‘Bruised Heads and Bent Pokers’: the dangerous Yards of Chesterfield

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Life was hard – and very dangerous – in Chesterfield’s infamous Yards in the 19th century, as Scott Lomax reveals

LARGELY occupied today by the Vicar Lane and The Pavements Shopping Centres, the area between Low Pavements and Beetwell Street was once a hive of small yards, few of which exist today. During the 19th century, with the coming with the railway and the growth of the coal industry, the population of the town swelled and slums developed which, in 1874, were described by the Medical Officer of Health as ‘filthy in the extreme’. The small yards were filled with tiny, overcrowded houses in which many of the town’s poorest folk dwelt…