Thomas Crofts, The Belper Poet

Updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014   |   Belper Historical & Genealogical Website

Thomas Crofts (1815-1904) had a Draper's shop in Belper Market Place and was known as the Belper Poet.

The mother of Thomas (b. 2.12.1815) was Elizabeth Bown baptised at Ashover in 1780. Thomas married Martha Walker (b. 30.7.1819) and had a number of children, one of whom was also named Martha. Martha Croft's parents were James Walker & Mary Bland.  Her Father was a Courier born abt 1791 Bonsall, Derbys. Her Mother was Mary Bland born abt 1794 Rothwell Yorkshire.  The Walker family were also living in the Market Place Belper. Martha died 15th February 1888.

. Their children were: Marian b. 30.9.1841 Elizabeth b.25.2.1843 Martha b.19.2.1845 John Thomas b.8.12.1846 Oliver b.31.8.1848 James Walker b.9.9.1849 Caroline b.1.12.1850 Selina b.19.2.1852 Charles b.9.4.1853 William b.20.8.1854 Mary Walker b. 30.12.1855 George James b.11.7.1857 Annie Maud b.4.11.1858 (died in infancy) Alfred b. 17.4.1861

Alfred married Edith Nicholson and they emigrated to Canada, then to Australia. [Many thanks to L.W. for updating this information]

‘The Belper Poet’ - Mr Thomas Crofts (1815-1904)

Copy of a newspaper article providing an account of Thomas's death on 25th June 1904.
Submitted by his gr. Grandniece, Lesley Anderson

On Saturday morning, about six o'clock, there passed away, after some weeks serious illness, Mr. Thomas Crofts, in this 89th year. He was locally known as the Belper poet. When he was 19 years old he began to see his inspirations accepted in a local paper, and until a few weeks before demise some of his last verses appeared in print.

Mr. Crofts was born at Wolley Moor, near Ashover, and was the son of a farmer. He came to Belper quite 70 years ago and had resided there from that period. When he opened his career it was as a draper's apprentice and he afterwards commenced in that business in a shop adjoining the Market Place. Since his retirement he lived with his daughter, Mrs. Terry, in the Orchard. He had a fairly numerous family, of whom two sons are in Australia, another is Mr. J. T. Crofts of the Portland Hotel, Chesterfield and also Mr. Chas. Crofts, a Bonsall tradesman, besides several daughters.

The deceased lived to see four generations, the latter coming to the family through Mr. And Mrs. Merrals of Sideup, Kent. As far as is known, Mr. Crofts was the second oldest male resident of Belper. Mr. Thomas White, a retired farmer, is senior to the deceased and is the only one whose name occurs to the writer.

In mentioning his poetry we must not neglect reference to his sarcastic and cynical effusions at elections, both Parliamentary and local. His skits were always looked for with interest, whether they were to ridicule or flatter, for opponent or friend; for candidates for public office or to turn the electors from what he considered the correct line of conduct. A decided Radical in his politics, he had always been on the platform for his party and did very useful service over his long and honourable life.

He married Miss Walker, daughter of the late Jas. Walker, courier, Belper, a sister of the late J.B. Walker, solicitor, a relative who pre-deceased him by a few months.

The only public office the deceased held was that of overseer and that was about an average life ago. He was one of the most prominent townsmen until infirmities of age prevented him moving about so much. He was as much respected by those who differed from him in politics and religion as those who were closely allied with him in these matters. He was tolerant of all.

One of the oldest worshippers at the Congregational Church, he had held office as a deacon, and his family followed him in their staunch adherence to the same creed.

The funeral took place on Tuesday. The body was taken up to the church where he had attended so long, and an impressive and beautiful service was conducted by the Pastor and the Rev. F. Knowles. The cortege moved to the Cemetary amid every token of respect from the residents. The chief mourners were Mr. J. T. Crofts, Chesterfield (son), Mrs. Tomlinson (daughter), Mr. And Mrs. Rollins (son-in-law and daughter). Preceding the hearse and four morning coaches containing the chief mourners were the deacons of the Church, viz: Mr. G. Brown, Mr. John Ball, Mr. Henchcliff, and Mr. G.J. Jackson, Mr. Gratian, Mr. Grant, Mr. B. Hall, Mr. G. Calladine as old friends and members followed. Among the tradesmen present were Mr. John Hibbert, Mr. F. Keates, Mr. Jackson, Mr. J. Medley, Mr. F.L. Robinson, Mr. Needham, etc. The Belper Liberal Association was represented by the Rev. J. K. Smith, Mr. J. Bakewell (president), Mr. J. Ratcliffe, Mr. George Smith, C.C., Mr. Gough and Mr. H.T. Harrison. At the grave side were noticed Mrs. Knowles, Mrs. Ball, Mrs. G. Brown, Mr. And Mrs. J. Harrison, Mrs. A. H. Brown, Mrs. Grant, Mr. And Mrs. Glassey, Mrs. Pratt, Mrs. G. J. Jackson, Mrs. B. Hall, Miss Gray, Miss Ethel Brown, Mrs. Norman, Mrs. Hogg, Mrs. Gibson, Mrs. F. Jackson, etc. The burial service was again conducted by Rev. F. Knowles. Three Liberal veterans in Mr. Jas. Calvert, Mr. Alfred Smedley, and Mr. W.P. Adshead, were unable to attend the obsequies through infirmities.

