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.

Gas for commercial vehicles in the 1930s

In this blog we look briefly at a failed attempt by Chesterfield neighbours Bryan Donkin and the Chesterfield Tube Company to enter the commercial vehicle gas propulsion market.

We looked at the history of the former Chesterfield Tube Company in our blogs back in April and May 2022.

Front cover of the Chesterfield Tube Company booklet.

In our April blog we briefly mentioned the following: ‘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.

We thought we’d share these photographs with you, which are taken from a 26-page booklet produced by the Chesterfield Tube Company in 1933, promoting the idea and the trials that were then taking place. They are presented courtesy of one of our members, but we believe there is a copy in Chesterfield Local Studies Library. The booklet must have been popular at the time, as it was reprinted a year later.

The tube company were interested as the gas was compressed into cylinders – hopefully produced by the company. Donkins were interested in the compression of the gas (they produced compressors) and in the filling station’s other apparatus.

The publication goes into some detail about how the experiment came about. One of the drivers was that coal gas was, at the time, being wasted in coke production, particularly in south Yorkshire and more locally. There was a failure to capture this gas and use. Issues around explosion fears, robustness of the traction cylinders to be employed, conversion of the petrol vehicles alongside ‘cruising range’ were all explored, in an upbeat publication.

The converted ex-petrol Chesterfield Corporation bus. This was a 1925 Bristol, number 65 in the fleet, originally with 31 seats, but with 32 by the time of the conversion. Road trials commenced in October 1932. The vehicle is seen here at the British Industries Fair. The gas charging station doors are conveniently open on the bottom photograph revealing the Bryan Donkin compressor set.

Illustrated in the booklet were a Chesterfield Corporation bus – having been converted – along with one of the  tube company’s own lorries, a Whitwood Chemical lorry (not illustrated here), a Chesterfield Corporation refuse lorry and a gas department lorry.

As we stated, the experiment petered out. Today the production of coal gas is now non-existent.

The illustration captions from the booklet have been retained in the selection reproduced here.

The converted Chesterfield Corporation refuse lorry is splendidly illustrated here. At this time these lorries would mainly have removed coal ash from open fires. In this pre-plastic packaging era most rubbish would be burnt on open fires, with food waste going on the garden compost heap. Many local people nick-named these lorries ‘dust carts’ as that is generally what they carted away – dust or ashes, unless these had been used on the garden footpath. As if to emphasise this the slogan on the vehicle reads ‘Reuse your ashes and save cartage on 3000 tons of cinders per year’.

The Oxcroft Settlement

It’s little known today but for a few years from 1936 until 1968 nearly 400 acres of land were part of an experiment in agricultural management, animal husbandry, horticulture and land tenancy, which we briefly look at in this blog.

This map of the Oxcroft Estate appeared in Fred Kitchen’s 1947 book of his experiences there – ‘Settlers in England’.

In February 1936 Derbyshire County Council bought Oxcroft farm (399 acres, about two miles north of Bolsover) from the 9th duke of Devonshire. The same year it was leased to the Land Settlement Association. Forty smallholdings were formed, intended to give unemployed men and their families a chance to make a living from the land.

Each holding had a semi-detached, three-bedroom house, 5 acres of land, a piggery and other buildings. A ‘central farm’ or ‘estate service depot’ was managed by the estate manager.

By the 1960s there were problems, which include a poor tenancy rate and air pollution from Coalite (Bolsover) and Staveley works – so much so that tomatoes were reported as having a taste problem.

The estate was closed in 1968 – the land and buildings were sold off.

Taken from Fred Kitchen’s 1947 book ‘‘Settlers in England’, is this line-drawing by EJ Brown, which shows the then community centre, which is still extant though is now dwellings.

Fred Kitchen wrote about his experiences as a tenant at Oxcroft in his book ‘Settlers in England’, published in 1947, by JM Dent & Son. The book is now fairly rare. Two of EJ Brown’s line-drawings for the book feature in this post.

The wary can still spot these semi-detached houses scattered on the near 400 acres of the Oxcroft estate. All were built to a near-standard pattern and included glasshouses and accommodation for animals, fowls and particularly pigs.
The estate houses are not difficult to spot, once you know what to look for, but most have been altered since construction.

There’s more about the Oxcroft Settlement in our VCH book ‘Bolsover and adjacent parishes’ and further information about Fred Kitchen here.

Recently (January 2023) Bolsover District Council announced that they were looking into the possibiloity of a conservation area in the former Oxcroft Settlement area.

This post was first published on our Facebook page on 10 October 2020, but has been edited for this website blog.

