After the longest week in North East Derbyshire history, we’re finally back with the second round of the epic battle between Sheffield and Chesterfield, as they squabble over the ownership of our very own Dronfield. Today we’ll be taking a walk down Dronfield’s memory lane and looking at the history of this heated feud. Be prepared, you’re in for a few shocks… *
It all began when Dronfield was founded back in 1127. As a small town renowned for its bees, mucky river and alehouses a-plenty, Dronfield was very firmly a part of Derbyshire’s assemblage of quirky little settlements. If only it remained that simple.
Things got complicated in 1362, when The Great Swarm of Wasps (also known as The Attack on the Drones) invaded Dronfield’s borders and threatened to eradicate our main claim to fame: those buzzy little bees. The Mayor at the time sent requests for help to their N. Derbz comrades, Chesterfield, but unfortunately they were too busy working on The Spire of Crooks, as it was known back then (it was originally constructed by local felons in place of Chesterfield instating a penitentiary system) to be of any aid. Having no other option, Dronfield was forced to seek help elsewhere or face fading away into utter obscurity. And so it was to unknown lands they travelled, over the mountainous region of Greene Lane and beyond, until finally, they found hope in the shining city of Sheffield. Sheffield was quick to offer assistance and The Dronfield Wasp Extermination of 1363 forged a strong bond between the neighbours.
By 1741 Sheffield was making a name for itself as an industrial superpower, and an influx of workers flooded in from across the UK to be a part of The Steel City Revolution. This was Dronfield’s opportunity to repay their debt to Sheffield, and they offered cheap housing and an amazing public transport connection to support the sudden increase in demand for accommodation in (and around) Sheffield. It was then, however, that the citizens of Dronfield first instigated the very debate that we are still attempting to resolve today. They had uprooted their lives to work in Sheffield, and to piggy-back on the international glory that Sheffield was experiencing for making really exceptional knives and forks. Yet when they wrote boastful letters to their friends back home, they were mocked and accused of fabricating their stories and left to feel nothing but shame. All because of the return Derbyshire postal address they provided…
This sparked a century’s worth of petitions amongst Dronfield’s residents, as they campaigned endlessly to be released from their Derbyshire affiliations. Eventually, in 1893, Chesterfield relented and signed over the deeds of Dronfield to an eagerly awaiting Sheffield, who had always harboured a soft-spot for the quaint little village. For a wonderful two weeks, everybody in Dronfield was proud to be a member of their humble town. Unfortunately, a technicality in the deeds exchange was revealed by Chesterfield’s law team which rendered the deal void and once again Dronfield was placed back under the jurisdiction of Derbyshire. The legal battle that ensued spanned years and dragged up some very unpleasant scandals between Sheffield and Chesterfield, the extent of which goes far beyond what we can cover here in this article.
Finally, it all came to a head in 1982. Whilst the world at large was busy watching the UK and Argentina battle it out over possession of the Falklands, a similar fight was happening right here on our doorstep. Armies were formed, strategies were made and Dronfield came THIS close to being a fully-fledged battle-zone. How exactly Sheffield and Chesterfield came to step back from the brink of war, no one really knows. One minute it was seconds away, the next it was never spoken of again, except in the hushed voices of myths and legends.
And that brings us back to the present day. There’s a cloud of mystery over what really happened, and even more so, over where we really belong. The only thing we can say for sure is, we’ve spent 99% of our past under the possession of Derbyshire. And so, for that reason, the History round of this battle goes to Chesterfield.
That brings us to 2 – 0 to Chesterfield, meaning they’re sure to win the overall fight. But will it be a clean-sweep or can Sheffield bow out with some tiny morsel of dignity? Look out for the final round: Social Attitudes, in the next week or so.
* Elements of this historic account have been subject to creative interpretation. For a factually accurate (a.k.a. boring) account of Dronfield’s past, please check the Wikipedia page. Spoilers: nothing happens.
Contributor: Millie Murdoch (@Millie_Murdoch)