Coal mining was the main occupation for the men of the village. An elderly man would go round knocking on doors to wake up the men on early shift “Eyup Tom!, Eyup Harry!, Eyup Sam! “. His nickname was Thumper.
Often while it was still dark the miners, whose shift started at 5.30 a. m., could be heard trudging up the front road in their hobnail boots, talking to each other as they went. The men who worked the early shift at Brittain Colliery would return about 3.00.p.m. As the pit blower called the afternoon shift to work.
The miners returned black with coal dust, tired and possibly still wet with sweat or water from the mine, and wearing their pit helmets and leather knee pads, carrying their oblong “snap tins” and water bottles in their pockets. They washed down in the kitchen with hot water from the side boiler of the cooking range.
In hot weather some of the younger men would strip to their shorts and swim the width of the reservoir between Golden Valley and Ironville to get rid of the coal dust. When the Newlands Inn was open a pint of beer was very welcome to these men. They enjoyed working in their gardens and playing football at the weekend and had their own football club.
All miners were provided with concessionary coal which was delivered by horse and cart in the early days and later by lorry. It was tipped on the back road at each yard and the strongest lad in the family had the task of barrowing the coal into the coal-shed. The younger ones, boys or girls, filled buckets and the womenfolk were often called upon to help, too.
Coal trucks ran from the colliery along the line by St. Matthias Church, on to the coal wharf, and then the steel works at Codnor Park. The line crossed over the main road at the end of the Coach Road. Wooden gates opened out across the road when trains were due. The passing coal trains always distracted the children taking lessons in the Church School. The passenger and goods line ran through the back of the valley on Riddings Hill.
The Co-op was the main shop for the house wives of the village. It was always a busy shop, especially on Fridays when the menfolk brought home their weekly pay packets. Their wives paid weekly food bills and a 9320 week club94 which bought other sundries. The dividend pay-out was eagerly awaited as this often bought new outfits for the children. The Co-op was regarded by the 91people as their very own shop, they were shareholders.
Supplies to the Co-op were by horse and dray. Often kids dangled on the back unseen, I did for one.
Co-op milk was delivered by horse and cart from the depot at Ripley. Milk straight from the farms was delivered to each door and measured from a bucket into the housewives jugs.
A REPORT FROM DERBY EVENING TELEGRAPH. Fri 20th Jan 1950
School in a Church — The "Head" Is Happy in Golden Valley— Mrs. D. Miller, Headmistress of Golden Valley Infants' School, laid down the school book she was holding, and shaded her eyes as she looked up the valley through the school windows. "Visitors look at the single street of the village and then up the valley, and tell me It looks like the end of nowhere," she said. "I don't think it does." Neither do the parents of the 33 boys and girls who attend the school, all are proud of an old tradition of the valley— called Golden, some say, because of the glorious laburnum blossoms which once covered it — to which Mrs. Miller has added another fine chapter.
The children starting school there at five learn their lessons while the font at which many of them were christened stands railed off in an alcove, and the choir stalls, from which they may one day sing, and a church altar lie partitioned off from the classroom.
A peep behind the partition discloses a dim interior lit by a stained glass window, which is a memorial to the Rev. Henry Wright. Outside the building is a notice board which reads: "St. Matthias Church, Golden Valley,"
Nobody finds this confusing, for a church which is used as a school on week-days is tradition in the Valley. Since its opening in 1876 the present church has been so used, and a previous building used as a place of worship was also used as a school.
Although the building is probably the only combined church and school In Derbyshire, it has gained most recognition as a pioneer school which teachers from all over the county have visited since, 12 years ago, Mrs. Miller introducing what was then a revolutionary teaching method
The measure of Mrs. Miller's success was that the number of visitors eager to study the methods she had pioneered became so numerous that she was forced at one time to refuse all appointments because it interfered so much with her school work.
Mrs. Miller had experimented with a method that aimed at clothing the bare bones of contemporary teaching with drama and interest. The method sprang from psychological principles, ' which have now become widely accepted, and was designed to stir the deeper, creative faculties of the child.
Says Mrs. Miller "I have been asked if I would like to go to a bigger school, but I am happiest at my work here in the valley."
NOTES— March 1st, Church Council 7.30 p.m.;- March 19th; Monday, Mothers' Union 3 p.m. in the Schools.; March 14th; Tuesday, Lenten Service in the Schools. Speaker, Rev. S. R. Futers, Rural Dean.; 21st March, "BRAINS TRUST" Please let me have your questions- Any Moral or Religious Question. Do come. It will-be interesting, instructive and entertaining. Last year's was a great success. Don't Forget March 21st, 7.I5, Questions PLEASE. Members of the Brains Trust the Vicars of Tibshelf, Selston, Black'.vell, Pilsley, Swanwick, Clay Cross, South Normanton, Shirland, Stonebroom. Brackenfield.