Sit awhile and remember Fred Kitchen

Next time you’re near Bolsover Library have a look and indeed sit awhile on a memorial seat to local author Fred Kitchen, who we remember in this post.

The sculptured seat to Fred Kitchen outside Bolsover Library.

We only briefly mentioned Kitchen in our Bolsover and adjacent parishes VCH ‘big red book’, mainly in connection with the Oxcroft Settlement, where his 1947 publication ‘Settlers in England’ helped record what it was like to live there.

The seat (in reality it’s much more than that) been made possible by local partners including Bolsover Civic Society, local councils and businesses.*

The seat was installed in 2021. It’s in the form of a central wooden seat with sculptured stone ends representing Kitchen’s books. Sculptor Andrew Tebbs was responsible for the stonework. There’s also a plaque which gives further details about Kitchen, who was born in Edwinstowe in 1890 and died in 1969.

A closer view of the seat, with the sculptured stonework at either end representing books that Fred Kitchen published.

From a farming community Fred Kitchen worked in what would have then been hard manual work as a farm labourer. He improved his basic education by enrolling in a Workers’ Educational Association class at Worksop, studying creative writing. His talents developed and he ended up having 16 books published, along with various other works. ‘Brother to the Ox’, an autobiographical work, was perhaps his most famous. It was even adapted as a television and radio play.

A lesser-known work is ‘Gosslington’ a fictious part of the Derbyshire moors, first published in 1965. This is the front cover of the 1967 paperback edition.
‘Settlers in England’ published in 1947 documents Fred Kitchen’s experience of living on the Oxcroft Settlement, near Bolsover. It contained a series of line-drawings by EJ Browne and a map of the estate. The front cover shows a typical small-holding.

Bolsover library also has a small display on Fred Kitchen and a collection of his books, so is well-worth a visit to find out more about this interesting character who wrote about local life and community.

*Bolsover Civic Society, Old Bolsover Town Council, Bolsover District Council, Derbyshire County Council, Rothstone, Morrisons Supermarket, NAL Plant, Stephen Wakelam and Bolsover Rotary.

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.

Wingerworth and its Lido railway

In this blog we take a look at a long-forgotten narrow gauge railway which ran for only a few years at Wingerworth’s Lido. No doubt it gave pleasure to many, but was probably a victim of the Second World War. We are currently researching Wingerworth for our next VCH spin-off book. The Lido and its railway will be included – we’d love to see pictures of it!

Captured in time. The Wingerworth Lido railway is shown on this extract for the 1938 Ordnance Survey 25-inch to one mile map. Described as ‘miniature railway’ its 2ft gauge actually makes it a narrow gauge railway! (National Library of Scotland).

A narrow-gauge railway at the Lido, which skirted the western and northern edges of the site, with a bridge over the north-west corner of the pond, was first mentioned in the Derbyshire Times of 5 July 1935.  

The Lido narrow gauge railway’s steam locomotive may well have looked like this – an illustration taken from manufacturer – Kerr Stuart’s – 1924 catalogue.

The single-track line had a large balloon loop at its north-eastern end and a smaller loop near Nethermoor Road, giving a total run of about a half a mile out and back. There was also a short siding at the western end of the line, adjacent to Nethermoor Road, next to a shed that presumably served as a station, and a longer siding which left the main line near the eastern balloon loop.

The track was laid to a gauge of 2 ft. The motive power was provided partly by an 0-4-0 saddle tank steam locomotive built by Kerr Stuart in 1915 bought second-hand (through T.W. Ward, the Sheffield merchants) from Sheffield Corporation. It was previously used at their Ewden Valley waterworks from 1931, during a phase that saw remedial works carried out.   It was repurchased by Wards in December 1935, who sold it simultaneously to T. H. Austin. Other motive power at Wingerworth Lido was provided by a four-wheel petrol mechanical loco, fitted with an 11 horse-power Morris engine, which may have been home-built.

1 shilling and 3 old pence return to Wingerworth Lido by bus, as advertised in the Derbyshire Times, 19 June 1936.

Originally part of the Hunloke Estate, the Lido itself had been purchased by Thomas Henry Austin (later the sole operator) and Frank Norman, both of Wingerworth, who developed the site commercially. In May 1934 the promoters announced the opening of ‘Ye old Smithy Pond’ for swimming, sunbathing and boating in and around the 5½ acre pond (which in the centre was 26 ft deep). There was an 18 ft diving stand, 12 rowing boats and several punts for hire, and two motor boats offered trips round the pond. The promoters were negotiating with East Midland Motor Services to provide a bus service from Chesterfield to Wingerworth, which apparently had not previously existed.  

