Violet was at town’s heart

Violet Markham.
Violet Markham.
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A DAUGHTER of Chesterfield is how Violet Markham is described.

And, for the subject of our final feature on local blue plaque nominees, it is no exaggeration.

The fifth child of the celebrated Charles Markham and Rosa Paxton, determined Violet fought for her town as a social reformist, its first female mayor in 1927 and in many crusades for the working person.

“She could have said I’m sitting pretty, never mind you lot, but no she emeshed herself and her heart in this town”, said expert Tony Hallam, who wrote book The Family Markham.

“She very much is a daughter of Chesterfield. She’s absolutely Chesterfield through and through, born and bred.”

Violet, known as ‘little Vi Vi’ when young, was born at Brimington Hall in 1872. She spent her childhood at Tapton House.

Seeing Cairo slums on a Middle Eastern trip mirrored the poverty stricken ‘dog kennels’ area of Chesterfield and inspired her to help needy people on the doorstep.

After steering local education she set up the Settlement – a social venture to improve the lives of working women and mothers – in 1902.

Added Mr Hallam, 75: “It was social services 50 years early. She was a pioneer.”

Violet took on political work nationally before focusing on Chesterfield government, especially old age, health, education and employment. She embodied the Latin family motto Tenax Propositi, meaning Firm of Purpose, but adoration for Scottish husband Lt Col James Carruthers revealed a soft centre. Anecdotes about her fight for the underdog abound with it said: “If you wanted something carrying through, have a word with Violet Markham.” Violet believed the greatest of her achievements – which also includes opening The Violet Markham School in Newbold and charity work – was receiving The Order of the Companions of Honour.

She died in 1959 and is immortalised in the Mayor of Chesterfield’s chain and mayoress’ symbolic collarette of hearts and fleur de lis she donated.

Mr Hallam added: “I would have loved to have shaken hands with her and be able to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

That’s why I’m so keen for her to get this blue plaque, Chesterfield should be screaming from the rooftops – thank you Violet.”

Violet Markham was nominated for a blue plaque from Derbyshire County Council by Duncan Taylor of Derby.

l To vote for anyone on the 12-strong shortlist, visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/blueplaques or write to Blue Plaques Vote, Derbyshire County Council, County Hall, Matlock, DE4 3AG, by August 8.

ellen.beardmore@derbyshiretimes.co.uk