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Mystery of missing Derby First World War plaque solved

today12 September 2022 2

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A hunt by Derbyshire Live to find a missing First World War plaque has uncovered the lost item, hidden in plain sight in a Derby museum. The brass plaque was dedicated to the men who had worked at Longdon’s Mill, which stood on the site of the now-demolished Sir Peter Hilton Court, the University of Derby hall of residence in Agard Street.

With the building demolished to make way for a new business school, the Derby Civic Society raised concerns about the location of a First World War memorial plaque, which paid tribute to the mill workers who had lost their lives in the conflict. Civic Society chair Ashley Waterhouse asked Derbyshire Live for help in locating the plaque, which he said had not been seen since Sir Peter Hilton Court had been built in the 1990s, but was understood to have been relocated.

We then carried out some further investigations and discovered that the brass plaque had been in fact donated to Derby Museum in 1992. It is now on display at the Museum of Making, in the Old Silk Mill, in The Assemblage at location B19 on the shelf marked Green.

READ MORE: Demolition of University of Derby student accommodation begins

Mr Waterhouse said: “It was difficult to work out when it had last been seen and now that the hall of residence is being demolished and a new building is taking its place, the Civic Society thought it would good if the plaque could be found and put on the new business school that will take its place, to ensure continuity.”

The plaque commemorates nine men who lost their lives in the First World War, all of whom had worked at Longdon’s Mill, which stood on the site of the former Sir Peter Hilton Court before it was demolished in the early 1990s. The mill, built in 1804, as originally a hosiery and surgical bandage manufacturer, before it was demolished to make way for Sir Peter Hilton Court, which was opened in 1995.

It appears that the plaque was originally mounted on an oak backboard and installed in the staff institute at the mill complex. The official unveiling of the plaque was carried out by Major General Sir Richard Luce on February 3, 1921, who went on to become the MP for Derby in 1924 for five years.

Following the rediscovery of the plaque, Mr Waterhouse has said he would like to see the plaque restored to Agard Street. He is in the process of writing to both Derby Museums Trust and the University of Derby to see if it is possible.

A university spokesman said: “It sounds as though it’s been on an interesting journey. I cannot say for certain but I’m sure the university would be happy to consider this request, so if Mr Waterhouse writes to us about it that will get the ball rolling.” A spokesperson for the Derby Museums Trust added: “We would need to go through a formal process to see if this would be possible.”

As well as the plaque, it is believed that a fountain was also installed in the grounds of Longdon’s Mill with the names of the fallen inscribed on tablets and coping stones around it. Including an extra five names of the fallen from the Second World War, it is believed that the fountain was created in the late 1940s.

The fountain memorial was removed to storage when the mill was demolished and partially reconstructed within the new hall of residence development as a flower bed. Sadly, the location of the tablets and the six coping stones is unknown.

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