Blue Plaques

THE FLYING DONKEY

Derby Railway Heritage

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Henry Boden

Noah Bullock

George Sorocold

 

 

 

 

THE FLYING DONKEY

GILLANOE THE FRENCHMAN

DERBY'S FUNAMBULISTS

Early in the 18th century a fashion developed for "funambulists" - touring showmen who used a mixture of tightrope walking and rope sliding to entertain the crowds and collect money from spectators.

Robert Cadman, who performed under the name of "Gillanoe the Frenchman" visited Derby in 1732. He "flew down a rope from the top of All Saints Church Steeple to St. Michaels Church ... which was 150 odd yards upon the base." Lying on a wooden breast plate, it took six or seven seconds to descend firing a pistol and blowing a trumpet. He then ascended the rope, in a very high wind, while acting out "several diverting postures" and sliding down again.

The friction from the speed of his descent caused a cloud of smoke to billow out from the breastplate. Cadman's exploits became more daring as he travelled round the country, and he died in a tragic accident while performing in Shrewsbury in 1740 when his rope broke.

The Flying Donkey

by Peter Elliot

by Peter Elliot

 

The Flying Donkey

For the next two years, a "flying rage" took hold of Derby when "even cats, dogs and things inanimate were applied ... to the rope." It culminated in a performance in 1734 when a visiting funambulist, in a bid to outdo previous performers, attached a rope from the steeple of All Saints to the bottom of St. Mary's Gate. He ascended the rope dragging a wheelbarrow carrying a 13 year old boy behind him. When he reached the top, he attached a donkey to the rope. "About 20 yards from the County Hall, the rope broke ... nothing was heard but dreadful cries, nor nothing seen but confusion ... In this dire calamity, the ass, which maimed others, was unhurt himself, having a pavement of soft bodies to roll over. No lives were lost. As the rope broke near the top, it brought down both chimneys and people at the other end of the street."

The ashamed entertainer sneaked quietly out of the town, without his collection money. Recently, a story of a flying donkey parasailing over a beach in Russia has also made the headlines. A spokesperson for The Brooke, an animal charity, said "This animal would have been extremely distressed, suffering immeasurable fear and pain." No doubt the abseiling donkey suffered in the same way.

Today, people still descend the All Saints tower on ropes to raise money; however now it is for charitable causes. In 2009, Derbyshire Mountain Rescue organised an abseil which raised funds jointly for their organisation and the Cathedral. Other rope sliders include the mechanical engineers who abseiled down the tower to repair and refurbish the Cathedral clock, and wildlife experts maintaining the nesting platform of the cities pair of breeding peregrines, or for the annual ringing the chicks.

The story of the abseiling donkey lives on locally in the name of the local story telling group, called "The Flying Donkeys" which named itself after the tale that they retell for public enjoyment.

For the next two years, a "flying rage" took hold of Derby when "even cats, dogs and things inanimate were applied ... to the rope." It culminated in a performance in 1734 when a visiting funambulist, in a bid to outdo previous performers, attached a rope from the steeple of All Saints to the bottom of St. Mary's Gate. He ascended the rope dragging a wheelbarrow carrying a 13 year old boy behind him. When he reached the top, he attached a donkey to the rope. "About 20 yards from the County Hall, the rope broke ... nothing was heard but dreadful cries, nor nothing seen but confusion ... In this dire calamity, the ass, which maimed others, was unhurt himself, having a pavement of soft bodies to roll over. No lives were lost. As the rope broke near the top, it brought down both chimneys and people at the other end of the street."

The ashamed entertainer sneaked quietly out of the town, without his collection money. Recently, a story of a flying donkey parasailing over a beach in Russia has also made the headlines. A spokesperson for The Brooke, an animal charity, said "This animal would have been extremely distressed, suffering immeasurable fear and pain." No doubt the abseiling donkey suffered in the same way.

