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 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.