FROM IRONVILLE PARISH CHURCH MAGAZINE 1950
The other village shop, in Newlands Row, was kept in my early days, by a fat little old lady by the name of Mrs. Foulds. She lived in the house next door which had a communicating door to the shop. She would pad very quietly from her living quarters, perhaps in the hope of catching a youngster taking a toffee from one of the open boxes arranged on the counter. Her stock mainly consisted of sweets, pop, “liver and headache” powders, sticks for kindling, paraffin, gas mantles and candles.
After Mrs. Foulds the shop was kept for a while by Mrs. Johnson, who traded in a similar style. Mrs. Johnson was succeeded by Mrs. Crooks who sold a wider variety of goods - butter, tea, sugar, etc., until the shop was demolished with the rest of the row of houses in 1977.
The Infant School was held in St. Matthews Church. At the age of 7 years children went up to either Riddings or Ironville Junior School. Mrs. Cox, the elderly school mistress, retired shortly after I started school and was replaced by Mrs. Miller (nee Hill) who was young and full of vigour. She was tremendously liked by everyone and was an inspiration to all, sharing all their joys, sorrows and grief. Each year a group photograph of the school pupils and teachers was taken beneath the oak tree in the playground.
During school hours the church altar was screened off and the pews were put to the back and replaced by little desks and chairs so the nave could be used as a classroom. The children’s lavatories, across the playground, consisted of a bucket and board, just as in the rest of Golden Valley. Sometimes the little buckets were found floating in the canal, but no-one knew how they came to be there. Of course, the culprits were usually known but the kids would never give names for fear of reprisals.
There was pressure in the early 1950’s to save money by closing the school and merge it with a larger school at Riddings. The Reverend John Francis, the Rural Dean of the district, was one of the school managers, and with the support of the Wright family successfully used his influence to keep the school open. He was devoted to the welfare of the school.
Mrs. Miller, the head teacher was famed for introducing teaching methods which aimed at combining teaching with interest and drama. Both the school and the church were finally closed at the end of the summer term of 1973.
The Church and the Methodist Chapel, which was further up Newlands Road on the hill, were not only the places of worship but also places of entertainment. Lantern shows were given by Mr. Jack Needham, who also played the organ and piano for various functions. Mr. Joe Needham and Mr. Alfred Gent usually kept a bit of law and order when the kids got out of hand.
Annual sports and teas were organised by the church. These events were held in a field at the bottom of Codnor Hill, with permission from the farmer of Know’s Hall Farm.
Sunday School Anniversaries were held both at the church and the chapel. The Chapel Anniversary was held in April and was preceded by about 6 weeks of practicing for both choir and children. On The Day both the choir and the children paraded through the village singing. They would be accompanied by someone carrying a collecting plate. For the afternoon and evening services the children sat on a “platform of steps” from floor to ceiling, dressed in new clothes and singing to the congregation.
One or two were chosen to give solo performances. The adult choir sang their own musical arrangements. The Church Anniversary was always held in June and was slightly different. They had a morning parade but during the afternoon and evening services the children sat in the front pews to sing their musical arrangements. During the afternoon service children took baskets of eggs and bunches of flowers and presented them to the vicar at the Chancel steps. These were later taken to Ripley Hospital.
It was a pleasure to listen to the choir boys and the men and pick out the rich tones of the Walters brothers, who were known as the “Newlands Quartet”. Mr. Alan Gent was the Church organist; he and his wife were joint Church caretakers. The Church bell had a singular tone “Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding”.
The Church was not registered for the solemnisation of marriages. Weddings were conducted at Ironville Parish Church, as were funeral services. Only baptisms were conducted at St. Matthews Church.
Whitsuntide was a scene of activity at the Chapel. A May Queen was chosen, who was the principal of the Maypole. Her chosen attendants, all dressed in white, each held a garlanded streamer which was attached to the Maypole. A young man carried the centre pole. The Maypole proceeded to Codnor Park Monument followed by decorated carts drays and lorries. The procession would meet up with other Maypoles and their followers from the surrounding villages. There was a prize for the best decorated vehicle and Maypole. Sports exhibitions took place in the Monument grounds. Families and friends were united on these joyous occasions.
Stone Row at the bottom of 'The Valley'
From Top end looking along the back gardens
The bridge over the canal