John Pye Auctions Weekly Story – ‘The High Life and the heavy Victorian table’

It is a long way from those early days in Langley Mill, the Industrial Revolution boom village north-east of Derby. The meeting point for three separate canals, it was already a busy centre for pottery, flour milling and mining when John was born on October 1st 1930 at midwife Nurse Bolton’s house in Elinor Street.

The bouncing baby boy came home with his mother to the small family cottage, 47 Millnay Road, the first child of his proud father, a miner at the nearby pit. There was joy but little luxury at the family home where his father’s wage was supplemented by his mother’s work as a cleaner at the Vaults in nearby Eastwood. John recalls little of those early days until the age of five when his mother took him to see the canary and budgie collection of the Vaults landlord Johnny Dalton.

It was his first taste of the ‘high life,’ as Mr Dalton was ‘a proper gentleman’, providing the young John with crisps and a drink after he admired his feathered friends. In the bar room, John noticed the heavy Victorian table sand beneath them copper spit pans filled with wood shavings. Often drinkers would spit and miss, hitting the ironwork of the tables.

‘Of course,’ he now recalls, ‘my mother had to get a cloth and clean it all off. It didn’t mean anything to me then, but some time later when I was talking about it to my father, he became absolutely furious and there was no letting up. My father went with mother to the Vaults and he finished her working there. All because I had told him what she had to do.’


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