The end of the Austin enterprise occurred after he was required, in 1939, by the Chesterfield rural district council, to construct better sanitary accommodation at the Lido. Austin’s plans to address this were presumably overtaken by the outbreak of war, when the venue appears to have closed down.

End of a short-lived era. The sale at Wingerworth Lido on 8 October 1941 included materials from the narrow gauge railway.(Derbyshire Times, 3 October 1941).

In October 1941 an auction was held of much of the equipment from the Lido, including the railway track and wagons, but not the locomotives. It appears that these had previously been returned to Wards. The rails, sleepers and wagons may have been requisitioned as scrap, since a newspaper report of the ‘remarkable’ sale makes no mention of them. It does, however, refer to the second-hand timber, sectional buildings, catering equipment and furniture, for which ‘extraordinarily good prices’ were realised, possibly because none of the items offered were obtainable new.

Austin, who lived at ‘Blackhill’, Wingerworth, died in March 1944, leaving effects valued at £4,570.

So ends this story of Wingerworth’s own narrow gauge railway. A short-lived affair, which never-the-less was doubtless enjoyed by many. And, among with the rest of the Lido attractions, helped bring a bus service to the village!

They’ll be much more about the Lido and lots more about Wingerworth in our forthcoming ‘History of Wingerworth’ VCH spin-off book, which we hope to publish later this year.

In the meantime, if you’ve any photos or recollections of the railway we’d love to hear from you.

Our thanks to R.T. Gratton, S.R. Band and the Industrial Railway Society for information in this blog, also to Rob Marriott and his Chesterfield History and Genealogy Facebook page for a useful discussion thread on the railway. We’ve also used contemporary newspaper accounts and Howard Bowtell’s 1977 book ‘Reservoir Railways of Manchester and the Peak’.

Season’s greetings

We’ll be taking a little break from our blogs over the Christmas and new year period.

We hope you have enjoyed our posts during 2022 and look forward to welcoming you back in mid-January 2023.

Season’s greetings from us all at Derbyshire VCH.

If you have purchased our Hasland book, published in the summer of 2022, we hope you have enjoyed it and found it interesting. We hope to publish a volume on Wingerworth in the first half of 2023 – so please keep a look out for this.

Our thanks to everyone who has supported us 2022, whether it has been through Derbyshire VCH membership, a member of our volunteer research group, contributing to our blogs, website and Facebook posts, buying our publications or simply reading this blog.

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

New thoughts on Birdholme House’s history

New research at The National Archives has identified that the story of Birdholme House is a little different to that described in our Hasland book. In this blog we’ll take a look at this house just inside the present borough boundary on Derby Road.

An earlier house than first thought

Birdholme House.

The first owner whose name can be firmly linked to the property is Joseph Bludworth, a member of a local merchant family, who paid tax on five hearths there in 1670. It now seems unlikely, as has been suggested in the past, that he was the builder of the house, which is originally of an earlier date. But, as yet, we don’t know who did build it.

A useful by-product of a recent planning application by CCS Media to make major internal changes to the house is the submission of detailed plans and elevations of the property as it currently exists. From these it is possible for the first time to appreciate how the seventeenth-century house was extended in the eighteenth century, after it was acquired by the Hunloke family.

The first house – a ‘tower house’

It now clear that the first house on the site was a three-storey ‘tower house’, with three rooms on each floor plus a staircase tower. This is a characteristic type of a small gentry house in north Derbyshire and south Yorkshire, of which Cutthorpe Old Hall is a well-preserved local example. At Birdholme House, as at Dunston Hall, the original structure was later enlarged and to some extent disguised by new building.

Tower houses do not seem to have been built after about 1630, and so Birdholme House is probably earlier than the rather vague ‘late seventeenth century’ date which has traditionally been ascribed to it. The interior of Birdholme House has in fact been altered a good deal over the years and, apart from the main staircase, there does not appear to be much left inside that could be described as ‘original’.

The Bludworths

As stated in our Hasland book Joseph Bludworth (or Bloodworth), married Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas Gladwin of Eddlestow (in Ashover) and Boythorpe (b. 1598). Joseph was a younger brother of Sir Thomas Bludworth of London, who was master of the Vintners’ Company, Lord Mayor and (briefly) MP for Southwark. He was a timber merchant trading with Turkey. Thomas, who died in 1682, and Joseph were the sons of John Bludworth, a London merchant originally from Derby, who died in 1648 and was for a time in partnership with Thomas Gladwin, probably in the lead trade. Joseph and Elizabeth Bludworth had a number of children baptised at either Wingerworth or North Wingfield between 1650 and 1667. He may be the ‘Mr Joseph Bloodworth’ who was buried at Dronfield on 2 December 1690.

