October 2021

The Midland Fruit Preserving Co., Chesterfield

Last week we took a look at jam and preserve production in Bolsover – this week it’s Chesterfield’s turn, with the Midland Fruit Preserving Co., Avenue Road, off Sheffield Road.*

Extract from the 1919 Ordnance Survey large scale map of the area with the The Midland Fruit Preserving Co. premises marked.

Brief history

The business was established in 1893 by Ernest Shentall, Mr A and Mr J Shentall (all members of the same family with connections into the grocery business).

The Derbyshire Times carried a thorough piece on the concern in its ‘Derbyshire Industries’ series in on 5 March 1932. By this time there were between 200 to 300 employees – mainly women. Presumably, like Bolsover, the variation is due to seasonal activities.

Very few, if any, photographs of the preserves factory have survived. This rather poor quality one of ‘some of the boilers on the left, Seville oranges being prepared for marmalade making’ is one of three that appeared in the Derbyshire Times article on the company in March 1932.

Motor transport was exclusively used at this time. Strawberries came mainly from the ‘eastern counties, Wisbech and district,’ supplemented by some grown locally. The fruit was delivered overnight and by mid-day the 20 or so tons used in a day had already become jam! Between 50 and 100 tons of the stuff were produced in a week.

Marmalade was another staple, along with black and red currant jams. ‘Thousands of jars of pickled onions’ were also produced accompanied by other pickles and sauces. Like the Bolsover concern (which was a completely separate company) winter saw the production of mincemeat. Christmas pudding was yet another product made.

Another 1932 Derbyshire Times image. The process is nearly finished as women fill the actual jam jars.

This ‘very self-contained’ firm kept a ‘large maintenance staff’ and delivered goods ‘by roads to towns at least 100 miles from Chesterfield’. Their premises were said by the Derbyshire Times to cover eight to ten acres.  There was even ‘a fine canteen’ complete with stage.

Closure comes

But by the early 1960s the company was in trouble, ceasing production in June 1962, as the liquidators moved in.  A sale of the plant and equipment was held on 17 and 18 October 1962. The 750 lots included fruit preserving plant, 15 motor cars and 11 lorries. A couple of days previously the factory premises had been auctioned – the total site area was just over 4 ½ acres. It was sold to Henry Wigfall & Co. who paid £30,000 for it. They intended to use the premises for warehousing. It was later occupied by Waldo, a suite manufacturing company. The premises were demolished a few years ago and are now the site of housing.

An early company advertisement from the Derbyshire Times of 12 September 1894.

So, another relatively short-lived jam and preserves factory closed. No doubt influenced, like that at Bolsover, by the change in diet which saw less jam consumed and the dominance of national brands with big advertising budgets and nationwide distribution.

*Although many people local to the area would regard this as being Whittington Moor, in fact the boundary between Newbold and Whittington parishes runs down the middle of Sheffield Road. The Midland Fruit Preserving Company premises were therefore in Newbold parish. Though we haven’t yet prepared our draft text on Newbold’s economic history, the story of this company will be told in that section under Newbold parish.

We’d love to see any photographs of either the jam factory or its subsequent use as a furniture and upholstery manufacturers.

The Midland Fruit Preserving Co., Chesterfield Read More »

The Bolsover Home Grown Fruit Preserving Company

Back to Bolsover for our latest blog, which features, what might now be regarded as an unusual activity for the area – jam and preserves production.

Jam jar label

The Bolsover Home Grown Fruit Preserving Company was established in 1900. The chairman was JP Houfton of the Bolsover Colliery Company. Other directors included members of the Tinsley family, one of whom, farmed 200 acres of fruit locally.

Percy Houfton designed a factory for the company. Opening in 1902 this was situated on a 2 ½ acre site next to the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railweay (LD&ECR ) station at Carr Vale.  Apparently one reason the business was established was to absorb some of the surplus female labour in the district – then a mining community. Coal for the factory was mined at the Bolsover Colliery Company with jars from factories in Chesterfield and Worksop.

