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John Croot interview (St Mary’s pupil -1975-1980)


image1Arguably St Mary’s School is as much of an institution in Chesterfield as its beloved football club and the two have also enjoyed a long relationship.


Today, Chesterfield FC Community Trust director John Croot, credits the school’s former location on Cross Street with playing a central role in his long career with the club.


John was a pupil at the school when it was located at Cross Street, directly opposite Chesterfield FC’s ground before it moved to the Proact Stadium. Already a Spireites fan, when he was a pupil John would visit the club shop most days to buy programmes and sell in the school playground. After a number of years of doing this, John was invited to work for the club full time and the rest, as they say, is history.


The Club moved from Saltergate  to its new home at the Proact in xxx. Few know however that the last team to play on the hallowed turf of Saltergate was St Mary’s football team.


When the club moved to the Proact Stadium John was pivotal in raising £1.5m to create the Community Hub Facility at teh club. Today John is regarded as one the 50 most influential people in north Derbyshire.


As director of Chesterfield Football Club Community Trust, John Croot heads up a team of coaches, trainers and volunteers who work closely with the football club to promote sports participation, social inclusion and education.


The Trust works with children, offering sports coaching and football based education projects in and out of school, and also organises full-time education projects for young adults, all based around the Proact Stadium.


The Trust’s nationally acclaimed Extra Time project offers older people a chance to participate in the widely publicized Walking Football programme.


Another aspect of the Trust’s work is acting as guardian of the Chesterfield FC’s history, working on heritage projects with the Supporters Club, local councils and local and national museums.


“When we moved down here. we promised North Derbyshire a community stadium, not just a football stadium – and more and more we’re seeing that with things like the Elton John concert we had last summer, which was great for business – and now the Community Trust which has advanced considerably over the last 5 years and is not just about football coaching, but is now also working on strategic partnerships with all Local Authorities, bringing some great social outcomes around our core aims of health, education, social inclusion and sports participation.”


John has retained close links with the school and was responsible for bringing the Anglo-Scottish Cup (19080/81) and the League 2 cup (2013/14) into the playground.


image2He took some time recently to meet with Natasha, Ella and Sarah, who are working hardto raise awareness of the 150th anniversary book, and give them a guided tour of Chesterfield FC. He is very roud to have been St Mary’s boy as were his father and grandfather before him. He remembers his grandfather telling him how the  leftovers at lunchtime were give to teh poor students from a now bricked up window on the Cross Street site.


To hear more of John’s personal Memorable Moments at St Mary’s visit


Opening of the New School


A group of our students, working on the 150th anniversary communications team, working to raise awareness of a book written about the school, have recently found the original Derbyshire Times which tells the story of the opening of St Mary’s Catholic High School on Spencer Street. Here is the transcript of this fascinating article where you can find out the origins of the school and see just how different it was compared to how it is today.


Opening of the New Catholic Schools.

57454_417195238335707_839771746_oA very fine and handsome building has just been completed in Spencer street, adjoining the Church of the Annunciation, for the purpose of educating the children belonging to the Catholic faith. For some time past the school has been held in the large room in the Castle yard, known as the old Chesterfield assembly rooms, where the gaiety and fashion of Scarsdale formerly assembled to hold the race assemblies. The place has grown dingy and has become dilapidated and at length it was then fully determined to erect a suitable building for a school adjoining the church, and as we have before intimated, such a determination has become a solid reality. The design of the building is of the early English style of architecture, and has a bold and commanding appearance. The principal fronts are of wall stone, with dressings round the windows and doors. The roofs are pitched high, and the building is well hat tventilated and lighted, the windows are glazed with obscure glass to soften the light. It contains two rooms 60 feet by 24 feet, with a class room on the ground floor 15 ft by 16 ft. The rooms are exceedingly lofty, the lower room being 15 feet from floor to ceiling, and the upper room much higher than that owing to the roof being open. All the principal timbers are exposed to view, being neatly stained and varnished. There is a tower and a staircase in the interior of it which communicates with the upper portion of the building. The top of the tower and the gables are surmounted by a cross the great emblem of the Catholic faith. The floor of the upper room is supported by massive beams and corbles, which appear to be capable of supporting almost any weight. The whole building has a very substantial and imposing appearance. Mr. S. Rollinson, junior, is the architect of the building, Messrs. Wright and C. Rollinson are the builders, and the edifice has cost about £800. The design reflects much credit on the skill of the architect, and the wok generally has been well executed by the contractors. It is further contemplated to build a master’s house adjoining the school rooms, and also to enlarge the church adjoining.


