Mrs. Walton's "The Lost Clue" was published, by the Religious Tract Society, in 1907.  So the account of Daisy Bank which it contains was probably based on experience of the area at the turn of the century.  Up to the time she moved to Wolverhampton, there was nothing in Mrs. Walton's life which suggests that she would have had any experience of this sort of industrialised area; and it may therefore be that her description of the area is more dark and drastic than the reality justified.  But there must be substantial truth in it.

Part of the cover of The Lost Clue.

Our heroine, Marjorie Douglas, lives in the Lake District, in Borrowdale.  As the result of the sort of financial misfortune that was common to Victorian heroines, she needs to find a job.  Seeing an advert for a mother’s help in Daisy Bank, Staffordshire, and thinking that the place sounded very pleasant, Marjorie applies for the job, gets it and travels to Daisy Bank by train, changing stations at Wolverhampton.  When she arrives at Daisy Bank station, late in the evening, she is met by the twelve year old daughter of the Holtby household, Patty:

“Are you Miss Douglas?”
“Yes, I am. Have you come to meet me?”
“Yes. You're to leave your box at the station, and father will send for it.”
“Can't I get a cab?”
The girl laughed. “Cab!” she said. “I should think not ! We've no cabs here.”

The site of the railway cutting and Daisy Bank station to-day.  This part is now a linear park but the rest of the cutting has been filled in.

They left the box in the care of the porter, and the girl led the way to a steep flight of stone steps leading to the road above. Then she went along a roughly made cinder path, and Marjorie followed a little behind, at times plunging into great pools of water which she could not see in the dim light, and at other times almost falling on the slippery mud. Then they turned into a short street, if street it could be called. It was so irregular that it seemed to Marjorie as if houses of all kinds had been thrown down there, and left to find their own level and own position. They passed one or two squalid shops, which appeared to sell little besides shrivelled oranges and the commonest of cheap sweets.

Part of the cutting, south of the Great Western pub, now filled in. 

As they walked on together the street lamps became fewer, with long stretches of darkness between them, and at length the furnace lights formed the only illumination, and these every here and there revealed a scene of utter desolation.

“What a curious place!” Marjorie said to the girl at her side.
“I should just think it is,” she answered. “I hate it, and mother does too!”
“Why do you live here, then?”
“Oh ! Father is the manager at the works over there. We have to live here, I suppose; it's a hateful place!”

“Where are we going now?” asked Marjorie, as they seemed to be leaving the road and turning into the darkness.  “Oh, it's a short cut over the mounds. Take hold of my arm; you can't see, and you'll be walking off into one of the pit‑pools. The lakes we call them,” she added, with a laugh.  “You come from the Lakes, don't you?”
“Yes, from such a lovely place.”
“Well, you won't like our lakes, I'm afraid. They're only rainwater that lies in the hollows between the mounds. There are plenty of them about here.'
“Isn't it better to keep to the road such a dark night as this?”
“You can't,” said Patty, “it's all deep mud; you'd stick fast if you tried.”

At length they saw a light, which came from the windows of a square stone house with a small garden in front of it, and Patty took a latch‑key from her pocket and opened the door. Immediately a rush was heard from an inner room, and six children of various ages ran out to see the newcomer.

Our heroine immediately sets about her work of putting the house and the household to rights.  This takes her a day or two.  Then:

That afternoon Mrs. Holtby insisted on Marjorie's going out for an hour or two, that she might get some fresh air after her hard work.

So far Marjorie had seen practically nothing of Daisy Bank, for it was too dark the night before for her to do more than see the dim outline of what she passed, and from the windows of Colwyn House there was merely a narrow view, shut in by houses on either side. She had not expected to see much to charm her during her walk, but she was hardly prepared for the scene of utter desolation that met her eyes as she went down the muddy lane leading from the house.

On one side of it were a few tumble‑down cottages, damp and discoloured; on the other was an open waste, strewn with the remains of old furnace heaps. She looked across this wilderness to the huge pit‑mounds, rising in all directions, the very picture of gloom and dreariness. Finding that the lane was still impassable from the depth of mud, she turned upon the waste common, parts of which were covered with thin, smoke‑begrimed grass. Here there stood two old houses, even more wretched and forlorn than those she had already passed. The bedroom window of one was partly blocked with wood, and the room was given up to pigeons, which flew in and out at pleasure. The door of the other house was open, and she saw a cock and a hen and three fat ducks walking about as if the whole place belonged to them.

The book contains a brief reference to the fact that the children go to school.  Marjorie is surprised that there is a school at all; but she is told that there is an it is quite a big one.  This is Daisy Bank school, still as it was in those times but now used as a library and community centre.  The city council proposes to demolish it and replace it with a modern version.

