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Derbyshire gay rights trailblazer honoured with cross country walk

A trailblazer of early gay rights was honoured with an annual walk, raising more than £500 for Chesterfield’s LGBT+ centre.

Edwardian activist and poet Edward Carpenter was remembered during the sponsored seven mile walk starting at his home, in Millthorpe, and continuing cross country through Rumbling Street, Wilday Green and Cutthorpe to Chesterfield, where he sold fruit and vegetables at market.

Chesterfield borough councillor Ed Fordham, who led the group of 12 walkers with his dog Sparky, said: “This was the third walk in honour of the role model that is Edward Carpenter. 

“In the Victorian and Edwardian era whilst much of gay London was fleeing for its own safety to Paris as Oscar Wilde was jailed, radical Edward Carpenter was leading an open life here as a gay man with his life partner George Merrill. 

“This is largely forgotten but hugely positive story for Derbyshire.

“Indeed, when Scotland Yard investigated Carpenter and Merrill for ‘encouraging obscenity’ in 1911 with the publication of The Intermediate Sex (an early book about gay relationships) the people of Derbyshire and Millthorpe stood by Carpenter and the police were unable to muster sufficient evidence to act. 

“This story of acceptance, of inclusion and of equal rights is as relevant today as ever.”

The walk was kick-started on Sunday (September 4) by Vice Chairman of North East Derbyshire District Council, Councillor Martin Thacker and Consort Jean Spencer.

He said: “The importance of the work the LGBT+ Centre does across the county cannot be underestimated and I’m personally delighted that it has become an annual event and I’m proud to support it again this year.”

Ian Robson, Chief Executive of the Derbyshire LGBT+ thanked everyone who took part and donated, commenting: “We know how difficult times are and we are a small charity but community support like this makes a massive and positive difference.”

The walk is part of the ongoing project to bring back to life the story of Edward Carpenter and next year the campaigners plan to reintroduce rare Lord Suffield apple trees to the area, which he grew on his smallholding in Millthorpe.

Donations for the walk can still be made by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/carpenter22

Edward Carpenter Walk. North East Derbyshire District Council Vice Chairman Councillor Martin Thacker helped kick start the third annual walk in memory of Edward Carpenter. Picture provided by Ed Fordham,
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