Chesterfield, The Centre of Industrial England.

Issue no. 55 – July 2014.

Words by Cliff Lea.

Plaque on Cannon Mill

At times I’m sure we’re all guilty of taking our local area for granted, so when we hear Chesterfield played host to archaeologists and historians from across the East Midlands and as far afield as London, during May, for a packed conference entitled “Chesterfield – the Centre of Industrial England”, we’re perhaps prompted to see it with fresh eyes and renewed appreciation!

The visitors came to hear about the rich industrial heritage of the Brampton area and the industries, almost all of which are long gone, which played such an important part in the growth of the town.Cannon Mill Wheel Pit

The conference was organised by NEDIAS, the North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society, who hosted the event at St Thomas’ Centre, Brampton – and incidentally who have their regular meetings there too (see What’s On for details).

Following a morning of talks, the visitors were led in groups on a short walk in the Brampton area, highlighting the sites of our mills, foundries, potteries, pits, even a hat factory and chemical works, all within sight of the crooked spire.

The owners of the two mills in the area, listed by English Heritage for their historical significance, opened the buildings for visitors to view inside. They were able to see the nationally important construction of Walton Bump Mill, one of the earliest buildings in the world to be fire proofed in this way. They then went on past early pottery and pit sites to view the listed Cannon Mill, the last surviving building to date back to the Smith’s iron foundry which cast cannon and ball for the Napoleonic Wars, and for the American War of Independence.

Throughout the 20th century, the whole area had been owned by Robinsons. Visitors were amazed to hear that in July 1939 Robinsons had funded a works outing to London to celebrate their centenary. Eight specially chartered trains had left from Chesterfield, carrying 3,700 Robinsons staff for a capital day out – lunch was followed by a variety show headed by Tommy Trinder at the Royal Albert Hall, and dinner on the return.

The conference highlighted the great importance of this area in past centuries, and was a great reminder to locals too of some of our very local rich heritage and history. NEDIAS Chairman Cliff Lea said that new members who have interest in the industrial history of the area are warmly welcome. Contact Cliff at, phone 234212, or see


Photography provided by NEDIAS