Among the wreaths were those from the family, Mr. And Mrs. Merrals, Mrs. J.B. Walker (sister-in-law of the deceased), Mrs. White (Grassmoor), Mrs. Furness (Chesterfield), Mr. And Mrs. Swift (Tysemouth), Mr. And Mrs. G.T. Terry, the Misses Tomlinson (Wirksworth), the minister and deacons of the Congregational Church, the Belper Liberal Association, Mrs. A. H. Brown, Mrs. Jabez Brown, Mr. Bernard Brown, Mr. Calvert and family, Mr. And Mrs. Grant, Mr. And Mrs. Bakewell, Mr. And Mrs. Gough, Mr. G. Calladine and others.

Thomas CROFTS was one of 11 children of James CROFTS, Wheelwright of Wolleymoor, b. 1769 and Elizabeth BOWNE b. 1780 Ashover. Thomas was born 2 Dec. 1815 and died 25 June 1904. His poetry was published in the book “Castle in the Air and other poems”.

Thomas Crofts

AUGUST 1ST, 1838
Included in "A Castle in the Air and Other Poems", 1892.

Thomas Crofts lived in Belper, Derbyshire all his adult life. He was locally known as the Belper Poet. "A Castle In The Air and Other Poems" appears to be his only published book and contains the work of fifty plus years.

Crofts writes in the Preface to his book:
In publishing this volume the author has not been influenced by an overestimate of his modest verses, but has yielded to the kindly pressure of friends and kindred who desired to possess, in a convenient form, the little effusions—mostly on local or personal subjects—penned during a period of over fifty years, to give pleasure, some to children, who are now in the fast vanishing generation, and others for those who have passed the river, but whose memory is dear to their descendants. To the remaining friends whose sympathy and help, so generously given, has enabled him to complete his work, he tenders this expression of obligation and regard. The Orchard, Belper; 12th August, 1892.

"Parting Words" is undated.

When the mighty city closes
Round thee as a living tomb,
And the newly gathered roses
On thy cheeks have ceased to bloom;
When the noise, and din, and hurry,
Rack and torture heart and brain,
And amid the ceaseless worry
Sleep and rest are sought in vain;
Then let memory back recalling
Derbyshire’s green hills and dales,
Be as cooling waters falling,
Or as gentle soothing gales;
Buxton, with its breezy mountains;
Haddon, with its echo clear;
Chatsworth, with its gleaming fountains,
And its herds of fallow deer.
Let these, each and all combining,
Weave a charm, a picture bright,
And the sun of memory shining
Flood it with a golden light.

The unpublished original draft of "On Visiting Haddon Hall", August 1st, 1838. The words {in brackets} are unique to the original draft. The words in bold are revisions made in the published poem.

{Haddon I visit thee to trace
Each vestige of a bygone race;
And in thy ancient records read
Of virtuous act and cruel deed.
Haddon I visit thee to trace
Each vestige of a bygone race.}
{Along thy} In Haddon’s courts the tall grass waves
As fresh as o’er {thy} its warriors’ graves,
And roses {there} sweet in beauty bloom,
As if {to mock the sable} in mockery of the gloom
Which time with {shadowing} shadowy hand hath thrown
Over {thy} its battlements of stone.
How doth the mind seem carried back
To days which ’tis a pain to track,
When force was {used} lord, when blood was spilt,
And tyrants triumphed in their guilt;
When patriots, struggling to be free,
Were held in captive chains by thee.
And where is he who grasped the sword,
Whom thousand vassals hailed as lord,
All waiting but his sabre’s wave,
To crush the weak, subdue the brave,
And wreak {their} his vengeance upon those
Who dared their leader’s will oppose?
And where is now that beauteous throng
That lightly tripped thy halls along?
Those crested warriors—where are they,
Who {marched} sallied forth in proud array?
Alas! they sleep the dreamless sleep,
From which none ever wake to weep.
No more is heard the watchman’s cry,
To tell of {foes} foe or danger nigh;
Forsaken is the old grey tower,
Where lone he sat at evening hour;
Yet, as if conscious of the past,
Thy turrets frown upon the blast.
The lord who sat in stately pride,
Now slumbers by his vassal’s side;
No more the priest is heard to raise
At Sabbath morn the hymn of praise;
As silent is the house of prayer
As those that once did worship there.
The shouts of revelry and mirth
No longer in thy halls have birth;
Thy days of splendour and of fame
Have passed, and left thee but a name;
Yet fancy with her fairy wings
A gilding halo round thee flings.
Haddon, farewell, I {quit} leave thee now,
Yet in my thoughts enshrined be thou;
Farewell thy old deserted halls,
Thy crumbling towers, thy mouldering walls,
Which ’neath {the hand of time do} time’s ruthless sceptre bow—
Haddon, farewell, I quit thee now.

© Copyright 2011 Tricia Booth BACK HOME CONTACT

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