Today, people still descend the All Saints tower on ropes to raise money; however now it is for charitable causes. In 2009, Derbyshire Mountain Rescue organised an abseil which raised funds jointly for their organisation and the Cathedral. Other rope sliders include the mechanical engineers who abseiled down the tower to repair and refurbish the Cathedral clock, and wildlife experts maintaining the nesting platform of the cities pair of breeding peregrines, or for the annual ringing the chicks.

The story of the abseiling donkey lives on locally in the name of the local story telling group, called "The Flying Donkeys" which named itself after the tale that they retell for public enjoyment.

 

Derby

a Railway City

Railway Heritage

Derby is a railway city, a crossroads of rail and transport communications. From Roman and Anglo Saxon times, there has been a settlement at the lowest crossing point of the River Derwent, where the town and city of Derby developed. This development accelerated, particularly during the Industrial Revolution, as Derby became a crossing point for canals, rail, roads and, more recently, motorways and air transport. But, central to all of this is our role at the centre of the UK rail network.

In 1836, three separate companies were authorised by Act of Parliament to build railway lines in the East Midlands.

1839 saw the Midland Counties Railway opening its engine workshops and stores in Derby, while the North Midland Railway opened the Roundhouse (designed by George Stephenson and Francis Thompson), offices and carriage shop. Both of these building complexes are now part of Derby College, and are nationally important as the oldest surviving railway workshops in the Midlands; the Roundhouse being one of the earliest examples of its kind to survive.

The Roundhouse

Local Studies Library and derby City Council

Local Studies Library and derby City Council

The North Midland Railway Village

The North Midland Railway Village was built in 1841 to accommodate the railway workers and rent was two shillings a week! There were 92 houses, four shops and the Brunswick Inn. Much of the Railway Village survives, having been restored in the 1980s.

The Midland Railway Company

In 1844, the three railway companies, North Midland Railway, the Midland Counties Railway and the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway, merged to create the Midland Railway Company with Derby as its HQ.

Around this time, Superintendent Matthew Kirtley standardised the design of the fleet of engines the new company inherited. His first designs followed the Jenny Lind pattern then he began to introduce his own designs, greatly improving coal burning efficiency.

Into the 20th Century

By 1900, the Loco Works had 4,500 employees and produced 40 new engines each year. During World War I, the Loco Works employed 500 women to manufacture parts for Howitzer guns, shells, vehicles components and aeronautical supplies. In 1923, a further merger created the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). Then during World War II, the engine sheds and carriage workshops turned out aeroplane wings, fuselages and field guns for the war effort. In 1945, the works had 4,344 employees producing 50 locomotives each year. The works canteen could seat 950 people!

1947 saw the Nationalisation of the railways under Clement Attlee's Labour Government, and the works became part of the British Rail workshops. And the following year saw the first British mainline diesel loco rolled out of the paint shop.

Locomotive production ceased in 1966, with over 1,000 diesels having been built at the Roundhouse. In 1980 most of the Loco Works were demolished, leaving only the Roundhouse, offices, carriage shop, engine shop and stores. These stood unused for many years, but then in 2008/9 this crucial part of Derby's heritage was rescued and restored and has now entered a new era as The Roundhouse Campus of Derby College.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

The Young Pretender

A Defining Moment

It may seem odd to see a statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Derby, but his arrival in the City in 1745 with more than 6,000 troops was a defining moment in British history. Had he pushed on southwards to seize the English throne, instead of turning back at Swarkestone, history might have looked quite different and we may well now have had a Catholic Monarchy and a totally different British Constitution.

The Statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie on Cathedral Green

from Derby Telegraph Media Group Limited

Born in Italy, Charles Edward Stuart lived in France for much of his life before sailing to Britain to stake his claim to the throne in his father's name. He was forced to land in Scotland and started the long march south, arriving in Derby from Ashbourne via Markeaton Lane, Friar Gate, Sadler Gate and into the Market Place.

It seems that the majority of Derby people welcomed the Highland forces and they were given billets for the three days they were here. There are reputed to have been some skirmishes in Derby but much is thought to have been high jinks and drunken carousing.

Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed at Exeter House, which stood in Full Street not far from where the bronze statue of the Prince now stands. But the longer they stayed, the bolder the troops got and unrest began.

