New plaque unveiled

Our new plaque (photo Howard Borrell)

The latest in our series of blue plaques – celebrating buildings and people around Chesterfield – has been unveiled at the University of Derby’s Sheffield Road premises – once St Helena Girls’ High School.

The plaque, unveiled on 7 March 2022, marks the former school and its architect George Henry Widdows – recognised as a leading and influential designer of school buildings.

The school, which was opened in 1911 closed in 1991. In recent years, after a period of use by the county council for offices, the building has been thoroughly restored by the University of Derby. Today it acts as their Chesterfield campus, specialising in health and nursing courses. The building is grade II listed.

As the plaque, which is mounted on one of the entrance gate pillars, explains, the school had its origins in nearby East Bank in the early 1890s. Demand grew, with plans for a new school passed in 1909. The county education committee and their architect saw to it that only the best materials were used on what was a difficult sloping site. The whole building cost £24,000. In those days the school was fee paying, though some pupils were awarded grants by the county council for all or part of their education.

First known as the girls’ high school, in 1947 it was renamed St Helena School – a medieval chapel dedicated to St Helen had once stood nearby.

We’d like to thank the University of Derby, Chesterfield Borough Council and our members who have all contributed to this, our latest plaque.

Plaque unveiled. Far right is our chairman Philip Riden, stood next to former pupil Dr Maureen Strelley who performed the unveiling. Far left is our treasurer/secretary Frank Gorman.
Gathering. We were extremely grateful to the University of Derby for allowing us to site the plaque on their premises and for hosting the event, which included a buffet after the unveiling.
Our secretary/treasurer Frank Gorman speaks at the gathering before the plaque is unveiled.

Read more about the building and GH Widdows by downloading the pdf below.

This post was updated on 8 March 2022 to add the history notes download and correct some minor errors and omissions.

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