Derby Telegraph Bygones – 1986 Central News film from MACE shows Belper pupils visiting Thorntons

Each month I write about a piece from MACE’s collections for Derby Telegraph’s Bygones.

In this month’s edition I describe an ITV Central News broadcast on January 29, 1986, when third-year pupils from Parks Middle School in Belper visited the Thorntons factory at Somercotes.

This was a nostalgic and rather unexpected experience for me as our catalogue at MACE originally described this news footage as showing a visit to Thorntons by pupils of Parks Middle School in Nottingham.

But, when I watched the footage, I discovered the pupils were actually from Parks Middle School in Belper, the school I attended from 1984 to 1986, and that these were third year children from when I was in the first year at the school.

Every week we have enquiries from members of the public who have discovered that their relatives appear in material we care for at MACE, so it was a nice moment to personally discover familiar faces in our collections!

The piece begins with a wide, high angle shot of the schoolchildren looking at part of the production line.

Central News reporter Nick Franklin says that the visit by the schoolchildren is a “propaganda exercise to woo the workforce of tomorrow”.

He continues: “And what better place to start than the world’s most modern chocolate factory?”

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The piece briefly cuts away to shots of the Queen watching an Easter egg being iced at the official opening of the factory on March 15, 1985.

Nick then goes on to say: “Thorntons, now celebrating its 75th year, is a good example of an old family business that’s not only survived but is expanding, employing over 2,000 people here and at Belper.”

The piece then cuts to shots of employers truffle forking. He adds: “On this line alone they do 60,000 an hour.”

And he explains another reason for the visit: “Behind all this, the employers want to offset surveys which show that children believe that industry is a rat race.”

There is then an interview with Thorntons’ then deputy chairman Michael Thornton, who says: “Working in industry can be fun. Industry has a bad reputation, really. It’s lowly-rated by young people and we’re trying to show that a career in industry is a good career to have. We’re delighted to see this young party here…”

Nick Franklin goes on to report: “Behind the chocolate coating, though, an ugly statistic remains. That’s the three-and-a-half million unemployed. But there is a strong belief that children will benefit from close links between schools and the workplace.”

There is then an interview with the fifth provost of Derby Cathedral, the Rev Benjamin Lewers, who says: “I know now with the sort of information that’s coming through, how keen industries are to have children in on a long-term basis and put their managers back into schools to have a two-way process, so that the industrial core can get to understand the educational core and the process of employment can be helped on at that very profound level.

“I’m not going to say, because I don’t know, what the actual results are going to be, but, my goodness, we’re trying.”

The children are then handed out chocolates and asked whether they would like a job at Thorntons.

The original news piece held in the MACE archive also has a selection of “trims” at the end. These are a selection of unedited pieces of material that were not broadcast.

For the version that can be viewed online, MACE has edited these together to include further shots of the children’s visit to the plant, including shots of Valentine’s and Easter chocolates.

The original piece also includes shots of the production line to the song The Candy Man, performed by Sammy Davis Jr, that we have replaced with royalty-free music for copyright reasons.

The schoolchildren in the piece would have been 12 and 13 at the time. This was the last year of Parks Middle School before it merged with Herbert Strutt Middle School and Belper High School in September 1986 to become the comprehensive school, Belper School.

For two years, Belper School was on two sites, Parks Site (formerly Parks Middle School) and Brooks Site (formerly Belper High School) until the school was brought onto one site in 1988.

Parks was eventually demolished and Herbert Strutt Primary School was built on its site.

Did you go on the Parks Middle School visit to Thorntons? Why not share you memories with Derby Telegraph on


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