Government spies brought news that the king's troops were approaching from the south and reluctantly Charles Stuart was forced to retreat back the way he had come. They fled back to Scotland to be defeated at the famous Battle of Culloden, but Charles Stuart managed to flee, with the help of Fiona McDonald, to France, here he largely spent the rest of his life in exile.

Mock Battles at Swarkestone

from from Derby Telegraph Media Group Limited

Each year in December, the Charles Edward Stuart Society stage two days of mock battles and reenactments - at Swarkestone and here on Cathedral Green, in memory of the Prince.

The statue, created by Glossop-born sculptor Anthony Stones, was unveiled in 1995 amid much comment because of its subject matter but now is an accepted part of the city's landscape.It was presented to the city by the late local businessman Lionel Pickering and was the first equestrian statue to be created anywhere in Britain since the war.

Derby Museum in the Wardwick, has a room dedicated to the Bonnie Prince Charlie story. Original oak panelling from the drawing room at Exeter House has been used, together with other mementos from the prince's stay to show what the room would have looked like on that fateful night more than 260 years ago.

Henry Boden

and the Black Friars

The Friary Hotel

The Friary Hotel is a local haunt for today's discerning student. Does the name 'Friary' evoke images of a rather rotund and affable monk in a Robin Hood story? If so, you would be partially correct: The Friary and the road it stands on takes its name from a Dominican community of monks who setup in this area sometime in the thirteenth century. They were far from overweight however, as this community of monks had to forgo all worldly luxuries. These 'Black Friars' - so named because of the black outward attire they wore - were devoted to assisting the needy members of Derby's medieval community.

A view of the Friary

Image from Derby City Council

Image from Derby City Council

The site of the present Friary Hotel you can now see was but a small part of the land belong to the Black Friars, which consisted of some 16 acres of parkland with fishponds and farm land to maintain their meagre existence.

King Henry VIII's destruction of the country's monastic establishments resulted in the termination of the Dominican friary in the 16th century. However, the Black Friars' benevolent actions amongst Derby's community were carried on by the last private owner of the monks' former land. The current building was created as a town house by Samuel Crompton in 1731 and was extended in 1760 and again in 1875. From 1873 to 1922 it was the home of the Boden family.

Henry Boden

Photo from Derby City  Council

Photo from Derby City  Council

Henry Boden was a wealthy lace maker who not only bestowed kindness on his staff at his Castle Fields factory (formerly on London Road) - including proper housing for sick or infirm workers - but also to the benefit of Derby's community as a whole. This included giving financial aid to St. Werburgh's and All Saints (now Cathedral) churches, amongst other acts of charity.

Both Henry and his wife, Mrs Mary Shuttleworth Boden, were devoted members of the Temperance Movement. In 1922, following the death of Henry Boden, his widow found the house too large and sold it to the Whitaker family. Shortly afterwards the Whitakers set about transforming it into a licensed hotel, much to the annoyance of Mrs Boden, who would surely be no more amused by its current role. Following her husband's demise in 1908, Mrs Boden carried on her husband's good work for the community by providing a children's playing field, ''Boden's Pleasance'' on Bold Lane.

Noah Bullock

and Noah's Ark

Noah Bullock

'Noah's Ark' may seem a strange name for a pub on the Morledge. It's named after Noah Bullock, a resident of Derby who built an ark on the River Derwent, not far from the site of the Noah's Ark pub. The current Noah's Ark pub replaced its predecessor, the old Noah's Ark in 1919 and became a popular locals' pub, hosting many activities and outings.

Morledge in the '70's

from the Local Studies Library

from the Local Studies Library

In 1676 Noah Bullock, a resident of Derby, was an object of ridicule to his neighbours. He decided to live like his Biblical namesake and built a boat which he named "The Ark", mooring it in the river Derwent. The exact mooring is not known, but it was somewhere near the Morledge or the Cockpit.

