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The Residents of Dalby House by Paul Parkin

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The Residents of Dalby House by Paul Parkin

house from the tennis courts

For Local and Community History Month our volunteer researcher Paul Parkin has been delving into the history of Dalby House, the site of the museum, and the people who lived here. 

The Agard Family, 1783–1806

The first family (on record) that lived here was the Agard family. In 1783 Mary Agard (nee Bourne) inherited the “copyhold” for the house. At that time the building was not yet known as Dalby House. Copyhold is an ancient form of land tenure in which the property is held “at the will of the Lord according to the custom of the manor”. The Lord in this case was the Duke of Rutland and many street and house names round here still show his influence. As women were not legally allowed to own property Mary’s husband Francis became the owner of the house on their marriage. This law wasn't changed until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882.

As owners the Agards mostly rented the house out to tenants and didn't live here much. Francis, Mary's husband, came from a wealthy family of Derbyshire mill owners. He lived at Borrowash and owned Corn Mills in Derby. He paid for two family pews in Ockbrook parish church and donated money to pay for the restoration of the church spire: he was used to spending his money lavishly. In his later years, Francis ran into money troubles and in 1803 he used Dalby House as security on a loan. By the time of his death in 1820 things had not improved and Mary was declared bankrupt. On 8 January 1823 the Derby Mercury advertised the sale of Francis Agard’s personal belongings. The “bankrupt’s effects” included, “dining and drawing room furniture, elegant mahogany chairs, sofas, sofa, dining and Pembroke tables, book-cases, with glass doors, elegant chimney and pier glasses, Brussels, and Kidderminster carpets, recess stools, chintz and moreen curtains,”

Dalby house must have been pretty richly furnished, even if it was all sold to pay the bailiffs!

In July 1806 Francis Agard surrendered the copyhold on the house to John Dalby at the Ilkeston Manor Court. We've heard that Dalby was one of Agard's debtors and there may have been some shady dealings going on. 

John Dalby- 1806-1840s?

Dalby came from Ockbrook and was already 66 years old when he bought the house. Ironically, despite the fact that Dalby house is named for him, John didn’t spend very long here. He was married three times; he had a son who died in infancy and a surviving daughter, Anne. He did live in the house briefly with his third wife Mary, but after that it was rented out again. He died in 1836 at the age of 95 but Mary lived until 1860, by which time the house had been sold to Dr. Norman. 

Dr. Norman and his large family, 1840s-1880s

At some point in the late 1840s- early 1850s Dr. George Blake Norman began renting Dalby House, The census records he was living at Dalby House in 1851. Dr Norman was born in Ilkeston and studied at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London and in Paris; he was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and practised in Ilkeston from 1822 onwards. In 1841 he married Sarah Potter, the eldest child of coal-master and farmer Samuel and wife Sarah. Norman and Sarah had several children, some reports say up to 10.  According to research may have been during Dr. Norman's tenure that the cheaply made Victorian extension was built on the back of Dalby House. That makes sense if you have that many children to accommodate. Apparently Dr. Norman's waiting room and surgery was also in the back of the house shown by an original doorbell on the museum's back door for patients too lowly to use the front entrance!

Norman was a local “character” who rode to see his patients on horseback. He was a man of some renown. In 1843 he was appointed as Medical Officer for the Heanor District of the Basford Board of Guardians, the local Work House, on an annual salary of £42. This was a cruel and controversial institution but a good salary boost for a country doctor. It made Norman a man of some status in the town: he was as the churchwarden, Chairman of the local board, in 1842 on the royal Commission on the Employment of Children. 

Unfortunately, his career came to a strange end: the Ilkeston Pioneer reported that he suffered “an illness, brought on by excitement during a parochial election”. Rumours abounded that he was accused of nefarious practices, which caused his honour mortal damage and sent him into an apoplectic rage. Whatever the cause this breakdown in his health encouraged the family to relocate: they left Dalby House for Manton near Oakham, Rutland in 1875; Dr Norman died two years later. 

As the local Doctor he was well known in the town. On his death, the Ilkeston pioneer wrote that

“Without a doubt, no one was better known in Ilkeston than Dr Norman. He was a native of the town and practised as a surgeon for about fifty years” 

In May 1881 the Trustees of Dr Norman’s will put the Ilkeston estate up for sale; this included the “commodious and pleasantly situated” freehold family residence of Dalby House, including stables, large gardens and an adjoining close of pasture land of almost four acres.

During 1877-81 the house was let to another doctor and his family, The Armstongs, before the Maltby’s moved in. The Maltby's lived in Dalby house through the end of the Victorian age, the tragic First World War, turbulent Twenties and the Second World War. We'll have more on them for you next week.

 By Paul Parkin, Ed. Kate Crossley

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