Later ownership of Birdholme House

By 1717 Birdholme had been acquired by the Hunloke family of Wingerworth Hall and remained in their ownership until the break-up of the estate in 1920.

New light on Wingerworth’s history at the National Archives

In this blog we take a brief look at some new sources for the history of Wingerworth that have been identified. They’ll help us in our new account of Wingerworth, based largely on the work of David Edwards, which the Derbyshire VCH Trust hopes to published in 2023.

An Edwardian postcard of Wingerworth Hall. virtually all the muniments of the Hunloke family, who were the main owners in the parish between 1582 and 1920 and owned the hall, were destroyed when they sold the estate. The main part of the hall was subsequently demolished.

Reconstructing the history of Wingerworth in detail has always been difficult because of the loss of virtually all the muniments of the Hunloke family, who were the main owners in the parish between 1582 and 1920. Thanks to the power of electronic finding aids, however, a considerable amount of new light has been shed on both the Hunloke family and Wingerworth generally by a study of a lengthy series of law suits dating from between 1648 (when Sir Henry Hunloke, who fought for Charles I in the Civil War died aged only 29) and the 1680s.

These cases, mostly heard in the Court of Chancery, involved his son and heir, his widow, her second husband, his mother and her second husband, the executors of his will, and a long list of people who claimed that they were owed money by him. Taken together they show that Sir Henry was already in debt when he unwisely committed himself to the King’s cause in 1642, as a result of which he was heavily fined by Parliament, which made his financial position much worse. The estate was further weakened by nearly forty years of litigation over his will.

Another point that emerges from the lawsuits is that the industrial resources of the Wingerworth estate were seen as important in the mid seventeenth century. Litigants were very interested in the revenue from coal and ironstone mines, the ironworks and the corn mill on the estate, as well as the rents from farms and cottages.

The new information gleaned from some twenty different cases will be incorporated into an account of Wingerworth, based largely on the work of David Edwards, which the Derbyshire VCH Trust hopes to publish in the first half of 2023.

Marks & Spencers in Chesterfield

It’s the end of an era in Chesterfield as the town centre branch of Marks & Spencers (M&S) closes on 29 November 2022, to be replaced by a newer facility in nearby Ravenside Retail Park. We thought we’d take a quick look at M&S in the town to mark the event.

Marks & Spencers – a familiar sight on Chesterfield’s High Street and Market Place, but is set to move to a new home at the end of November 2022.

Early history

The early history of Marks and Spencer is well-known, so we won’t repeat it here – suffice to say that Michael Marks, after starting a simple market stall in Leeds went on to open a series of ‘penny bazaars’ in various towns and cities before the First World War. Thomas Spencer was Mark’s business partner from 1894.

The original retail concept came under pressure by rising inflation and was subsequently reinvented by Simon Marks (Michael’s son) and Thomas Spencer after the First World War. Public listing gave expansion plans a boost and a series of shops were opened across the country. It wasn’t until 26 May 1933 that M&S opened their shop in Chesterfield. They selected a site on 2-6 High Street. The original building comprised the left-hand section of the present reddish brick and white stone structure.

New store for M&S – from the Derbyshire Times of 7 May 1933. The illustration to the top is misleading as the newspaper clearly describes the building as having ‘… two floors over the sales floor level, which are utilised for stock accommodation, office staff, tea room.’

The Derbyshire Times of 27 May 1933 enthusiastically reported that much interest had been caused in the town by this new ‘super store’, erected by ‘Messrs. Bovis, London, the striking frontage of Empire stone and Jacobean brick being 150 feet in height and 40 feet wide. On the ground floor the sales department is divided into approximately 20 departmental counter displayers, comprising a wide range of merchandise.’ Two floors above were used for ‘stock accommodation, office staff, tea room, etc.’ Fifty girls from Chesterfield and district were employed at the store.

Previously the Derbyshire Times (1 October 1932) had reported that M&S had practically completed negotiations with the owner of their proposed site. Apparently, this had been occupied for many years by Mr. HJ Cook, who had moved his business to Cavendish Street. ‘The store, we are informed will occupy a part of the yard and back premises of Mr. Peter Warner, fishmonger, with whom readjustment of lease has been made, and will stretch right through to Knifesmith Gate. We are informed that it is hoped to have an entrance both from the Market Place and also from Knifesmith Gate.’

Extension and reconstruction

The store was obviously successful as it was reconstructed and extended in 1938. It took over the former shop of Blackshaw & Sons, who were bakers at number 8 High Street.

