Ilkeston (also locally known as Ilson) is a town in the Borough of Erewash of Derbyshire, in the East Midlands region of England, on the River Erewash, from which the local authority district takes its name. Its population at the 2001 census was 37,550. Its major industries were formerly coal mining, iron working and textiles, but all these have greatly declined. It is the site of Ilkeston Charter Fair which celebrated its 750th anniversary in 2002, the Charter being granted by King Henry III in 1252. This is one of the largest street fairs in the Country, held every October.
The town is close to both Derby and Nottingham and is near to the M1 motorway. Although the town lies within Derbyshire, it is closer to Nottingham. The eastern boundary of Ilkeston is only two miles from Nottingham's western edge. Ilkeston is considered by the Office for National Statistics to be part of Nottingham metropolitan area.
Ilkeston was probably founded in the 6th century AD, and gets its name from its supposed founder, Elch or Elcha, who was an Anglian chieftain ("Elka's Tun" = Elka's Town). The town appears as Tilchestune in the Domesday Book.
Ilkeston is one of the few places where the distinctive dialect of East Midlands English is extensively spoken. Ilkeston is referred to as 'Ilson' in this dialect.
The American Adventure Theme Park, a large theme park which closed in 2007, was located on the outskirts of Ilkeston.
Ilkeston no longer has a railway station despite its substantial population and the fact that the Nottingham - Sheffield main line (formerly part of the Midland Railway, later the LMS) skirts the eastern edge of the town. Ilkeston once had three stations. Ilkeston Junction station, also known as "Ilkeston Junction & Cossall" was on the Midland Main Line: this station closed in January 1967. Plans to build a new station (thought to be close to the former Ilkeston Junction) have often been speculated about and announced, but to date little action has been seen. A short branch from this station to Ilkeston Town station in the town centre closed in June 1947.
Ilkeston's third station was Ilkeston North, on the former Great Northern Railway (later LNER) line from Nottingham to Derby, closed in September 1964. A major feature of this line was Bennerley Viaduct, a long, high, wrought iron structure which still crosses the Erewash valley just to the north east of Ilkeston. Once threatened with demolition, it is now a Grade 2 listed building, though the removal of the embankments at either end have left it an oddly isolated free-standing structure surrounded by fields.