Stephenson Memorial Hall
Whilst this isn’t strictly a museum object, it can be overlooked. Many visitors, especially those not from the area, are not aware that the building which is home to the museum is a historic place in its own right.
Since the 1850’s the town had wanted a way of commemorating the town’s adopted son, George Stephenson, but it couldn’t be agreed upon. Eventually, 3 separate mechanic’s groups came together with an idea to form an institute in the town to improve the general education of working people. A large building was needed to house it.
Eventually, the Stephenson Memorial Hall was built in 1879. It was used for lectures, classes, and a library. A room was also originally intended to be used as a museum. It would have held a collection of geological samples and engineering models.
The building was extended when the building was sold to Chesterfield Corporation in 1889 to include a theatre (now the Pomegranate). The library was moved to the first floor and the main hall used as the Council Chamber until the Town Hall was built on Rose Hill. Construction started in 1933.
Stephenson Memorial Hall as the Council Chamber (Derbyshire Courier)
The building is most fondly remembered as the town’s library with the main lending rooms on the ground floor and the children’s and reference libraries upstairs. People remember entering the building from the entrance on Station Back Lane and going up the stairs. A new library on Beetwell Street opened in 1984 and the Stephenson Memorial Hall fell vacant.
That was until it was deemed to be the perfect place for a museum for the town. Chesterfield Museum and Art gallery was formally opened on 12 May 1994 by Henry Sandon (the pottery expert from Antiques Roadshow).
Charlotte - museums assistant