Victorian Derby: Funny facts

Demonic pace

In November 1897 a motorist escaped with a warning from a charge of 'Furious Driving' at Borough Police Court. He denied the allegation of a police constable that he drove 'very fast - at least 12 miles an hour' up the crowded Duffield Road. A key part of his defence was that 'children were following all the way', therefore he could hardly have been guilty of such demonic pace!

Electric Candles

By 1879, the 'magician Edison' invented electric light in the States and in November that year a demonstration of the new phenomenon of electric light took place in Becket Street, directing the public's interest round the corner to the Drill Hall. Inside 'two electric candles placed on pyramidal pedestals' disappointed the local newspaper Mercury reporter compared with the light outside. There was 'every now and then, a sudden variation of colour, or of intensity, caused probably by some unsteadiness of the machinery used in producing the current'. The writer pronounced that the holders of gas shares needn't worry themselves and the Mercury also quoted a medical professor at a London hospital, in a letter to The Times , giving it as his opinion that while electric light might be great for the outdoors 'it can never be used as a room illuminant!'

Shop owners were responsible for the upkeep of adjacent footway

By October 1878 pavements had become the direct responsibility of the city council, but before that, the owners of adjacent properties were responsible for the upkeep of the footway and maintenance depended on the town surveyor's promptness or otherwise in serving them notice to do so.

(Excerpted from Victorian Derby -- A portrait of life in a 19th-century manufacturing townby Harry Butterton, Published by Breedon Books Publishing, 2006.)

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