Amber Valley mourns former mayor who rose from the mines

Eric Chapman, former mayor and councillor for Langley Mill, pictured in his year of office with wife Connie.
Eric Chapman, former mayor and councillor for Langley Mill, pictured in his year of office with wife Connie.

Amber Valley civic leaders and residents have been paying tributes to a former mayor of the borough following his death.

The friends and family of Eric Chapman were joined by former colleagues and representatives from throughout the community at his funeral on Monday, July 31.

Flags at Ripley Town Hall flew at half mast in the days leading up to the funeral and current mayor David Wilson offered his condolences to Eric’s loved ones.

He said: “As a councillor of Langley Mill and Aldercar Parish Council, and mayor for 1996-97, Eric carried out his duties with dignity and honour, and served the community with distinction.”

Born in Essex, Eric moved to Durham as a child and started work as a miner at the age of 14. He lived to be 88.

When pit closures began in 1963, he moved his young family to Langley Mill to take a job at Moorgreen colliery and immediately embraced his new community.

Eric joined the cricket club, where he would later open the new pavilion in his year as mayor.

He also took up bowls, eventually becoming president of Derbyshire Bowls club, and enjoyed a spell as a bingo caller at the hall on Heanor Market Place.

He became entertainment secretary for the Langley Mill working men’s club, then chairman of the Langley Mill Miners’ Welfare.

He became a parish councillor and then borough councillor, and helped initiate the campaign to reopen Langley Mill station, finally succeeding in 1986.

Eric would help his constituents at any opportunity, from helping to fill in forms, to addressing local maintenance and environmental matters, and visiting the elderly, unwell and bereaved.

His granddaughter Nicola said: “A lady approached me recently to offer condolences and said ‘I have a lot to thank him for, he helped to secure me a home in hard times, and also helped to get me a job’.”

In his two years as deputy and then mayor he attended countless events, openings and tours, opening the first ever Ripley well-dressings in June 1996 and the Ripley Sitwell business centre.

He also raised money for the Cleft Lip and Palate Charity, and led a day out at American Adventure for deprived children.

His work brought him into contact with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who became friends after many invitations to Chatsworth House, and earned him two invitations to the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace.

After his mayoral duties came to an end he continued as a councillor for a further ten years until ill health forced him to step down.

He is survived by his wife Connie; children Christine and Trevor; grandchildren Craig, Nicola, Sidoney and Jade; and great-grandchildren Faith, Oliver and Evie-Rose.