The jam and preserves factory location is identified on this 1920 Ordnance Survey map extract.

Farmed strawberries from local suppliers were particularly used in the early years, but Wisbech (in Cambridgeshire) and the Fens also provided other fruit shipped by rail. Along with jam, the factory bottled fresh fruit such as blackcurrant and bilberries. Mincemeat was a winter product.

Exterior of the jam and preserves factory building – now housing.

In the early 1920s the company considered moving into fruit canning. Despite an extension to the factory and installation of some plant, this was fairly quickly abandoned due to a slump in the fruit preserving industry nationally. The company did, however, prosper during the Second World War. 

After the war road transport was used to bring in plums and apples from the Vale of Evesham and raspberries from Carse of Gowrie. Oranges and lemons were imported via Liverpool. Despite earlier issues, canning fresh fruit increased in importance, along with canning peas. A regular workforce of around a few dozen were supplemented by several hundred seasonal workers during the late summer. Products seem to have been mainly sold locally.

The late 1950s saw the company facing competition from national brands, changing diets (the consumption of jam reduced), storage issues and lack of capital to mechanise. In 1959 the company ceased production. A year later Bolsover Urban District Council purchased the factory site and part of the old LD&ECR goods yard. For a period Sheffield cutlery manufacturers Walker & Hall used the premises.

Inside the jam and preserves factory.

The factory was later occupied by a Mercol Lubricants but this closed in the early years of the 2000s, was demolished and is now a housing estate.

There were other local fruit preserving businesses including one at Whittington Moor, Chesterfield.

Our thanks to Bernard Haigh and the Bolsover Civic Society for assistance with this blog. If you’ve any images (or labels) of the fruit preserving concern they would love to hear from you.  Contact their secretary – bernardhaigh1@gmail.com.

There’s some more photographs and information about the company on our VCH Explore website https://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/explore/items/bolsover-jam-factory

Information for this blog has been sourced from ‘Derbyshire VCH volume III – Bolsover and adjoining parishes’, ‘Now and then Bolsover’ by Bernard Haigh and Geoff Harris and Bernard Haigh’s ‘More Bolsover remembered’ books. Images are sourced from Bolsover Civic Society and Bernard Haigh.

The Bolsover Home Grown Fruit Preserving Company Read More »

A brief look at Steetley Church

Were taking a brief look at the important Norman church at Steetley, courtesy of our Derbyshire VCH volume III – ‘Bolsover and adjoining parishes’. It’s well worth seeking out this attractive building.

Clearly in a ruinous state, this engraving of Steetley church appeared in the Lyson brother’s ‘Magna Britannia’, volume V of 1817.
Steetley church on12 October 2021. Note the heavily restored porch and the window mainly inserted in the 14th century (but restored in the 1880 restoration), which replaced two smaller Norman lights.

Our illustrations here are taken from Lysons’ 1817 Magna Britannia (volume V). These were based on measured drawings.

The chapel, in the north east of Whitwell parish, was built by the Brito family, who held a free tenement there in the 12th and 13th centuries. They also probably had a manor house situated adjacent to the chapel building. In 1323 the estate included a 1-acre plot on which a capital message had once stood.

A priest’s house was noted in about 1200. It is clear that Steetley is the unnamed chapel of Whitwell noted in 1291.

The chapel probably went out of use sometime before 1531. It was in use as a barn in 1636 and into the early 19th century. By the time the Lysons brothers wrote about it in 1817 the nave was roofless.

But antiquarian interest was increasing. The apsidal east end was restored in around 1840 for the earl of Surrey. Worksop based Robert White published a set of measured drawings and a photographic survey in 1860. In 1873 the British Archaeological Association visited. They made recommendations to roof the nave and further preserve the building. In 1875 a service had been held in the still ruinous chapel, but rebuilding was being discussed.

