June 2021

Barlborough and the Rodes family

We’re heading to Barlborough for this brief review of the Rodes family in the parish and a couple of distinctive indicators of their influence.

The Rodes family were influential in the north eastern part of Derbyshire, in particular in the Barlborough area. Our Derbyshire Victoria County History (VCH) Volume III charts their involvement. The holders of Barlborough Hall (Rodes family) and Park Hall (Pole family) estates were generally regarded as joint lords of Barlborough manor from the 18th century. (Incidentally, landownership in the parish is described by our County Editor as ‘complex’).

Barlborough Hall stands somewhat remote from the village, in its own parkland. Erected by the Rodes family it’s generally thought to have been designed by leading Elizabethan architect Robert Smythson.

Francis Rodes of Staveley, Woodthorpe (a rising lawyer) purchased land in Barlborough in the early 1570s. He had Barlborough Hall built in 1583-4.

By the 1840s a descendant (through various branches of the family), William Hatfield Glossop, changed his surname to de Rodes. Succeeded by his daughter Sophia Felicité in 1883, she married Godfrey Lampson Tennyson Locker-Lampson in 1905. Their eldest daughter (also Felicité or Felicity) married Henry E Rimington-Wilson. He inherited the estate in 1935. Barlborough Hall was sold the following year and the year after sold again to a Roman Catholic body. It became and still is a junior department of Mount St Mary’s College, Spinkhill. The Rimington-Wilsons subsequently sold all or most of what remained of their estate in Barlbrough to Osbert Sitwell of Renishaw.

Though Barlborough Hall, which is at the very least closely related to houses designed by Robert Smythson, if not by him, is the most well-known symbol of the Rodes era in the area, there are others.

Barlborough Hall. The building was extensively remodelled, particularly the interior, in 1825.

Perhaps a more unusual one is the memorial archway in the village centre, originally to the school. Erected by WH de Rodes in 1869 it was in memory of his wife Sophia Felicité. It’s complete with Latin and Hebrew inscriptions and features a mosaic with gold and silver leaf.

Much more about the Rodes family and about Barlborough can be found in our VCH Volume III ‘Bolsover and Adjoining parishes…’ which can be found in local studies libraries. It’s also still available for purchase.

Don’t forget to visit Barlborough Heritage Centre and their recently revamped website. They also have a range of publications available about the parish.

How’s this for asserting your family’s presence in the community? The memorial archway in the village centre, on High Street. Erected by WH de Rodes in 1869, it in memory of his wife Sophia Felicité.
The initials of WH de Rodes and his wife Sophia Felicité are worked into the iron gate. this entrance was originally to the school and now forms part of memorial garden.

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County bridges in the spotlight

The subject of county bridges may not sound over-exciting – but they formed a very important part of the county’s transportation infrastructure – and many still do. A recent publication by Philip Riden (who is also our VCH county editor) – ‘Derbyshire county bridges 1530-1889’- published by the Derbyshire Record Society, puts them in the spotlight, perhaps for the first time in recent memory.

The book contains a gazetteer of 139 county bridges across Derbyshire. As an example, in the Chesterfield area county bridges included ones at Hagg Bridge, Tupton; Stony Bridge, Hasland, Spital Bridge, Hasland; Tapton Bridge; Old River Bridge, Brimington and Whittington; Slittingmill Bridge, Eckington and Staveley and three others on the river Rother alone. On the Hipper were Walton Bridge and Lordsmill Bridge.

What were county bridges?

The Bridges Act of 1530 required the court of quarter sessions (local courts traditionally held at four times of the year) to repair bridges in its county or borough for which no-one else was responsible. In Derbyshire the Act was ap­plied with some vigour. By 1729, when the first list of bridges was compiled, the county was maintaining some sixty bridges, including most of those on main roads in Derbyshire. Between then and about 1840, when the railways began to re­move long-distance traffic from the roads, the number of county bridges in Derbyshire roughly doubled. During this period many were rebuilt and widened, and several fine new bridges were erected, which remain in use to­day. This work was undertaken by a succession of county surveyors, who evolved from working stone­masons into professionally quali­fied officers. All the bridges passed to the county council on its establishment in 1889.

