Boythorpe – the latter years

Boythorpe…….the latter years.

I’ve been brought up in Boythorpe and I still live there. I lived on Riber Terrace from birth to 1979. On getting married (for the second time), I travelled to Brampton. After a year the wanderlust resurfaced and, along with my wife and family, I moved back to Boythorpe – Walton Drive to be precise.


Moving from the Riber Terrace area to the Council estate area was a real change in environment. Having a family of four children in the 8-13 years age group, the four bedroomed council house was a real palace compared to the two up two down terrace house we were used to. The area of Walton Drive we moved into was subject to a modernisation scheme, so not just a new house, but a new modernised already decorated house – paradise.  Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s most of the Council houses were modernised with new heating systems, doors, windows etc.


The centre of the Boythorpe estate is undoubtedly the ‘Bullring’ – that area of Walton Drive that now contains the bungalows of Walton Drive Court. The south side of this area is the parade of shops that most residents used in the 80’s. If my memory serves me correct, the first shop was Miles’ sweet shop. After that Boyce’s grocery shop, then the post office, butcher’s shop and Vaughn’s chip shop. On the opposite side of the drive way was the Co-op. Through the 80’s all of these were traditional shops. Customers stood in a queue and eventually reached the counter. Whoever was serving then walked from the counter to all parts of the shop fetching the customer’s requirements back to the counter. If the required brand wasn’t available, then a brief discussion took place across the shop to determine a replacement. Youngsters would occasionally appear, sometimes only just at counter level, with a shopping list in a purse along with the cash.


Trying to remember who owned the various shops isn’t easy. I remember Jean and John keeping the Post Office. Then Joe and Narish. It was during Joe’s ownership that the shop ceased to be a Post Office and was relegated to a mere newsagents, with a few groceries appearing. Robert, in the chip shop, still quietly goes about his business as he has done for many years.


Of course that’s mostly changed. The Co-op became a fruit and vegetable shop for a while and is now a Take-away. Apart from the chip shop, the rest of the parade is now one mini supermarket. You do your shopping now with the minimum of conversation in the minimum of shops..


The centre of the ‘Bullring’ had been opened up from the fenced garden it was throughout the forties and fifties and by the 1980’s it was one large, lawned area, with the shops to the south side and the houses of Walton Drive bordering the rest of the perimeter. This was a great playground for the youngsters of all ages. A football pitch could spring up with coats for goal posts, without any interference with the grownups. This was a great arrangement. Eventually a tarmac footpath was installed across the grass extending the pathway from Sycamore Avenue almost up to the chip shop door.

Then all the grass of the Bullring disappeared when the Council decided to build the bungalows that are now Walton Drive Court. This has brought about mixed blessings. The bungalows provided much needed accommodation for our senior citizens, but robbed our children of their playground. These two groups don’t always see eye to eye and there has been several confrontations over the years. The CCTV cameras eventually appeared but now there are just posts  – the cameras have been redeployed to other, more troublesome, areas.


With the introduction of the sale of Council house legislation, like in other areas, some tenants on the estate became owner occupiers and started giving their homes individual treatment . Through the 1980’s and 90’s the Council pursued various modernisation schemes and upgraded bathrooms and kitchens, along with new doors and windows, even gas central heating. Eventually these windows and doors were themselves replaced by plastic versions and tenants even had a choice of style.

Over the past thirty years residents have seen an increase in the amount of car parking provision as well as more cars being parked in the streets. Some owner occupiers have converted part of their front gardens into parking bays to ensure their car can be parked close to their home. The council has provided some off street parking and yet the streets are getting more congested as some households become two car families and people bring their work vehicles home after work. This is well demonstrated along Hunloke Avenue, as years ago the ‘buses had a clear way through the estate. It’s not the case anymore and the buses have to navigate the on-coming vehicles whilst zig-zagging around parked cars.

Another visual change that has taken place on the estate has been the appearance of a green wire fence around the primary school. Sad to say that the County Council found that this was a measure that was needed after so much vandalism was taking place to the school buildings.

The primary school may still be called after a servant of the Borough, but in 1991 our much loved William Rhodes Secondary School was renamed Parkside Community School. This change was the latest twist in Derbyshire County Council’s name game with Chesterfield Schools. As William Rhodes all boys technical school, it went co-educational in the early 70’s and now has a completely new name, Parkside. There was an attempt in the 1990’s to close the school as it was and merge the buildings with Brookfield School. A nucleus of very determined parents led the fight to save the school. After some very noisy meetings between County Councillors, officials, and parents, took place, along with a protest march from the school to the Town Hall, the school was saved for our community.

As I have previously mentioned, the play area that existed when the Bullring was grassed is no longer there. The only other reasonable amount of green space near the estate is what we used to call Harlow’s Field. It’s still there – the ‘field’ between the bungalows on Hunloke Avenue and the entrance to the cemetery. If my recollection is correct it belonged to the  family who ran a corner shop at the junction of Hunloke Avenue and Walton Crescent. It was donated to the Council for recreational purposes for the community.

I remember taking my youngsters and their friends to play cricket there. The residents who make use of the grass now are mostly dogs taking their owners for a walk.

St Francis’ church is no longer a functioning church. At the end of the building where the worship area used to be, the roof is slowly sinking. The building used to be used as a youth club, a venue jumble sales, and Bingo at least one night a week. Sadly, it seems to be mostly used for slimming sessions now. But at least it is still being used.

For a long time, a gathering point for some of Boythorpe’s youngsters was the low wall around the junior school on Central Avenue, opposite the junction with Walton Drive.

The attraction must have been that is was a readymade seat to sit and chat, along with the old style red ‘phone box that was occasionally used. The advent of mobile ‘phones brought about the demise of the red ‘Tardis’ and at some point BT decided that a better site for a ‘phone box should be Hunlock Avenue, where it still stands – not the old red one but a modern open to the elements type.


Through the 1980’s the estate had an Estate Committee. A group of tenants who met to consider the improvements needed on the estate and fed them back to the Council’s Housing Department. The names I remember were Hilda Hicks, Anne Hodson, Maurice Brailsford, Bernard Jones and Keith Falconer. We would meet at Anne’s home on Sycamore Avenue and discuss the estate and its needs. Eventually Estate Committees were replaced by Community Forums and now we have Area Assemblies. Not nearly as personal to any area as were the Estate committees.


After all these examples of how the estate and its residents have changed, its character is still similar. The residents cover most strands of society. Young, old, people living on their own alongside the family with three or four children. There are still parents giving help and advice to their sons and daughter who now have their own families. There are still single parents doing their best to rear their families as best they can. Perhaps there are a few larger cars on the estate now and since 2005 there has been two Mayors of Chesterfield who have lived on the estate and another who was raised here but moved on when father moved with the army to another town.