MEMORIES OF GOLDEN VALLEY.
Predominantly a mining village belonging to Butterley Company Limited (mine, iron, steelworks and land owners) and nestling by Cromford Canal, the village consisted of several rows of terraced houses, two shops, a church, a chapel, a public house, and buildings opposite the Newlands Inn which were stables, a cart-shed and a loft. There were also stables at the end of the stone row (6th row) at the bottom of the Valley alongside of the canal path.
The era of commerce on the canals was at an end and the railways and motorised vehicles had taken over. However, horses were still being used by farmers and local trades people.
During the early part of their marriage my parents lived with my maternal grandparents at No. 12, which was the end house of the 2nd row. This was where I was born in 1926. It was a really large house with eight rooms where my grandparents had brought up their large family. My great-grandparents and also my great-great-grandparents had brought up their families at No. 50, the last house, of the stone row. Eventually my parents acquired No. 9, middle house of the 2nd row, where my eldest brother and sister were born. My grandfather died when I was three years old and my grandmother later remarried and left the Valley. My parents then acquired No. 12 where my youngest sister died during a diphtheria epidemic and my youngest brother was born.
The end house of each terrace had their own back yard, those in between shared a yard where their back doors faced each other.
All the houses had black iron cooking ranges which held about a bucket full of coal. Bread, cakes, puddings and meat were all cooked in the fireside oven. Water was heated in a boiler on the other side of the fire, having to be filled with water carried from the kitchen cold water tap and ladled out when needed. Cooking pans containing potatoes, vegetable, etc., were placed on top of the oven and boiler to cook from the heat of the fire, or hob, as it was called. There was always a kettle of water boiling on the hob.
The fire grate was filled with coal slack at night, particularly in winter, to keep the fire in. This was called "stoking". Often, when the fire was kept in overnight, there was something left cooking in the oven - stew meat or cow heel. If the fire was red and clear at any time, toast could be made by holding a slice of bread on a long handled fork close to the red glow until it was golden brown.
The cooking range was cleaned with a substance called "black lead polish", which was applied to the grate and then brushed off vigorously until its surface gleamed. It was a very dirty job!
Gas was the only form of fixed lighting indoors, and then only in the parlour and living room, not in the kitchen. It was a case of taking a lighted candle upstairs at bedtime.
It was practically unheard of for house doors to be locked until the last member of the family came home at night.
Gas lamps were situated at intervals on the back and front roads. My mother remembers them being installed. Before that there was no street lighting.
The majority of people had well kept gardens which were alongside the canal tow path. The end house, except Nos 1 and 50 had an extra piece of garden at the side of the house. From No.15 onwards, the houses had a small piece of garden directly in front of their front doors. The row of cottages which were parallel to the main road, Newlands Row, had gardens on the opposite side of the main road and their lavatories, most inconveniently, were situated at the bottom of the gardens.
The lavatories, except those mentioned on the main road, were outside, and across the yard, and consisted of a large bucket with a handle and a board across the top, in which there was a hole, for obvious reasons. There was a wooden box at the side in which pieces of newspaper were kept for use as toilet paper. It was a place where one could escape from the noisy family and meditate.
It was possible to hear a neighbour on the adjacent lavatory, which was back to back (semi-detached). After dark my sister and I would carry a lighted candle to the lavatory, cupping the flame with one hand to prevent it from being blown out by the wind, then make a blob of wax on the seat on which to stick the candle. To sit in the flickering candlelight was sheer delight.
Two men would come each week with a, horse-drawn swinging barrel to empty the excreta buckets. They wore big leathery aprons which nearly reached their ankles.
There was just a hole in the ground 'with a board over it for the main road cottages and the excreta had to be "ladled" out from an outside pit which had an iron cover. It really did smell foul. God only knows where these excreta buckets were emptied.
There were no dustbins! Each row of houses had an ash pit on the back road surrounded by a stone or brick wall. The womenfolk carried their ashes and rubbish to the pit in buckets. Paper and infected material was burned in the fireplace or the garden. The ash pits were dug out weekly by the same two men and the contents taken by horse and cart to the tip somewhere along the Coach Road amongst the trees in the woodland. Possibly the excreta buckets were emptied there, too.
Wash day was quite an event! An iron copper in the kitchen was filled with water and a fire lit in a small grate beneath it. When the water was hot it was ladled into a wooden or zinc tub and the dirty linen put into it. It was then "ponched" with a wooden or zinc "ponch" before being transferred to the copper for boiling.
Once the clothes had reached boiling point they were taken from the copper and put into tubs once more for rinsing. The final stage was to put the clothes through the mangle, big wooden rollers operated by turning a big iron wheel at the side. On fine days the newly laundered clothes would be pegged outside on lines to dry in the fresh air but on rainy days the wet washing was hung on indoor lines and around the fire. Steam everywhere!
Ironing had to be done with heavy flat irons which had to 'be heated in front of a glowing red fire. They were very heavy and uncomfortably hot to hold.
All this work, was done on Mondays, little wonder it was always bubble and squeak for dinner on wash day. (Bubble and squeak - left over cold potatoes and cabbage fried up.)
No 12 in the foreground where I was born
The railway bridge overlooking Golden Valley
Bath night was once a week and it meant firing up the copper again and ladling the hot water from it into a zinc bath, luxury if you could sit in front of the living room fire. The cleanest member of the family had the first bath.
Housework was a lot tougher then! Womenfolk got down on their hands and knees every day and scrubbed the rough stone, quarry-tiled floors and shook their home made pegged rugs on the yard or road.