Saturday, 19 November 2011

Nostalgia Corner (8)

When I was of  junior school school age my parents were quite happy for me to wander off on Saturdays with a few friends to go 'exploring'. Our small group was not interested in attending the children's films shown at the Regal cinema.  We wandered far and wide, without the benefit of mobile telephones, but always with a few pennies to use in a telephone box should the need arise. How many of my readers remember button 'A' and button 'B'?

We had a favourite route which started with us walking along Sheffield Road, past the municipal bus garage, until we reached Wharf Lane.  At the end of the lane we would explore the old warehouses of the long disused Chesterfield Canal Basin.  Soon we would be crossing the footbridge over the Great Central Railway (LNER).  The railway had purchaed the canal and when building the line to Chesterfield had cut the canal isolating the canal basin.  The Great Central was never a busy railway, so we did not linger long unless a train was signalled and we might then be lucky and see one of the magnificent 'Director' class locomotives, so named as some of the engines bore the names of directors of the railway.  Other engines of the class were named after Great War battles: Mons, Marne, Somme and Ypres. 

Then it was over the River Rother across the field to the Chesterfield-Staveley road, through the gate and climb the steps to the footbridge over the four track Midland Railway line (LMS). Here we would linger and have great fun standing above the line on which a train was approaching  and feel the exhaust from the locomotive chimney on the underside of the bridge.  Often we would be wreathed in smoke and steam.  Jubilees, Black 5s, 8 Freights, Crabs and Beyer - Garretts came and went in an almost continuous procession.

Then it was down the far steps and into Tapton Hall park.  At the top of the park's hill (must used for sledging) stood Tapton Hall School, which had once been the home of George Stephenson. Stephenson had surveyed the route for the railway we had just crossed.  Then it was across the fields to the municipal golf course, down a lane and under the railway and platforms of Chesterfield Midland station.

By this time we were becoming weary and we did not stop to look at the Trebor-Bassett factory (a sickly sweet smell at times hung in the air), passed Chesterfield Central station, where once we almost bumped into Jimmy Wheeler.  We hardly glanced at the technical college but were intrigued by the Mines Rescue building.  Soon we would be back at Wharf lane and nearly home.

How things have changed.  The bus garage closed, the canal warehouses demolished, the Great Central railway and station demolished and replaced by an inner by-pass.  Tapton House School closed in 1991 and is now part of the technical college.  The Trebor sweet factory is gone, as is the Mines Rescue.  The Chesterfield Canal has been re-opened at the Chesterfield end and a new basin established close to the Trebor factory.  The whole area is to be 'regenerated' with the waterfront as a key feature.

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