The Development of Norfolk Square.

When Norfolk Square was designated a Conservation Area by Derbyshire County Council in 1970 (with the support of Glossop Borough Council), the Chronicle reported that it had been “laid out between 1810 and 1830 by the Duke of Norfolk for work people from his mills”. However, information imparted by Robert Hamnett in a lecture, in 1899, organised by the Education Committee of the Glossop Co-operative Society indicates that it was somewhat later than that.

Norfolk Square 1825
This plan is taken from the Tontine Agreement for building the Norfolk Arms, dated 5 August 1825.
The outline of the Tontine (Norfolk) can be seen with outbuildings which would now be in the middle of Norfolk Street.
The "garden" on the plan appears to be what is now Norfolk Square and the Far Flatt is the location of the co-op building.
The plan pre-dates the Chapel turnpike and shows Smithy Fold coming in from the bottom right.

According to Hamnett, at the accession of Queen Victoria Norfolk Square was a garden belonging to the Norfolk Arms, and contained a bowling green used by the “middle classes” - i.e. the mill owning class. Where the Co-operative buildings now stand was an orchard belonging to Mr. Joseph Oates, landlord of the Norfolk Arms at the time. The stumps round the Square were cast at the foundry in George Street. Where the Masonic Club now stands was a fish pond, and where the Town Hall and shops were built was a garden and a field of oats, the boundary hedge coming up to the present line of buildings.

Norfolk Square about 1903
Norfolk Square about 1903
Armistice celebrations 1918
Armistice celebrations 1918

Mrs. Stevens, interviewed for the book I Remember (Reminiscences of Glossop before the First World War) is quoted as saying “Norfolk Square was just rough gravel where public meetings were held. It was only after the war was over in 1919 that things started to alter. In 1920 they decided to have a War Memorial put in Norfolk Square for the boys that did not come home, that was when the square started to alter as they put flag paths across it. After a while they started to plant lawns and gardens which made a big improvement to the town centre.” She also recalled “In 1919 we had a Celebration for Peace on Norfolk Square, all the choirs from all the churches and chapels joined in, about 250 voices and orchestral band of 50 instrumentalists. It started with In Memoriam, then Thanksgiving and finished with a patriotic sing for about 3 hours. My sister and I were members as we were both in the parish hall choir. They had built a large stand in trees near the Partington Club.”

Newly built War Memorial
Norfolk Square about 1922
The newly built War Memorial, with the garden which originally surrounded it, and the Square about the same time, with the gravel between the paths.

On first reading the remarks of Mrs. Stevens it appears that the paths were laid out in 1919/20. In fact, the paths were actually laid many years earlier.
An article in the Glossop-dale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter of 7 September 1906 stated “Norfolk Square, Glossop's central and only prominent open space, is at last undergoing a transformation, for which pedestrians and townspeople will offer up heartfelt thanks. For a long time past the surface of the “Square” had degenerated by usage and rain to such an alarming extent that it was well nigh impassable for pedestrians who had the slightest concern for their pedal extremities, but now a flagged pavement across the Square will give remedy and comfort.”.

A postcard copy of the photograph to the right was posted on 3 May 1912.
Norfolk Square before 3 May 1912

The Watchman column in the Chronicle of 17 November 1950 described the Square of the early years of the 20th century as a rough, cobbly-surfaced, open space whose principal use was for open-air meetings, the platform for which was always a horse-lorry which stood with its shafts on the ground. At election times, when the Town Hall was a polling station, the political parties used to park a furniture van on the square and use it as a committee room. The article continued “After the first world war three Glossop magistrates stood in the Town Hall entrance sheltering from rain after a meeting, looking on the dismal square on which, by this time, the War Memorial had been erected. One of the magistrates (Mrs. Partington. M.B.E.) deplored the surroundings of the memorial and declared the square ought to be laid out.”. The General Purposes Committee of the council discussed the matter and agreed that the square should be laid out with lawns and shrubberies. Mrs. Bennet Sidebottom (daughter of Lord Doverdale), became interested and offered to pay the whole cost, including the linking of the stumps by ornamental chains, provided it was laid out with unbroken lawns as was a similar square where she then lived (Harpenden, Herts.). The Chronicle had reported, in November 1928, that the cost of the lay-out of Norfolk Square, laying the turf, alterations to War Memorial, and the heavy chains threaded between the posts amounted to £528 0s 7d. Watchman wondered whether that condition still held, offering the opinion that “a bit of colour on Norfolk Square would be an improvement, and perhaps money could be found to replace the old worn-out flags that make the diagonal”.

Norfolk Square newly lawned 1927
Opening of the newly lawned Norfolk Square on 17 September 1927
The lady with the muff is Mrs Bennet Sidebottom.
Opening of the fountain 1966
Opening of the fountain in 1966

In 1965, as part of the Borough Centenary celebrations, the Townswomen's Guild offered to pay £100 towards the cost of installing a fountain in the square. Mrs Lily Hough, president of the Townswomen's Guild, switched on the fountain at a ceremony in November 1966. In doing so she expressed the hope that it would be an attraction to all the people who took advantage of Norfolk Square and that the pool would not become a litter pool. Sadly her fears came true and the pool became an unofficial litter bin. In addition, the water jet proved erratic. At times it was little more than a trickle into the pool, but at others it threw water onto the surrounding stone slabs, drenching people walking past and creating a skating rink in winter. The result was that the fountain was removed in 1972 and the bowl of its pool was filled with soil and plants.

In between these events the layout of the Square was rearranged, the diagonal paths being replaced by a layout more akin to the one we are familiar with today, a move not universally popular. On 7 August 1970 the Chronicle asked the question “Is Norfolk Square more pleasant since the flower beds and lawns were rearranged?”, commenting that the question had split the town; “Some maintain that the Square’s appeal has been diminished and that it was much better when people were able to take a short cut towards the railway station. But hundreds still linger on the seats - this week there have been particularly large gatherings because of the sunny weather.”.

Whatever the layout, Norfolk Square continues to be an important public space for Glossop.

Norfolk Square in 1978
Norfolk Square in 1978
Norfolk Square about 1995
Norfolk Square about 1995

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Last updated: 24 December 2021