The Story of Derbyshire Life

PUBLISHED: 12:23 18 March 2011 | UPDATED: 20:33 20 February 2013

The Story of Derbyshire Life and Countyside from 1931-2011

1st January 1931 to 1939

Derbyshire Countryside first appeared on the scene when the country was suffering under the centurys worst depression. It was a quarterly magazine published by the Derbyshire Rural Community Council, price two pence (about 1p) and was printed and published by Standard Publishing, a business founded in 1928 by Mr Charles H Wood. He had taken the idea of producing a magazine for each county to the newly formed Rural Community Councils (RCC) and received an enthusiastic response from Derbyshires, so the first Derbyshire Countryside appeared. The editorial offices were in St Marys Chambers at the junction of St Marys Gate and Queen Street in Derby with Dr L du Garde Peach as honorary editor. The spirit of the 1930s is captured in the early magazines, particularly the fight to preserve our national heritage with the formation of national parks, organisations like the Youth Hostels Association and the advance of the National Trust. Neither were the realities of the Depression ignored, the challenge of the unemployed was paid serious attention as not just a passing phase.

By 1933 the price had risen to 6d (2p). The magazine was printed in Ashbourne on blocks made in Borrowash but by April 1935 it was being printed by Hobson & Son Ltd in Derby Market Place. In Christmas 1935 the editorial offices moved to Community House on Kedleston Road. The magazine was now owned by The Derbyshire Countryside Ltd a new company formed in February 1934 with Brigadier General ECWD Walthall of Alton Manor and the Duke of Devonshire, as well as CH Wood, among the shareholders.

A change of cover seemed in order and a competition for a new design was won by JM Sanders of Alvaston with a drawing of a bowler hatted man resting on a stone wall. Derbyshire industries, country crafts, villages, town and country planning schemes for the Matlocks, scholarly articles, local news, one act plays, sewing patterns and fashion all featured. Royal Crown Derby, Smedleys, Trent Motor Traction Co, Eyres of Chesterfield, Mount St Marys College, and the Old Vicarage School were among the early advertisers.

The economy was improving and by 1936 the initial seven pages of advertising had grown to 26.

In October 1938 the cover changed again to glossy green and white with a photograph in the upper right corner. Ironically the first cover photograph showed a view over the Upper Derwent Valley near Ashopton that would soon disappear under Ladybower reservoir.

The War Years 1939-1945

The RCC announced that it intended to keep the magazine going throughout the war. A series entitled Domestic Gardening as a Contribution to National Defence began. There were articles on the formation of the Derby Czech Arts Group by refugees, The Home Guard, air raid precautions, national savings and the county library in wartime. An editorial note commented that the German founder of the YHA was in a Nazi concentration camp. In a 1934 issue his visit to Derbyshire had been featured when he planted a copper beech tree in the grounds of Hartington Hall as a symbol of the friendship of the Youth of the nations. Advertising noticeably dropped away and paper and manpower shortages also had an effect. There was a skeleton staff and Mr Wood took a wartime post with Derbyshire County Council organising emergency welfare centres. The April 1939 issue had been an impressive 64 pages with 30 pages of advertising but the winter 1943 issue was 20 pages with six pages of advertisements. As more paper became available the size increased again, the April-June 1949 issue had 34 pages with 14 pages of advertisements and, after 13 years at 6d, the price rose to one shilling (5p).

From July 1943 the editorship was shared by L du Garde Peach with county librarian Edgar Osborne. In the summer of 1947 the editorial offices moved to St Michaels Church House in Queen Street, Derby, and Mr CH Wood became the majority shareholder and managing director. In 1949 Dr Peach retired and Mr Osborne continued as editor.

1950s to Derbyshire Life

In 1950 Keith Mantell was appointed as assistant editor and in 1951 CH Woods son Barrie Wood started to work for the company. Throughout the 1950s there were various cover changes with a photograph becoming more prominent until by 1960 it was covering almost the whole page. 1953 was a landmark year with the publication of a Coronation issue, which used colour on the cover for the first time (a photograph of the Duke of Devonshire in his coronation robes) and on an inside spread with photographs of the two Queen Elizabeths and the Crown Jewels. Wood Mitchell of Stoke on Trent was the printer.

In 1956 Edgar Osborne retired and Keith Mantell took over for the first bimonthly issue, remaining in office until 1958 when FR Banks took over as editor for a year. In 1959 it was the turn of Gilmore Roberts to step into the editors shoes and the editorial offices moved to Uttoxeter New Road, still in Derby.

