Investigation uncovers truth about whether Chesterfield street name has links to 'racist' imperialist
and live on Freeview channel 276
Chesterfield Borough Council asked the town’s civic society to look into claims that Rhodesia Road, to the north of Chatsworth Road, commemorated either Rhodes or the colony he founded, which is now Zimbabwe.
Rhodes was an imperialist and considered by some to be a racist, white supremacist and one of the architects of apartheid South Africa.
In June this year, following the Black Lives Matter protests, the governing body of Oxford University's Oriel College voted to remove a statue of Rhodes.
However, ward councillors believed the street in Chesterfield had nothing to do with Cecil Rhodes, and was in fact named after William Rhodes, a prominent local builder.
Philip Riden, chairman of Chestefield Civic Society, said a search of the Derbyshire Times’ archive revealed that the ward members were right.
He said: "On 10 January 1941 the paper printed a lengthy obituary of Alderman Rhodes, of 161A Old Road, who died on January 4, aged 81.
"He was an honorary freeman of the borough as well as a former elected member.
"The article states that Rhodesia Road and Rhodes Avenue, Newbold, had been named after him.”
William Rhodes began his building career with a contract to build the chancel of St Thomas’s Church, on Chatsworth Road, and the civic society believes ‘he may well have built Rhodesia Road’.
On 10 November 1923 the Derbyshire Times reported that a bankrupt individual had bought a house on Rhodesia Road in 1918 for £370.
"This is the closest we can get at present to the date the road was developed,” Mr Riden said.
“Among later references found in the paper was a magistrates’ court hearing in which a man was accused of insulting a maid at one of the houses on Rhodesia Road, which has perhaps declined somewhat in social esteem since then!
"William Rhodes was the driving force behind Chesterfield Corporation’s very successful house-building programme in the 1920s and 1930s, which did much to improve working class living conditions in the town.”
He was largely responsible for the creation of the Boythorpe estate, the corporation’s first major scheme, which celebrates its centenary next year.