Another plate from Lysons’ 1817 book. The apsidal chancel can be seen. In his 1953 book ‘The buildings of England, Derbyshire’, architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as ‘by far the richest example of Norman architecture in Derbyshire’.
A similar view to the 1817 plate above, this, though, is taken on 12 October 2021.

Five years later a restoration scheme was carried out by JL Pearson. Re-consecrated by the Bishop of Lichfield, it was said that the chapel had been ‘restored for the use of colliers’ (presumably those working at Steetley colliery). As any previous dedications were unknown it was dedicated to All Saints. From this date (1880) the building was used regularly for worship. It is still open for worship today, with accommodation for 60.

A further scheme of restoration was carried out in 1986-9.

An Anglo-Norman grave slab is present in the church.

You can find out much more in our VCH Volume III including a manorial history of both Steetley and Whitwell.

One of two interior photographs that appeared in JC Cox’s ‘Notes on the churches of Derbyshire, volume I, Scarsdale Hundred’ of 1875. This view is looking towards the apsidal chancel, which is at the far end . This part of the building is clearly roofless at this date.
The south doorway to the nave was heavily restored in 1880, with five orders instead of the former three.
Detail from the south doorway. As might be expected the exterior stone-work has suffered from erosion.

A brief look at Steetley Church Read More »

A brief look at Chesterfield Grammar School

We are taking a brief look at Chesterfield Grammar School in this blog. With the school closing in 1991, quite a few people might not realise that Chesterfield actually did have such a school.

Surprisingly few photographs of the old Chesterfield Grammar School, on Sheffield Road, appear in the public domain – at least those of the actual school, as opposed to pupil and teacher school year photographs. Our first illustration is taken from Ford’s 1839 ‘History of Chesterfield’. It shows the second school building on Sheffield Road.

The second grammar school building on Sheffield Road, from Ford’s 1839 ‘History of Chesterfield’.

The grammar school was endowed by Godfrey Foljambe of Walton Hall, who died in 1595. The school probably opened in 1598, when it took over the former St Helen’s chapel. In 1710 the medieval chapel was superseded with a two-storey building, shown in our first illustration, which is taken from Ford’s 1839 ‘History of Chesterfield’.  Highly regarded in the early eighteenth century, after some years of decline the school closed in 1832.

The new school opened in 1847.

Our second illustration shows the new building constructed, again, near the site of St Helen’s chapel. This new grammar school (boys only and fee paying) opened in 1847. The Rev. Frederick Calder, as headmaster, started a process of expansion and modernisation. This building now forms part of Chesterfield College’s West Studios, which our modern (and third) illustration shows. Part of the 1840s building can be seen, together with a major extension built in 1899 (to the far right). Contrast this with our fourth photograph, which shows the building in an Edwardian colourised postcard.

Chesterfield College’s ‘West Studios’ – the former Chesterfield Grammar School buildings, in 2017.
The main building of the grammar school on Sheffield Road, probabaly in about 1910. The building shown in our second illustration (the 1840s building) is to the far left. (Courtesy Richard Sheppard).

In 1903 the grammar school was recognised as a secondary school. It remained independent until 1940, when it was transferred to Derbyshire County Council.

There were various other extensions to the Sheffield Road site, including the purchase of nearby Hurst House, for use by the sixth form, but the school buildings became increasingly inadequate. A decision was made to relocate to Brookside, where the school’s governors had purchased land for playing fields in 1928. Fully opening in 1967, it’s these buildings that form the basis of the present co-educational Brookfield Community School.

The education ministry’s architect was concerned that this replacement building was itself inadequate in some ways. He was particularly concerned that the kitchen wasn’t large enough, the dining room was ‘critically small’ and that additional windows were needed in the assembly hall to meet Ministry regulations. Nor did he like the combination of steel and pre-cast concrete, or the mixture of brick and small block cladding. The building’s architects were the once well-known Chesterfield practice of Wilcockson & Cutts.