Under reconstruction in 1938. The ‘ER’ just visible to the extreme left marks Warner’s fishmonger’s shop. The reconstruction was rather clever, in that it included redesigning the fifth bay and installing a new stone window surround at first floor level. Today you would never know that the original store ended at that bay – the reconstruction resulting in a near perfectly symmetrical frontage. (From TF Wright’s History of Chesterfield, volume IV).
The M&S store after reconstruction and extension in 1938. Note the bays added have been carefully designed to blend in with the original five bays, which were nearest the camera. Peter Warner’s fishmongers’ shop is next up towards the camera, followed by Hadfield’s butchers. (M&S Archive – P2/87/66).

Recent history

It’s not entirely clear when further modernisation to the premises was made, but the Knifesmithgate elevation and goods loading bay appears to have been substantially remodelled, perhaps in the 1970s.

M&S were still clearly on an expansion trend in the town.  In 1965 the well-known Hadfield’s pork butchers and provision merchants closed. M&S appear to have bought the site for expansion, but standing between this site and their shop on High Street was MacFisheries, as successor to Peter Warner’s shop. A new shop was constructed on the site of Hadfield’s in about 1967 – MacFisheries moving to this shop – their old shop next to M&S was then demolished – leaving a  gap, which was filled by scaffolding and a hoarding for some years.

This late 1960s postcard shows the Market Place and High Street, just prior to the demolition of buildings for the Littlewood’s store (now Primark). If you look carefully MacFisheries new store can be seen after the white pillared building (TP Wood’s – though there‘s an out-of-view building between Wood’s and MacFisheries), with a gap between the new MacFisheries and M&S. This was the site of Peter Warner’s/MacFisheries’ old shop.

The Derbyshire Times of 6 October 1978 announced the ‘shock’ closure of MacFisheries’ store ‘by early next year’ (when the ‘freehold’ property was described as having been constructed 11 years ago). By 1980 work was underway to convert the former store as an expansion to M&S. On opening access to the converted MacFisheries was via a short walkway, inside, to/from the left of the left-hand M&S High Street entrance. This took shoppers into the converted ground floor of the former MacFisheries’ building.

The former MacFisheries’ building (to the left) vacant on 2 September 1979. This was constructed about 1967 on the site of the well-known Chesterfield butchers and provision merchants S Hadfield & Sons. The original M&S building of 1933 is to the extreme right. Notice the signpost on this M&S building – ‘High Street’ – for this marked the end of the Market Place and beginning of that street. (P Cousins).
By June 1980 conversion of the former MacFisheries’ building was well underway into an extension of M&S. (P Cousins).

In the early 1980s the former MacFisheries’ (now M&S) building and the space between that and M&S main High Street store, were filled by a modern building, which brought a first-floor coffee shop to M&S for the first time – a feature that will be missing in the new Ravenside shop.

More interest?

As one might expect, buildings in this area have an interesting history, which we hope to explore in a future blog. In this area, for example, was the failed Chesterfield & North Derbyshire Bank, the Derbyshire Courier offices (a now defunct Chesterfield newspaper taken over by the Derbyshire Times in the 1920s) and also the town’s first post office. To add to the interest, at some stage Peter Warner had also occupied a building on the site of Hadfield’s. Both this building and their shop next to M&S were separate properties, but appear to have been possibly re-fronted as some stage in the same style.

You can access a 1959 view of the Chesterfield Market Place and High Street areas on Picture the Past by following the link – On that image the premises of Hadfield & Sons can be seen with Peter Warner’s fishmongers sandwiched between them and M&S. Both Hadfield’s and Warner’s former sites form part of an extension to the M&S Chesterfield High Street branch, set for its last trading day on 29 November 2022.

Sources used in this blog have included our ‘Chesterfield streets and houses’ book, T F Wright’s volume IV of the ‘History of Chesterfield…’, contemporary editions of the Derbyshire Times and Borough of Chesterfield official directories from 1959, 1965, 1967, 1971 and 1973.

Chesterfield’s railway stations: a short history

Chesterfield formerly had three railway stations in or adjacent to the town centre. But it didn’t end there, as a further seven were contained within what would now be Chesterfield borough. In this blog – a version of which first appeared in the Derbyshire Times – we take a brief look at these stations.

Stations weren’t just closed in the so-called Beeching era of British Railways (the 1960s under a plan developed by the then Chairman). Some were surprisingly early losses as competing company lines were closed. In Chesterfield borough, for example, the lines of three formerly competing companies once served the town – the Midland Railway, Great Central Railway and the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway. Of these only the former Midland station is still in business – at the bottom of Corporation Street. All the other railway stations in today’s borough have closed.

Station names can change, but we’ve used those that most people might remember. The closure dates we give here relate to passenger services. It’s worth remembering that some stations retained a goods service after they closed to passengers.