To celebrate the opening of these schools a soiree and ball was held on Tuesday and singular enough though there had been no public announcement whatever, hundreds were turned away from the doors at the time announced for the opening, and those who really did partake of tea had many shifts and contrivances to resort to. The rooms were filled, and every available place at the tables was occupied. The result was that many who purchased tickets before the day to secure places were doomed to be disappointed. The rooms were beautifully decorated with flags, banners, etcetera, and they had a chaste and very elegant appearance. The following ladies very kindly provided rays with a most liberal supply of provisions free, and most severely were all their energies taxed to keep pace with the continually increasing demand of those who had been permitted to over-crowd the room;-


Mrs. T. H. Pedley, Stubbing Court. Two trays

Mrs. S. Rollinson, jun., Chesterfield, two trays

Mrs. C. Rollinson, Chesterfield, two trays

Mrs. Wright, Chesterfield, two trays

Mrs. Pindar, Chesterfield, two trays

Miss. Newton, Chesterfield, two trays

Mrs. Murphy, Chesterfield, two trays

Mrs. Stringfellow, Tupton, one tray

Mrs. Beardsall, Chesterfield, one tray

Mrs. Smith, Chesterfield, one tray

Mrs. Waits, Chesterfield, one tray

Miss. Moyniham, Chesterfield, one tray


The rest of the trays were provided by the Rev. Father Brindle, who found to his amazement that he had had a far more numerous family to provide for than he ever contemplated. “My good people,” said the rev. gentleman, “we have no room for you. I am very sorry for it.” Such was the rev. gentleman’s bewailment, but it was unavailing as the crowd would keep pushing in rooms.


The ladies who provided trays had to accommodate more than double they had calculated upon, but the liberal provision they hade made enabled them to do this without much difficulty. After tea, Messrs. Mountney and Slack’s quadrille band discoursed most excellent dance music as well as some merry Irish jigs, and coupled with a few songs at intervals contributed highly to  the enjoyments of the evening. There was a refreshment stall provided and superintended by Miss. Newton and Mrs. Pinder, which with the business done by a young lady who embarked in the cigar trade realised a handsome profit. We understand the proceeds of the soiree will realise over £20. The late Sir James Hunloke left by his will on the death of Lady Albermarle, his sister, £1000 to be expended in the provision of suitable schools for educating catholic children, and the cost of the building has been defrayed out of this munificent bequest.


St. Mary’s Catholic High School celebrates 150 years with a charity book

2514190 - St Mary's Book Covers x3 options.inddThe 150th anniversary of St. Mary’s Catholic High School is being celebrated with a new book charting the school’s long history in Chesterfield.


St.Mary’s Catholic High School, Chesterfield – Celebrating 150 years, has been written by local author and the school’s former Bursar Leonie Martin.



The illustrated book tells the fascinating story of the school’s original foundation and developments through two world wars, and its eventual move from the humble origins of Spencer Street and Cross Street to its present day home at Upper Newbold.


Although an Ofsted-recognised outstanding school today few know that once St Mary’s was considered one of the worst in Chesterfield. The book also recognises a time in the school’s history when many of the students were from some of Chesterfield’s poorest families that were forced to send their children to school without shoes.


These stories alongside more than 300 specially selected pictures and illustrations bring the past and present-day St Mary’s to life. The book also includes anecdotes and personal accounts of school life from past pupils, including Brian Watkinson from Wingerworth who left the St Mary’s in 1949.


Leonie Martin said: “This book will appeal to a wide audience. It’s not just about Catholic education in Chesterfield; it’s also a social history. From the logbooks and other original sources, we have been bequeathed a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse of our community through the decades. It’s a really inspiring story!”


Commenting on the book, headteacher of St Mary’s Mr McClafferty, said: “It’s an amazing story that makes me feel privileged to be a part of St Mary’s and of such a deep, fascinating history.”


Two thousand copies of St.Mary’s Catholic High School, Chesterfield – Celebrating 150 years, priced at £15.99 will be available from December from Amazon and the school itself. All proceeds from the book are being donated equally to Ashgate Hospice and to St Mary’s Burkina Faso, Africa, a school which was built and fully funded by St Mary’s Chesterfield and which is growing and flourishing with ongoing contact and financial and practical support.


As well as the book, St Mary’s also has a whole programme of events which will be taking place throughout the anniversary year including an open air mass at the Proact Stadium in 2015.

St Mary's Catholic High School, Newbold Road, Newbold, Chesterfield, S41 8AG

St Marys Catholic High School Academy Trust is an exempt charity and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales with Company Number 8107212 and has a registered office at Newbold Road, Upper Newbold, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 8AG.

St Mary's Catholic High School