Barrow Hill has much to be proud of

Community champions are striving to create pride in a Derbyshire village and develop it as a tourist attraction.

A £4.5 million facelift for the London Boroughs estate – more commonly known as The Blocks – in Barrow Hill is due to start this summer which will include new roads, better car parking and improved green spaces.

Feature on the Barrow Hill heritage trail. Local histrorian Ann Lucas is pictured outside the old Church of England Mission Church and National School.

Feature on the Barrow Hill heritage trail. Local histrorian Ann Lucas is pictured outside the old Church of England Mission Church and National School.

While planners have focused on taking part of the village into the 21st century, residents have been busy preserving its past.

Historian Ann Lucas has been the driving force in creating a heritage trail which leads visitors to the homes, schools, workplaces and worship bases of inhabitants who lost their lives in the First World War.

The trail takes its followers around nine sites in the village which was built by industrialist Richard Barrow in 1856 to house workers at his Staveley Iron and Coal Company. And Ann, who was born in Barrow Hill and whose great-grandfather John Darkin was one of its first residents, sourced much of the history from her relatives’ memoirs.

She said: “It’s a tradition in my family for everyone to write their life story. I got lots of information from reading my uncle Arthur Fox’s story and that of his younger sister Eileen Newham.”

She is one of the Friends of St Andrew’s Church who have worked with pupils at Barrow Hill Primary School on researching the back stories of 76 casualties of the Great War. The victims’ names are listed in front of a memorial building on Station Road which was originally the first dining hall of its kind in the Midlands to cater for workers and members of the public.

Ann said: “Of the 76 casualties, only 20 of their houses are still standing and we have put blue plaques on all of them.

“The residents are very proud of the plaques and they each know the story of their soldier.”

The village has much to offer sightseers, but is often overlooked by visitors who flock to the Barrow Hill Roundhouse, the only working railway roundhouse in the country.

Ann said: “Barrow Hill is a prime example of a Victorian model village.”

The parish church of St Andrew was designed by Raymond Unwin, a draughtsman at the Staveley Iron and Coal Company, and was his first commission as an architect. He persuaded his brother-in-law Barry Parker to design the fixtures and fittings.

They went on become renowned town planners and Unwin was knighted.

They designed garden cities and many of their planning principles are still used today.

St Andrew’s has the original organ and bell from the 76ft-high steeple on the school, which also housed a church and public hall when it was built.

Some 700 pupils were on the register when the school first opened to educate children aged three to nine.

At the age of 10, many of the boys would start work in the area’s mines.

Ann, a retired headteacher who lives in Hollingwood, said: “Barrow Hill is key to the heritage of Derbyshire. We have Chesterfield Canal, which was the last to be designed by James Brindley, we have the Roundhouse as well as a railway station which served the mighty Staveley Coal and Iron Company. I’d like to see it as a major tourist area.”