April 2022

Lost Chesterfield Industries – the Tube Works: part 1

The old Hasland parish covers a wide area of Chesterfield, including the once heavily industrialised Derby Road. One of the biggest industrial concerts in the township was the works Chesterfield Cylinders. ‘The tube works’ as they were known is the subject of this blog.

We’ve condensed text from our forthcoming VCH spin-off book on Hasland, to present this shortened history of the companies which once occupied the prominent sites on either side of Derby Road.

An aerial view of Chesterfield Tube Works in 1958, showing its enormous extent by that date. In the background the former Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway is disused but the formation remains intact; to the right the former Midland Railway main line passes beneath it. (Courtesy Picture the Past/Derbyshire County Council).
The works are established

The development of land on either side of Derby Road to the south of the town by the engineering industry began in 1897 when Augustus William Byron, a prominent Chesterfield land agent and businessman, promoted the Universal Steel Tubes Company (Ehrhardt’s Process) Ltd to make weldless steel tubes for naval vessels, exploiting the UK rights to a German process.

Chesterfield was chosen for the new venture because of its central position in a traditional iron and steel making district and the availability of fairly cheap labour. An 11-acre site on the west side of Derby Road about half a mile south of the town was acquired, on which buildings covering 3½ acres were erected, known as the Universal Works. There was with rail access via the Brampton branch of the Midland Railway.

In 1899 Byron’s firm announced the sale of freehold building land adjoining the works, noting that arrangements could probably be made with the purchaser to lease 50 houses erected on the land to the Universal company, presumably for workmen and their families.

The original company failed in April 1901. In November that year the business was reconstructed as the Universal Tube Co. Ltd. There was a further reorganisation in 1906, when a syndicate of London financiers, purchased a tube-making patent from a Balfour Frazer McTear, an engineer employed for a time as a manager by the Universal company. The syndicate established the Chesterfield Tube Co. Ltd. The new company took over the existing business as a going concern

Chesterfield Tube remained independent until 1929, when it was absorbed into Tube Investments Ltd, a combine established in 1919 to reorganise the industry.

Products and expansion

The Chesterfield plant was initially equipped with ‘Ehrhardt’ machinery, delivered in September 1898, and also used the Pilger process. The company faced a number of technical problems in its early years, some of which were overcome by extruding the tubes. In this period it produced boiler and economiser tubes for the Admiralty and small tubes for locomotives and other applications. Shell forgings were made during the Boer War. After the reconstruction of 1906 the company, with about a hundred employees, initially concentrated on boiler tubes and other small diameter products but from 1907 expanded to make weldless steel tubes. It also made weldless steel cylinders for oxygen and carbon dioxide.

During the First World War the Chesterfield plant employed about 1,500 men. New forging presses and hot- and cold-draw benches were installed. The company’s contribution to the war effort included aircraft tubing, light oxygen cylinders for aircraft, explosion vessels, torpedo tubes and over 2.5 million shell bodies.

The interwar period

After 1918 pre-war products returned and diversification into new lines, including weldless steel rectangular and square section headers for boiler plants in power stations took place. Progress was made in the manufacture of cylinders for the storage and transport of permanent and liquefiable gases.

After the company became part of Tube Investments in 1929 the Chesterfield works concentrated almost entirely on weldless steel cylinders, tubes and forgings up to 6 in. in diameter. It also pioneered the production of hot- and cold-drawn stainless-steel tubes.

In 1935 the company installed an extrusion press, thus becoming the first commercial extruder of stainless steel in the world and the main supplier of stainless-steel hollows to other companies in the TI combine engaged in cold drawing.

A heavy tube department was established in 1938, equipped with a 5,000-ton vertical hydraulic piercing press, enabling it to produce large stainless and carbon steel tubes up to 24 in. diameter. The works then occupied some 10 acres.

An attempt in 1933, pioneered by the Tube Company and Bryan Donkin, to introduce compressed coal gas as a means of propulsion for cars and lorries was unsuccessful because of the lack of filling stations and the taxation of road vehicles by weight.

The Second World War

During the Second World War Chesterfield Tube produced for the Royal Navy high pressure air vessels and air firing reservoirs, boiler drums for corvettes and frigates, heavy forgings for shells and more than 6,000 torpedo air vessel bodies. More than 4,000 tons of the company’s seamless steel steam pipes could be found in almost every ship the Navy launched during the war and afterwards. The small tube department’s contribution included over 12 million feet of aircraft tubing, including tubes for the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and for fuselage spars, as well as tank axles for the Army and munitions for all three Services.

In 1941 the company occupied 29 acres on Derby Road, including 13 acres of workshops. After the war the company continued to concentrate on stainless steel tubes, almost all of which went to two other TI companies for cold reducing or cold drawing to smaller sizes.

We’ll continue our brief overview of what was by now TI in our next scheduled blog. You’ll be able to read a much fuller history of the site in our Hasland book, due out in June 2022).

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Brambling House, Hasland: from home to hospital and beyond

A pioneer school for ‘delicate children’, home to Chesterfield’s richest woman, built by Chesterfield entrepreneur TP Wood, hospital annexe and now a school and home to model railways. Brambling House at Hady, just within the old parish of Hasland, certainly has an interesting history which we explore in this blog.

