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Matlock: The Allen Family of Dimple Farm
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Allens Garage

Letterheads of Local Businesses

Photographs of Edith, William and Ethel May Allen can be seen on: Brunt & Slater of
Matlock Bank

Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers

The two nineteenth century photographs above are of the Matlock cab and taxi proprietor Joseph Allen and his second wife Sarah, nee Spencer. They were both taken by the photographic firm of Winter of Derby and date from when the couple lived at Darley Dale. Joseph's photograph was taken about 1883 and Sarah's two or three years later, after the birth of their last child in 1885.

Joseph, the son of Thomas and Mary Allen, was born at Heage in 1856 and christened there on 7 Dec 1856[1]. As his father was an agricultural labourer when Joseph was born, it seems probable that he undertook some seasonal work on farms from the age of 8 or 9; he had left home by the age of 12 to be an indoor farm servant. When he was 15 he worked for William Cupit at Catchill farm, in South Wingfield. He was the sole male 'farm servant indoor' on a 67 acre farm, a hired labourer on an annual contract and living in with the farmer's family. This gave him the chance to learn skills that he would use throughout his working life, such as how to handle horses, and fuelled his ambition to be a farmer himself one day.

His first wife was Mary Ann (Polly) Spencer whom he married at St. Peter's, Belper in 1876 and the couple moved to Beech Cottage on Hackney Lane[4]. They had two children, Mary Hannah[5] and Jack (John Thomas). Unfortunately, Polly died 3 weeks after Jack's birth of septicaemia and exhaustion after childbirth. She was only 25, and was buried near her parents' home at Belper.

Mary Hannah, photographed by Norman McAuslan of Belper.

Jack (John Thomas) taken by Tyson of Sheffield, possibly around the time of the wedding of his sister when he would have been about 20.

Joseph married for the second time at St. Alkmund's, Duffield in 1879. He and Sarah had four more sons in fairly quick succession: Joseph (born 1880), William (born 1882), Frederick (born 1883) and George (born 1885). They still lived on Hackney Lane and in 1891 Joseph was still working as a carter. The twelve year old Jack was the only son listed as a scholar although all five boys were of school age by then. They moved to Dimple Farm in at either the end of 1897 or early in 1898[2], which Joseph later purchased[3]. The farmhouse was believed to date from 1680, although the first record of the deeds was in 1756, and its walls were two feet thick[4].

Dimple Farm, about1904, possibly to celebrate the purchase of the farm in October 1903.
In the picture, from left to right, are:
Jack (John Thomas), Sarah and Joseph senior. The girl on the right is probably Amelia Harriet Spencer, one of their nieces[b]. Millie is shown living at Dimple Farm, aged 10, in the 1911 census[7]. She was the daughter of Sarah's brother, George Spencer, who died in 1902.

"Old Joe and his sons - how hard they work, when they were not carting coal to the gas works they were engaged in funerals, what struggles they had up Tag hill to the Church. They never seemed to fail, however, and Allens had a first class reputation. Their home was Dimple Farm and Sunday was their only rest day but Old Joe kept his horses well fed and said what killed one would buy another"[9]. Horses played a major part in the Joseph Allen business and his eldest son's teenage years were spent working for his father and learning how to handle horses.

Joseph Allen, born 1880
William Allen, born 1882

Frederick Allen, born 1883

George Allen, born 1885
The studio portraits were probably taken to mark their 21st birthdays.

In the first decade of the twentieth century there were several changes to the Allen household and by 1911 William was the only son still living at home, although all the sons apart from Joseph junior were working for their father in Matlock[7]. Jack had married Louisa Alice Smith, was working as a carter, and had moved to Yew Tree Cottage on the Dimple. George was farming and living at Holewood Terrace on Smedley Street West with his wife Mary Elizabeth (nee Goodlad). Frederick and his wife Eva (nee Collis) also lived on The Dimple. Joseph had moved to Belper with his wife Annie (nee Wilson) and was running the livery stables on King Street.

Louisa Alice Allen (nee Smith), photographed around the time of her marriage to Jack on 30th October 1901. Her parents were living at Harvey Dale House in Matlock Dale in the 1860s but her father unfortunately died shortly before she was born[8].

Jack helped his father to select horses and was undoubtedly valued as an expert horseman. His brother, William, described driving them both to Borrey's, the undertakers of Midland Road and Silver Hill Road in Derby, to look at their horses[10]. In the run up to the First World War most of the carting work was undertaken by Jack and Frederick. George had to milk the cows before going out with his cart whilst William also had book keeping duties and the motor taxi.

In 1914 William had a pair of houses built across the road from Dimple Farm and moved into one, the Hollies, when he married Edith Slater Brunt in November 1914. Edith used to walk alongside the cart when William delivered coke to Chatsworth House. The First World War had begun by the time of their marriage. Although none of Joseph Allen's sons enlisted immediately, Jack and William joined the army after conscription was extended to married men on 25th May 1916.