Our final photographs are two taken from a series of postcards of the Sheffield Road site published around 1928, but probably taken earlier. They both show the rear of the building

The school buildings from the south-east.
The school buildings from the north-east. This and the view above are from a set of postcards published in the late 1920s.

The end of, what by that time was called Chesterfield School, came in 1991 following a reorganisation of the town’s secondary schools.

There’s much more about the grammar school and Chesterfield education in general in our VCH county editor’s book ‘A History of Chesterfield Grammar School’. This 700-page book was commissioned by the Old Cestrefeldian Trust, from whom it is available. You can also find out more of the history of the school and a link to purchase the book at http://oldcestrefeldians.org.uk/History.html.

The Old Cestrefeldian Trust is publishing Chesterfield Grammar School Roll of Honour 1939-1945, a 96-page paperback containing short biographies of some 70 former pupils who died while serving in the Armed Forces during the Second World War. More details of this new title will be available nearer the time.

(Our thanks to the Old Cestrefeldians’ Trust for permission reproduce illustrations from their collection and use information from Philip Riden’s book, ‘A History of Chesterfield Grammar School’)

A brief look at Chesterfield Grammar School Read More »

Hulleys of Baslow reach their centenary

North Derbyshire and peak district local bus operator Hulleys of Baslow are celebrating their centenary this year. In this blog we take a look at this operator, whose buses have been a familiar sight in the area for 100 years. VCH covers local bus operators in our red book series (but not the actual fleets in any great detail), as they played an important role in the economy of the area they served and in some cases still do.

Recreation of the old Hulley’s fleet name.

Henry Hulley, who had previously operated taxis, started to run a bus service between Bakewell and Chesterfield in April 1921.

In the following decades routes and journeys increased, with a couple of local operators being purchased before the Second World War. After, there was a fairly brief incursion into the Ashbourne area, courtesy of another business purchase, but these operations were sold in 1954.

Following Henry Hulley’s death in 1971, the remaining family members sold the business in 1978 to JH Wooliscroft & Son, of Darley Dale, who traded as ‘Silver Service’.

A perhaps timeless view of Bakewell in August 1980. The bus on the right is in a red and honey livery adopted by Silver Service after they took over the Hulley operations. It was soon superseded by a blue and honey ‘Silver Service’ livery. The bus is one of a batch of ex Merseyside Leyland Panthers which gave generally unsatisfactory operation with the company.

The familiar red and cream Hulley fleet livery and indeed the name disappeared under the Wooliscroft ownership. But the name reappeared again after the former Hulley’s Baslow garage and routes were sold to the Silver Service Transport Manager Arthur Cotterhill and Peter Eades who was a long-serving ex Hulley employee. The fleet was reinvigorated with a new blue and cream livery adopted.

In 2020 the business was purchased by Alf Crofts, who had been a Hulleys driver for 16 years.

The company held a centenary event at Chatsworth on 26 September where modern buses in recreated old and in current liveries were displayed.

Recreation of two former liveries as displayed at the centenary event held at Chatsworth in September 2021. The left-hand bus is said to recreate the first livery, whilst the right hand bus recreates the Silver Service livery.

At one time Hulleys did have reputation for using quite old vehicles and had some fleet problems. Today the company operates modern buses and once again double-deckers.

There’s lots more information on the history of the company on their website http://www.hulleys-of-baslow.co.uk/hulleys-100-centenary from which some of the information in this post is sourced. A two-part history of Hulleys has recently appeared in the Newsletter of Transpire, the Chesterfield Bus Society.

A 2009 built bus, at the Chatsworth event, which entered the Hulley’s fleet in 2020. This is in the current livery with the company names styled as ‘Hulleys’
It’s a far-cry from this ex-Nottingham bus, seen at Tontine Road, Chesterfield in December 1980. The company, then under Wooliscroft ownership barely seem to have had time to apply a splash of Hulley red – the green and cream being its former owner’s colours!

Hulleys of Baslow reach their centenary Read More »