10 things you might not have known about Barrow Hill Roundhouse

Barrow Hill Roundhouse really is unique and it's on your doorstep.

Friday, 27th April 2018, 11:56 am
Updated Friday, 27th April 2018, 12:06 pm
Barrow Hill Roundhouse

Here's 10 things you might not have known about it.

1) TOTALLY UNIQUE - Situated to the north east of Chesterfield, near Staveley (follow the brown tourist signs near Ringwood Hall Hotel), it is the UK’s only operational railway roundhouse.

Around 400 were constructed across the country but only six buildings remain including Derby and Camden - now far better known as a music venue - and Barrow Hill is the only one that still does what it was built to do.

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Barrow Hill Roundhouse

2) FROM LITTLE ACORNS - The first income for the Roundhouse charity came from the chopping down and selling of logs from the forest of silver birch trees that had grown up around the site during the years of dereliction.

The money paid for the Roundhouse to hire a steam locomotive for its first event in 1998.

3) NOT JUST ABOUT TRAINS - The 20-acre site is a haven for wildlife.

From the buzzards nesting up the branch line to the Little owls in the Roundhouse itself, as well as stoats, foxes, rabbits,butterflies, bees and all manner of creatures great and small, there is plenty of activity in and around the railway tracks.

Jools Holland will return to perform at the venue in May

4) ALL GO THIS MAY - May is when the venue holds its three-day ‘Rail Ale’ Beer&Music Festival, this year taking place on May 17-19.

Now in its 17th year, it has become a hugely popular event and really does have something for everyone with steam trains,beer, music, prosecco, food and for the first time this year a ‘gin palace’. Oh, and a free bus service from Chesterfield railway station too!

5) JOOLS IS BACK - In 2014 the Roundhouse held its first dedicated music event with the one and only Jools Holland and a Spice Girl – Mel C. The Roundhouse quite literally rocked and Jools enjoyed it so much he has asked to come back.

This time he brings with him the incredibly talented Marc Almond and another Roundhouse night to remember will take place on May 26.

Barrow Hill Roundhouse

6) NOT ROUND OR HOUSES - The first roundhouses were round buildings but railway engineers soon realised that it wasn’t an economical use of space, and buildings of this shape also cost a lot of money to construct.

Barrow Hill is square and covers an area around the size of two football pitches.

The only ‘round’ part is the turntable and this is the key which unlocks the puzzle, allowing at least 24 locomotives to be moved into the building, turned and stored on the 24 ‘roads’ which radiate from the centre of the turntable.

7) LUCKY ESCAPE - British Rail announced the closure of the Roundhouse in 1989.

Jools Holland will return to perform at the venue in May

The plan was to build a new depot in Worksop, funded by knocking down the Roundhouse and selling off the site.

In 1991 and only 48 hours before the bulldozers were due to move in, the charity - led by Mervyn Allcock -which was formed to save the Roundhouse obtained an order to stop its demolition.

But it would be another five years before the Roundhouse was handed over to the charity, by which time it was in a sad state.

8) THANKS A MILLION - In 2016 the Roundhouse was awarded £1.2 million of Heritage Lottery Fund money to ensure the Roundhouse building would survive for at least another 100 years and tell its fascinating story to generations to come.

In total, £1.5 million was spent restoring the Roundhouse, creating a new entrance, café and shop facilities and adding a new interpretation to tell the story - not only of the Roundhouse - but of the people who lived and worked there and the industrial history of the area.

9) MORE THAN A MUSEUM - Barrow Hill is a thriving commercial railway depot and very much a part of the modern railway network.

More than 60 people work there, servicing and repairing locomotives, overhauling wagons and carriages, undertaking railway research and training people to work on the railways.

£1.5 million is currently being spent on the site to upgrade the facilities for use by East Midlands Trains to service the trains which operate between Chesterfield, Derby and London.

10) FAMOUS NAMES - Famous names have graced the Roundhouse... Mallard, Flying Scotsman and Tornado to name a few.

Sadly they don’t live at the Roundhouse but they have attended some impressive events there.

However there are lots of locomotives that are based there and for the Roundhouse team the most important is a little black steam loco which is known as a Half Cab. Its number is 41708 and it is the last known surviving engine to have worked at Staveley Works.

The charity hopes one day to buy this loco from its current owners and bring it back into steam.

In the meantime it lives in the Roundhouse as an important reminder of the link between the Roundhouse and the huge industrial complex it was built to serve back in 1870.