Just one of some 139 county bridges – this one on Brimington Road at Chesterfield. Spanning the river Rother, the bridge is between the white car and the darker car. This striking view was taken from the top of one of the now demolished Trebor sweets buildings. It’s thought to date from the 1980s.

The county bridges book

To give a flavour of the book we’ve included an extract from the gazetteer which covers Tapton Bridge on the river Rother. Our illustration above shows the area in the 1980s.

The bridge was one of number rebuilt by the county council in the post-First World War period  https://picturethepast.org.uk/image-library/image-details/poster/dccc002544/posterid/dccc002544.html has a picture of the bridge being widened.

The county bridges book is based on bridge papers which survive from the late seventeenth century in the records of quarter sessions at Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock. Described are about 130 bridges in Derbyshire, ranging in date from the thirteenth century to the early nineteenth. All the bridges are located on a series of maps, with a representative sample illustrated. A gazetteer is prefaced by a 36-page introduction outlining the work of quarter sessions under the Bridges Act of 1530 and later legislation. Also included are the careers of the county surveyors.

An extract from the Derbyshire Record Society’s ‘County bridges…’ book charting the history of Tapton Bridge.

The Derbyshire Record Society was established in 1977. It publishes edited texts, monographs and pamphlets relating to the history of the county. As you might expect VCH uses a number of these in our work to produce new histories of Derbyshire communities. Find out more about the society at https://derbyshirerecordsociety.org/index.php.

We are particularly grateful to the Derbyshire Record Society and to Philip Riden for permission to use an extract from the book ‘Derbyshire County Bridges 1530-1889’ and to use a description of county bridges in this blog. Copies of the book are available at £33 for non-members (£20 for members of the Derbyshire Record Society) by downloading the order form at https://derbyshirerecordsociety.org/order.php

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Chesterfield’s missing tribute to its famous adopted son

The Stephenson Memorial Hall, Corporation Street.

Next time you’re on Corporation Street, look up at the Stephenson Memorial Hall and you should notice the empty niche – still awaiting a statue of George Stephenson.

From the start it the building was designed as a memorial to the great railway engineer George Stephenson. Our blog and post of 6 June mentioned Violet Markham’s views on the her views on its design, it’s served the town well, since it was first opened in 1879.

Designed by Smith & Woodhouse of Manchester, the building became too much of a burden for the Trustees and was sold to the Chesterfield Corporation in 1889. It was they who acquired a piece of land to the east of the original building. This saw the existing public hall altered and extended forming a theatre with a new stage and dressing rooms, together with improved entrances. Opening in 1898 this was to a design by local architect WH Wagstaff. The public hall soon became known as the Corporation Theatre – where a variety of shows, concerts, musicals, plays and films could be enjoyed. 1949 saw the first municipal repertory theatre established there.

The original 1879 part of the building is at Corporation Street’s junction with St Mary’s Gate. Note the empty niche.

The later history of the western (original) portion of the building saw it in use as a public library, council chamber, mayor’s parlour and committee rooms. When the town council moved to its new town hall in 1938 the majority of the building was taken over by the library. They moved to New Beetwell Street in 1980. The present museum was formerly opened in the block in 1994.

The building is hopefully due a Chesterfield & District Civic Society plaque in the near future.

A brief, potted history, of a well-known and loved Chesterfield building, which has served the town well since its opening in 1879.

But it’s unlikely that George Stephenson will ever grace that empty niche, now his statue can be found at Chesterfield railway station a few minutes’ walk away.

Still awaiting George Stephenson – the empty niche.

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How to get involved

If you are interested in supporting the work of the Derbyshire VCH Trust, you are very welcome to join us.

We are currently concentrating our research on the Chesterfield area, having undertaken research, which has been published, on Bolsover and adjoining parishes – https://derbyshirevch.org/our-publications/

Part of the work we do involves making our research more widely known. We do this through traditional and electronic publishing, including our blogs and Facebook posts.

