Feet of Fines to be published

Our sister organisation – the Derbyshire Record Society (DRS) – is shortly to publish ‘Derbyshire Feet of Fines 1196-1325’. We preview this publication here.

This book completes the publication of the late Harold Garratt’s calendar of feet of fines recording the conveyance of estates in Derbyshire from their commencement in the reign of Richard I down to the end of Henry VIII’s reign. An earlier volume (XI, 1985) contained the fines for the county
executed between 1324 and 1547.

This second volume replaces and extends the unindexed calendar published in instalments in the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal between 1885 and 1895.

What are feet of fines?

Feet of fines are among the best known and most heavily used sources for medieval genealogy and the descent of landed estates. They provide a wealth of information, going back to a period from which few estate muniments survive. Above all, they are precisely dated from their commencement, which most private deeds are not before the end of the thirteenth century. With the appearance of this volume, Derbyshire finally joins the list of counties for which all the medieval fines are available in print in a reliable calendar in English, fully indexed by person, place and subject.

The book will immediately become (and remain) a standard work of reference for historians interested in medieval Derbyshire, and for genealogists tracing the origins of families in the county

Further information

The book will be published at the DRS AGM on 23 September 2023. Priced at £25 for members, it is available to non-members at £35 (plus postage). The DRS website will shortly have an on-line order form available, but you can also email their treasurer at treasurer@derbyshirerecordsociety.org.

Who was the architect of Chesterfield Market Place Station

Our county editor (Philip Riden) has been investigating a long-running mystery of who designed the now demolished Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast railway station at Chesterfield Market Place. In this blog we take a look at this work and reveal who we think was the architect.

The Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway

The Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway (LD&ECR) famously never reached either of its intended destinations and had an independent existence of barely ten years. It’s one of those oddities of railway history which has attracted antiquarian attention out of all proportion to its modest economic importance.

Nothing, however, seems to have been written about one aspect of its history: the identity of the architect of the stations on the line between its western terminus at Chesterfield ending at a junction with the Great North & Great Eastern Joint line near Lincoln.

Chesterfield’s Market Place railway station. Next door, to the left, is the Portland Hotel. The station building was a sad loss when it was demolished in the early 1970s. We now know that Cole Alfred Adams was probably the architect. (Collection P Cousins).

The station design

The station at Chesterfield, which stood on the south side of West Bars at the west end of the town’s large Market Place, was in a class of its own: an imposing three-storey building, with a front range facing the street and two wings flanking the platforms behind, executed in red brick with stone dressings and slate roofs. It was in a vaguely Dutch baroque style. The upper floors served as the company’s offices. Chesterfield station was opened in March 1897

Reported in detail – but no architect mentioned

The opening event was reported in detail in local newspapers. The LD & ECR has also been the covered in some detail in around six different volumes. But neither the newspaper reports in the books mention an architect. There’s also some copies of the Market Place Station plans in Chesterfield Local Studies Library – but no architect’s name is on them.

Not the Portland Hotel’s architect

The Portland Hotel was next door to the LD & ECR station. Opened in 1899 it was designed by the Sheffield architect James Ragg Wigfull (1864–1936), who did other work for Stones brewery, mainly in the city. It remains open today. Wigfull was not, however, the railway company’s architect.

The station’s designer discovered – Cole Alfred Adams

The best clue so far found as to who designed both Chesterfield station and the semi-standard design used for the other stations on the line comes from an incidental aspect of the building of the railway, in the National Archives at Kew.

Because of the late date of its construction, the LD & ECR was subject to the Act requiring railway companies which demolished working-class housing for their line to build a corresponding number of new dwellings.

In Chesterfield the company’s line curved away to the  east from the station at Chesterfield, through a heavily congested area of slum housing behind the buildings on Low Pavement on the south side of the Market Place. The architect for the rehousing scheme which the company had to execute was Cole Alfred Adams. He practised mainly in London and did not work (as far as is known) for any other railways.

Who was Cole Adams?

Adams was born at Sudbury in Suffolk, where he was baptised on 13 September 1844. He was the son of William Cole Adams, a wine and spirit merchant, who died young.

In 1851 Cole was noted in the census as one of six children in a household headed by his widowed mother, Eliza Jane Adams, aged 33. The household also included a governess and three servants.

Ten years later, aged 16, Cole was working as a clerk in London and lodging at 12 Clapham Road, Lambeth. By 1871 he had trained as an architect. The census of that year has him staying at Downton Lodge, the home of a retired Army officer and his family, in the Hampshire village of Hordle, near Lymington.

Cole Adams appears to have worked in Bournemouth for part of the 1870s, where he was in partnership with Henry Peter Horner. He then appears in a number of towns and latterly in London and is associated with a number of building designs. He married, aged 44, in 1889 and appears to have done quite well for himself, but died in February 1909, aged 64. At this time the family were living at 13 Glazbury Road in West Kensington.

It’s also likely that Adam’s designed the other, now mainly demolished, distinctive LD & ECR stations – including this lucky survivor at Edwinstowe. (Gerald Lovelock).

Adam’s work for The LD & ECR

Adam’s work for the LD&ECR fell into the last phase of his career, when he had an office in Victoria and a substantial home in West London.

In April 1896 the directors of the railway agreed to pay him professional fees of £578 in connection with their Chesterfield rehousing scheme. This was calculated as 5 per cent on the contract price, which was £11,560.

Although firm evidence has yet to be found (we’re still looking for more evidence), it seems almost certain that, if Adams undertook the rather mundane work of preparing drawings for working-class cottages for the LD & ECR, he must also have been commissioned to design the stations (and possibly other buildings) on the line.

It’s the 28 November 1965 and Chesterfield Market Hall is having the top from its clock tower removed. Our interest here, though, is the Chesterfield Market Place railway station frontage to the right – then in use as a paint and wallpaper warehouse. Sadly the building was demolished in 1973. (The late Chris Hollis – collection Philip Cousins).

How did Adams come to work for the LD & ECR?

How did a London architect with a practice which seems to have been mainly confined to the Home Counties come to be engaged by a small independent railway company in the East Midlands?

The answer appears to be a fairly distant family connection. The LD  &ECR’s solicitor in its early years was Dixon Henry Davies, originally from London. In 1891 he was living at a house named Longlands, on Slack Lane in Brampton. Davies was in practice in partnership with C.S. Busby.

Davies later married, at St John’s parish church in Clapham, Alice Constance Westmacott, the daughter of J.S. Westmacott. It was a connection through the Westmacott family that made Cole Adams and Alice Davies cousins. This in turn appears to have led Mrs Davies’s husband to suggest to the directors of the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway that Adams should be engaged to design the stations on the new line.