Brambling House, April 2019.

Our spin-off book on Hasland will give a concise account on Brambling House, which is situated towards the top of Hady Hill, Chesterfield. (Historically it was just inside the large parish of Hasland). But our account will be fairly concise, as with all such VCH accounts. But you’ll find it has been meticulously researched. This means anyone who wants to add to the story can do so, aided by the full footnotes. Here we’ll trace Brambling House, with the aid of text in our Hasland book, but with a little more added history and photographs and minus the footnotes.

Brambling House is built
This carved datestone is set above one of the ground-floor windows. TW – is for TP Wood, along with the date of the house – 1877.

The house was built in 1877 on a previously unoccupied site at the top of Hady Hill, for Thomas Philpot Wood (1840–1911). He was a Chesterfield wine and spirit merchant, a business which he inherited from his father, also Thomas Philpot Wood, of Boythorpe House. The younger T.P. Wood was the grandson of Capt. John Wood RN of Brambling House in Ickham (Kent), from which the house in Chesterfield took its name. Wood added an aerated water manufactory to his father’s business.

Wood also became chairman of William Stones Ltd, the Sheffield brewers, and a director of J. & G. Wells Ltd, the Eckington colliery owners. He was educated at Chesterfield grammar school (whose governing body he later chaired) and at Düsseldorf. Wood became a town councillor in 1863, an alderman in 1871 and was mayor on three occasions. He supported numerous local charities. In his public life he was best remembered as the driving force behind the creation of Queen’s Park, but also pressed for other local improvements. Perhaps more famously in the Chesterfield area, between 1864 and 1905 he published a yearly Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Almanack, whose varied content reflected Wood’s interest in local history. Wood was a keen gardener and in his younger days an amateur actor.

Wood never married and lived alone at Brambling House, which had 17 principal rooms, apart from three or four servants. The house was built of brick with slate roofs, and stood in partly wooded grounds, which Wood greatly enhanced. He died in December 1911, leaving personal estate of £94,836.7

New owners of the house

Brambling House was sold (privately, it appears) soon after Wood’s death to George Albert Eastwood (1860–1934), also the head in the second generation of a successful local business and, like Wood, a former pupil of the grammar school, a prominent member of Chesterfield corporation, a generous benefactor to the town, and a bachelor. Eastwood was the son of Edward Eastwood (1826–1910), who in 1863 established a railwaywagon building and repair business, with works on Brimington Road (in Tapton). G.A. Eastwood was a town councillor, alderman and mayor (like Wood on three occasions), and was a trustee or committee-man of many local bodies. He was chairman of J. & G. Wells and a director of several other local colliery companies. Whereas his father was best remembered for his generous benefactions to the Royal Hospital, G.A. Eastwood’s two largest charitable acts were his purchase in 1912 of the Hasland House estate, whose grounds became Eastwood Park, in memory of his father, and in 1924 his gift of a site on Infirmary Road for the technical college, together with £25,000 towards the cost of the original building.

G.A. Eastwood remained at Brambling House until he died in November 1934, leaving (as his father had done) estate valued at half a million pounds. His main beneficiary was his niece Susie Blanche Eastwood, who had performed the opening ceremony at Eastwood Park in 1913 and kept house for her uncle. During this period Brambling House was frequently the venue for fund-raising events for the Congregational Church on Soresby Street, of which the Eastwoods were members, for local charities and for the Liberal Party. Miss Eastwood stayed at Brambling House for a short time after her uncle’s death.

From home to school, hospital and school

In 1936 Blanche Eastwood sold the Estate, including the house. The corporation agreed to purchase the property and convert it into a pioneer school for ‘delicate children’, which opened in 1939.

Not surprisingly the Derbyshire Times covered the opening of the school in its edition of 28 April 1939. These next three photographs are taken from that newspaper’s account.

After she sold the estate in 1936, Blanche Eastwood bought a piece of land on the opposite side of Hady Hill, on which she built a new house, Brambling 17 Cottage. Miss Eastwood, who never married, remained active in public life, as a town councillor and JP for both the borough and county, and in church work, as well as continuing her family’s tradition of generous support for local charities. She died, aged 89, in 1963, leaving estate valued at £790,396.18 At that time she was reputed to be Chesterfield’s richest woman.

But the school had a short initial life. In 1941 the school was taken over by the Ministry of Health being administered as a convalescent facility by the Chesterfield Royal Hospital’s board of management. It was designed as additional accommodation for ‘war and blitz casualties’. The facility closed in 1945, at which time 5,143 patients had been dealt with, 1,815 being members of the forces. In early 1945 a rehabilitation and occupational therapy centre was established there both for in and outpatients.  In September 1944 the Princess Royal (Princess Mary) visited, meeting 80 members of the forces, most of whom had been wounded in France. It was reported that only two of these were local men.

Extract from the 1938 large scale (25-inch to 1 mile) Ordnance Survey Map. The main house is the block to the left (the hatched structures are greenhouses). The rest room illustrated above is almost certainly the longer building to the top right, surrounded, in a semi-circle, by what must be the open-air classrooms. (Derbyshire sheet XXV.7 – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland,  National Library of Scotland – Map Images (nls.uk)).

