Morton history: 1926 to 1939

Notes from Barrington Darby (Local historian):

As is well known, 1926 was the year of the General Strike which particularly affected Morton Colliery and consequently the village community too. The term blackleg was used to describe certain employees who dared to cross the picket lines!

Around 1926, Trent Motor Traction operated a motor bus service between Alfreton, Morton and Clay Cross, known as route no. 20.

In the mid 1920s two pioneer bus companies established their depots at Morton. Ernie Wharton’s Morton Bus Company was based in Evershill Lane and Frank Porter and Son on Station Road. The MBC operated a service from Alfreton via Morton to Clay Cross, which later became the Midland General route D6., whilst F. Porter and Son, operated a service from Alfreton via Morton and Pilsley to Chesterfield which later became part of the Midland General route D4.

Around 1928/29 Chesterfield RDC built 30 houses on Stretton Road. They became known as Sitwell Villas named after former Lords of the Manor, the Sitwells.

Further development took place close by when a group of OAP bungalows were built. These were named after a former Rector of Morton, the Reverend J.W. Maltby.

In 1927, Morton Holy Cross Church became part of the newly created Derby Diocese. Since 1884 Morton had been in the Diocese of Southwell and prior to that in Lichfield Diocese.

The death occurred of Mr A.F. Hitchcock on 21 April 1928, aged 58, Headmaster of Morton School.

In the early hours of 12 February 1929 a collision occurred south of Doe Hill Station when a southbound freight train collided head on with a northbound express. Although the collision was outside Morton
parish, the cause was due to a signalling error in Morton Sidings Signal Box. The box was almost directly opposite the railway entrance to Morton Colliery and only a few yards from milepost 139. Tihe only casualties were the driver and fireman of the express, which was the Overnight Sleeper Service from London St. Pancras to Edinburgh. The express locomotive No. 5933 was scrapped but the freight locomotive No. 4491, however, was repaired.

Morton Primary School was supplied with electricity from Morton Colliery in 1930 after Miss Marshall, the Headmistress, had made a deputation to General Jackson of Clay Cross Company.

W.H. (Bill) Copson of New Street, Morton, had a successful trial with Derbyshire CCC in 1931 and was signed on. In 1932 he made a sensational start to his career with Derbyshire by taking a wicket with his first ball in the County Cricket Championship. Playing against Surrey at The Oval he dismissed Andy Sandham, being caught by Charlie Elliott. Apparently, Copson’s interest in cricket was kindled during the 1926 General Strike after being persuaded to play to pass the time on. He made his debut with Morton CCC the same year and progressed from there.

In June 1933 the Midland General Omnibus Company of Langley Mill took over the Morton Bus Company and also Frank Porter and Son.

Harry Boot opened a greengrocer’s shop on Stretton Road in 1933. He later opened another shop in New Street in 1948.

On Sunday, 20 October 1934 17 year May Swain of New Street mysteriously disappeared. May was last seen walking back to the Nursing Home at Swaithland, Leicester, where she worked and has never
been seen since.

The Toll Bar House on Stretton Road was demolished in 1935. It was situated opposite the entrance to Sitwell Villas.

In November 1935 Mr Alfred Holland was elected Labour Member of Parliament for the Clay Cross Division. He succeeded Mr Arthur Henderson MP.

In 1936, Mr Alfred Holland MP died at Morton on 30 August, aged 36, due to Spinal Meningitis. Born at Tibshelf, he was buried there on 2 September. A promising career cut tragically short?

His name lives on in the form of Holland Close, a cul-de-sac off Stretton Road.

It must have been a tremendous step forward in 1936 when Pit Head Baths and a Canteen were provided at Morton Colliery. The same year the Miners’ Welfare Hall was opened after being in a derelict condition for many years.

Bill Copson had a particularly good season with Derbyshire in their Championship year of 1936. This led to his selection for the Players against the Gentlemen at Lords. He was also chosen to tour Australia with the MCC in 1936/1937. Although Copson headed the Tour Bowling Averages he did not play in a Test Match.

The Coronation of King George VI, took place in 1937.

The former Rector of Morton, Canon Alfred Hall Prior died in 1937 and was buried at Morton.

The Midland General Gondolier Float (a converted bus) was used to convey the Carnival Queen and her attendants at the Morton Carnival in 1938. The Carnival Queen was Elsie Vardy, crowned by Mrs Williams.

In 1939, Bill Copson made his England Test Match debut against the West Indies at Lords. His second Test Match was also in 1939, against the West Indies at Old Trafford. In total, Copson took 12 wickets for 185 runs and dismissed George Headley once in each match.

The outbreak of World War II on 3 September 1939, was a conflict that changed the world for ever.

© Barrington Darby