Handsome buildings at a cost

The result of Adam’s engagement with the LED & ECR may have been a group of handsome buildings, especially the one at Chesterfield. However, the decision to build on the scale the company did may have been another (admittedly probably small) contribution to the financial problems which dogged the company from the start. These ultimately and led to its early demise as an independent concern.

Sadly, because of the demolition of Market Place station in Chesterfield in 1973 and the disappearance of most if not all the smaller stations, there is today little or nothing to see of Adams’s work for the company.

Work is still on-going on the Adams’ story, with a fuller account in preparation.

Attempts made to identify the architect of the Market Place railway station have been prompted by the awarding a of grant to Chesterfield and District Civic Society from the East Midlands Railway community fund. This is to fund a plaque to commemorate the Portland Hotel and the former adjacent railway station.

There’s more about the history of Chesterfield’s railway stations in our blog here.

Who wrote Ford’s ‘History of Chesterfield’?

In this blog we’ll take a look at Ford and his 1839 history of Chesterfield. Did he really write it and what became of him?

Ford’s history

Title page of Ford’s 1839 book.

Ford’s 1839 published ‘History of Chesterfield’ is a well-known book (at least amongst local historians).  Of some 504 pages, it is still a valid and quoted source of Chesterfield’s history. It also contains some now well-known illustrations of the town and its buildings. Indeed, until the 1974 and onward volumes of the Borough Council’s sponsored history of Chesterfield series, instigated by the late John Bestall, perhaps little of any great consequence on the town’s history had been published since Ford.

For convenience, and for the most part, we’ll still refer to the 1839 history as Ford’s in this blog.

Though we haven’t been able to positively identify Ford’s Irongate premises, we think that the most likely candidate is the four-storey building to the centre of this photograph – now without a shop window.

Figaro in Chesterfield

Before the 1839 History of Chesterfield book Thomas Ford was possibly best known as the printer and publisher of ‘Figaro in Chesterfield’, in the early 1830s. This was published from Ford’s then offices in New Square.

Figaro… was a mixture of newspaper and pamphlet, but spent most of its time in what could be scathing attacks on its enemies, of which there were seemingly many. It was described by Pendleton and Jacques in their ‘Old and new Chesterfield’ book (of 1903) as a ‘very scathing publication, trouncing friend as well as foe… If exercised now “Figaro” would have been chin high in writs for libel’.

The 1839 history

The 1839 History of Chesterfield that Ford published was nominally a revised second edition of the Rev George Hall’s history of 1823, which compromised just over 140 pages. Hall’s history was printed by Thomas Ford’s father – John Ford (d. 1830, aged 68).

On announcing the project, Thomas Ford, who had followed in father as a printer, but also a bookseller and stationer, by then based in Irongate, received favourable support. Ford had originally intended to republish Hall’s history in parts, with additional information, but went much further and included new illustrations. He started publishing the edition, in 21 parts, from March 1837 until early 1839. In the spring of the latter year, they were drawn together in a book described as ‘newly published’. A cloth and board edition of the complete history cost 20 shillings.

In May 1839 the plates were made separately available for framing. They were ascribed to the names C [Charles] and W [William] Radclyffe. They were son and father of an originally Birmingham based business.

Who wrote the history?

For some years it’s been believed that Ford didn’t actually write the history, though he may obviously have contributed to it. Ford is not named as the author on the book’s title page.

Illustrated on page 278 of Ford’s history is this ‘ancient seal’ found at Broad Oaks. Ford was able to include a plate of it following an appeal he made in the Derbyshire Courier newspaper back in February 1838.

It appears that historical material in this book was mostly (if not entirely) written by Robert Wallace, Unitarian minister, who had succeeded George Kendrick (1814-1815) and before Kendrick a Thomas Astley (1773 – 1813). This assertion first seems to appear in the Derbyshire Courier newspaper in 1877. A history of Elder Yard Unitarian Chapel, published in 1967, also claims Wallace wrote the majority of the book.

Like Ford, Wallace is not credited as author on the title-page either. Why this is so remains a mystery – perhaps both Ford and Wallace agreed that the source material gathering and authorship (possibly shared) were of a level that did not warrant one or either being acknowledged. We will probably never know.  But the book is now well-known as ‘Ford’s History of Chesterfield’. Ford would have known Wallace as he was presumably a worshipper at Elder Yard Unitarian Chapel.

That doesn’t mean to say that Ford was not interested in collecting material for the book or didn’t contribute. For example, he wrote a letter to the Derbyshire Courier in February 1838 inquiring about the potential loan to him of a copy of the Gentleman’s Magazine, describing a seal found near ‘the Broad Oak’ in about 1798. If one refers to the Ford history this seal is actually illustrated – albeit not from the Gentleman’s magazine. (The illustration is taken from a casting made at the time it was found ‘by the Rev Richard Astley, of Shrewsbury’. This is not the Astley who proceeded Robert Wallace as minister at the Elder Yard Chapel, but could be related).

Ford’s history gave us a useful collection of plates, including this of the Elder Yard Unitarian Church, where Ford would have presumably worshipped, guided by the minster there, the Rev Robert Wallace, who is regarded as the chief author and editor of the book.

Wallace had arrived in Chesterfield from Manchester College, York in September 1815. During his time as minister (until 1840) at the Elder Yard Chapel he made many improvements there.

Ford’s completed history was published in two editions. Pages were sized at 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches, with a larger edition sized at approximately 10 ½ by around 8 ½ inches – though the same printing blocks and plates were used in both editions. It’s not known how many of each edition were published, or the print-run of the parts.

Ford and his father were well-known in Chesterfield as stationers, printers and booksellers. As we have discussed, Thomas had published ‘Figaro in Chesterfield’, from his then office at New Square, during the early 1830s.

Thomas Ford sold the printing business, by then at Irongate in the Shambles, at auction, in early March 1841. By June 1841 C Gallimore is advertising his takeover of the former Ford business at the shop in Irongate. The Gallimore enterprise actually consisted of brothers, who were Quakers and also printers. Their father was a well-known auctioneer. Both Ford and the Gallimores also sold patent medicines. The Gallimores were selling up in Jun 1864. They were followed into the building by another Chesterfield printer – John Edward Roberts – who was there in August 1867.

Ford’s printing business was for sale in March 1841, as advertised in the Derbyshire Courier, 20 February 1841. Note the reference to the history of Chesterfield.

In 1872 an RJ Smithson (also a printer) is trading from Ford’s and Gallimores’ old shop. Later, in October 1881, the premises were described as ‘desolate’. In June 1886, it was advertised as to let, complete with five large rooms above the shop, ‘formerly occupied by Messrs Gallimore’.