Derbyshire Life arrives: 1964-2005

December 1964 was the next important step in the magazines history. Circulation was rising and the decision was made to rename the magazine Derbyshire Life and Countryside and to move to a monthly magazine which would be printed in Leicester. Priced 2s (10p), the 88 page magazine included articles on Kings Newton Hall, Youlgreave, Chatsworth Horse Trials, a scary short story entitled Not to be read at Night, a travel article on Portugal, All the fun of the fur, and a visit to the Earths Centre an attractive house on the Temple Meads Estate near Buxton. Advertisers included many familiar names: TC Harrison (advertising the new Consul Corsair), the Kenning Motor Group, WE Watts, Keith Hall, Brigden & Co, jeweller John Field, Alfreton High School, Matthew Walkers (For mince pies with go), Alfred Tomes of Belper, British Midland Airways flying from the Derby airport at Etwall, Hunters, and a whole range of hostelries from right across the county to name but a few.

1965 saw the move to purpose-built premises on Lodge Lane in Derby which would be the magazines home until 2006.

In 1968 Gilmore Roberts died and for a time Harold Harris took over, helped by editorial assistant Vivienne Irish. In October 1972 Vivienne Irish was appointed editor. In 1976 Mr CH Wood retired and was succeeded by his son Barrie C Wood as chairman and managing director of the company. The magazine was printed in Buxton by Buxton Press.

January 1981 saw the publication of a Golden Jubilee issue with articles on Dovedale, Blue John and Derbyshire through the centuries featuring many contributors, such as Robert Innes- Smith, Roy Christian, Frank Rodgers and Rosemary Riggott, who had loyally served the magazine since its early days.

As the century came to an end the effect of the massive advances in technology could be clearly seen. The magazine was now entirely printed in colour the weddings page had hung on in black and white until 1999!

Photography was starting to move into the digital age and production and printing processes were changing rapidly and out of all recognition with the rise of computers. From letterpress to litho to ...

2006 to the present day

In 2005 Barrie Wood retired and the magazine was purchased by Archant Life, the UKs largest independently owned regional media business, under the auspices of managing director Johnny Hustler. Vivienne Irish retired and Joy Hales, who had worked for the magazine since 1995, took over as editor. The editorial offices moved from Lodge Lane in Derby to the present address at 61 Friar Gate.

Derbyshire Life and Countryside has readers all over the world keen to keep in touch with home. In the last five years the circulation has grown steadily from around 11,000 to over 18,000. The September 2010 issue at 310 pages was one of the largest ever produced and October 2010 hit a property high with a 50-page section. Derbyshire Life and Countryside continues to evolve and moves into its 80th year with features that have remained perennial favourites in addition to many new contributions. As well as the countys beautiful countryside, history, towns and industries, there are the personalities and social events that are part of life in Derbyshire today. As the first editor, Dr L du Garde Peach wrote in 1931: All the varied interests which make up the life of our countryside have their place in it ... We shall hope to recapture something of the past ... but whilst we are making the past to live, we must not forget the present is still alive.

I started courting Mr Wood over ten years ago, but it was not until 2006 that we managed to finally acquire Derbyshire Life. To say that it is the jewel in our portfolio understates its importance to us. Despite being the oldest title that we publish, as evidenced by this magnificent anniversary, it has also been the fastest growing. I suspect it is a long way from being mature yet and this performance speaks volumes about the strength of a brand that Derbyshire has really taken to its heart and fully embraces. Aside from the Wood familys careful management for over 75 years I would thank all of our staff, who work so hard to produce such a beautiful magazine.

Johnny Hustler

Hearty congratulations to Derbyshire Life on reaching its 80th anniversary. It is now five years since I stepped down as Chairman and Managing Director, after working on the magazine for almost 55years. I am delighted to see that Joy Hales and the team are continuing to bring to the attention of its readers, the beauty of the county, its history, its personalities, its events and achievements. The magazine has for many years been a unifying force bringing together the whole of the county and engendering in its readers an affection for and pride in their county. May it continue to go from strength to strength adding to our knowledge and enjoyment of this beautiful area.

Barrie Wood

Congratulations to Derbyshire Life on its 80th birthday. It seems only a short time ago when, as editor, I presided over the jubilee and diamond celebrations. I regarded it as a great privilege, when so young, to have been appointed in the 1970s to be editor of the oldest county magazine in England. I have many interesting and happy memories of county events and characters from those years and will always be grateful to the writers and photographers whose professionalism and specialist knowledge of Derbyshire, together with the magazines staff made the magazine the success it is today. I look back on those years with great pleasure and pride and wish the magazine continued and even greater success in the future.

Viv Irish

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