The Old Centre of Dronfield — Ann Brown – 1st December 2014

Ann, who is a local Sheffield University his­tory gradu­ate, chose a career as a his­tory teacher. With her obvi­ous pas­sion for the his­tory of Dronfield she is now the Archivist for the Old Dronfield Society, which was formed in 1968.

The cul­min­a­tion of all the Society’s efforts is now coming together with the Dronfield Heritage Project, open­ing in a year or so. This involves con­vert­ing the Dronfield Hall Barn, dating back to 1429, into a Heritage and Arts activ­it­ies centre. (www.dronfieldhallbarn.co.uk)

Ann gave us a taste of the his­tory of Dronfield, named after the River Drone run­ning along the valley. Originally an Anglo Saxon set­tle­ment, it slowly developed in the Middle Ages as a sta­ging post from East to West.

The present Church, reflect­ing the pre and post Reformation peri­ods and the largest in Derbyshire, was built in the 1400s, although there was a Norman Church from 1135 and a preach­ing cross before that.

When lead was ser­i­ously exploited in the Peek District, local fam­il­ies (Cecil, Rotherham, Burton) built the manor houses that still remain, with the earn­ings from trans­port­ing the lead to the nearest port in the East even­tu­ally using the main turn­pike road built in 1795. There were dams and water­wheels on the Drone at this time.

With the coming of the Railways in 1870, and the exploit­a­tion of the local coal seams, Dronfield ini­tially developed indus­tri­ally along the valley and on Callywhite Lane. This didn’t expand as expec­ted, but some of the old build­ings were saved from demoli­tion. Ann high­lighted those of import­ance, citing their method of con­struc­tion, includ­ing sev­eral Coaching Inns, cruck barns  and the ori­ginal and present schools asso­ci­ated with Henry Fanshawe.

Today Dronfield has a by-pass and sev­eral large hous­ing devel­op­ments which sur­round the old town.

A guided walk around the Old Centre, in the summer, would put the details into con­text and is a dis­tinct pos­sib­il­ity.

A very enjoy­able and inter­est­ing morn­ing.