Noah had married Anna Clarke in 1667, and they had several children. Legend has it that he called his sons Ham, Shem and Japhet; however St Peter's Parish records show that although one of his sons was called Japhet, the others were not named after the Biblical Noah's children, so this must be a later embellishment to the story.

Old City Map

from the local Studies Library

from the local Studies Library

Bullock seems to have encouraged the townspeople to see him as an object of ridicule, for his supposed religiosity in re-enacting the life of Noah created the perfect cover for his real purpose.

He was a forger, and the Ark was his workshop for producing counterfeit coins. Counterfeiting was a common crime in 17th century, despite the serious consequences of death by hanging for anyone found guilty. Forgers often clipped the edges of genuine silver coins, which were then returned to circulation. The clippings were then melted down to create new coins. Bullock may have found it difficult to forge coins, as milled edges and the inscription around the edge Decus at Tutamen were introduced at this time to help prevent forgery.

Sir Simon Degge of Babington Hall, a magistrate and acquaintance of Noah Bullock, having heard rumours of the forgery business, sent for Bullock and asked to see a specimen. On assurance that he would escape prosecution, Bullock produced a sixpence and boasted to Degge that he could produce "as good work as that." Degge warned him that continuing the practice would see him prosecuted and hanged, so Bullock broke up his ark and presumably took up a legitimate way of living, as he continued to live in Derby, fathering more children, and dying in 1687.

George Sorocold

and Derby's Plumbing

Derby's Plumbing

George Sorocold (1668-1738) was one of the finest hydraulic engineers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Examples of his engineering achievements and works were to be found at; Bridgenorth, Bristol, Deal, Exeter, Islington, King's Lynn, Leeds, Liverpool Docks, London Bridge Water Works, Macclesfield, Norwich, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Wirksworth (Derbyshire), Yarmouth, and of course Derby.

Little is known about his early life except that he was born in Derby and was educated at EmmanuelCollege in Cambridge. By 1684 Sorocold had become a resident in Derby, where he married his wife Mary. His first employment at Derby was the re-hanging of the bells at All Saints Church in 1687.

Derby at the close of the Seventeenth Centuary

from the Local Studies Library

Derby can lay claim to being the first provincial town outside of London to have a piped water supply. The project, begun in 1691 took three years to complete and supplied water to the twenty-three streets whose inhabitants could afford to subscribe through Elm wood pipes. It has been estimated that at least 1,000 Elm tree trunks were required to lay the four miles of Elm wood pipes that supplied the town. Sorocold erected his machinery at the old 'gunpowder mill', on the banks of the river Derwent.

The machine consisted of a set of pumps, powered by a water wheel, which raised the water to a tank and cistern in St Michael's churchyard. From here sufficient pressure was derived to pipe the water to individual houses. The water falling from the tank into the cistern from which it was piped also drove the machinery that bored the Elm wood into pipes. Visiting the town in 1698 Celia Fiennes described that the water wheel could be raised and lowered to derive maximum benefit (power) from the level of the Derwent. Such was the success of Sorocold's design that the water supply system remained in use for 150 years, until the town Improvement Act of 1848.

Sorocold's survey of the River Derwent

from the Local Studies Library 

from the Local Studies Library 

In 1716 Sorocold later surveyed the river Derwent and proposed new cuts for a scheme (that was never implemented) to make the river navigable for trade. Sorocold was considered one of the best millwrights of his time because he concentrated on the perfection and success of his work first and profit second.

His engineering achievements were widely recognised by his contemporaries. Thomas Savery-engineer, inventor and competitor, lavished praise upon Sorocold when he wrote that in 'composing of such sort of engines (for supplying towns with water) no person has excelled the ingenious Mr George Sorocold'. Sir Francis Copley (founder of the Copley Medal) wrote of the LondonBridge project that the engines were 'the best piece of work' he had ever seen.

Sorocold, however, is perhaps, more-well known today for his design of the waterwheel and engines that powered Sir Thomas Lombe's famous Silk Mill (the first of its kind in England) erected at Derby in 1720. The mill itself became a tourist attraction for visitors to the town throughout the eighteenth century.