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. (

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.