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Peter Matthews JP, Freeman of the Borough

Peter Mathews with his wife Marilyn

As ‘a person of distinction who has rendered eminent service to the Borough’, Peter Matthews JP from Simmondley has become a Freeman of the Borough of High Peak. At a ceremony earlier this year,, in the presence of family, friends, councillors, the Mayor and Mayoress and the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, he was admitted to the register of Freemen. The award marked over 50 years of public service. As Council Leader Tony Ashton noted, ‘Peter has given exemplary service as an elected councillor, a former mayor of Glossop and one of the longest-ever serving magistrates in Derbyshire.’ 

Besides being a rare honour, becoming a Freeman endows the right to drive sheep through the town. Peter, whose earliest ambition was to be a farmer, is waiting for the opportunity. ‘An afternoon’s shepherding could be a good charity fundraiser: watch this space.’ 

Born and raised in Glossop, Peter attended Glossop Grammar School. Geography, the sciences and civics were the highlights of his schooldays, and at 18 he went to work in the labs of the CPA works at Dinting Vale. By studying at evening class he worked his way up the ranks, but switched to a management career in the Post Office when redundancy was threatened at the textile mill. 

Peter was first elected to Glossop Borough Council in 1964. He was only 29, but had been interested in local affairs since sixth-form debating days. By becoming a councillor for the ward of Old Glossop, he felt he could help make a real difference to the community. ‘In the Post Office and later BT’, he explains, ‘my responsibilities lay in personnel, training and welfare. Like the day job, council service was very much about helping people cope: solving problems within the workplace or town.’ He was to be continually re-elected over the next 13 years to Glossop and subsequently High Peak Borough Council as an independent councillor – ‘independent because I prefer to make up my own mind about things’. 

In 1969 Peter became Mayor of Glossop and spent a busy and most enjoyable year working with many local organisations and raising money for charity. Notable incidents included the first sponsored swim at Glossop Pool and the – unrelated – floods in Old Glossop. ‘The most ceremonious honour of my mayoral year was attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace as a representative of the town. Though I must say I enjoyed many local events just as much.’ 

That same year, Peter was appointed a magistrate. He retained this responsible, challenging but unpaid post for over 36 years, including chairing the combined bench of Buxton, High Peak and Glossop. Being a magistrate, he admits, is not an easy job. ‘Applying the law brings you hostility in some quarters though respect in others. The job demands a deep sense of fairness and a wish to serve your community.’ He had to retire at 70, but remains on the supplemental list.

Retirement, however, didn’t suit Peter, so in 2007 he returned to High Peak Borough Council as an independent adviser to the Standards Committee on ethical and disciplinary matters. He also continues with parish church activities, 41 Club, Probus and his lifelong support for Glossop North End FC. ‘I like to keep busy,’ he says. 

Peter pays tribute to his wife Marilyn, who has been at his side for 62 years, and their daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons. ‘The family keep me going,’ he says. And they are all very proud of him.