Road sign points to local government’s past in Brimington

The road sign, on display in the Brimington Community Centre entrance foyer, shown in our photograph, was saved by the parish council in 1990. In this blog we’ll take a look at its significance – as it’s a reminder of Brimington’s past local government arrangements.

The sign’s significance

On the sign you’ll see, in red ‘Olde English’ script, ‘Chesterfield R.D.C.’ with ‘Brimington’ underneath.

As a nearby framed notice in the community centres states, the sign originally marked the boundary between Chesterfield Borough and the Rural District of Chesterfield. For until 1974 Brimington was not part of Chesterfield.

The sign was situated at the side of the road on what is now part of the Tapton by-pass junction with Chesterfield Road and Brimington Road, at Tinker Sick (which is actually the parish boundary). Once you had passed this sign outwards from Chesterfield you were in Brimington and therefore in the rural district council’s area.

The former Chesterfield Poor Law Union Board of Guardians offices on Newbold Road, was situated strategically next to the union’s own workhouse (later Scarsdale Hospital). This building, of 1895, was the venue for meetings of the Chesterfield Rural District Council for many years, until that authority built new offices on Saltergate in 1937/8.  In 1937 it was stated that the council was having to undertake its business from four separate buildings.
This official guidebook to the Chesterfield Rural District Council of 1970 includes a map on its cover of the council’s area. Brimington is the white area above the second ‘e’ in Chesterfield.

Chesterfield Rural District Council

Chesterfield Rural District Council (CRDC) was first established, like other such rural and urban district councils and parish councils, under the 1894 Local Government Act. Brimington, along with other areas, such as Calow, Staveley, Eckington and North Wingfield, became one of the 24 parishes in the rural district. (Staveley became an urban district in 1935).

The headquarters of the CRDC was initially at the old rural sanitary authority buildings on Newbold Road. 1938 saw the council move to Rural Council House on Saltergate, Chesterfield.

The former Rural Council House cost £21,000 and opened in March 1938. The architect was Mr EG Kington of the Chesterfield architectural practice Messrs. Houfton and Kington. It was vacated by successor authority, North East Derbyshire District Council, in 2013, for a site at Wingerworth. It now faces an uncertain future. Permission was granted for demolition, but more recently a developer has started work on conversion to apartments. But work has stopped at the time of writing (November 2021) due to funding issues. To the right is a 1970s extension built following local government reorganisation.

In 1974 local government was reorganised. Brimington was split from the then 23 parishes of the CRDC. Along with Staveley urban district, it joined with Chesterfield to form a new Chesterfield borough.

The remainder of the old rural district, along with the two urban district councils of Dronfield and Clay Cross, were then grouped into a new North East Derbyshire District Council, with its headquarters at the former Rural Council House.

Controversy

At the time, this local government reorganisation was quite controversial. Many thought that the loss of the potentially more locally focussed urban and rural district councils was a bad thing. In Derbyshire some small areas of Cheshire also came into the county and Barlborough was at one time threatened with absorption into Sheffield.

Politically, the CRDC had some Brimington councillors on it who were very influential in its affairs. This included Walter Everett, who helped lead a big post-war council house building programme across the rural district, including his home village.  So, a perceived loss of some political influence may have been a concern. Staveley, for example, had its ‘own’ council. Following the changes, in some people’s view, it would be subservient to Chesterfield.

Another official guidebook cover; this from 1968 includes the council’s coat of arms. They were adopted by the new North East Derbyshire District Council and are still in use.

But some thought that the proposals didn’t go far enough. The non-inclusion of Calow in Chesterfield borough was one such example.

There were some complaints following the reorganisation. For example, in Brimington the bin emptying service was initially thought not to be as good as in CRDC days.  

Advantages

There were other changes in who provided what services. In Brimington, for example, if you wanted to be a borrower at Chesterfield public library you had to pay a fee to become a member.

Why was this? Well, until 1974 the library service in Chesterfield was provided by the old borough council and therefore funded by ratepayers in that town. After ’74 the county council provided this service across the county, so the fee no longer had to be paid.

Parish council retained

Areas that already had a parish council retained them (like Brimington). Urban districts were able to form a parish council – this happened in Staveley’s case. Parish and town councils, incidentally, have no difference in the powers that they have.

Meanwhile, in local governance terms, Tapton, was largely untouched. It had been a separate township under the CRDC until it was transferred into Chesterfield in 1920, when the borough extended its boundaries.

How the sign was saved

Regarding the sign itself. How was it saved?

The then Chairman of the parish council was keen to see it preserved. He arranged with the then county councillor to get the sign removed and saved during the early construction phase of the Tapton by-pass. Once it was in the parish council’s hands it went to the Chesterfield Transport Ltd. (now Stagecoach) depot at Stonegravels, where it was restored by the paint-shop, courtesy of the then Vice-Chairman, who was a worker director at the recently formed company.  

A bit of a home-arranged refurbishment therefore – but one which has preserved a part of Brimington’s history, fast disappearing from memory.


Chesterfield Rural District Council – a few facts in 1972

Population – c. 70,000 (‘large for a rural district’)

Area covered – almost 100 square miles

Council houses owned – 7,900

The sign was installed in the community centre’s entrance foyer, late 1990, after restoration by Chesterfield Transport, on behalf of the parish council.

The parishes – Ashover, Barlow, Brackenfield, Brampton, Brimington, Calow, Eckington, Hasland, Heath, Holmesfield, Killamarsh, Morton, North Wingfield, Pilsley, Shirland and Higham, Streeton, Sutton-cum-Duckmantom, Temple Normanton, Tupton, Unstone, Walton, Wessington, Wingerworth.

The council – 34 councillors. Clerk to the council: HO Hawkins.

The above is taken from a 1972 official guide to the CRDC.

Telling part of the sign’s story is this framed notice next to it in the Brimington Community Centre. The text dates from late 1990 and could do with a refresh.

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