It will take a long time before ‘normality’ is resumed, and it’s unlikely we are going to see any public meetings before the end of the first quarter of 2021. However, the Committee met this month at the St Thomas’s Centre, and plans to continue doing so while the current rules on social interaction remain in force. St Thomas’s did a remarkable job in providing a safe environment, with a comfortably distancing meeting room and all possible health measures provided. We give them our thanks.
This note is being mounted on the Civic Society website to provide some historical background to the planning application, currently under consideration by Chesterfield Borough Council, by the owners of Manor Farm House, 118 The Green, Hasland, Chesterfield, to re-roof the property. The Civic Society would prefer to see traditional Derbyshire stone flags used if possible, rather than the Spanish slate specified in the application . Manor House Farm is a grade II listed building; unusually for such buildings, it is of both architectural and historical interest.
The following history has been made available by the Derbyshire Victoria County History Trust, which hopes later in 2020 to publish an interim account of the former civil parish of Hasland, in which Manor Farm House lies.
The document can be downloaded as a PDF here
A talk by Rachel Walker, Project Manager, Don Catchment Rivers Trust at 2.30pm in the Suite at St Thomas’ Centre Chatsworth Road
Don Catchment Rivers Trust are an independent charitable trust, aiming to improve rivers in the catchment. They are currently working on a project in and around Chesterfield, which includes volunteering to help clean up streams, working with local groups to research the history of the area, and make improvements to river habitats.
Many of us will have seen the recent DCRT exhibition in Chesterfield Museum, and here is an opportunity to learn more about this fascinating and important work.
Please also visit the DCRT website at https://dcrt.org.uk/
For location details and directions , please click on the picture .
Members free. Visitors welcome £2.00 including refreshments .
Chesterfield and District Civic Society
A future for the site of the Chesterfield Hotel
The Chesterfield Hotel was built in 1876–7, a few years after the Midland Railway rebuilt its station at Chesterfield on its present site (a short distance to the north of the first station of 1840). The hotel stood at the foot of Corporation Street, which was itself laid out by the Borough Council in the early 1870s as a more impressive approach to the station than the original road, part of which survives as Station Back Lane.
The hotel, which is built of brick with pitched slate roofs on a quadrangular plan around a central courtyard, was extended three times. Two more or less matching wings were built at either end of the original block, one on Corporation Street and the other on Malkin Street. The last extension was much less satisfactory – in brick which did not match that of the earlier phases, with windows that were not the same size or shape, and in part a flat roof.
The setting of the hotel was not improved by the decision to sever Corporation Street as a motor road when the Inner Relief Road was built, separating it from the other commercial buildings higher up the street, and leaving it in not very splendid isolation, flanked by minor roads on three sides and the Inner Relief Road on the fourth.
Known for most of its life as the Station Hotel, it was renamed the Chesterfield Hotel in the 1980s, presumably because the older name had rather down-at-heel connotations, although the later name was essentially meaningless.
The Station Hotel set out from the start to be Chesterfield’s leading hotel. For much of the twentieth century it was one of Mansfield Brewery’s leading residential houses and was featured a good deal in the company’s advertising. It was a three-star hotel, whereas its nearest rival, the Hotel Portland of 1899, also a railway hotel, was Chesterfield’s two-star hotel.
For many local people, the hotel is probably most affectionately remembered as a function venue, rather than as somewhere to stay. It was for decades the place to have an engagement party, wedding reception, retirement do or whatever. It was a popular choice for club dinners and lunches, as well as business meetings, fashion shows, trade exhibitions and the like.
Hotels of this sort in not particularly wealthy medium-sized provincial towns have not had an easy time in recent decades and for most local people it was probably disappointing, rather than surprising, when it ceased trading. It was presumably a very expensive building to maintain and, despite the efforts of recent operators, was arguably doomed from the day the Casa opened on Whittington Moor, which (despite its uninspiring location alongside a four-lane dual carriageway with an outlook onto car dealerships and a supermarket) does provide Chesterfield with a good class modern four-star hotel.
