February 2022

Our Hasland book is on the way

Our Victoria County History spin-off book on Hasland, after some delay, is in the final stages of preparation. You can find out more about the book in this blog.

Our VCH County Editor – Philip Riden – has brought together hours of work by our Chesterfield research group, for the first authoritative history of this expansive parish. It’s written in our usual VCH style, which means there’s lots of source references and a thorough index for those wishing to explore more about the story of Hasland.

Hasland, but not as you know it? Our book will cover the once historic parish – marked by the highlighted boundary. It was much bigger than what we now regard as Hasland.

But what many people now regard as the modern Hasland, was much more extensive. Our map above (from the book) shows just how big Hasland parish once was. At one time it comprised not only what we now call Hasland but also Grassmoor, Winsick, Spital, Hady, parts of Boythorpe and Birdholme. It also included much of Chesterfield’s former heavy industry including the Tube Works and Bryan Donkin’s premises on Derby Road. No wonder the book will number some 200 odd pages.

As is standard in VCH, there’s sections on landownership, economic, social and religious history and local government. Within these sections are histories on such diverse topics as the Reema concrete plant based at the former Broad Oaks blast furnaces (itself covered), SS Augustine’s church and other places of worship, local collieries, Penmore hospital and many others. Lessor remembered features such as the Grassmoor and Hasland cinemas, tobacco and textile manufacture also feature.

Our second extract from the book is a page from the index, which gives a snap-shot of a few of the items covered. Illustrations and maps will also feature in the publication.

A sample page from the index to our Hasland book.

We’ll be keeping you up-to-date with progress on the book, which should be published around May this year. In the meantime we’ll feature some of the stories from the publication in our blogs.

This is the second VCH spin-off publication. Our first – ‘Chesterfield Streets and Houses’ – is still available.

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Medieval Chesterfield’s chapels

We’re taking a look at medieval Chesterfield’s chapels in this blog. All have now disappeared, with only one marked by a small plaque in a wall on Sheffield Road. 

These chapels were positioned on major routes so that travellers might say a prayer for safe delivery on the journey they were about to start. They would then pay a monetary offering.   

Apart from the leper hospital near Spital Bridge, there was a chapel at the bridge on Lordsmill Street, one in the old market place (i.e. not the present Market Place) and a third on Sheffield Road. 

In this early 19th century view of the corner of Cavendish Street and Holywell Street, the Blue Bell public house is to the right, whilst the soon to be extended Eyres is to the extreme left. The small chapel dedicated to St Thomas was in this latter area – round the corner to the extreme left of the photograph.
This large scale Ordnance Survey map extract of 1875 marks the supposed site of St Thomas’s Chapel on Holywell Street. The former Eyre’s furniture store is built on its site.

A small chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket stood on the edge of the old market place between Holywell Street and what was Knifesmithgate.  It was first mentioned in 1465-6 but dates from much earlier. It does not seem to have been connected with any of the gilds and chantries of the medieval town. The last remains seem to have been removed in the 1830s. 

This simple stone is situated in the boundary wall to the University of Derby on Sheffield Road. The former Chesterfield Grammar School, now Chesterfield College, is the background. How many people have passed it unnoticed?
Although the plaque is in the boundary wall of the University of Derby complex the site of the chapel was always shown on Ordnance Survey maps as being closer to the former Grammar School

Perhaps the best known chapel, dedicated to St Helen, was on Sheffield Road, just outside the built-up area, but in medieval times some way out of the town centre. St Helen’s was supported by a small gild with a modest endowment of land and buildings. As we have covered in our blog on Chesterfield Grammar School, it was taken over by that institution in the 1590s. In 1714 Chesterfield Corporation built a new schoolhouse on the site. As with St Thomas’s, no illustrations of St Helen’s chapel are known. 

The third chapel was established by the earl of Salisbury at the southern approach to the town on the bridge over the river Hipper. This was dedicated to St Mary. The earl was lord of Chesterfield at the time. Slight remains survived as late as the 1780s, but, once again, no illustrations survive. We don’t know exactly where the chapel was, but think it would have been on the town side (north) of the Hipper and on the downstream (east) side of Lordsmill Street

Circled is the probable site of the bridge chapel on Lordsmill Street on this 1876 Ordnance Survey 6-inches to one mile map. The ‘gas works are those of the Midland Railway; ‘tannery’ on Clayton Street is that of Joseph Clayton. (Derbyshire Sheet XXV.NW, surveyed: 1876, published: 1883. Courtesy National Library of Scotland – Map Images (nls.uk)
Our best calculation for the position of the centre of the old bridge on Lorsdmill Street is between the two painted arrows in lanes two and three of the southbound A61.

After chapel foundations of this sort were dissolved in 1548 the burgesses gave the three chapels to the the 5th earl of Shewsbury, then lord of the manor. St Helen’s chapel was returned to them, which became home to the newly established grammar school. Both the St Thomas’s and St Mary’s chapels were absorbed into the manorial estate.

Neither of Chesterfield’s two main gilds, dedicated to St Mary and to the Holy Cross, had their own chapel or gildhall, and so must have worshipped at altars in the parish church. There was a much smaller Smiths’ gild, which must have done the same. Guilds were groupings of religious or crafts-based people, who gave mutual support to each other.  

Chantries were later founded in Chesterfield by wealthy landowners who provided an endowment of land, the income from which covered the wages of a priest to say masses and prayers, usually for the endowment founder’s soul. They too had chapels or altars in the parish church, rather than a separate building, although there was a chantry house in the south-west corner of the churchyard, where the chantry priests lived. 

Today these chapels are another forgotten part of our history. Only one is marked today by a simple stone included in the boundary wall to the former (and aptly named) St Helena School – now the University of Derby on Sheffield Road – the site of St. Helen’s chapel. 

We’re grateful to Chris Leteve for additional research and photographs in this blog.

Our ‘Chesterfield Streets and Houses’ book is still available from Chesterfield Museum, price £20, from the tourist information centre and the Chesterfield branch of Waterstones, or direct from the publisher (mertonpriory@btinternet.co.uk

This blog was revised 9 February 2022 correcting the position of the Lordsmill Street bridge and chapel. It was further updated on 29 August 2023 to make the supposed position of the chapel to St Thomas Becket clearer.

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