Further on she came upon two ragged women, down on their knees upon an old mound, raking over the muddy ashes, and picking out the wet and dirty cinders which were to be found amongst them, and then stowing them away in an old sack.

“What are you doing?” Marjorie asked.
“Getting cinders for the fire.”
“Will they burn?” she asked in astonishment.
“Yes, with a little coal. It's better than no fire at all.”

Marjorie walked on, sick at heart, as she thought of the kind of homes that those women must have. The cold, icy wind was blowing in her face, and she shivered as she thought of the apology for a fire which would be kindled with those lifeless cinders.

After this she passed more houses and more mounds; but nowhere in the whole place did she see a vestige of anything whatever that was pleasant to look upon, The houses were destitute of paint, the doors and window‑frames were bare and un­sightly, the numberless broken panes were filled in with rag or paper. More than one of the houses was in ruins ‑ every window broken, and the walls ready to fall in. The mines below had caused these houses to sink; they had been pronounced unsafe, and had been left deserted, but no one had taken the trouble to clear away the ugly, dismal ruins. There they stood, blackened with furnace smoke, unsightly and melancholy objects.

A mine with a "heavy wooden frame and great wheel"".  Drawn in 1808 but used in the Daisy Bank area and the rest of the Black Country coal mining area until all mining stopped.

Only two coal‑pits were working, so a man told her, who was smoking a dirty clay pipe at his door. Some had stopped because of bad trade; some were worked out; some had filled with water, and were therefore abandoned. Yet at the mouth of each of these deserted pits the heavy wooden frame and great wheel still remained ‑ a gloomy memento of more prosperous days. In every direction in which she looked Marjorie saw unmistakable marks of squalid, cheerless poverty; the only prosperous‑looking building being the public house at the corner, which appeared to do a thriving trade. The whole country was honeycombed with mines, and, in consequence, many of the houses had sunk below the level of the others in the same row. Everything in Daisy Bank seemed crooked and out of shape. Other cottages were scattered amongst the furnace debris, were built anywhere and everywhere that a place could be found for them, on different levels and in sundry nooks and corners of the hilly waste.

The Great Western pub, originally the Great Western Hotel, built on the main road near Daisy Bank Station.  Still a popular pub it serves what is now an almost entirely residential area, with few signs of the old industries and their waste tips.

Then she came to higher mounds still, and crossing these she saw deep, black pools in their hollows, stretches of dark, stagnant water, which never reflected anything that was pretty or bright except the moon in God's pure heaven above. Here and there some one, more thrifty than his neighbours, had made a little garden in the waste; but what could grow in such a smoky atmosphere and in such poor and barren soil? A few struggling plants of the most hardy kinds were all that the best garden in Daisy Bank could produce.

Marjorie was glad to get back even to the dismal house in which her lot was cast; it seemed almost cheerful to her after the unkempt hideousness of its depressing surroundings.

Somewhat later Marjorie visits a poor and invalid old lady (for whom, of course, she does good works, and who, therefore, turns out to hold "the lost clue" which turns round the fortunes of Marjorie's boy friend and thus of herself.  Mrs. Walton, at this stage in her writing career, does not hammer the point that this is God's reward for Marjorie's Christian good works but the moral is clearly there).  A part of their first conversation tells us more about the Daisy Bank area:

“What a large house you have, Mrs. Hotchkiss!”
“Too large!” groaned the old woman; “it used to be a farm”.
“A farm here!” exclaimed Marjorie.
“Yes, long ago, in the old time when they hadn’t found coal;  it was all country here then”. 

That is an accurate account.  The field pattern shown on old maps seems to indicate that farming continued there long enough for the fields to have been enclosed. 

There is one other passage about Daisy Bank - which provides an interesting guess about the origin of the name. 

Daisy Bank did not alter much with the changing seasons: there was very little to mark the progression of spring, summer, and autumn. Barely a tree was in sight, and the few that were to be found were so stunted, blighted, and covered with smoke that the spring freshness of their leaves lasted but a few days. Upon the mounds grew a few coarse daisies ‑ at least, the children called them daisies; they were a kind of feverfew with a daisy‑like flower. Nothing else would grow there, which is perhaps why the place got its name, a name which had at first appeared to Marjorie to be utterly unsuitable.

There seems to be no reason to doubt that Mrs. Walton has provided us with an accurate enough picture of Daisy Bank at the end of the nineteenth century.   It is, perhaps, more true to life than the story to which it is a backdrop.  In the novel Marjorie’s life crosses and re-crosses that of a Captain Fortescue, who, as a result of the sort of financial misfortune that was common to Victorian heroes, had become almost penniless.  But by a series of incredible coincidences he is restored to his rightful position and marries Marjorie, who finds herself to be Lady Derwentwater and incredibly rich - a very proper outcome for such a good and godly girl. 

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