A missing tribute to George Stephenson

Our friends at the Derbyshire Victoria County History Trust (VCH – of whom we are members) have recently been looking at Violet Markham’s somewhat controversial views on her town. Violet was born at Brimington Hall and for many years lived at Tapton House. You can find out more about her here and read the VCH blog here.

Stephenson Memorial Hall, Corporation Street, Chesterfield – still awaiting George? The empty niche to the lower centre of this photograph was designed to take a statue of the great man. (Philip Cousins).

They’ve also looked at the Stephenson Memorial Hall (Violet thought that the building was ugly) and its missing memorial to George Stephenson, who also, of course, lived at Tapton House and is buried in Holy Trinity Church on Newbold Road.

An Edwardian coloured postcard showing the Stephenson Memorial Hall. Rather embarrassingly for the publishers they have spelt the name incorrectly! By comparing with the above photograph, note how the tower pinnacles have been removed at some time. (Collection Philip Cousins).

The VCH blog post points out that there’s an empty niche on the 1879 part of the Memorial Hall, which was designed to hold a statue of Stephenson. It was never filled and is empty to this day, presumably as the original building trustees didn’t have enough money to complete the installation. In fact they sold the building to Chesterfield Corporation in 1889. It was the Corporation who acquired a piece of land to the east of the original building. This saw the existing public hall altered and extended, forming a theatre with a new stage and dressing rooms, together with improved entrances. This opened in 1898. There’s a potted history of the building in the VCH blog.

It wasn’t until recent times that the town where Stephenson died was able to pay tribute to him via a statue. This is is situated at the entrance to the Chesterfield railway station.

For more about Stephenson, Tapton House and related subjects download our free joint publication with the North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society and Chesterfield and District Local History Society. This is available from our downloads page – look for ‘NEDIAS Supplementary Newsletter – March 2021. George Stephenson Special’.

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