Chapel Street

From “A Guide to Ripley’s Heritage. Part 3: West” by Frank Mansey (last updated 2007).

The bottom of Chapel Street marks the point where the turnpike road, Butterley Hill, merged with the old Lowes Hill Lane. In May 1874 the road surface here was in such bad condition that, under pressure from the Butterley Company, the Ripley Board contracted Sweetings, a firm of hauliers, to transport cinders from Butterley to repair Butterley Hill and Lowes Hill. On this stretch of the Hill, before the road was hard surfaced in the early 1900s, there used to be large stones set in the earth, for the horses pulling heavy loads to renew their grip on a surface that could be very difficult in bad weather.

Around the point where the pedestrian crossing now controls traffic, there used to be the northern toll gate to the town.

Just above here you reach the entrance to a supermarket, and on this site was Chapel Row, along row of terraced houses standing well back from the road. A service tunnel about one third of the way up the row gave access to more cottages at the rear.

Next to the Row stood the Wesleyan Chapel Manse, with the Chapel next door, both with a sizeable plot of ground in front. A footpath at the top side of the Chapel gave access to the entrance and rear of the schoolroom. These buildings were erected in 1846 at a cost of £2000. They closed because extensive repairs were needed, and when they were demolished in 1972, one of the foundation stones was found to be hollowed out to contain a commemorative vase.

The Wesleyan Chapel

The Chapel buildings and Chapel Row became the largest car park in town, but it was lost again when the Council sold it at the same time that Brittains sold their adjacent premises, for the supermarket to be built.

As you approach the top end of the supermarket grounds, you can see across the road on your left Dilks’ gents’ hairdressing salon. In 1851 George Dilks, aged 13, was apprenticed to James Warriner to learn the trade of hairdressing. Mr Warriner was a also Ripley’s first postmaster, and his shop was next to the Hippodrome on the High Street. George later opened his own shop on the Market Place, and taught his son Robert the trade. After spending some years at Barrow-in-Furness, Robert and his parents moved back to Ripley. Robert later married the granddaughter of James Warriner, thereby doubling the family connections. Through four generations and further moves to Grosvenor Road and then to Chapel Street, the family achieved a continuous line in the same trade, of more than 150 years. George’s great grandsons have been the last to carry on the business, Derrick having retired in 2002 and David Warriner in 2007. It was the end of a record-breaking era.

High Street 1911 showing Dilks, centre right.

A short distance up the street from Dilks’ there is a piece of open ground. The Co-operative Society built their central garage and repair shop there around 1920-5, but in later years after they reorganised and took that work to Langley Mill, the garage lay vacant for many years. It was given a new lease of life in 1993 when Frank O’Neill moved in with his massive emporium called The Warehouse.

Having started selling hand tools on the market, he opened a shop behind the police station on Wall Street, and his trade grew so fact that he was soon occupying the old garage, with people coming from miles around to visit his Aladdin’s cave. On the night of 24th January 2003, in one of Ripley’s biggest fires that could be seen for miles around, the building was gutted by fire. Twenty fire appliances were in attendance, but all that was left was a heap of bricks and twisted steelwork from the roof. Frank had already opened a machine tool shop in Church Street, and he moved there and also reopened his Wall Street outlet.

At the top of the street, between the empty site and the bank, there are two shop fronts that are incorporated into one business. At one time a house, (later a butcher’s) and a grocer’s shops used to stand there adjacent to the old Unitarian Chapel. The house was the home of the Ogle family, who when it closed, took over the nearby Wesleyan chapel as their blacksmith’s workshop. However, Arthur King, who started a business at Greenhillocks in 1880, moved to the shop premises later. Here he made and repaired bicycles, and this was the first shop in Ripley to have incandescent gas lighting. King proudly advertised in 1899 “Edison’s latest talking machine, the gramophone – by which you may reproduce your own music, £2:”:0”. He was the first person in Ripley to own a motor car, a three wheeler with the registration R108. Currys took over the shop from him, with their cycle shop, and Sketchleys Dry Cleaners followed them in November 1954. After they moved to Oxford Street, a second hand shop opened here for a while around 1960. Bryan Elder estate agents with Abbey national next moved in, and when they closed, Sew and Craft spent a while there before moving to Grosvenor road. Finally, in 1992 Martyn Dudley the photographer moved down from the rooms he used upstairs.

Now we come back to the right hand side of Chapel Street, where there were large premises on the corner, and extending down that street as far as the Chapel. They were built by George C. Brittain who came to Ripley from Lincolnshire in 1874. He bought a business near the top of Chapel Street that was owned by Mr R. J.Cowan, a printer; then in 1881 he bought and demolished a thatched roof cottage built in 1675 which stood right on the bend of the road as it joined Church Street. Here he built the shop that is now also demolished. In 1899 he started to publish the Ripley and Heanor News, and then, because of the need for more space, he acquired Gibson’s shop just below the print works soon after1907. Gibson’s, selling ladies and children’s wear and prams had moved there from Pentrich Road, and now moved to where there is today an Indian restaurant at the corner of Wall Street and Church Street. Mr Brittain had five sons who, along with other members of the family, eventually took over the various other branches that had opened, as well as a wholesale business that was started in 1947.

Brittains, from one of their own postcards

This was one of the town’s main commercial firms for many years, and then in 1979 the newspaper publishing business was sold; in 1981 the shop closed and in 1997 the printing was taken to the new owners’ headquarters, the ”News” office being moved to Grosvenor Road. The vacant site was sold to Lidl to build the first incarnation of their supermarket in 1999.