Annie, Joseph's wife, probably aged 21.
Both Annie and Joseph were photographed by Frost of Derby.
Bessie, George's wife, probably aged 21. Edith, William's wife, photographed at her brother's wedding in 1911. She was born at
10 Paxton Street, Accrington,
in 1882. See Brunt & Slater of
Matlock Bank.

Jack enlisted at Derby in August 1916, joining the 2nd /4th Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers and was sent to Widford camp near Chelmsford. His training included digging trenches, attacking a dummy stuffed with straw with a bayonet, and going on 10 to 20 mile marches though the countryside. He was taken ill and died of 'heart failure' on the 4th October, 1916, aged 39[11]. The news reached his family in Matlock by telegram that Wednesday afternoon. He was buried at St. Giles'; his widow, Louisa, was later interred in the same grave. So Jack missed out on the later success of the family business that resulted from their purchase of the premises in Crown Square.

First World War Memorial card for Jack (John Thomas) Allen. Louie (Louisa Alice) lived at Yew Tree Cottage until her death in 1940.
See the recently erected CWGC headstone at St. Giles Church.

Sarah Allen died in 1919, aged 67, two months after her son William was demobilised in March 1919. In 1920 Joseph married for the third time, on this occasion at All Saints' Church. His new wife was Ada Land, a war widow with two young children[12].

Joseph died at Dimple Farm on 7 June, 1933. The interment took place at the Wesleyan Cemetery, Darley Dale where he was buried alongside other members of his family. He had kept livery stables at Matlock for nearly half a century[13]. Ada did not remain at the farm after his death and his son George moved in to take over running it.

Ethel May, Joseph's grand-daughter, described the wake as more like a wedding than a funeral. "A side of beef & whole ham had been cooked and was being carved in the big sitting room & all manner of cakes & sweets handed round. Looking round Dimple Farm, the garden, the orchard where we picked apples, the haybarn, the cowshed and horse stables, the pigsty, hen houses - so many memories of a wonderful childhood. There were 11 of us grandchildren, the sons and their wives and numerous Spencer cousins ... what a reunion it was to pay tribute to a very strong character"[4].

Joseph Allen, relaxing at Dimple Farm, 1911

On the right is part of the group photograph taken at the wedding of Harry Allen, son of George and Bessie, and Doris Twigg that took place at Matlock on 27th July 1940. Sadly for them, they were to attend the funeral service for their sister in law, Jack's wife Louie, the following day.
From left to right -
Back, standing: Nellie the second wife of Frederick and formerly Bannister, Mary Hannah (wearing a corsage), William, Joseph, Edie (William's wife), Frederick, George
Front, seated: Annie (Joseph's wife), Bessie (George's wife).

A life of hard work doesn't seem to have shortened the lives of the Allen sons, with the exception of John Thomas. Both William and Frederick lived until they were 79, and George was 76 when he passed away. Joseph Jnr. died in 1969 at 89 years of age. The Belper business still carries his name.


Based on the extensive © notes and research of David Midgley, and includes passages from a booklet he prepared for family members.
Photographs © Celia Dyson and David Midgley.
Written and further research by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Extracted from FamilySearch.

[2] The Alan's son George enrolled at All Saints' on 10 Jan 1898, having transferred from Churchtown. His brothers had already left school. See: Lists Through the Centuries: Matlock, All Saints' School, Admissions Register, sample of entries 1895 - 1898.

[3] "Belper News", 16 June 1933. Death of Mr. J. Allen.

[4] Extracts from the notes of Ethel May Allen.

[5] Mary Hannah born at Heage and in 1881 was living with William and Elizabeth Rouse, her aunt and uncle, at Deeley's Cottages in Darley. She was 4 years old (from the 1881 census).

[6] All Saints' School, Admissions Register shows that Amelia Spencer erolled in the Infants' department of All Saints' on 27 Apr 1908. Her guardian was shown as Joseph Allen of Dimple Farm. She was born on 16 Jan 1901 and left school on 31 Mar 1915.

[7] The 1911 census is available of Find My Past.

[8] See the Smith family in the 1861 census (parents John and Sarah) | the 1871 census | the 1881 census | the 1891 census | the 1901 census|

[9] Croft: "Recollections of Old Matlock" (c.1910?), County Hall Local Studies Library.

[10] Entry from William Allen's notebook/diary, owned by his grandson David Midgley.

[11] Jack's battalion went to Ireland and did not go on to serve on the Western Front. There is more, including a photograph of him in his uniform, in the War Memorials section.

[12] Read about Ada's husband, John Land, in the War Memorials section

[13] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 10 June 1933. The paper carried both a report of his death and an announcement of his death. "Beloved husband of Ada Allen".