Chesterfield Midland Station – open but reconstructed.

Chesterfield’s remaining railway station, at the bottom of Corporation Street and on the NE/SW and London route, is the town’s earliest.

It was first opened in 1840 as part of the North Midland Railway’s Derby to Leeds line. Construction of this line brought George Stephenson to live at Tapton House, not far away from the railway station, where he died in 1848. Stephenson was the engineer in chief of the line (with his son Robert). George was regarded as the so-called ‘father of the railways’ and is commemorated by a statue outside the station by Stephen Hickling which was unveiled in 2005. It was, though, Stephenson’s understudy Frederick Swanwick who took most of the decisions during the line’s construction. George Stephenson is buried in nearby Trinity Church.

In 1844 the North Midland Railway amalgamated with three other companies to form the Midland Railway. A ‘grouping’ of railways in 1923 resulted in the Midland becoming part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, until nationalised in 1948.

The first Chesterfield station pictured in a Samuel Russell lithograph. The stations were designed by Francis Thompson. The detached building to the left is probably a water tower and steam driven pump house. This station was swept away in works to construct a direct line to Sheffield, which was opened in 1870. Today’s main-line railway station stands roughly on the site.

It appears that North Midland House – the isolated property which has the station car park behind it – may have been built out of repurposed masonry fragments from Francis Thomson’s original station building. These were probabaly salvaged when a new station was constructed in the late 1860s to early 1870, about 200 yards north of the first building, to accommodate the opening of the current direct line to Sheffield (opened in 1870). Until that time passengers for the city had to travel to Rotherham Masborough and catch a local train from there to Sheffield.

The rather austere exterior of the 1870 opened Midland Railway station. (Taken from TP Wood’s Almanac for 1900).

The 1870 station was rebuilt in the early 1960s (in stages). This building was itself replaced in 2000 by the present structure. Throughout the various rebuildings the 1870s station platform canopies have been retained albeit altered at some stage – they appear to have less glazing in them than their original configuration.

There were once extensive goods yards and sidings nearby (the site of the present car park), which included a brick built and a wooden built goods shed and stables for horses.

A November 2022 view of the station approach. The rebuilt station is to the left, with North Midland House to the right. Note the similarities of the chimneys and other masonry elements with those in the Russell lithograph. Are these an example of the reclaimed material from the original 1840 railway station?

Chesterfield Market Place Station (closed and demolished)

The Chesterfield Market Place Station of the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway. Next door, to the left, is the Portland Hotel. The station building was a sad loss when it was demolished in the early 1970s. (Collection P Cousins).

The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway’s Market Place Station (next to the Portland Hotel) was opened in 1897 and closed to passengers in 1951 (though a sparse goods service continued until spring 1957). After some years as a paint and carpet warehouse it was sadly demolished in 1973.

Though it was planned to, the railway never reached Lancashire nor the East Coast. It was taken over by the Great Central Railway (GCR) in 1907, became part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923 (when the railways were grouped into four big companies) and was part of British Railway’s (BR) Eastern Region from nationalisation in 1948.

From here you could catch trains to Lincoln, Mansfield and stations in between (for example Arkwright, Bolsover, etc.), though the service was always sparse.

The line was carried into the Market Place station via major engineering works. Most noteworthy was a viaduct at Horns Bridge, which towered above the area, including the Midland Railway and the Great Central Railway lines, which all crossed in this area. A very small remnant of this brick and iron lattice-work viaduct can been seen today, in the form of a blue-brick pillar backing on to the Midland Railway line at the Horn’s Bridge A61/A617 roundabout.

An extensive goods shed and yard was near the station. In the line’s early years, a small steam locomotive engine shed was also situated nearby. The station and goods yard hosted an, at one time, well-remembered centenary death of George Stephenson railway exhibition in 1948. The goods yard, on West Bars, later formed the home of Arnold Laver timber merchants.

The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway never reached the east coast nor ventured further westwards from Chesterfield, its passenger service was always sparse, though it did tap some useful colliery outlets and it constructed a handsome headquarters in its Market Place station. The line was later connected with the Great Central Railway via a series of junctions at Duckmanton (after the date of this map). These opened in 1907 the same year the GCR purchased the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway. (Map taken from Pendleton and Jacques ‘Modern Chesterfield’ (1903)).

