Visitors to Chesterfield Museum can find out about the history of the town’s black and white buildings in a new exhibition.
Chesterfield town centre has nearly 50 of the buildings, most of which were built in the 1920s and 1930s.
Knifesmithgate is perhaps the most striking series of black and white buildings in the town.
This fascinating exhibition – which runs at the museum until Saturday, March 12 – explores the story behind them.
On display are objects associated with some of the well-known buildings in the town including Swallows, John Turner’s, the Co-op and the former Picture House on Holywell Street (now the Winding Wheel).
Councillor Amanda Serjeant, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centre and visitor economy, said: “Along with the Crooked Spire, the black and white buildings are some of the most iconic around here.
“This is a chance for visitors to the museum to find out more about their history and have a go at designing their own black and white buildings.”
The exhibition comes as a campaigner launched an online petition to highlight the ‘very poor state’ of the buildings – and called for urgent action to save them.
Andrew Hollyer said: “One of the big attractions of living in Chesterfield is the wonderful range of black and white buildings.
“They’re not Tudor – which they’re sometimes mistaken for – but nevertheless they still have a very interesting history and help make Chesterfield the place it is.
“There are so many that they’re probably not studied too closely by those of us who live here.
“We just know that, with the Crooked Spire and the market, they help make the town centre a bit special. Tourists, though, often comment very admiringly on them.
“But some buildings are now in a very poor state.
“Next time you’re on Knifesmithgate take a closer look at the Victoria Centre.
“Above the ground floor veranda you’ll see badly rotting windows - and where big chunks of plaster have fallen off.
“It’s in a really poor state and getting worse as each month goes by.
“The town cannot let this happen to these special buildings - but often the owners live far away and don’t want to spend money.
“So what can be done?
“I think the first step is to draw as much attention as possible to the issue and demonstrate that there is a lot of concern in Chesterfield over the future of these buildings.
“In my view, although Chesterfield Borough Council doesn’t own the neglected buildings and has limited powers, it surely has a role to play in co-ordinating action to make sure the necessary steps are taken to sort things,” added Chesterfield resident Andrew.
To sign his petition, visit www.cfield.lib.dm/bkwh
A planning application was submitted last September to convert the former Co-op store into a hotel, restaurant and fitness centre.
The large site in Elder Way has been empty since the department store closed in July 2013.
A borough council spokesman said: “The former Co-op store is a listed building and under these plans there would be no changes to the exterior of the building.
“However, in future the applicant could apply for planning permission to change the exterior of the building.”
The spokesman added: “A petition must relate to something that the council does or for which it has a responsibility.
“Alternatively, it should be relevant to some matter of major significance or general concern affecting the Chesterfield area.
“If a petition contains more than 1,000 signatures, it will trigger a debate by the full council at which the petitioner can speak.”
On the streets of Chesterfield, Jean Richardson, of Newbold, said: “These buildings have a very special place in my heart and I fully support this campaign to delicately restore them. Something needs to be done.”
David March, who lives in Sheffield but regularly visits Chesterfield, said: “They are wonderful buildings and I have fond memories of the Co-op. I think it would be terrible for Chesterfield if they were left to deteriorate even more so I back the campaign and I hope it’s successful.”
Chris Parker-Page, who was born in Chesterfield but now lives in France, said: “It would be a great shame to see the buildings go into further disrepair. They definitely need some tender loving care.”
Craig Taylor, of Chesterfield, said: “Some of these buildings are empty so it’d be good to see more businesses buying them and investing in them. I’m a taxi driver and my passengers often say the same thing.”