Hard times

Thomas Ford was living in London by the 1851 census with his wife, daughter and two sons. His residence contained a total of 15 people. He died in London on the 28 November 1859, aged 58.  He had been pursuing his former business – in 1854 he is noted as publishing books and pamphlets from his premises in Gloucester Street, Queen Square.

We don’t know why he moved to London and exactly when – but further research may reveal this. He had apparently fallen on somewhat hard-times before his death. An unfitting end to someone who had contributed, at the least with Robert Wallace, and certainly printed, what is still regarded as an important source for the history of Chesterfield.

Ford left the district and later fell on hard times as witness this appeal, made just a few months before his death, in the Derbyshire Times of 24 September 1859.


We’ve used the following sources in this post:

  • Non-conformist and non-parochial registers – Elder Yard Chapel (TNA RG4/516).
  • Derbyshire Courier 21 January 1837, 4 March 1837, 17 February 1838, 16 February 1839, 16 March 1839, 25 May 1839, 20 February and 5 June 1841, 27 August 1853, 3 June 1854, 10 December 1859, 24 September 1859, 20 February 1841, 10 January 1874 and 13 January 1877, 15 September 1881, 22 June 1886.
  • Derbyshire Times, 18 June 1864, 17 and 28 September 1867, 21 December 1872.
  • Vallance and Robinson, The history of Elder Yard Chapel, Chesterfield (1967)
  • Pendleton and Jacques, Modern Chesterfield, 1903
  • Pendleton (‘Tatler’), Old and new Chesterfield (1882)
  • Ford History of Chesterfield (1839).
  • http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/radclyffe_edward_labour.htm
The Derbyshire Courier was prepared to speculate who had written ‘Ford’s’ history in its edition of 13 January 1877, following a query by one of its readers (above). But in 1881 John Pendleton in his ‘Old and new Chesterfield’ book was still referring to the history as Ford’s.

This account was edited on 15 May 2023 to include new information on the possible site of Ford’s Irongate shop. Our thanks to Janet Murphy for this information.

An early attempt at steel-making in Chesterfield?

Research at The National Archives in London by our county editor has revealed a possible attempt to make steel in Chesterfield in the period around 1600.  We’ll take a brief look at this potentially important discovery in this blog.

The Leakes and the Foljambes

Hidden away in what are called Star Chamber depositions (witness statements taken as part of legal proceedings) taken in 1608 is a reference to what seems to have been an experimental iron mill. The case centred on whether the mill was in Walton or Brampton. At this date Walton manor was held by the Foljambes, and Brampton held by the Leakes of Sutton.  The River Hipper formed the boundary between the two. The Foljambes and Leakes were the two leading gentry families in the Chesterfield area in the sixteenth century and it was not unknown for violence to occur where they disagreed!

The last head of the direct male line of the Foljambe family, Godfrey Foljambe, died in 1598, leaving a young widow, Isabel, who married Sir William Bowes of County Durham. There was already an ‘iron mill’ powered by the Hipper on the Foljambe estate, but Bowes claimed in the court case that he had spent £300 building another one.

An experiment in steel making

Witnesses in the Star Chamber case gave conflicting accounts of a dispute between servants of Sir William Bowes and Sir Francis Leake in September 1605, but both sides described the new works as a mill to make ‘steel and iron’. This is an unusual phrase for this date, added to which Bowes is said to have kept the works locked, suggesting that he was experimenting with a new process there. Attempts to make steel were just getting underway around the start of the seventeenth century, in the Sheffield area as elsewhere, and it is possible the Bowes was trying to make steel at the mill on the Hipper, using iron smelted at another iron mill higher up the river. The experiments probably came to an end when Bowes died in 1611, if not before.

This ground-breaking illustration, which appeared in Philip Robinson’s 1957 book ‘The Smiths of Chesterfield’, attempted to reconstruct the area around the Griffin Foundry in the period around 1788. The surviving Cannon Mill is to the right of centre, behind the smoking chimney. It was in this vicinity that much earlier attempts may have been made to produce steel.
The location

In his deposition Bowes stated that when he gained control of the Foljambe estate through his marriage to Isabel there were already six corn mills, one lead mill and one iron mill on the Hipper in Walton. The first of these figures refers to the number of mill stones, rather than separate buildings, but it is clear that the river was already being intensively exploited by industry in the late sixteenth century.

Bowes’s new works stood on a piece of ground called Upper Whitting Holme, which in the 1770s became the site of Ebenezer Smith’s Griffin Ironworks and Francis Thompson’s engine-building forge. The only surviving built from either enterprise is Cannon Mill, built by the Smiths apparently for boring cannon during the Napoleonic War, which ended in 1815. The date 1816 on a cast-iron plaque on the building commemorates its use during the war, not when it was built.

The mills on the river in the early seventeenth century are marked on a map of the Foljambe estate in Walton surveyed in 1622. This marks the mill built by Sir William Bowes downstream from the corn mill, iron mill and lead mill. The corn mill remained in use until modern times and the storage pond which supplied water to this and other mills survives as Walton Dam off Walton Road. One of the other mill sites was later taken over by Hewitt’s cotton mill, which also survives and is one of the very few late eighteenth-century fire-resistant textile mills still standing anywhere in England.

Research on the history of the Foljambe estate at Walton in the early seventeenth century, for which the main source are the voluminous records of litigation in Star Chamber and other courts, is continuing and it is possible that more will be discovered about what Sir William Bowes was trying to do at the iron mill on the Hipper.

Stainsby school in the news – but what is its history?

The former Stainsby board school, November 2021.

The former board school at Stainsby is in the news at the moment as the National Trust seeks to sell the property. But what is its history? In this blog we’ll take a brief look.

Our Hardwick: a great house and its estate paperback, published in 2009 (out of print but available in local libraries), outlines the history of education in the Hardwick area.  In the 1860s the 7th Duke of Devonshire erected a new school and a house for the master at Stainsby on the site of the medieval manor house there. This replaced a building at the edge of Hardwick park, which became a private residence.

This wooden building in the school yard is current leased to a community organisation.

In 1893 a school board was formed for Ault Hucknall, Glapwell and Heath. This took over the duke’s schools at Heath, Stainsby and Rowthorne (along with a school at Doe Lea belonging to the Hallowes estate). All four were Church of England school and a Church school at Hardstoft continued on a voluntary basis.

In 1895 the school at Stainsby was pulled down and a new and larger building erected by the school board. Hardstoft school was rebuilt in 1894, Doe Lea four years later.

In 1903 county councils took over former board schools. What contribution had been made to local schools by the Hardwick estate fell away. The county council built some new schools in the area, following the development of colliery villages, such as Holmewood and later Bramley Vale. Most of the pupils at Stainsby came from the farming villages near Hardwick Hall.