Chesterfield Central Station (closed and demolished)

The last passenger train (a special) – headed by the ‘Flying Scotsman’ steam locomotive on its way from Sheffield to London Marylebone – 15 June 1963 (it did not revisit the so-called ‘Chesterfield Loop’ on which this station stood, on its way back). The station’s booking (ticket) office was at street level, with stairways down to the platforms. Services were mainly local – to/from Nottingham Victoria and Sheffield Victoria. (The late Chris Hollis, collection P Cousins)

Another demolished station was the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway’s (later GCR) buildings on Infirmary Road. Its site is now covered by the inner relief road – officially known as ‘Great Central Way’ – which opened in 1985.

The station was built as part of a branch off the company’s then new ‘Derbyshire Lines’ Beighton to Annesley extension. Work on making the line into a loop had started while the branch to Chesterfield Central was still being built. This involved construction of a tunnel through Chesterfield, part of which still remains. The original constructing company – the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway – then built a new mainline to London Marylebone. The company changed its name in 1897 to the Great Central Railway, anticipating the opening (in 1899) of this new line. What became the ‘Chesterfield Loop’ departed the mainline just south of Staveley Central Station, re-joining it again near Heath. 

Having opened in 1892, the station passed into LNER hands in 1923, then into BR’s Eastern Region in 1948. It closed in early March 1963.

Like other stations on the Chesterfield Loop, passenger services were mainly local – to/from Nottingham Victoria and Sheffield Victoria. A very limited number of expresses did call at the Chesterfield station at varying periods during its existence.

An extensive brick-built goods shed and sidings were nearby.

The Infirmary Road booking office buildings (with platforms below), after the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway had renamed itself the Great Central Railway in anticipation of opening its new mainline to London. The entrance to the Chesterfield tunnel would have been just behind the photographer to the right. (Taken from TP Wood’s Almanac for 1900)
Chesterfield Midland Station is to the right on this late 1890s map extract – this station still serves the town. The Great Central Railway’s Chesterfield Central Station is to the left. The two parallel dotted lines running from that station are the line of Chesterfield tunnel. Both stations, especially the Midland, once had extensive goods facilities including warehouses. Chesterfield Brewery was latterly the site of Trebor – it is now demolished and the site of the Chesterfield Waterside regeneration scheme. (Derbyshire XXV.6, revised: 1897 to 1898, published: 1898. Courtesy National Library of Scotland).

Sheepbridge and Brimington Station (closed and demolished)

This lovely Edwardian photograph shows the two station platforms, the signal box and footbridge, with presumably the station master and some of his staff and possibly family, posed for the camera. We are looking towards Chesterfield in this view. The booking office is amongst the left-hand set of buildings. (Collection P Cousins).
Sheepbridge and Brimington Station was situated at the bottom of Wheeldon Mill. Its position is shown here in this 1947 Ordnance Survey Map. (SK43/37 – A, publication date: 1947. Courtesy National Library of Scotland).

The next station on the GCR’s Chesterfield Loop towards Staveley was Sheepbridge and Brimington, at the bottom of Wheeldon Mill. Its site is now mainly occupied by a haulage business – though the former station master’s house still survives.

Like that at Chesterfield, stations on this part of the GCR were of wooden construction and were lauded by railway historian Gordon Biddle as being amongst the best of their type.

This station opened in June 1892 and closed in early 1956. The platform buildings on the left in our photograph had survived, albeit minus their canopies, until April 2010, when they were destroyed by fire.

Staveley Works for Barrow Hill Station (closed and demolished)

The two platforms for the station were carried over the canal at the Hollingwood Hub. The brickwork, either side of the lock gate, is a remnant of the bridge abutments on top of which the platforms were carried. Part of the canal was diverted here to enable construction of the railway. The 1892 datestone was originally situated above the entrance to the GCR’s Chesterfield tunnel on Infirmary Road. It’s insertion in the embankment wall is more recent. (P Cousins).

Next towards Staveley on the GCR Chesterfield Loop line was Staveley Works (for Barrow Hill) Station. This was carried over the Chesterfield canal on a bridge, in the area of the present Hollingwood Hub. Some of these embankments and their abutments still survive.

This wooden station building, like Chesterfield Central, also opened in 1892 and closed in early March 1963. 

The 1892 datestone in a nearby wall was originally at the Chesterfield Tunnel entrance portal on Infirmary Road. It was rescued from storage by members of the Chesterfield Canal Trust.

Staveley Central Station (closed and demolished)

Once a busy station – now a road. Where the platforms would have been at Staveley Central, taken from the Lowgates road bridge. (P Cousins).
Staveley Central had typical ‘Derbyshire Lines’ wooden buildings, including those at the Lowgates overbridge and at platform level. (The late Fred Wood, collection P Cousins).

The GCR’s loop joined their mainline just south of Staveley Central Station. Situated at Lowgates this station is now the route of the A6192 Ireland Close.

