Complicated relationship with workers

The monkey weather vane in Hollingwood
The monkey weather vane in Hollingwood

As your correspondents have discovered; C.P. Markham’s empathy toward his employees is more complicated than listing his benefactions.

On unions, he told a December 1925 hearing of the Coal Commission; ‘I think they are the greatest curse the country has’. But in September he’d acknowledged unions had helped highlight poor conditions.

What would today’s employees think of their offices having a monkey as a weather vane? (It’s still on top of the Clock Tower offices at Hollingwood.) Some people still remember how their relatives couldn’t work for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company for some time after they had organised union activities.

But Markham encouraged workers to become Staveley Company shareholders. Modern housing was eventually provided; locally at Hollingwood, Duckmanton and Poolsbrook.

He also had hot water laid on to company estates. Houses were needed for workers, but once you stopped working for the company you had no house – you’d be evicted, if necessary.

Though part of the establishment, Markham hated it when it got in his way. He branded Chesterfield Rural District Council (CRDC) a ‘lot of old farmers’ when they failed to build enough houses and started to derail Markham’s own schemes.

Fed up with the CRDC it was Markham who, in the 1920s, unsuccessfully started agitating for Staveley to amalgamate with Chesterfield.

Markham was a benefactor but, I believe, also a schemer, yet visionary, practical and hot-headed. He courted controversy and confrontation and mostly enjoyed it. A product of the Victorian era, carried into the early 20th century.

You crossed Markham at your peril.