Former St Helena Girls’ High School, Sheffield Road

This plaque was installed in March 2022 on one of the entrance gate piers to the University of Derby’s Chesterfield campus, on Sheffield Road. IT was once St Helena Girls’ High School.

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.

This plaque also marks the former school’s architect George Henry Widdows who was recognised as a leading and influential designer of school buildings.

As the plaque 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 for their support in enabling us to install this plaque.

The building is essentially in a butterfly shape and looks out onto the Rother valley.
Looking up towards to the Sheffield Road entrance, the sloping nature of the site can perhaps be best appreciated.

For further information on the building and GWH Widdows please download the pdf available below.