Chesterfield 1940s Market

I was heading out to grab a couple of wooden pallets, that somebody had offered for free, which I’m going to use to build a hedgehog house ready for this year’s hedgehog cam live stream. My Mum called to say that town was busy and there was a Spitfire near the church so I thought I’d pop in and have a look.

Thursday is Chesterfield’s flea market day and I’ll usually have a browse because I attend the lunchtime recitals at the Crooked Spire. I never buy much from the flea market though: I think car boots have reshaped my perception of what constitutes a bargain; so I tend to leave empty handed. If it wasn’t for the odd interesting chat with the odd interesting trader, I’d probably skip it altogether. It’s a good market if you haven’t been before but, like I said, I usually leave feeling a little disappointed. Today was an exception. In fact, today was exceptional.

The town played host to a 1940s market – so basically this is the regular flea market but lots of 1940s vehicles, wartime memorabilia, a few guest stallholders and everybody dressing up. There were three different live music areas and in the small market area, people were jive dancing. It was a friendly atmosphere and I enjoyed a few conversations.

A full-size replica Spitfire.

The Spitfire full-size replica was impressive. I stood behind it, looking down the roll axis and got a strong sense of the incredible power of this iconic machine. If I’d been alone, I’d definitely have succumbed to impersonating Tom Hardy, in Dunkirk, with “Fortis Leader, one bandit down.” (even with accompanying machine gun fire). Did you know many regard a 13-year old schoolgirl, Hazel Hill, as having actually influenced the outcome of the Battle of Britain? She was mathematically gifted and helped her father design the timing mechanism of the machine guns and props! Incredible – the BBC had a programme about it last year.

I’ve developed such a curiosity for war time history since our visit to Eden Camp in September. Our nation’s war effort is one of the few things that make me proud to be British. Its refreshing because modern Britain seems to contrast that period what with selfish, and somewhat idiotic, behaviours such as people filling up plastic bottles during a fuel (non)crisis or organising parties during a global pandemic. There was a stall dedicated to the Women’s Land Army, who although not in the same limelight as our front lines, made a huge contribution. (Must resist the urge to for a controversial comment on how this is probably just the cross many woman bear in society).

It was nice to see a horse-drawn cart! When I left Chesterfield for Uni in 1999, there was still a horse drawn cart in operation, collecting rubbish from the market. It was both majestic and scary, as a child. I was gutted to see this had stopped when I returned years later. The war time vehicles were magnificent. I love old cars – such quality craftmanship and ornate detail. I’d drive a Classic tomorrow if it wasn’t for my perceived loss of convenience – breaking down or not having synchromesh. I noticed a superb metal National Trust badge on the bumper of one. Shame the NT don’t offer these anymore. Would be on my wishlist but it probably won’t have the same grandeur on a modern plastic bumper though.

I wonder what the purpose of this map was.

An interesting map in the back seat of a Hillman entitled “War Map of All Fronts” caught my eye. The car’s owner offered to open it up for me. It was produced in 1941, by the Daily Express, but I can’t fathom for what purpose. It was for the public, not military obviously, but was this to inform the public of the state of war or was it actually to be used as some sort of ‘where to avoid’ map if going abroad? The gentleman kindly accommodated a photo with said item. When I enquired as to the reliability of the car, he didn’t defended it with the reasoning that it had brought him from Belper but was admittedly dubious about a return trip.

I’ll certainly be less cynical for future town centre activities. Events like this certainly go a long way to rekindling my love of Chesterfield and coercing out of a somewhat reclusive lifestyle. It was good and I look forward to going again next year. Perhaps, next time, I’ll break out the old Harris Tweed suit from the far side of my wardrobe.

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