Stainsby school closed following the opening of a new secondary school at Heath in 1960. This took older children from the former all-age school at Holmewood (perversely called ‘Heath School’, although few children from Heath attended), which became a primary school. The school at Stainsby became redundant and was closed. 

The school sits on the top of the medieval manor house’s site. The area is a scheduled ancient monument.

The building at Stainsby then became what we describe in our book as ‘an imaginative, if short-lived venture’ as a youth music and drama centre. The first warden was a former actor who lived in the headmaster’s house. The Stainsby Arts Centre served schools throughout north-east Derbyshire in the 1960s and early 1970s. From it grew the Stainsby Festival of folk music, which started in 1969 and has long outlived the arts centre.

Now the National Trust is, somewhat controversially, selling the former Stainsby school building by auction. The school board leased the land on which the school was built from the 8th duke of Devonshire. The freehold therefore passed to the National Trust with the rest of the Hardwick estate in 1958, after it was accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of death duties payable following the death of the 10th duke in 1950.

Ault Hucknall Parish Council and a consortium of community groups are trying to purchase the property, but may be outbid in the auction, which ends on 16 November 2021.

The Stainsby Festival used the old school site, but in 1974 a lessee of the school property did not want the festival. It then moved to nearby Brunt’s Farm. This programme from the 1976 event reveals that weekend tickets to the festival were then £3.00 each. Artists included Broadside, John Goodluck and Threefold. There were also workshops.
Visitors to the site will find of parts of it adorned with bunting, a banner and notices protesting at the National Trust’s decision to sell the property and urging potential bidders not to bid against the community‘s bid for the property.

Spital Mills History – part 3

This is the final part of our history of Spital Mills, Hasland. It covers the period after tobacco manufacturing has ceased at the mill, bringing the story right up-to-date.

Today the old mill premises are mainly used as a storage facility. the original building is to the bottom of this photograph, taken in October 2023, looking down the mill yard from Spital Lane.
An advertisement in the Derbyshire Times 26 February 1937 for sale of liquidated stock at Spital Mills

After Mason’s tobacco manufacturing business closed in the early years of the 20th century, Spital Mills were taken over by A.D. Gray, who with a partner, established a cabinet making business there, trading as A.D. Gray & Lewis Ltd. In 1916 the company bought the freehold of the works.

Although the company was said in 1935 to be thriving, it went into voluntary liquidation early in 1937, when 40 bedroom suites were sold by auction. Later that year there was a two-day catalogue sale of the premises, the whole of the woodworking machinery, a gas engine, two electric motors, a large number of tools, 27,000 ft of oak and other plain timber and 40,000 ft of walnut, mahogany, oak, sycamore and other veneers.

Spital Mills were acquired in 1937 by the Woodseats Joinery Company, which in 1949 was purchased by Frederick Wale. He had, in 1912, served an apprenticeship at Gray & Lewis.

In the 1950s the business moved away from joinery to the manufacture and sale of tiled fireplaces and was renamed the Spital Tile Surround Company. The name was shortened to Spital Tile Co. Ltd when the business began to supply ceramic wall tiles.

Frederick Wale died in 1964, when the company passed to his son Ian. In his hands, the business diversified into the supply of plumbing and heating materials, ironmongery and tools to the trade, while still selling tiles.

The frontage to Spital Lane in October 2023. The large extension to the left dates from 1981 and was latterly used as a bathroom and kitchen showroom. It is currently used as the premises of a dance studio.

In 1981 the company built a 5,500 sq. ft showroom on Spital Lane, in front of the mill, to promote the retail sale of bathrooms, kitchens and other products. The sale of gas fires and fireplaces was resumed in the 1990s, when Ian Wale was joined as directors by his daughters Victoria and Elizabeth.

The business closed in 2019. The former mill building was taken over by a storage company and the show room became a gym and dance centre. Both continue to this day.

Between 1954 and 1963 part of Spital Mills were occupied by the Midland Light Pattern Co., which moved to Chesterfield from Annesley Woodhouse (Notts.) in the former year, and from Spital Mills to a new factory at Calow in the latter year.

The mill erected by Holmes & Smith back in the 1840s, today survives substantially unaltered. The main building is of brick, of three-storeys beneath a hipped slate roof. An extension at first-floor level over part of the yard provided additional rooms, which in the 1930s were used as offices. There were other outbuildings adjoining and originally a boiler house with tall chimney and engine-house at one end of the mill, which had been demolished by 1937.

The mill stood within easy reach of the Midland Railway goods yard and later that of the Great Central Railway, but was never rail connected.

Our other parts of the story of Spital Mills can be found as below:

This text is a slightly edited version of that appearing in our ‘History of Hasland …’ book, which is now of print, but you can find copies in Chesterfield Local Studies Library. All sources are fully referenced in our book.

Spital Mills History – part 2

This is part two of our history of ‘Spital Mills’ – more recently known as the premises of Spital Tile. This time we look at the mill as a centre of tobacco manufacturing.

Spital Mill as pictured in the c. 1899 ‘An illustrated guide to Chesterfield’. By this this it is occupied by Mason’s tobacco factory.

In the early 19th century George Mason, born at Cutthorpe (in Brampton) in about 1794, was a tobacco manufacturer in Chesterfield, with premises at 45–47 and 49–51 Low Pavement (either side of Wheeldon Lane). Here he had a works powered by a horse-gin, making cigars and twist tobacco. He was employing six men in 1851.

Mason died in 1854, leaving personal estate of £4,000, when the business, henceforth known as George Mason & Son, passed to his second son Edwin, born about 1829. He was living with his wife and family in Mason’s Yard, behind Low Pavement, in 1861, when he had 15 men, ten girls and two boys working for him.

A few years later, as the business grew rapidly, Mason moved to the former lace mill on Spital Lane – our Spital Mills and bought Spital House as a residence. By 1871 he had 116 employees at the tobacco works.

Edwin Mason died in 1887, leaving personal estate of £44,030. He was the sole owner of George Mason & Son, which was described as one of the largest tobacco manufacturers in England. He concentrated on business rather than engaging in public affairs, and was ‘retiring and unambitious’. In the 1880s the company was said to employ more young women than any other concern in the town.

One of a short series of half-page advertisements in the Derbyshire Courier – this one from the edition of 28 June 1887.

Edwin’s two sons, Oscar Edwin and Charles Leonard, succeeded to the business just as tastes were changing and the demand for twist tobacco was falling. They tried to move into cigarette making, advertising repeatedly over two years in 1892–4 for ‘up to 40 respectable young girls’ to learn the ‘clean and light work’ involved. They also, immediately after their father’s death, rather extravagantly took a half page advertisement in the Derbyshire Courier for several weeks to promote the company. Their final undoing was the creation of a tobacco combine by the larger British firms, in an attempt to meet American competition. Masons were not included and found their old markets closed to them.

