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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

Elizabeth Phipps from Holbrook

Ari’s 3x great-grandmother, Elizabeth Phipps, was born on 11 December 1876 in Holbrook, Belper, Derbyshire. She was the fifth of the eleven children of Joseph Phipps and Ellen Boothby.

This photo is of Elizabeth, with her daughter-in-law Dorothy, the wife of her youngest son, Leslie, and must have been taken in the 1940s.

Elizabeth's family lived two houses down from the Spotted Cow, a building which dates back to 1604.

When Elizabeth was a young teenager, she went to work as a domestic servant for the publican Albert Kyte at the Old King’s Head in Belper, and she was recorded there, aged 14, in the 1891 census.

I don’t know if she was still there the following year, when Albert Kyte committed suicide, but she was not mentioned in any account of the event.

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 26 March 1892. Image © The British Library Board.

This was just the first of three shockingly tragic deaths in Elizabeth’s life.

When she was 22, Elizabeth married Frederick Sims at the church in Holbrook. Her younger brother George was one of the witnesses.

George would become the proprietor of Horsley Woodhouse district bus service, remembered for “his jovial manner and remarkable business acumen”. At his funeral in 1935, “the streets were lined with sympathisers and the church was filled, many being unable to obtain admission”. The vicar “paid tribute to a man who had been a worker all his life for the church and his last thoughts were for the church, as only on Easter Sunday Mr Phipps presented himself for the Sacraments when he must have been suffering acutely. He had also interested himself in the choral part of church service, being for many years a chorister.” (Ripley and Heanor News, 3 May 1935, p. 5)

But back to Elizabeth, setting up home with her new husband and baby daughter Emily, in Chapel Street, Kilburn. Frederick worked as a bricklayer’s labourer, and their neighbours included coalminers, mine pony drivers, and pottery workers.

Nine more children followed between 1902 and 1918, the year when Frederick died from Spanish flu and bronchitis.

In 1915, Elizabeth’s father, Joseph, took his own life by cutting his throat in the yard of the family home. (His story is here.)

In the 1921 census, Elizabeth is recorded living in Town Street in Holbrook. Although she was the head of the household, she described herself as Mother. The family filled up the whole census page, which had space for ten people.




Elizabeth Sims



Emily Sims


Silk winder, English Sewing Cotton Company, Milford Silk Mill

George William Sims


Out of work, Drury Lowe, Denby

Ethel May Sims


Left service, now at home

Louisa Sims


Home help

Horace Sims


Joseph Sims


Walter Sims


Mary Ellen Sims


Leslie Sims


The family photos in this piece were sent to me by Roy Sims, Joseph’s son. He told me that, according to Joseph, the family was one hour away from having to go into the workhouse in the 1920s, but they were saved when a neighbour intervened.

In 1924, Elizabeth’s brother William died while emptying a tipper full of cinder at Denby Ironworks when it broke and liquid slag burned him to death.

Ripley and Heanor News, 11 April 1924. Image © Johnston Press plc.

The 1939 Register shows Elizabeth living with her two youngest children, Mary Ellen and Leslie. A month or two later, Leslie was called up for service but in 1940 he was reported missing.

Derby Daily Telegraph, 31 July 1940. Image © Reach PLC.

The paper then reported in September that the family had received a postcard from Leslie stating that he was a prisoner of war. He was held at Malbork, Poland, in Stalag XX-B.

Elizabeth’s son Leslie in 1940.

Elizabeth died at Babington Hospital in Belper in February 1962, and was buried on 20 February at the churchyard in Holbrook. She was 85.

Ari, this is how you are related to Elizabeth:

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