News

Blue plaque unveiled at University’s Chesterfield campus

9 March 2022

People happily standing near to the wall
Frank Gorman, Professor Keith McLay, Dr Maureen Strelley and Philip Riden (Richard Richards Photography)

A Blue Plaque has been unveiled at the University of Derby’s Chesterfield campus to commemorate the building and its significance as a prominent former girl’s school in the area.

The plaque was unveiled at the Grade II listed building, St Helena, formerly Chesterfield Girls High School, by Dr Maureen Strelley, a former pupil and Bolsover GP, at an event hosted in collaboration with the Chesterfield Civic Society on Monday 7 March, 2022.

The building was originally designed by G.H. Widdows, one of the outstanding school architects of his day and was his first major project for the county council. Opened as a new secondary school in 1911 by the Duchess of Devonshire, the school provided transformative education for many pupils, before it closed in 1991.

In 2016, the University fully transformed the building, which is now regarded as a centre of excellence for health, providing some of the best teaching facilities in the UK for nursing courses.

Professor Keith McLay, Provost – Learning and Teaching at the University of Derby, said:

“We are delighted that a Blue Plaque has been unveiled at our St Helena building in recognition of its historic significance.

“The University sympathetically restored the building, retaining most of its original features, and is now a teaching and learning environment for students who are going into valuable careers in the healthcare profession. We are proud of the building and its heritage as a pioneering educational establishment.”

Man holding a microphone

The University sympathetically restored the building, retaining most of its original features, and is now a teaching and learning environment for students who are going into valuable careers in the healthcare profession.

Professor Keith McLay
Provost - Learning & Teaching

Philip Riden, Chairman of Chesterfield Civic Society, added:

“It is fantastic that this wonderful building, which provided life changing opportunities for so many young people, has been recognised with a Blue Plaque.

“Looking back at its history, the first secondary school for girls in Chesterfield was a private school run from a house called East Bank on Sheffield Road. Faced with the need to provide places under the 1902 Education Act, the county council bought up the school and got it temporarily recognised as a public secondary school on condition that they built a new school as soon as possible, which they did on an extremely ambitious scale.

“This school, which was renamed St Helena School in 1947, and Chesterfield School, which offered education to boys, were important as major agents of social mobility for their pupils, which they took from a number of schools across the borough and adjoining county area. Both enabled their pupils to proceed to higher education and onto successful professional careers, which is very much aligned to the work and ambitions of the University of Derby today.”

Other attendees at the event yesterday included Dr Denise Baker, Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Health, Psychology and Social Care at the University of Derby, Professor Stephen Wordsworth, Interim Deputy Dean of the same College, and Frank Gorman, Secretary of the Chesterfield Civic Society.

After the unveiling ceremony, all attendees were invited to lunch and a tour around the campus.

As well as learning spaces, the University’s Chesterfield campus is home to the Innovation Centre Chesterfield, which allows small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to incubate new business ideas, increase their speed of growth and de-risk the process of developing new products.

Find out more about the University of Derby Chesterfield campus.

For further information contact the Corporate Communications team at pressoffice@derby.ac.uk or call 01332 593953.