Advertisement in the Derbyshire Times, 6 February 1892.

Another reason for the decline of what was clearly a very successful company in their father’s day appears to be loss of interest on the part of his sons. Oscar initially lived at Spital House but, after the estate was sold to the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway in the early 1890s, moved to Dunston Hall  (in Newbold), where in 1901 he was employing a governess and eight servants, several more than his father ever had.

Oscar remained at Dunston Hall until he died, aged only 45, in 1903, when he left a modest £1,283. An obituary made no reference to his business career, but described him as an enthusiastic sportsman.

Oscar died after returning home early from a race meeting at Doncaster; he and his family were then staying at Bridlington (Yorks.). Many years later it was said that he had  ‘always been largely interested in racing and sport’. His widow Mary Ann died at Frimley (Surrey) in 1936.

The business came to an end soon after Oscar died. In 1901 both he and his brother Charles, who was then living with his family, a governess and three servants in a house in The Crescent, Scarborough (Yorks.), gave their occupation as tobacco manufacturer, but Charles was a ‘late tobacco manufacturer’ in 1911, when the family were living in rooms in Cheltenham (Gloucs.) with no servants.

Charles later lived at various places on the South Coast and died at Portsmouth (Hants.) in 1935, leaving personal estate of just £20.24.

This brings to a close the tobacco manufacturing story of Spital Mills – but there is more to come in our next post.

The full entry for the tobacco factory from the c. 1899 book ‘An illustrated guide to Chesterfield’.

Part one of our history of Spital Mills can be found here.

The next and final part of our history can be found here.

This text is a slightly edited version of that appearing in our ‘History of Hasland …’ book, which is now of print, but you can find copies in Chesterfield Local Studies Library. All sources are fully referenced in our book.

Spital Mills History – part 1

In this blog we start reviewing the history of ‘Spital Mills’ – more recently known as the premises of Spital Tile – which started out as a steam-powered lace mill, probably in the 1840s. Today it’s a dance studio with most of the former mill building used for storage.

Spital Mills in its later guise as a tobacco manufactory – which we’ll be exploring in our next part in this series of blogs.

A large, brick-built, steam-powered mill on the right bank of the Rother near the northern end of Spital Lane was probably erected by Thomas Holmes and Francis Algernon Sidney Smith, who in 1849 were the owners and occupiers, trading in partnership as Holmes & Smith, machine builders and lace manufacturers. Holmes appears previously to have been in partnership with Thomas Johnson, in a firm named Johnson & Holmes, which made gingham in a workshop in Castle Yard, behind the Castle Inn at 41 Low Pavement. He was living at Spital Lodge in 1841 and ten years later at The Terrace on Saltergate, when he gave his occupation as gingham manufacturer. Gingham is lightweight plain-woven cotton cloth. The firm of Holmes & Smith continued into the 1850s, but on 1 January 1858 the partnership was dissolved and the business taken over by John Drabble (1834–1908) and William Edwin Dutton (1821–63), a master draper with a shop on Lordsmill Street.

By 1862 the works had evidently been divided between two firms, Drabble & Dutton, lace manufacturers, and Drabble, Dutton & Parker, gingham makers. The third partner was Richard Parker, a draper on Low Pavement. In 1860 Dutton was the defendant in an action brought by Richard Holland, a mechanic from Preston (Lancs.), who unsuccessfully claimed that he was owed money for obtaining, building and installing improved gingham looms of his own invention at Spital. Both partnerships would have come to an end  with Dutton’s death in his early forties in June 1863.

In 1864 John Drabble applied for a patent for improvements in the manufacture of bobbin net, made on bobbin net or twist lace machines. The lace-making  side was given up when the rising price of raw material made the business unprofitable and the machinery was removed to the factory of Messrs Jacoby of Nottingham. A few years later gingham making also came to an end and Spital Mills (as the premises were always known, although there was only one mill building) became a tobacco manufacturing works.

In 1861, when he still had the lace-making business at Spital, Drabble was living in Nottingham. He later occupied the mill behind Lordsmill Street, on Hipper Street, which had once been a twist factory, and made gingham there, although in 1871–81 he described himself as a cotton doubler. He was then living at Herne House (in Calow).

Drabble was a member of Chesterfield corporation between 1871 and 1879, and mayor in 1877. In the 1891 census, by which date he had moved to Stanley Street in Spital, Drabble was enumerated as a commission agent and merchant, and ten years later as a timber merchant. He died at Spital in 1908, leaving personal estate of only £58.28.

We’ll be covering the later history these premises in future blogs, looking in particular at its short history as a tobacco manufactory under George Mason.

Part two of our history of Spital Mills can be found here.

The third and final part of our history of Spital Mills can be found here.

This text is a slightly edited version of that appearing in our ‘History of Hasland …’ book, which is now of print, but you can find copies in Chesterfield Local Studies Library. All sources are fully referenced in our book.

Pop and see us at Ashover Artefact Day

We are having a stall at the Ashover Artefacts Day on Saturday 14 October 2023 – pop along and see us if you can.

They’ll be Ashover based organisations present, along with the Derbyshire Record Society. Details are in the poster above.

We hope to see you at Ashover Parish Hall from 10am to 3pm on the 14 October. Admission is free and refreshments will be available.

AGM talk focus on businesswomen in Georgian England

Our AGM on 23 September includes a free talk – open to all – this year focussing on the role of businesswomen in Georgian England.

Through Derbyshire case studies, our speaker Dr Collinge, will explore this perhaps neglected subject. Female-owned businesses are commonly regarded as short-lived, marginal concerns, abandoned upon marriage, appropriated by avaricious husbands or set up by impoverished widows.

But Dr Collinge presents evidence of women navigating the opportunities and challenges they encountered in order to secure an independent living.

Everyone is welcome to attend the talk (you don’t have to be a VCH member). Our AGM starts at 2pm, with the talk starting at 2.30pm – Imperial Rooms, 4 Imperial Road, Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 3NL, Saturday 23 September 2023. Light refreshments are available afterwards. Admission is free.

Bess of Hardwick – born between 13 February 1521 – 12 February 1522

When was Bess of Hardwick born? Our county editor thinks it was sometime between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522, not as some others have it in 1527. We take a look at the evidence in this short blog.

Bess is probably the third most famous Englishwoman of her age after Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. Bess is, of course, particularly, associated with Hardwick Hall.

