Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Chapel-en-le-Frith Target Wall

Liz McCormick has written to us about her research into the target wall at Chapel-en-le-Frith.  This updates and corrects our original article which remains at the foot of this page and provides considerably more information about this interesting feature.

"The wall that was demolished in 1991 and is referred to as the target wall was not 200yrs old. All records and press items show the wall to be part of a 30 yard safety rifle range which was constructed mainly in 1910 with final adjustments in 1913. The old Volunteer Rifle Range that was built by the Volunteer Forces (which formed in 1859/60 and went on to become the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Sherwood Foresters) was closed by 1899 on the orders of the War Office. This earlier range had its target area in the same vicinity as the 30 yard safety range was to be built

The Chapel Volunteers of 1804 were disbanded in 1809 and became part of the local militia. William Braylesford Bunting covers the volunteer movement in reasonable detail in his book "CHAPEL-EN-LE-FRITH ITS HISTORY AND ITS PEOPLE" on pages 347 and 348.

From 1899 Chapel-en-le-Frith was without a rifle range until a Drill Hall was built. The Drill Hall with War Office approved miniature rifle range opened on Market Street in 1907, again the Buxton Advertiser kept us updated on the fundraising progress and eventual opening of the Drill Hall.

The Buxton Advertiser in April 1910 confirmed that a new 30 yard safety rifle range was also to be constructed at Chapel-en-le-frith and the old stone butts from the first range would be demolished and used in the construction of the new range. The wall in the new range was not to carry targets but to stop stray  bullets and ricochet.

In 1991 an article appeared in the Buxton Advertiser where a few facts were mixed up and has been the source of some 'local legends' ever since.

The line of vision from the school steps to the original butts was not clear and therefore it would have been unsafe to take the shot. The 800yd marker of the old range was visible from the school steps and it could be possible that this marker was mistaken for a target by an onlooker but it is very unlikely that the designated range warden would sanction shooting other than from the rifleman's allocated marker and toward the target area. It would not count toward their drill and as ammunition was limited and the activity unsafe in terms of public safety I can only think there is little or no fact behind this tale.

The photographs on the website show the wall to consist of three sections initially but only two sections remained in the decades before it was demolished in 1991. I would be interested to know what happened to the third section which appears to have been removed by the 1950's?

There is a good amount of press coverage of the activities of the local Territorial Forces and the closure of rifle ranges and the amending of or building new ones during the 1900 to 1913 time period was regularly included.

The  town of Chapel-en-le-Frith has actually had three rifle ranges but from 1900 the volunteers had to travel to Edale, Bakewell and Combs for practise  on longer ranges in order to complete their musketry training

The  old-maps website has an extensive collection of maps and it is possible to see the progress of the Volunteer Rifle Range on the 1883 and 1899 maps. The OS maps of the 1920's show the 30 yard safety range as an oblong and has no reference to the old range".  


Liz is also researching the Chapel-en-le-Frith Drill hall and its ranges and would any help that readers might be able to provide. She may be contacted through this website and would also be happy to answer any queries on these subjects.
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Our booklet "Chapel-en-le-Frith in 1940 caught the attention of one observant buyer, Pete Goddard.

A number of the photographs show a parade of volunteers taking place on the cricket ground in the summer of 1940. In the background, on three of these, can be seen albeit faintly, the target wall in the next field. It is just above the scorers hut.  Pete tells me that this was used by the old volunteer regiment who used to fire from the steps of the infant school 1000 yards away. The wall was over 200 years old and built by the Chapel Volunteers. They merged with the Sherwood Foresters in 1804 and the wall was used by soldiers who later served in the Boer War as well as two World Wars.
Despite attempts by the Parish Council to obtain a preservation order, the wall was demolished in 1991's by the landowner who deemed it unsafe.


The wall is barely visible in the original photograph. When we zoom in at high resolution it becomes a little clearer.



Thanks to Robin Sharp for allowing us to reproduce his photograph of the wall just before it was demolished. Robin can be seen in the picture, the young buy with a dog.

The booklet Chapel-en-le-Frith 1940: Photographs from the albums of Eric Young is available from the History Society price £2.00 plus postage.  An Kindle ebook version can be downloaded from Amazon price £2.00  http://amzn.to/1bJwJUP
A collection of photographs from the albums of Eric Young, formerly of Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire. The pictures depict the town suffering from a heavy fall of snow in January 1940. In the following summer, volunteers parade on the town's cricket ground.
This is a collection of over 40 historic photographs.

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