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Chesterfield is Derbyshire’s largest town and it is a historic market town, situated north of Derby near the rivers Rother and Hipper
Chesterfield started out as a Roman fort and was built approximately 70 AD. The Romans probably settled here because the area was extremely rich in natural minerals like tin, lead and coal. The Roman fort later was discovered to have also been built on an old iron-age fort. It is believed that by the early 2nd century the Romans had no longer a need for the fort and moved on leaving it abandoned.
The town was later named by the Saxons. Their name for a Roman fort was caester and they called the wide open fields where cattle grazed a Feld. So when the Saxons arrived and settled they called the area Caester Feld which by the 10th Century was changed to Chesterfield. By now though, the small settlement had swiftly grown into a thriving village. It took two centuries for Chesterfield to become a thriving town.
Chesterfield received its market charter in 1204 from King John and now has one of the largest open air markets in Britain and the stalls are either side of the Market Hall, which in its own right, is a historical building. In the middle of town there is a collection of old and narrow streets that make up “The Shambles”, which houses one of Britain’s oldest pubs. In 2004 Chesterfield’s “Open Air Market” celebrated it’s 800th Anniversary of it’s official opening.
As time went on life was not always perfect in Chesterfield. It’s main industry in the middle ages was the making of wool although leather was prominent too with plenty of Skinners, Tanners, Glovers and Saddlers. The wool industry thrived until the 17th Century before dying out but the leather work continued to prosper until the 18th Century.
None of this was to help with the many diseases that were around though. Leprosy hit the area so bad that a Leper hostel dedicated to St Leonard had to be built. Then just like everywhere else in the sixteenth century the Black Death struck. There was a severe outbreak in 1586-1587and unluckily, Chesterfield was hit again in 1608.
Chesterfield was slightly oblivious to the industrial revolution of the 18th Century but slowly continued to grow with the help of better communications helped by the building of “TurnPike “roads, the chesterfield canal and the arrival of rail, courtesy of George Stephenson, who lived at Tapton House from 1838 – 1848 and is now buried in the Holy Trinity Church.
In 1892 the boundary of the borough was changed and the nearby settlement of Brampton became part of Chesterfield. This was the first of many changes and a sign that Chesterfield was a thriving and growing town. By this time it had its own independent police force and fire brigade.
Many more changes were soon to come along starting with the introduction of Electric street lights and trams, which were soon ditched, as Chesterfield finally caught up with it’s neighbouring towns and joined in with the industrial revolution. The 20th Century had arrived.
With the introduction of Council houses in the 20’s and 30’s, the further boundary changes bringing Hasland and Newbold into the folds of Chesterfield and the building of the new Town Hall(1938),Pomegranate Theatre ( 1949) and The Nth Derbyshire Royal Hospital (1984), Chesterfield started to look much the same as it does today.
To date Chesterfield boasts, as well as it’s traditional markets, several popular shopping centres as tourism of the peak district and the retail industry have taken precedent over the failing manufacturing industry.
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Church of Saint Mary and All Saints
Chesterfield is best known for its “Crooked Spire” at the Church of Saint Mary and All Saints. The leaning characteristic is believed to be the result of the absence of skilled craftsmen, possibly due to the Black Death as this happened only 12 years previous. There have been other reasons given however. One is that the spire was so shocked to learn of the marriage of a virgin in the church that it bent down to get a closer look. It is said that if this were to happen again, the spire will straighten and return to its true position. Another saying is that a Blacksmith from Bolsover mis-shod the Devil, who then leaped over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape.