Group bids to turn Tapton House into a multi-use community centre
Campaigners are aiming to return an historic Chesterfield building to the purpose it was intended for when gifted to the borough nearly a century ago.
A 60-strong group wants to take on the lease of former education centre Tapton House and is exploring funding streams to cover the business rates of £67,000 a year, necessary repairs and the purchase of furniture.
A spokesperson for Chesterfield Borough Council said: “Tapton House remains available and we are still marketing this property. We are aware of interest from the Friends of Tapton House, however we are still awaiting a firm proposal from the group; we look forward to hearing their suggestion and will give it full consideration.”
The property was the final home of railway pioneer George Stephenson who lived there for 16 years. Following George’s death in 1848, Tapton House was bought by Charles Markham, chairman of Staveley Iron & Coal Company, and remained in the Markham family until 1925 when it was gifted to the borough.
Di Treece, who co-chairs the Friends Of Tapton House, said: “The Markham family gifted it for the education and enjoyment of the people of Chesterfield. We want to do something with it that fits in with that. What we envisage is a cafe and some of the 17 workable rooms being let for courses and conferences, activities for schoolchildren or arts and crafts people. We could set up adult education lessons – we think that we be in the spirit of the gifting of the house.”
With its stunning Georgian architecture and splendid garden, Tapton House has also been suggested as having the potential to host weddings.
Retired teacher Di, 64, said: “We don’t want it to be sold for a private residence or apartments because whoever lives there would want to carve out part of the garden for their private use. They are not going to want Joe Public walking the dog past their front door and that we feel is way off what was intended when the Markham family gifted it.”
As past students of Tapton House School Di and Elaine Palmer, who co-chairs the group, have fond memories of lessons there. Di said: “We had a fantastic time and thought we were very lucky. One way or another everyone in the group has got a soft spot for it – a lot of them live in Tapton and others have got an interest in history.
“We’ve got people in Australia, Abu Dhabi and the Philippines wanting to be kept in touch which is nice when they left the school 40 years ago.”
More than 6,000 pupils passed through the doors of the Grade Ii listed building during its 60 years as a school.
In 1994 Tapton House became a campus for Chesterfield College before being returned to the borough council in 2018.
Built in 1794 by banker Isaac Wilkinson, Tapton House stands in 200 acres of parkland. The park includes what is believed to be the world’s largest classical garden maze – the Earth and Wild Flower Labyrinth – which was launched in 1997 and a golf course which opened in 1934.