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Talk by John Stamp to friends of Tupton History Society. Monday 15th March 2021.
About John Stamp. I was born at White House Farm, off Queen Victoria Road, Tupton in 1949. My parents Kit (Kathleen) Stamp (nee Turner) and Tom Stamp. Mums family had lived at the farm since the early part of the 20th century. Kit and Tom were married in 1939, both knew the then village residents well having delivered milk around the village since childhood.
I was fortunate enough to record our mum talking of her life and upbringing in Tupton shortly before her death at 96 years in 2016. Her mind was pretty sharp, and she spoke with gladly about Tupton in the past but with passion of the tragedy which unfolded in the village during WW11 on the night of Saturday 15th of March 1941.
Several house in Tupton were bombed by fleeing German aircraft and these included my mum and dad’s farmhouse with crater debris probable from the first bomb, landing in the field between the farm and the village . Mum and dad were extremely fortunate to escape injury as the crater debris came through the roof into their bedroom. But like many felt the immediate shock of not knowing what was happening followed quickly by the emotional pain of village residents as the realisation became apparent. The then bombed houses were in a small area between Ward Street and Victoria Road, where the now Queens Walk, Chapel Walk and Victoria Walk are now situated. You will hear mum talking about the bombings, but of course thinking of how the village was and I have prepared a rough sketch of Tupton village centre to help us relate the current to the past. It is really interesting that the current village centre layout is walkways and little ‘jitties’ very much like in the 1940’s when it was a number of back streets (wide enough for dads horse drawn milk float) and ‘yards where a number of houses were located. Having sat in the Community Garden and listened to the recording of mum describing the events of that night in 1941 it is very understandable how the small village would have felt the pain for each other in such a tightly knit community. Let’s turn our mind back to the night hours of 15 March 1941, people are in bed. German aircraft bombed several houses in Tupton, killing 12 people. Though Tupton's heritage lies in the now defunct coal mining and iron industries, our small village has another more sombre claim to fame; it is a sad fact that Tupton suffered more civilian deaths as a direct result of enemy action during the second World War than did any other rural community in Derbyshire.
The Civilian dead are remembered at the area's senior church St. Lawrence, North Wingfield, and of course in Tupton at St. Johns. After all these years, historical fact is difficult to establish and a number of questions may never be answered. Was the bombing a direct attack on the village, was the real target the London/Sheffield railway line which runs by Tupton's eastern parish boundary; were the bombs simply jettisoned by an aircraft making the return journey to Germany after a raid on Sheffield, or did the glowing firebox on a moving train attract unwanted enemy attention? All have been suggested as possibilities.
One lasting impression of the bombers left was in the area in the woods surrounding Tupton Hall School, called 'Monkey Hollow'. The deep crater in the woods is said to be the result of one of the bombs. Tonight, we remember – tonight I will take the opportunity to put us in Tupton during that night. Many of you will be residents of Tupton in this, the 21st century. Many of us were born after WW2 so the tragedy is perhaps a parent or grandparents’ story, names on the cenotaph, a mention during Remembrance Day and this is my case – a parent’s memory. Tonight, we will meet survivors. At both my schools I played in and around air raid shelters at both Tupton School and Tupton Hal. I, like many saw the cleared bombed out areas in what I knew at ‘Back Street’ where families once lived prior to the terrible night of the 15th of March 1941.
So, Tupton 2021 – I checked the community information the 2011 census recorded the population as 3,428. So, first of all let’s set the scene. Please forget the Tupton you know and love. In 1941 the village was little changed from the turn of the 19th-20th century when it was part of the Hunloke estate. The 18th and 19th century saw coal mining become a reason for Tupton to grow. But imagine if you will, no north side, instead, two long rows of back-to-back cottages (between New inn and N Side- Springfield and Conway), no Ankerbold road housing, nothing south of Madin Street on Wingfield Road (was Back Lane) and little past the New Inn. Little or nothing on Station Road or Nethermoor Road. Tupton village centre was essentially in a triangle between Ward Street, Victoria Road, Green Lane with a few cottages passed the school and a row of cottages opposite. Most of the local shops were in the area, post office, butchers, grocers, hardware shop and garage. Few people owned cars, no supermarkets you shopped locally, and rationing was in full force so there were ration queues. Everyone knew However, there was a significant recreation field/area on the land behind St Johns Church and North side evidencing an early start to Tupton community endeavours.
So, in 1941, many men were away in the armed forces, or at home in reserved occupations – mining, railways or farming. Women took the place of many men in factories, foundries etc to make munitions and war equipment. Tupton was an awfully close-knit small hamlet, with a population counted in the hundreds. I’m painting this picture to emphasise the sense of tragedy and loss that Saturday night and next morning in Tupton where most people knew each other, all the children went to the village school. Men and women worked at Grassmoor pit, Clay Cross works or Donkins or Lampcaps in Chesterfield. The area just on the south side of what is now Mathers Close/Chapel Walk, was hit during the night by three high explosive bombs, two of them being direct hits on houses. Six houses were demolished, and of 14 casualties 11 were fatal. One of the bombs fell in a field off Queen Victoria Road, the debris rose in the air falling on my parent’s farmhouse (White House) The debris came through the room into the bedroom where they were sleeping, they awoke, terrified, to find themselves covered in years of roof debris, roof tiles and looking at the sky where the roof had been. I can only imagine the terror to all those people, of all ages, living in an area 250 yards by 250 yards.
Now let’s get closer to this tragic event – lets listen to people’s memories. First of all, our mum Kitty Stamp, famers wife, married in 1939, no children in 1941 but as with everyone in wartime – busy – war stressed – but probably thinking of being far away from the tragic realities of war. White House farm is located about 200 yards from the main area of devastation. Probably going to bed around 10pm ready for the usual early start next morning as our dad Tommy Stamp would be milking cows and delivering milk to houses in the village.