Here were more wooden buildings, opening in 1892 and closing in early March 1963. Nearby was a large engine shed (closed 1966) and railway workers’ housing.

As the station at Staveley was on the mainline, trains travelled through it (but did not usually call) until 1966 – when services on the mainline were finally withdrawn. Indeed, freight carried on longer as the line was then used by coal trains to/from Arkwright Colliery.

Nearby the station was a once extensive goods yard with goods shed.

Platform remains were still visible at the former Staveley Central Station until the new A6192 Ireland Close highway was constructed from 2007. The Lowgates road overbridge is situated to the extreme left. This was completely rebuilt as part of the road construction works. The railway line had survived here for some time as access to the former Arkwright Colliery. (The late Fred Wood, collection P Cousins).

Staveley Town Station (closed – street level building survives)

Though it was closed in the early 1950s Staveley Town station, on the former Midland Railway, still survives – its roadside booking office converted into a house. (P Cousins).

A little further eastwards from the GCR’s station at Lowgates was the Midland Railway’s Staveley Town station, at Netherthorpe, opened in 1888 and closed in 1951, a road-side building, presumably the booking office, still survives on Fan Road.

The platforms were in a cutting behind and below this building. This was not a mainline station – the route ran to/from Mansfield and Chesterfield Midland station via Clowne.

The two Staveley railway stations taken from 1890s Ordnance Survey maps. Netherthorpe Station on the Midland Railway was renamed Staveley Town in 1900. The GCR’s Staveley Town Station wasn’t renamed Staveley Central until 1950, some two years after British Railways had taken over operations. The houses to the south (bottom of the station (marked ‘Railway’ for ‘Railway Terrace’) were built by the GCR to house its workers. Beyond these was the large engine shed. (Right; Derbyshire Sheet XIX.SW revised: 1897, published: 1899, left Derbyshire Sheet XVIII.SE, revised: 1897, published: 1899. Courtesy National Library of Scotland).

Sheepbridge & Whittington Moor station (closed, street-level buildings survive)

Sheepbridge and Whittington Moor Station buildings still survive at the junction of Station Road and the B6057. (P Cousins).

When the Midland Railway opened their direct line from the still in business Chesterfield railway station to Sheffield in 1870, some local stations were also included. Sheepbridge and Whittington Moor station was just one of these.

The booking office still survives at street level, as does the station master’s house, painted white in this photograph. The station closed in 1967, but was used for engineering works diversions until 1975.

Barrow Hill and Whittington stations (both closed, both demolished)

Shuttles from Chesterfield’s only remaining railway station at the bottom of Corporation Street were run to the surviving platform at Barrow Hill station for some of the railway roundhouse open days in British Rail times. The buildings fronting Station Road had been demolished some years earlier. Here’s a diesel multiple-unit at the station on 5 October 1980, with passengers about to board from the remaining platform, by then devoid of any facilities. (P Cousins).
Whittington Station as shown on this 1899 Ordnance Survey map. The platforms spanned the bridleway which runs from Station Road, Whittington to Bilby Lane at Brimington. (Derbyshire Sheet XVIII.SE, revised: 1897, published: 1899, Courtesy National Library of Scotland).

Until the Midland Railway constructed their direct line to Sheffield the city, as we have previously mentioned, was accessed via a line that went to Rotherham Masborough, opening in 1840 and constructed by the North Midland Railway. In the present Chesterfield borough were two stations situated on this line which both replaced much earlier ones. 

Replacing an earlier structure, Barrow Hill station opened in 1888 and closed in 1954, though was used for trains to the nearby Barrow Hill railway roundhouse open days into the 1980s. This station is part of a bid to reopen the line to passengers. Today there is little in the way of remains, though it is possible to trace the lower part of the booking office wall which was situated nearly opposite the Barrow Hill Memorial Hall. The current Barrow Hill Roundhouse is situated nearby.

Whittington opened in 1873 and closed in 1952, but excursion trains still called until at least 1977. (There was an earlier station at Whittington, which had opened October 1861, closing when the 1873 station opened).

Names and renames and more about openings and closings

Most if not all of the stations we have covered in this blog would have carried another name or names at some stage. If you are interested in this aspect of railway station history or want more details about station opening and closing dates, we’d recommend you have a look at an on-line version of Michael Quick’s Railway Passenger Stations in Great Britain: a Chronology – The Railway & Canal Historical Society (

This post was slightly edited on 21 December 2022, to make it clear that the second Midland station at Chesterfield was built around 200 yards north of the 1840 station. The picture of the 1870s Midland Railway station and a revised picture of Chesterfield Central Railway station (both from TP Wood’s Almanac for 1900) were added on 28 December 2022.