The recent past
After the Chesterfield Hotel closed it was sold to its present owners, Prestige Hotels (Midlands) Ltd. Despite its impressive name, this appears to be a shell company run by a syndicate of business people living in south-east England, whose registered office is a modest private house in Bushey (Hertfordshire). It was incorporated in 2016 with issued capital of £1, and its most recently available balance sheet shows assets valued at £0.98m. and liabilities, principally it appears a mortgage on the Chesterfield Hotel, of £1.07m. We have been unable to locate any hotels, prestigious or otherwise, in the Midlands or elsewhere, owned or operated by the company.
It is just possible that the company did once intend to reopen the building as a hotel, although the only work they did was to board up the ground floor to make the building look even worse than before they bought it. An attempt to install short-term tenants as ‘guardians’ fell foul of public health and fire safety legislation. It seems rather more likely that the company intended from the start to sell the site on, probably with a view to it being redeveloped by others with more capital than themselves.
Some time after the property was sold, Chesterfield Borough Council announced ambitious plans to redevelop the whole of the approach from the station up to St Mary’s Gate, including land on either side of both Corporation Street and a new road parallel to it. Much of this area is currently either unoccupied or used as temporary car-parks. All of it is extremely unattractive and gives a very poor impression to visitors arriving at the station. The area clearly needs comprehensive redevelopment and the council’s plans have been generally welcomed.
The other major development in recent years is the Waterside scheme, occupying a large area immediately to the north of the Chesterfield Hotel. This promises to transform what has for years been a very bleak area, comprising the site of the former Trebor sweet factory, Arnold Laver’s timber yard, S. & J. Kitchen’s engineering works, and the old Great Central Railway station and goods yard. The retention of the Chesterfield Hotel (and for that matter the former county police station and court house on Brimington Road, now largely unoccupied) would seriously detract from the setting of the Waterside development.
Arguably, the whole area from the Inner Relief Road to the northern end of Waterside needs completely redeveloping as a mixed-use area, including a good proportion of reasonably priced housing. It is simply not practicable to retain prominent, but architecturally unremarkable and economically unviable, buildings on the edge of what is meant to be a prestigious landmark development. At the same time, it would be impossible to create a new approach to the station if the hotel building was retained.
For all these reasons, the Civic Society believes that the Borough Council was right to allow the Chesterfield Hotel to be demolished. Civic societies are dedicated to campaigning for the improvement of the built environment in their local community. They are not ‘preservation societies’. Improving the built environment sometimes means demolishing buildings which have outlived their useful life. The Chesterfield Hotel falls into that category.
What is now important is that whatever takes the place of the Chesterfield Hotel enhances this very run-down part of the town. We need to look forward, not back. The current owners of the site are proposing that it should be redeveloped with a commercial building with car-parking, as part of the Borough Council’s overall scheme for the improvement of the approach to the station. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this idea but we would like to suggest an alternative.
Although another residential hotel on the scale of the Chesterfield Hotel is unlikely to be economically viable on this site, arguably there is a demand for some hotel and catering services in this part of the town. People sometimes have time to kill waiting for a train and would prefer to do so in more comfortable surroundings than a station buffet; business and professional people come to Chesterfield by train for meetings and do not wish to venture further from the station than necessary; and there is a demand from local business people for somewhere to meet for a drink or a meal within walking distance of the town centre (which the Casa is not). The site is also close to both the theatres in Chesterfield, especially the Pomegranate, and there should be a demand for pre-theatre meals or drinks afterwards (neither the Winding Wheel nor the Pomegranate serves food).
It might be argued that this market is already catered for by the licensed bars higher up Corporation Street and on Holywell Street. These, however, appear to be aimed at a predominantly young market, have late licences and are essentially drink-led operations, sometimes accompanied by loud music. There is a demand for this type of outlet, but it is not going to attract the market outlined in the previous paragraph. What we have in mind is somewhere with a more traditional, not to say quieter, offering, serving tea and coffee during the day, light lunches and a simple (but good quality and traditional) dinner menu in the evening might.
