Chesterfield is an ancient market town that nestles in the rolling Derbyshire hills, not far from the eastern edge of the Peak District National Park.
Mock-Tudor Facades in Knifesmithgate © Travel About Britain
Built over the site of a Roman fortification, the Anglo-Saxons called it Caesterfeld, from the Old English 'ceaster' (fort) and 'feld' (pasture). There is evidence of a Saxon settlement here and the town is recorded in the Domesday Book.
Chesterfield's Famous Twisted Spire © TAB
Many of the old street-names indicate their ancient trades, such as Glumangate (minstrel street), Saltergate, Knifesmithgate and Packer's Row. The narrow alleyways of the "Shambles" date back to Medieval times, when the area was a traditional meat market.
Although the current town centre is now mainly of Victorian Mock Tudor, there are a few older buildings, including a fine 18th-c terrace in Saltergate, The Peacock (circa 1500) on Low Pavement, and the Elizabethan Royal Oak Inn, in the Shambles.
The town is well known for the crooked leaning spire of its 13th-c parish church. The 228ft (69m) tall spire is made of lead-covered wood, which has gradually warped over the years. Although it appears in imminent danger of collapse, the low centre of gravity means it is actually quite stable. The church of St Mary and All Saints is also noted for its many Guild chapels and monuments.
Chesterfield has been a market centre since the early 12th century. Although the present Market Hall was only opened in 1857, it replaced a jumble of much older buildings.
The centre was redeveloped in the 1970s, when its large central market square and Victorian Market Hall were fully refurbished. The town is still much visited for its outdoor markets, which colourful street stalls that sell a range of goods every Monday, Friday and Saturday.
The old town pump, outside the Market Hall, was erected in 1853 by local surveyor Samuel Rollinson, "for the benefit of the townsfolk and market traders". The pump's raised platform was often used as stand for public speaking.
The Town Hall, to the west of the market centre, is a very impressive long-fronted building, in red brick and stone with a pillared entrance and wide lawns.
Chesterfield has strong links with the engineer George Stephenson (1781-1848), who oversaw the building of the railway through the town. He spent his final years at Tapton House (circa 1800), a plain three story building to the NE of the town, and is buried in Holy Trinity Church. His name has been immortalised in the Stephenson Memorial Hall, which is now the Chesterfield Museum and Art gallery.
Stephenson Memorial Hall © TAB
On the north side of the town, at Old Whittington, is a 16th-c stone and thatch Revolution House (formally the Cock and Pynot Inn). It was here in 1688 that the Earl of Devonshire and his co-conspirators plotted to overthrow James II and put William of Orange on the throne. The property became a local history museum for a while but is now a private residence.
The Chesterfield Canal takes a picturesque route through the town. The towpath, called 'The Cuckoo Way', provides an excellent walking and cycling surface.
The town also lies in the Rother Valley, on the outer fringe of the rugged Peak District, providing easy access to some great hiking and rambling country.