A potted history of The Chesterfield Whit Walks

It is hard to define the exact year that the Chesterfield Sunday School Union ( now CEC ) was formed. The first attempt was in 1815 when a meeting was held at Soresby Street Independent   Chapel (Later Soresby Street Congregational and now Rose Hill URC) with five other churches attending including the Independent Methodist at Saltergate ( later to be Saltergate and now Central Methodist) and Brimington Methodist . The original aims were defined as ‘promoting the increase of Sunday Schools, to suggest methods of managing and instructing the children and to increase the spirit of Christian affection and cordial regard between different denominations’. For over 150 years the organisation has remained true to the aims of its founders.

Several further early attempts at union faltered and it wasn’t until Whit Monday 1850 that success was achieved. On 20th May 1850 – Whit Monday - the Union was born and CEC takes this as its foundation date. It is not clear whether there was a Whit Walk on that day but there certainly was a year later. Schools assembled in the market place and walked to three nearby churches fo afternoon services. This time the Chesterfield Sunday School Union was well and truly underway with 15 Sunday Schools, 1,562 scholars and 235 teachers.

The following year the procession route began to take shape. On Whit Monday 1852 it is recorded that 850 scholars met in the Market Place and moved along Burlington Street, Cavendish Street, Saltergate and up to Soresby Street.

What would now be known as the Executive met on a regular basis to discuss what could be done ‘to counteract the immoral influences brought to bear upon the elder scholars and young men of the town’.

Further Key Dates

1877 – Whit Monday gatherings become morning events. 
1888 – Procession route extended to include Low Pavement, Packers Row, Burlington Street, Cavendish Street, Saltergate, Foljanbe Road and Boythorpe Road ending with a gathering in Queen’s Park . This lasted for two years and then the route was changed to return to the Market Place.
1890 – A band enters the Procession for the first time – The Salvation Army band.
1892 – The New Temperance Band join The Procession.
1905 – Queen’s Park used again after Procession and continued to be used until 1935.
1914 – Newbold Road, Queen Street and Tennyson Avenue added to route. From this stage it becomes very similar to present route but there is no mention of tableaux in newspaper reports.
1916/17 – No Procession . World War i.
1919 – Brampton Congregationalists win a prize for their tableau – The Gospel Lifeboat. 3-4,000 children and teachers estimated to have taken part.
1920 -  Derbyshire Times reports ‘a cottage of the old English type completely enveloped a motor car’
1922 – A decorated car featured ivy, white lilac and laburnum and carried a Sunday School Queen.
1933 – Mount Zion (now Zion Assembly of God) win tableaux competition for third time.
1936 – The route began in the Market Place and moved along Burlington Street round into Cavendish Street and then followed the present route.
1940-46 – No processions – World War II
1970 – The Procession route moved to begin in front of The Town Hall and along Knifesmithgate to Cavendish Street and the on the traditional route
1980 – The Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation joins the Procession
2000 – Millennium Procession – 23 tableaux take part in The Procession and around thirty churches of all mainstream denominations
2002 – Name changes from Chesterfield Christian Education Council to Christian Education:Chesterfield