You can find out more information on our activities at our website https://derbyshirevch.org/how-we-research/ and by contacting us at https://derbyshirevch.org/contact/

In normal times we run a weekly term-time research group in Chesterfield, which brings together a small friendly group of interested people under our County Editor Philip Riden. We hope to restart this in September. We also hold summer guided walks and hold an AGM with guest speaker. Members of VCH also receive a free copy of our publications (but not back copies) and a periodic newsletter.

Membership is available from £5 a month, which includes entry into our monthly prize-draw currently for £100. We are a registered charity.

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Violet Markham’s perhaps surprising views on her home town

Thanks to social media, websites and the like Violet Markham (1872 – 1959) is probably better known than she has been for a number of years. Her autobiography ‘Return Passage’ was published in 1953, and is generally well-known, but this blog highlights just a little of what was left out of that autobiography.

Violet Markham pictured in the early 1920s. She had married in 1915 but continued to be known by her maiden name.

Violet is shown here in the 1920s. We won’t dwell on her life suffice to say she was born in 1872 at the now demolished Brimington Hall, moving with her family to Tapton House in 1873.  She had three brothers. Ernest (1867-1888), Charles Paxton Markham (1865-1926) and Sir Arthur Basil (1866-1916). Both the latter rose to prominent positions in local industry and politics. Violet Markham also played a leading role in public life. She became involved with the local poor law union, school board, was mayor of Chesterfield in 1927 and 1928 and active nationally. She also set up ‘The Settlement’ in Chesterfield town centre.

The Derbyshire Times published a short series of articles that had been axed from her autobiography by the publisher. They were later reprinted as a booklet in January 1958. ‘Transformation of a town: Chesterfield in retrospect’ was therefore actually written as part of her autobiography and gives us some insight into Markham’s thoughts about her town, which might be of some surprise.

She didn’t, for example, think much about the Victorian architecture that she was familiar with in her youth. She stated that the town ‘had an ugly brick Market Hall’.

Nor did Violet Markham think much of the Stephenson Memorial Hall (now the museum and art gallery and Pomegranate theatre) which she dismissed, writing that it ‘…would have ranked high in any competition of period buildings selected for their special hideousness.’  Violet was also a little dismissive of the famous crooked spire – ‘no object of beauty’ she thought, realising she was ‘at the risk of being stoned by fellow-citizens’ for this view!

Markham’s view on the Market Hall wasn’t unique. The building came in for further criticism in the 1950s when Nicolas Pevsner visited the town for his series of books ‘The Buildings of England’. ‘The crudest show of high Victorian provincial prosperity’ he thought.

The Edwardian postcard publisher may have made a mistake in spelling ‘Stephenson’, but Violet Markham didn’t like the building in any case.

Violet Markham did, however, praise the town for being ‘a tenacious place and had a well-knit corporate life with an individuality of its own.’ She reviews the state of the Chesterfield of her youth, highlighting the insanitary conditions she encountered, characterised by ‘narrow streets, which in some areas had degenerated into evil slums with yards and passages and hovels unfit for human habitation.’ When we look at some of the quaint photographs of old Chesterfield, it’s important to remember this and the progress made in the borough at eradicating such poor conditions.

Markham goes on to address her own role and those of her fellow politicians in reforming these slums. In reviewing progress made during her life-time, she chooses three main topics to review where progress had been made: health, housing and education. Particularly on the latter Chesterfield received national recognition for its forward thinking policy.

Whilst VCH may not give a lengthy account to the personal role Markham and her like (including her brother Charles) played in reforming the social and physical conditions in the borough, it will chronicle important advances made in housing and education in the 20th century, of which she was a part. This has resulted in a town far in advance of the one of Violet Markham’s youth.

A copy of ‘Transformation of a town: Chesterfield in retrospect’ is available for reference in Chesterfield Local Studies Library.

Chesterfield Market Hall in the 1930s. Violet Markham wasn’t a particular fan of its architecture.

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