Community group to host ‘protest picnic’ as they urge council not to sell historic Chesterfield building

A Chesterfield community group is rallying to stop the sale of one of the town’s most historical buildings.

Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 2:33 pm

Tapton House, located in Tapton Park, is a grade II listed Georgian property, which has been home to some of Chesterfield’s wealthiest and most prominent residents.

Built in 1794, it eventually became a school, and then a campus for Chesterfield College. It currently lies dormant, however, with Chesterfield Borough Council looking to find a private buyer for the property.

The Friends of Tapton House hope to secure the future of the building, and Di Treece, a group representative, said many in the town were worried by the council’s decision.

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The council is looking for a private buyer to take on Tapton House.

“There is a lot of concern that the house will be sold to an individual or a hotel group, who will then want a chunk of the land for their private gardens.

“There are two petitions against the sale of Tapton House – combined, they have around 500 signatures so far.

“It was the whole park – the house, the gardens and the grounds – that was left to the people of Chesterfield by Charles Markham. It’s not right if that is in the offing, and we think the council is being a bit short-sighted.”

The FOTH believe there are a number of possibilities for the house that would benefit the people of Chesterfield.

Di said, for example, the council could turn it into a venue for weddings, conferences and parties.

“Tapton House has been in the council’s hands for around four years, they’re paying money to heat it, to get the alarm checked every week, and it’s not doing anything for them.

“We want them to think along the lines we’re thinking: renting rooms out for conferences, hosting parties, having arts and crafts sessions. It’s a really big building and it’s lovely inside, and it could be made to be a real gem.

“The downstairs is beautifully decorated. There’s a lovely sweeping staircase going up, and even if it was wet while you were getting married, you would still get smashing photos there.”

Di also encouraged the council not to simply think about the house in terms of finances – and added that the community would come together to support any work that was needed.

“There’s a lot of potential there, and I think all the council see is pounds, shillings and pence.

“If people were there using it, they’d keep an eye on any maintenance, and I’m sure we’d get volunteers. We’d thought of asking the college to get some of their apprentice painters and decorators, under the guidance of their tutors, to sort out some of the rooms.

“I’m sure people would set their sights on making it an asset rather than a millstone around the council’s neck.”

The group has organised a protest picnic at the sunken lawn at the back of the house – taking place from 12.00pm on Saturday, June 25.

Di said: “Until it folded last year, the Old Taptonians Association always had a picnic on the last Saturday of June.

“We decided it would be good to see if we could get people to come down who want to see Tapton Hall kept as a community asset, and celebrate the fact that Charles Markham and George Stephenson lived there.

“People can come down for the picnic from any time around 12.00pm, and talk to people who feel the same about the house. We have also asked the council about the possibility of opening up the house for the picnic.

“If people can’t make the picnic, but can sign and share the petition, that would be great.”

The FOTH’s petition can be found here.