Could such a venue also offer residential accommodation? Obviously not on the scale the Chesterfield Hotel once did, nor as somewhere for coach operators to accommodate large numbers very cheaply (a market catered for in Chesterfield principally by the Ibis, it appears), but an operation on the lines of a ‘restaurant with rooms’ might be viable. People sometimes wish to stay close to a station if they are leaving early the following morning, and some people arriving by train might wish to stay as near the station as possible. Once again, the Chesterfield Hotel site has the advantage of being within walking distance of the town centre, if people have business there. We believe that it might be possible for a good quality restaurant also to offer a limited amount of overnight accommodation for both business and leisure travellers.
Another possibility, which would be an innovation for Chesterfield, would be to include in a restaurant-with-rooms development a small number of service flats, catering for those who wished to stay in Chesterfield for more than a couple of nights but not for long enough to rent an unfurnished flat. We are thinking of business and professional people working in Chesterfield for between a few weeks and a couple of months on a temporary contract, who would like more than just a hotel room to live in during the week and do not want to rent a room in a private house. Flats of this sort – with one or possibly two bedrooms – would have a modest kitchen (comparable to the facilities provided in some student accommodation) but the assumption would be that the tenants would have most (and possibly all) their meals in a restaurant that formed part of the development. This would provide something of a captive market for the restaurant, especially midweek, when there is likely to be less demand from non-residents. If a new building on the site of the Chesterfield Hotel was a three-storey development, the ground floor would have the usual range of restaurant, bar, lounge and kitchen, the first floor a small number of good quality letting bedrooms, and the second floor perhaps half a dozen flats.
Finally, it is worth stressing how centrally Chesterfield is placed for the main-line railway network. As in most provincial towns, the emphasis tends to be on the service to London (which is very good), but thanks to the town’s position between two major junctions, it is also possible to get direct trains to Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Norwich, Bristol and Birmingham, as well of course as Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby. Not many towns the size of Chesterfield can offer this. This might also be a selling point for anyone thinking of basing themselves in a service flat close to the station in Chesterfield, which would at the same time be within easy walking distance of the facilities available in a medium-sized town.
We hope that when the redevelopment of the Chesterfield Hotel site comes to be considered, the case for continuing to use it in the same way as it has been since the land was first built-up in the 1870s will be borne in mind, rather than settling for just building another office block, which could go elsewhere in the town.
The Annual General Meeting of the Society was held at the St. Thomas’s Centre on Thursday September 5th. The Chairman and Secretary presented their reports, and the Committee reconfirmed with the following changes. Daniel Botham has stepped down, and Darrell Clark will now take his place at the monthly meeting.
The brief meeting was followed by our guest speaker Dr. Hugh Ellis, the Policy Director of the Town and Country Planning Association.
In an engrossing talk he took us through the history of the Garden City Movement and most importantly linked it firmly to our own town and district. The influence and importance of Edward Carpenter and Raymond Unwin in our local environment were fully explored. The thought that Letchworth and all that ensued grew from meetings around a kitchen table at Millthorpe is inspiring.
His talk finished with a discussion of the significance of the Boythorpe Estate, and the importance of St. Andrew’s Church in Barrow Hill. A group discussion followed, and our thanks are owed to Hugh for a most stimulating and thought-provoking evening.
Thanks are also owed to Janet Murphy for the work she has done on the history of Chesterfield Council housing and Boythorpe, and a link to a detailed history can be found below.
The Annual General meeting will be held on Thursday 5th Sept. at 7.30pm in the Studio at the St.Thomas Centre, Chatsworth Road. All members and any prospective members are invited to attend.
Our talk is from Dr. Hugh Ellis on ‘Chesterfield: Cradle of the Garden City Movement’.
Our distinguished speaker is the Policy Director of the Town & Country Planning Association (www.tcpa.org.uk/ )
Doors open 7pm. Members free. Visitors welcome £2.00.
