Elder Way in a not-too-distant Christmas past

Here’s a photograph to brighten up your Christmas and new year (particularly if you’re sat at home and don’t have to trudge through snow!).  It’s of a snow covered Elder Way in the 1980s.

Elder Way, Chesterfield, at night, in the 1980s.

At this time the two Chesterfield and District Co-operative Society buildings either side of Elder Way were linked by the bridge to the rear of the first bus. This was installed at first floor level when the society built a new supermarket and offices on what had latterly been bus stands on the corner of Elder Way and Saltergate. This new building opened in 1981. The offices were vacated some years ago, the supermarket closed within the last year or so. The building is now empty.

The bridge itself was removed when the former Co-operative store to the left was converted, at first and second floor levels, to a Premier Inn in 2019.

Chesterfield and District Co-operative Society was first formed in 1894. A familiar site in Chesterfield town centre, with branches across the district. The ‘Central Stores’ on Elder Way and Knifesmithgate were first opened in 1938. The building to the left was an extension opened in 1959. The society merged to become part of Midlands Co-operative Society in 2001.

Now the bridge has gone along with the once attractive Christmas decorations and a popular town centre department store, which sold everything from clothes, shoes, paint, electrical goods, furniture, toys, fancy goods, china, shoes, food and perfume.

After the First World War and especially after a comprehensive local Act of 1923 was obtained, some town centre streets were improved, created, lengthened and widened.

Large scale Ordnance Survey map from 1918, before Elder Way was created to run between a lengthened Knifesmithgate and Saltergate (to the top of the extract). The Unitarian Chapel and Wesleyan Methodist Church (now the Central Methodist Church) are survivors from these pre-improvement times.

As part of the same scheme, Elder Yard, a passageway leading from the top of Packers Row to Saltergate, was widened into a new road named Elder Way. Completion of the latter was accomplished in 1932. Around the same time the north side of Knifesmithgate was rebuilt with a particularly striking range of three-storey black and white buildings (the former Victoria Centre), in which the upper floors were jettied out over the entire width of the pavement to create a covered walkway. A smaller-scale building of the same kind was erected on the south side of the new section of Knifesmithgate near its junction with Packers Row.

Properties in Elder Yard mainly comprised cottages and houses of divided ownership, plus a mission chapel. The Unitarian Chapel dating from 1694 and a survivor of the new road, was once surrounded by properties of this type (incidentally, it’s still known as the Elder Yard Unitarian Chapel. But the yard has long-gone). Part of the old mission church property forms the forecourt of Elder Yard Unitarian Chapel.

Remember BT phone cards? When the Chesterfield and District Cooperative Society celebrated its centenary in 1994, it produced a limited number of the cards, presumably as a collector’s edition. They included the logo adopted for their centenary year.

We’ve used our Chesterfield Streets and Houses book for much of the history in this blog, along with TF Wright’s History of Chesterfield, volume IV and the Chesterfield and District Co-operative Society’s centenary publication of 1994.

As this will be our last scheduled post of 2021. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our members, supporters and the readers of our posts. We hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.