Retro: Sheffield area town’s boom and bust

Dronfield Band - 1976
Dronfield Band - 1976
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The final letter D in our A to Z of Sheffield and surrounding areas is Dronfield, an ancient settlement half way to Chesterfield.

There’s been human activity in the area since the Mesolithic period, which began around 11,000 years ago.

Shops at Dronfield - 1976

Shops at Dronfield - 1976

Back in 1086 Dronfield was included among the estates belonging to the king in the royal manor of Newbold. Eventually Dronfield became a manor in its own right.

According to the Old Dronfield Society (http://olddronfieldsociety.org.uk/), the Old English name may be linked to early settlers finding land which was infested by bee drones and for this reason they called the place Dranfield or Dronfield.

The church of St John the Baptist dates back to at least 1135 and other medieval buildings include the Green Dragon Inn.

Dronfield was known for being prosperous from the 16th to 18th centuries, as can be seen by the number of fine houses dating from that time.

High Street, Dronfield - 1979

High Street, Dronfield - 1979

Writers praised the town for its fine air and remarked on the number of ‘respectable families’ living there.

Some of that wealth was associated with lead mining and grindstone making. Big sheep flocks supplied spinning, cloth-making, dyeing, soap making and tanning industries.

Coal mining in the area also dates back to at least the 16th century. The numerous small pits could be dangerous places to work with low safety standards causing accidents and deaths.

Metal industries also moved into the area. By 1811 Samuel Lucas had set up a foundry that is reputed to have made cannon balls during the Napoleonic Wars and also manufactured machine parts for the growing British textile and railway industries.

Dronfield centre - 20th January 1971

Dronfield centre - 20th January 1971

Other works were nearby.

In 1873 the Wilson Cammell steel rail making plant was established on Callywhite Lane, creating a 10-year boom when the population increased rapidly.

That came to a halt when the firm moved out of the area in 1884, leaving an economic disaster in its wake that took years to overcome.

Many Dronfield families followed the firm to Workington in Cumbria and can be seen in the Workington census of 1891, according to Dronfield local history library.

A fire warning at the fire burning underground at the industrial estate at Callywhite Lane, Dronfield - 22nd January 1987

A fire warning at the fire burning underground at the industrial estate at Callywhite Lane, Dronfield - 22nd January 1987

Nowadays the traces of that industrial phase in the town’s life are hard to spot.

Although many consider Dronfield to be a dormitory town of Sheffield, the independent-minded residents have resisted efforts to merge it with the city.

The first day of the re-opening of the Dronfield Market held in the car park behind the Civic Centre.  Heavy rain spoiled the event although it was well attended by the public - 17th July 1980

The first day of the re-opening of the Dronfield Market held in the car park behind the Civic Centre. Heavy rain spoiled the event although it was well attended by the public - 17th July 1980

Dronfield centre - 20th January 1971

Dronfield centre - 20th January 1971