The Ministry of Health required the hospital’s board of management to surrender Brambling House to the county education committee, presumably so that school activities could be resumed. Surrendering the property led to the hospital management board purchasing Ashgate House and grounds (later Ashgate Hospice) for use as a rehabilitation centre.

What became Brambling House Special School was later renamed Frank Merifield school in memory of its founding headmaster.

Here great emphasis was placed on access to fresh air, sunlight and physical activities. In 1950 is was reported that upwards of 150 children might be pupils there from nine months to three years, though some might be pupils for longer. A childrens’ centre was also based at Brambling house, which was designed to help pupils having difficulty at school. The establishment closed in 1988 as the approach to special needs education changed.

Another school

In 1997 the buildings were acquired by a private primary school, St Peter & St Paul, which had previously occupied outbuildings at Penmore House, but had its origin in Old Brampton. This school is still based at Brambling House. In 1965 part of the grounds were let (and later sold) to the Chesterfield & District Model Engineering Society, which developed an extensive and very popular miniature railway at Brambling House.

Finally a bit of a mystery. This photograph maybe of one of the converted classrooms at Brambling House in use as a convalescent facility for ‘war and blitz casualties’. The original owner of the photograph formerly worked at the facility during the Second World War and there is no other reason why she should have had the photograph. Compare the similarities with the ‘rest room’ photograph above, which is equipped with sliding partitions (like the one closed in the above photograph) and similar light fittings. Two things for sure is that you’ll not find this photograph in our forthcoming Hasland book and it’s Christmas!

This post was updated on 24 April 2022 to make it clear that Brambling House was in the former parish of Hasland and to add a link to an earlier blog on the boundary of Hasland parish.

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Changes at Bolsover

History is never ending. What is today will soon become yesterday. In this rather picture heavy blog we look at what can only be called drastic changes in just one part of Bolsover town centre – at Sherwood Lodge and its grounds, once Bolsover District Council’s grand, but in parts short-lived, Civic Centre. It’s now the site of Morrison’s supermarket and homeware shop.

1) The much loved and much extended Sherwood Lodge – once the home of Bolsover District Council but now demolished and occupied by Morrison’s supermarket and other shops. The original building is to the left.

When we published our big red book’ on ‘Bolsover and adjoining parishes’ in 2013, we wrote that the former district council offices, based at Sherwood Lodge, just off the town centre, had been vacated a year after the council announced its intention to move in 2011. The scheme developed by the council would see its headquarters move to Clowne, with the former Civic Centre building demolished and replaced by a supermarket.

4)Turning further to the right from our previous March 2022 view, Morrison’s new supermarket building has been built on the site of the far right building on our photograph 2.

The district council did, indeed, move and sold its former building, but not without much controversy. Some locals didn’t want to loose the original Victorian Sherwood Lodge buildings and the grounds, for example.

To make matters worse the supermarket scheme hit problems and the old Sherwood Lodge and its more modern extensions, the largest of which only dated from 1994, became increasingly derelict.

The 1994 building was constructed as a result of Bolsover District Council’s decision, in 1992, to vacate offices it had inherited from Blackwell Rural District Council at local government reorganisation in 1974. Perhaps bizarrely the old rural district offices were situated in Mansfield (presumably as most people in Blackwell would have travelled to that town). Prior to 1994 Bolsover District Council also operated from two premises in Bolsover and one at Shirebrook.

On opening in 1994, the Civic Centre in Bolsover, provided 5,442 sq ft of office space and a suite for members. New local offices were also provided, at the same time, in Clowne, Shirebrook, South Normanton, and Bolsover itself. But the new Civic Centre was to be short-lived.

The building and site were sold to Morrisons, who eventually redeveloped it, but not after it suffered some years of neglect. One of the redevelopment schemes involved retention of the original Sherwood Lodge building, but a serious arson attack in November 2018 probably sealed its fate. The supermarket eventually opened in 2019, with a separate home store opened in a new block of shops, on the site of the Civic Centre building, a year later.

The council offices scheme aside, Sherwood Lodge had an interesting history. It was built in 1897 for Abel Sykes who was a director of the Bolsover Colliery Company. In 1958 it became offices for the old Bolsover Urban District Council. In the 1950s its grounds were the centre of the ‘Bolsover Illuminations’, which we have previously written about.

Bolsover Urban District Council was itself established in late 1894, Like its predecessor (a local board) it met in the Portland Café in a designated ‘council room’. It moved to Ivan House in 1903, but in 1911 it acquired a former chapel in Cotton Street, moving to Sherwood Lodge in 1948. At this time the county library occupied the former Cotton Street offices. These were taken taken over by the Old Bolsover Town Council after the county council had built a new library in 1976. The town council still occupy these premises.

Perhaps someday someone will write the fuller history of Sherwood Lodge, its grounds and the rise and fall of the Bolsover Civic Centre. Today, anyone visiting the area will be hard-pressed to see any remnants of the former occupant’s central role in Bolsover’s governance.

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