Though there’s no shortage of books on Bess of Hardwick, there has been some conjecture, over a long period, on just when she was born, most quoting 1527. Our VCH county editor, Philip Riden, who has extensively researched the issue, is certain, though, that she was born between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522.

It’s widely known that Bess of Hardwick had four husbands ending with George Talbot 6th earl of Shrewsbury, who died in 1590 – hence the ES emblazoned extensively on Hardwick new hall. She died in 1608.
The impressive monument to Bess of Hardwick in Derby Cathedral. It was designed by Bess in her lifetime. For some years it was thought that her age inscribed on the monument was incorrect, but our county editor believes that its does carry the correct information. The banner sited adjacent to the monument, which gives her birth as 1527, is therefore incorrect.

Philip presents his argument in an article in the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal (DAJ) of 2010 ‘The Hardwicks of Hardwick Hall in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries’. You can directly download the article as a pdf via the link here. Look for the final paragraph on page 150 onwards, which presents a reasoned argument for her birthdate. Since publication in 2010 we are not aware of anyone who has presented alternative evidence. So, we are sticking with a birthdate in between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522.

You can find out more about Bess and the Hardwick estate in our paperback book ‘Hardwick a great house and its estate’ though this is now out of print, you may be able to obtain copies second-hand.

Our County Editor’s article in the Derbyshire Archaeological Society’s Journal of 2010 presented a reasoned argument as to why Bess of Hardwick was born between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522 and not in 1527.

Philip has extensively researched the Hardwick family at Hardwick Hall and published a number of articles on the family and their descendants. In the 1980s, with David Durrant, he published building accounts for Hardwick Hall. More recently his work in the archives at Chatsworth has enabled him to publish (again in two parts), household accounts of William Cavendish of Hardwick (1597-1607) all for the Derbyshire Record Society. His latest DAJ article on the family – ‘The household accounts of the Cavendish family of Hardwick’ – was in 2016.

(If the above link to the 2010 DAJ article does not work try selecting his the article from the contents page here:
https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/…/vi…/daj/contents.cfm… )

This is a revised and updated version of a blog originally posted in January 2021.

Found – a Gallimore’s almanack

This blog looks at a ‘find’ we’ve made – a copy of the 19th century Chesterfield printer’s ‘Gallimore’s Almanack’ in Chesterfield Local Studies Library.

Gallimore’s almanack

Front cover of Gallimore’s Almanack (then ending with a ‘k’) for 1842. This is believed to have been the first edition of 22, but local content is strictly limited. Our knowledge of 19th century printers in Chesterfield is incomplete VCH hopes to sort this out as part of its work on the town’s history.

You may remember in our blog of 28 May 2021 we posted about Gallimore’s almanack – which might have been a much earlier version of the once popular TP Woods Almanac with its popular chronicle of local events.

Thanks to some work by one of our members and staff at Chesterfield Local Studies Library, we have now found a copy of the errant publication, which we said we’d love to see.


We must admit to being a bit disappointed.

Speaking at a meeting of the Rotary Club in late 1924, local historian William Jacques mentions ‘Gallimore’s Almanac’ which he said dated back to 1842 – which makes the copy we’ve identified the first edition. Jacques had recently been presented with a set of 22, which he believed were the only ones in existence. 

Jacques description of Gallimore’s almanack content was that half of it consisted of advertisements ‘nine-tenths of which related to quack medicines’ (Gallimore was a dealer in these). Jacques makes reference about some local content being present – but in the edition we have found, this is very limited.

In fact our copy basically comprises, for the most part, ‘Moore’s Almanack’ (now Old Moore’s) for 1842 which is of 48 pages in length. Local content is limited to ‘C Gallimore’s (late Ford) companion to the Almanacks for 1842’. This comprises a short list of the Chesterfield Corporation followed by names of such local offices as the clerk of the peace, gas and water company, boards of highways, etc. There then follow details of local carriers, feasts and wakes, followed by county lists of fairs, all ending at page 8. There’s certainly no local chronicle – a feature of TP Wood’s almanacs. (Indeed, the the title is actually ‘…Almanacks’ indicating there’s more than one within the covers!)

Open the cover and you’ll find that the vast amount of the almanack’s content is provided via the insertion of Moore’s Almanack within it.


There’s then a so-called ‘Second Sheet’. Rather as described by Jacques, this comprises testimonials from users of ‘Parr’s Life Pills’, of some four pages. A further four pages are given over to more Parr testimonials, until a description of Simpson’s ‘antibilious pills’ takes two pages, whilst the same manufacturer’s ‘herbal pills…for coughs aschmas & consumptions’ takes the remaining two pages. All these, what we now call quack medicines, are naturally stocked by Gallimore. The whole has a presumably Gallimore printed cover, which is illustrated above.

So, all in all, rather a disappointment, particularly when set against Jacques’ talk to the Rotary Club in 1924.

Incidentally, the almanack is not part of the local studies library’s Jacques’ collection. It appears to have been presented or acquired by the library within the last 20 years or so. There’s still, then, the mystery as to what happened to the 22 copies Jacques had.


As we’ve written above, the first edition is 1842 – making the almanack featured here the first one of its type.

This would also nicely fit into the start of TP Wood’s almanac, which, in his almanac for 1904 (published in 1903) he stated was first published in 1864. If 1842 was the first edition and there were 22, TP Wood would have started publication only a few years after the Gallimore almanack had ceased. 

A limited amount of local information follows the Moore’s almanack section. It commences with a list of the Chesterfield Corporation. This section would have been printed by Gallimore in his premises on Iron Gate – formerly that occupied by printer of the 1839 History of Chesterfield – Thomas Ford.

In 1903 Wood went on to state that he his first almanac had been a ‘ready-compiled’ purchased from ‘a Mr Egglinton’, with a few added pages about Wood’s own business. The following year, Gallimore’s having ‘retired’, Wood added ‘about a dozen pages’ of local information’ to his almanac. The publication then rapidly grew, so much so that in 1903 Wood was expressing his concerns about the commercial viability of his almanac, suggesting that it might be slimmed down in future years.

More about Gallimore

Following our original post in May 2021 we were very pleased to receive the following comments from Isabel Fogg via our Facebook page.

She stated that in an article Quaker Printers, 1750-1850, C. Gallimore is listed as a printer c. 1845-1850 in Chesterfield. In contemporary newspapers they have the Gallimore brothers in dress and deportment apparently resembling Charles Lamb, the essayist. There are also references to ‘Moore’s Almanack with Gallimore’s Appendix’ and ‘Gallimore’s Companion to the Almanacks’.

As we have previously noted – VCH needs to carryout further work on Chesterfield’s 19th century printers. This should include following up the above comments.