This week saw the launch of our Chairman’s latest book ‘Chesterfield Streets and Houses’ on Thursday, and it was featured also at the Chesterfield and District Family History Society Fair on Saturday. The Civic Society featured our Blue Plaques on our display, standing with the Derbyshire Record Society and Victoria History.
The Fair was well attended, and the steady flow of visitors ensured many interesting and mutually beneficial conversations.
Our thanks go to CADFHS for once again arranging the event, and we look forward to attending next year.
Streets and Houses
By Philip Riden, Chris Leteve and Richard Sheppard
A major new study of how the town centre has evolved, street by street and house by house. Come to the launching on 16 May 2019 and get this new 200-page, colour-illustrated hardback at the offer
price of £15.
Chesterfield evolved in the twelfth century from a village into a market town, as it remains today. Until the Industrial Revolution, the built-up area was confined to a compact grid of streets centred on a large market place. Today, these streets retain a variety of buildings dating from about 1500 to recent times. This new study looks at how the town centre has developed and at the history of each individual house within the area.
The book, published by the Derbyshire Victoria County History Trust, runs to 212 pages (A4 format), with 16 maps and 12 pages of colour plates. It will be launched at a meeting at 7.30 p.m. on Thursday 16 May 2019 at St Thomas’ Church Centre, Chatsworth Road. Come along and buy a copy for £15 (normal retail price £20).
For location details and directions, please click on the picture.
On Wednesday 20th March a Blue Plaque was unveiled at West Bars to mark the town’s historic links to the the Co-operative Movement. Members of the Civic Society attended both this ceremony and the re-dedication of the the Funeral Home after its recent renovation. More photos can be found below, and a detailed report of the day was published in the Derbyshire Times.
A more detailed history of the Co-operative Movement in Chesterfield can be found here
Chesterfield Civic Society HS2 Debate
Over 30 members and guests met at St Thomas’s church centre on February 28 for a Civic Society discussion meeting on ‘Do we want HS2 in North East Derbyshire?’.
Andrew Pritchard, representing East Midland Cities and Transport for the East Midlands, outlined the strategic case for the north-eastern leg of the high speed railway.
Explaining the need for greater capacity for passenger services between London and major cities on the route, he emphasised that the proposed hub at Toton would be the most important station on the system outside London, bringing enormous employment benefits to that part of the region.
Enhanced opportunities, especially for young people in the poorer areas of north-east Derbyshire, was a theme stressed by the Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, Coun. Mrs Tricia Gilby. She mentioned the high quality skilled jobs that would be created, directly and indirectly, by HS2, and the scope to develop tourism by encouraging more visitors to come to Chesterfield by train. Coun. Gilby showed new architect’s drawings of the proposed remodelling of the station approach, including a large car-park, seamless integration with bus services, and a pedestrian walkway into the town centre.
A note of caution was expressed by Glynn Waite, a railway consultant, who detailed the congestion on the existing Clay Cross–Sheffield line and showed how trains could be seriously delayed for any of several reasons. These included lack of capacity on the adjoining Dore–Chinley line and the poor track layout at Sheffield station. Mr Waite felt that these problems must be tackled before plans are made to run high speed trains on the Midland Main Line.
Finally, Tony Mellors spoke on behalf of a community group in Blackwell and Newton, near Alfreton, opposed to the building of a link from the Erewash Valley line to Clay Cross, since this will sever communities in their area. Over 20 houses will have to be demolished, some only a few years old, which has already caused distress to longstanding local residents. Aided by slide showing a white elephant, Mr Mellors argued that HS2 was likely to cost much more than currently predicted and was a poor use of public money.
The escalating cost of the project and questionable claims for the benefit-cost ratio were among the points raised during a lively discussion at the end of the meeting. In reply, Mr Pritchard pointed out that the north-eastern leg had the best commercial prospects of any part of HS2, and Coun. Gilby emphasised that the Borough Council’s ‘local labour’ clause in all its building contracts would ensure that jobs connected with HS2 came to the town.