Updated 4 Aug 2007

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Photo 527


Over the central doorway are carved the words:
Below this is a plaque and the text is in capital letters:

are built,
and as a memorial of
her beloved brother
Dean Hill House, Matlock, by his
sister Margaret HARRISON, to
provide rest for the aged poor".

Harrison Almshouses, Matlock Green

    Harrison Almshouses, in Matlock Green, were endowed in 1898 by Margaret Harrison in memory of her brother William. They were originally called Dean Hill Almshouses, and consisted of 6 houses, with 3 rooms each, housing 2 couples and 4 single people (all female), ages ranging from 60 to 79. The Almshouses were built next to Deans Hill House (where Miss Harrison lived), on land once owned by her.

    See a cutting from the High Peak News dated 22 Oct 1898

    William Doxey was the architect for the Almshouses, and Mr England represented the builders Messrs Groome & Co. (see High Peak News 26 June 1897)

    The Almshouses were intended "to provide rest for the aged poor". Widows, spinsters or an approved married couple, not less than 60 years old, were preferred. They had to provide a testimonial of good character signed by three well-known respectable inhabitants of Matlock. Preference was given to people who had once been comfortably off, but were: "... reduced through misfortune only and who have been regular attendants at some place of Protestant Christian worship". Residents were expected to be "clean and tidy in their persons, regular in their habits, civil and obliging to each other, and not to be guilty of noisy or quarrelsome conduct". However, two single sisters living in Almshouse No.3 (Catherine and Emma Else) were described as "troublesome and ungrateful". A doctor said that the shock of moving them to Bakewell workhouse would probably kill them both, and the sisters were still there in 1901.

    Margaret Harrison (1838-?) lived at Dean Hill House, next to the Almshouses, and had them built to commemorate her brother William, JP, MD (1829-c1897). Their parents were also called William and Margaret, and the children were born at Gargrave in N Yorkshire. (Gargrave is just NW of Skipton and near Leeds).

    William Harrison was a widower and retired physician when he came to Matlock Green before 1881 to live with his unmarried sister. Margaret lived on an Annuity, and they were comfortably off with two servants, a cook and a housemaid. By 1891 William was a Justice of the Peace, but died before 1897.

    Entries in the Matlock census are: 1881, 1891, 1901 and Almshouses in 1901

    Handed down through the author's family is a bible, embossed:
    "In Commemoration of Sixty Year's Reign,V.R.,1837-1897"

    Inside on the flyleaf is elegantly written:
    "William Doxey from Miss Harrison, In memory of the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Dean Hill Almshouses on Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Day June 22, 1897"

    William Doxey was the author's GGFather 1838-1906. William trained as a joiner and became Clerk of the Works at Smedley's Hydro, Matlock. He was a miner when married and also built several houses in New Street. William was involved in planning the steep-gradient tramway. He married twice and died of pneumonia at 68, caught waiting for a train.

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    High Peak News
    22 Oct 1898

    The Munificent Gift by Miss Harrison
    Dedication Service and Opening of the Almshouses

    To futher impress upon the minds the hisorical nature of Thursday, October 20th, preparatory to the general rejoicings associated with the Cable Tramway gift, a ceremonial transpired at Matlock Green. This was in connection with the magnificent gift Miss Harrison, of Dean Hill house, has made to the poor of the Matlock parish, viz.: the Almshouses. The cermonial took the happy form of a short dedication service, which may be regarded as the final act of bestowing the gift from Miss Harrison on the poor for ever. The Almshouses are now fully occupied, and are considered by experts to be the finest and best equipped in the whole County of Derby, if not of England. Miss Harrison has spared no expense in making the buildings of the most substantial character possible, and there is little to fear in the way of depreciation for years, perhaps generations, to come. The Almshouses, moreover, are in an admirable position, facing the Matlock Parish Church and the Pig Tor Rocks, and are fronted to the main Matlock Bridge roadway. A happy provision for the inmates is the lawn and gardens, laid out with great care at the front of each. Shrubberies, trees, garden seats, and flowers- all are provided, the one desire of the donor being to help to make the downhill of the life of the occupants as comfortable and peaceful as it is possible in this world.

    Previous to the service the governors, or trustees, of the gift were entertained to luncheon at Dean Hill House, by Miss Harrison. The new governing body included Mr Job Smith (who has carried out the project from its initiation), the Rev J W Kewley, Rev A Lowe, Mr F C Arkwright, JP, DL, CC, Mr R Wildgoose, JP, Mr W Kirkland, and Miss Harrison.

    The dedication service was appropriately conducted by the Bishop of Derby (Dr Were), at two o'clock in the presence of the governors and a number of friends. After the service Miss Harrison presented the trust deed through the Bishop to the governors. The Almshouses, together with the endowments, have cost the donor close upon £8,000. Mr James Potter, the solicitor to the donor, presented the deed, which he had executed to Miss Harrison, previous to its transference to the Bishop.

    At the dedication and opening ceremonials there were present The Bishop of Derby, Miss Harrison (the donor), Mr R Wildgoose, JP, Mr Job Smith, Mr W Kirkland, and Rev J W Kewley (the trustees of the new Almshouses gift), together with Mrs Prince (The Study), Rev M Shaw (Matlock Dale), Dr W Moxon, Mr E H Garton, Mr A E Doar, Rev Chas.Baker (Matlock Bath), Dr R B Holland, Mrs R Wildgoose, Mr J Sladen, Rev E Adams, and many others.

    A procession was formed from Dean Hill House, headed by the surpliced choir of the Parish Church, the clergy in the rear, including the Bishop, the Revs J W Kewley and E Adams.

    On assembling in front of the Almshouses, hymn No 380 was sung.

    [there follows details of the prayers, blessings and sermon]

    Mr Job Smith here handed the trust deeds to Miss Harrison, who presented them to the Bishop, saying "I have great pleasure, Your Lordship, in handing these deeds to you in behalf of the trustees".

    The Bishop replied "I accept them, Miss Harrison, with very great pleasure, and now hand them to the Rev J W Kewley, one of the trustees; and may God's blessing rest upon you all. Amen."

    [Details of the benediction follow]

    This concluded the ceremonials.

    "To the Glory of God - these Almshouses are built, and as a memorial of her beloved brother, Wm Harrison MD, of Dean Hill House, Matlock, by his sister, Margaret Harrison, to provide rest for the aged poor."

    The above dedicatory inscription occupies a prominent position over the central porch of the block of buildings.

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