In a past blog we have looked at Thomas Ford – printer and publisher of the 1839 history of town – who proceeded the Gallimores at their Iron Gate premises.

Featuring in the almanack are various testimonials for what we would now regard as ‘quack’ medicines.  One wonders what these contained?

Found but limited

So, almanack found – but its content is limited. Maybe it increased as the years went on – but we don’t know – as we still need to find the other editions that were published.

Although it is only one example of the 22 editions Jacques says he had, we can rather confidentially say that if this edition of Gallimore’s Almanack is of limited use to VCH in our research. Unless, of course, we decide to look at the quack medicines of the 19th century – readily available in Chesterfield and elsewhere – particularly to Parr’s Life Pills’ or Simpson’s ‘antibilious pills’!

Gallimore was, of course, promoting his own business with these medicine testimonials – as he stocked them. This block is taken from his 1842 almanack.

Our thanks to the staff at Chesterfield Local Studies Library (where the edition of Gallimore’s Almanack featured here can be found) and to Derbyshire County Council for allowing us to reproduce the illustrations in this blog

Sources for this blog

Markham’s meal as out-going mayor – a lavish affair

In this blog we take a look at a lavish dinner thrown by members of Chesterfield Corporation, in 1911, to celebrate the final year of retiring mayor Charles Paxton Markham. And it may well surprise you as to just how lavish it was. We’ll also take a brief look at Markham’s final spell as mayor and the man himself.

No expense spared – not even with the menu card – complete with gold embossed borough seal towards the top. Note the decorative blue ribbon.

It’s Late October 1911 and Charles Paxton Markham (1865-1926), who many later regarded as the ‘uncrowned King of Chesterfield’ is just about to complete his spell as mayor for the third and final time. Markham, without doubt the area’s leading industrialist (and perhaps politician) at the time, was entertained by the corporation members to a sumptuous dinner at the Stephenson Memorial Hall. Thanks to one of our member’s who has leant us a copy of the menu, we can look at that grand mayoral dinner and just what was on the menu.

CP Markham

The ‘uncrowned King of Chesterfield’ – Charles Paxton Markham – taken from the 1913 yearbook and directory of Chesterfield.

Markham was the managing director and chairman of the Staveley Coal & Iron Company and had many other industrial interests. He had a reputation of being a man who wanted to get things done and wouldn’t let things get in his way too much. He personally paid £10,000 towards clearing the notorious Dog Kennels slum housing area and construction of a new road through a part of them – known as Markham Road – completed by March 1912. The Dog Kennel clearance had become something of a personal crusade to Markham.

Markham had started to become interested in social conditions and housing matters, including those for whom he employed. But he was equally a man you would not want to cross unless you were well prepared or didn’t work for him! Despite these later interests in the welfare of his workers he was anti-union. A few years later he would describe unions as one of the worse things that could have happened to workers.

Markham had first been elected as Mayor in 1896, a term of one year, which was to be repeated for two years from 1909. In 1910 he was also elected as one of eight aldermen and a little later the same year an Honorary Freedom of the Borough was also conferred on him. He was first elected to the council in 1895, serving on it until 1920.

The complimentary dinner

So, to the ‘complimentary dinner’ that members of the town council threw for Markham as he retired from his mayoral duties. And it was right royal affair – fit for an uncrowned king!

Just take a look at the menu below. Starting with ‘native oysters’, we then move into Turtle soup, followed by a second course with all manner of delicacies, all rounded off with fruit and coffee. The wine list also looks interesting, with presumably different wines served at different points in the extensive menu.

A feast fit for an uncrowned king? The complimentary dinner menu. On another page of the menu card ‘artists’ at the dinner are listed – ‘Mr Langford (humourist); Mr Sadler (FRCO); Councillor Lancaster; Councillor Glossop; The Cavendish Glee Party’. It’s thought that Sadler was organist at the parish church, but of the glee party we know nothing. A further page lists the three toasts given, another members of the 1911 corporation and a further one mayors of Chesterfield since 1835 (see below).

It’s not known who paid for this dinner – but it is possible that members of the corporation themselves paid for it, as their thanks to the outgoing mayor (this tradition lasted until recent years). The corporation at that time consisted primarily of business men in the borough – people who would generally be of some means. But whoever did pay for it, it might well have been regarded as one of the social events of the year. 

The new Mayor – The duke of Devonshire

Markham was replaced as Mayor by the duke of Devonshire, in early November, at the mayor making ceremony, with Alderman Markham becoming deputy mayor – a separate occasion to the complimentary dinner. It is believed to be the first time that the corporation had sought a mayor from outside its elected body. (The duke was, of course a member of the Lords, but was also a county council alderman, Chairman of the Bakewell Board of Guardians and had been Mayor of Eastbourne. It appears that the council wanted to use his expertise in promoting the borough and in its governance).

Markham’s ‘splendid mayoralty

In reporting the mayor making ceremony, the Derbyshire Courier’s headline expressed; ‘Alderman Markham’s splendid mayoralty’. (The Courier was one of the two Chesterfield based newspapers of the era).

In reviewing his two years in office the Dog Kennels’ area improvements were stressed. Markham himself made reference to extension of the borough (in 1910) and improvements to the Queen’s Park Annexe which had been started.

In typical Markham fashion, he announced that he and Major Clayton, as Trustees of the Jubilee Drill Hall, had executed a deed to hand it over to the town, if the Territorials using it were to disband. The rider being that there was a big debt on the building – if the town were to pay it the trustees might well hand it over! (This building was much later owned by the borough council. From 1970 it opened as an entertainment centre, renamed as the Goldwell Rooms, and was used as such until the Winding Wheel Theatre opened).

Markham expressed pride that the town were early adopters of ‘town-planning’. Lordsmill Street had been widened – but he hoped that more of it could be so treated – St Mary’s Gate was ‘a disgrace to the town,’ he said. The sewage works had been modernised and work was planned to widen Hasland Road.

Perhaps somewhat confusingly Markham also promised to hand over the deeds of ‘Eastwood Park’ to the town council. This, he said, was land he acquired some time ago, but that he had held onto during negotiations with the Midland Railway when the line through Chesterfield was quadrupled. (This is probably a piece of the frontage of the park, presented in 1913 – though is some miles distant from the railway).

Markham did think a good job had been made of the coronation celebrations held in Chesterfield of King George V.

All-in-all this was typical Markham stuff, in times when the mayor was seen as something more than the mainly ceremonial role played today. It’s clear from the Courier’s review that Markham had given the council (he sat on all the committees as mayor) the benefits of his considerable knowledge.


But there had been also been some difficult issues – perhaps in particular the August 1911 railway riot. Here Markham had to read the riot act, in order to deploy military forces against striking and rioting railway workers.

