Words & Images: Bernard Jones (Former Derbyshire Times Chief Photographer)
The first Chesterfield ‘Whit Walk’ took place in 1850. Only four Sunday Schools took part in the original event but it was the foundation for something much bigger.
Over the past 169 years, the Chesterfield Procession of Witness has become famous far and wide and often includes as many as 30 churches from Chesterfield and district.
Back in the 1920s the Procession was a great excuse for a family outing. Children wore new summer clothes bought especially for the occasion and the churches created tableaux depicting religious scenes and transported by horse and cart; the age of the combustion engine was in its infancy. Large crowds gathered to watch from the pavements. My mother, who passed away last year aged 95, would reminisce about how, as a six year old, in the 1930 walk, she was separated from her parents whilst trying to buy an ice cream and ended in the police van for lost children!
My own memories come from the mid 1950s. As a child I could not believe the size of the crowds! Memories that stick in my mind are the Space Shuttle being towed down Chatsworth Road from the then Zion Church and the re-creation of Dr. Who's Tardis to promote the visit of Dr. Billy Graham. Best of all, who could forget the sight of Noah walking down the inner relief road trying to reunite with his Ark after it blew away on a particularly windy Spring Bank Holiday!?!
All great memories. Yet, 169 years on, the people of Chesterfield can still join in the fun and make their own memories! This year the ‘Whit Walk’ or Procession of Witness is on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, May 27th. Around thirty churches, led by the award winning Carlton Brass, will be gathering in front of the Town Hall in the presence of the Mayor at 9.45am. At around 10.05am the bands will strike up and the ‘Whit Walk’ begins. The Procession winds down Knifesmithgate and on to Cavendish Street, Saltergate, Newbold Road, Tennyson Avenue, Rose Hill East and back to the Town Hall.
Come along and watch or, better still, take part in this long-standing Chesterfield tradition.
‘What if it rains’ do I hear you ask? There is NO plan B! The ‘Whit Walks’ will go ahead, whatever, just as it has done for the past 168 years.