The Chesterfield Railway Riots were one of a number of disturbances nationwide during the railway strike of 1911. As mayor, Markham took a leading, but not uncontroversial role in quelling them. These extracts are taken from the Derbyshire Courier of Tuesday 29 August 1911. The Courier appears to have been a particular supporter of Markham.

The extension of the borough in 1910 had not realised all the corporation’s wishes. Their desire to extend into Whittington and completely into Newbold was not met. Thus were sunk aspirations to become a county borough.

Due to the extension, elections were required to the council.  In those days the electorate for the town council was much more limited than today – more likely to vote for those, as Frank Wright in his volume (IV) of the History of Chesterfield puts it; the ‘shop-keepers, professional men, manufacturers and engineers’ that were elected to the council.

Indeed, the unofficial opposition during the period was mainly from Chesterfield Trades Council (the group still with us today of trades unions in the area). They had, for example, written to Markham (as mayor) in April 1910, objecting to the £4,000 that was to be spent on the Queen’s Park Annex.  So, the elections of November 1910 returned the usual mix of people. Perhaps the return of the status-quo was somewhat celebrated at the complimentary dinner a year later. Entertaining was, of course, much more lavish back then and Markham and his cohorts would have been used to rather more food than we are today. More (albeit earlier) examples of this type of entertaining are given by Markham’s sister -Violet – in her autobiography ‘Return passage’.

The complimentary dinner does not seem to have attracted the Courier’s attention, though that newspaper’s rival – the Derbyshire Times – did briefly mention it in fulsome terms. But it lamented that a fuller report could not be given due to the private nature of the event. The newspaper was able to record that the duke of Devonshire’s speech apparently embodied the ‘highest ideals of public service, and one which might cause many of the critics of municipal management to think furiously’. The menu was not mentioned.

One might imagine that the vast majority of Chesterfield residents would have been quite surprised, with some of them possibly outraged at the dinner’s menu and indeed the expense of whole event.

The printed menu booklet ended with a list of mayors from 1835. When Markham was first elected as such in 1896 he would have been in his early 30s. The menu measures about 130mm x 205mm, comprises eight pages (including the front cover) – with six printed pages.


  • The complimentary dinner menu.
  • Derbyshire Courier 4 and 11 November 1911.
  • Derbyshire Times, 4 November 1911.
  • V Markham, Return passage (1953).
  • J Murphy, ‘Chesterfield’s drill halls’ The Cestrefeld Journal, number 8, 2023.
  • TF Wright History of Chesterfield volume IV (1992).
  • Chesterfield yearbook and directory for 1913.

Why this bit of London is in Derbyshire – David Mellor and his legacy

As something a little different from our normal posts, we look at the enduring legacy of David Mellor – master metalworker – and why you’ll find a London bus shelter in a Derbyshire village!

Why is this London bus shelter in Derbyshire? Or for that matter what are the traffic lights or the square post-box and the bollards doing in a corner of Derbyshire – at Hathersage – in the county’s Peak District? The answer is really quite simple – David Mellor (1930-2009) – as these are all products of the late designer and master metalworker, who in 1990 established a factory in the village.

David Mellor – early life

Best known for his range of cutlery, which can justifiably be called ‘iconic’, Mellor was born in Sheffield to working-class parents. He won some acclaim, when only a youngster, building models of ships scrapped by city company Thomas W Ward.

Attending the junior department of the Sheffield College of Art he was given and developed knowledge of metalworking, pottery, house painting and decorating. Progressing to the Royal College of Art (RCA) he continued to develop his interests, not only in cutlery and silverware, but contemporary design in its wider sense.

He attended the RCA from 1950 for four years, after his National Service. During his time there he designed his ‘Pride’ cutlery range, which was made by Sheffield cutlers Walker & Hall. It’s still made today – at the factory he much later established in Hathersage. As an example of his much wider design interests David Mellor designed a lighting column for Abacus (who have a manufacturing plant in Nottinghamshire to this day) during his final term at the RCA.

In business

Returning to his native city Mellor set-up a studio-workshop there, where he was shortly to become Walker and Hall’s design consultant (their factory was adjacent). His designs encompassed pieces in silver, silver plate and stainless steel. His wider interests saw him design a solid fuel convector heater and the Abacus manufactured bus shelter pictured above – first produced in 1959. Other items of street furniture followed, including litter bins, outdoor seating and more bus shelters.

Some more examples of David Mellor’s design work, situated outside his Hathersage, Derbyshire premises, including the controversial post box.

Park Lane

In 1960 he had constructed a purpose-built home, design studio and factory at Park Lane, in the Sheffield suburb of Broomhill. There followed many commissions for work including silver and other metal ware for cathedrals, universities and churches, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and others. A major commission for British Embassies saw him design and his company make a prestigious range of silverware and cutlery. In the 1970s a series of designs for tools saw him work on such diverse objects as garden secateurs and a very successful range of industrial saws for Eclipse tools.  The controversial square pillar box was via a Post Office commission from 1966. Around the same period Mellor designed a range of cutlery for use in government canteens and the NHS – such was his reach.

Apart from his cutlery – much of which is currently in production – perhaps his most commonly encountered creations are the traffic lights and pedestrian signals of the 1960s – still in use today.

Broom Hall

Mellor purchased and converted Broom Hall, Sheffield, in 1973. This part Tudor/part Georgian building was carefully restored as his new home, studio and cutlery factory. New designs, particularly of cutlery, continued to flow. Shops were opened and the business expanded.


So to the Derbyshire Peak District, where in the 1980s David Mellor commissioned the Michael Hopkins Partnership to adapt the site of the former village gas works. Opened in 1990 the Round Building – where cutlery is manufactured – sits on the site of the former gas holder. Other buildings such as the retort house and offices have been converted into living space, offices and design areas. The buildings, in particular the Round Building, have received much praise and many architectural awards.

The award winning Round Building at Hathersage – the modern manufacturing base of David Mellor Design Ltd.

Today the facility includes not only retail space, but what we think is a rather good café and, importantly, a small design museum. Here you can marvel at the legacy that is David Mellor and the continuing high-level of design and manufacturing still carried out in his name by son Corrin. For it is he who continues to design cutlery, architectural features, tableware and other products at this architectural and design gem, which is well worth a visit.

Further information

If you want to know more about the Mellors, the Round Building and other aspects of their work we would particularly recommend ‘David Mellor, Master Metalworker’, now in its third edition, published by David Mellor Design and available from the company. For further details about the Round Building, of which bookable tours are available, and of the design museum see the company’s website.

This excellent book, in its 2013 edition, covers David Mellor’s career, along with the designs and premises he created. We have used it in this account.