Chesterfield was regarded as a berewick of Newbold in the Domesday book, though during the Medieval period this relationship changed, and Chesterfield became the prime destination.
Along the river Hipper in particular, Chesterfield gained a reputation for leather tanning in this period, and its prominence was confirmed in 1204 with the granting of a market charter. It is reasonable to expect that there was a market before this date, located on the north side of the current St Mary's church, though sometime after the granting of the charter, the market moved to its current position. In all likelihood, this would have occurred over a period of years. The success of the Market is largely due to the geographical position of Chesterfield. Livestock and woollen products farmed in the peak district would have been traded with arable products farmed in Lincolnshire. There was also a trade in salt from Cheshire, which is still reflected in street names such as Saltergate. In essence, most of the trade was east–west.
At the start of the industrial revolution, Chesterfield and its surrounding areas sat upon large coal reserves and the growth of areas that make up much of the modern town, such as Brampton, Whittington and Hasland can be attributed to mining and the development of a manufacturing base. Pottery, engineering and beauty products made at Robinsons as well as coal mining and coal product manufacturing were the prevalent industries, effectively until the 1980s. It is a little known fact in this period that Chesterfield was one of the first towns in Britain to have electric street lighting, from 1881 no less.
From the 1960s, the Royal Mail became the town's largest single employer, with many functions such as accountancy and IT being performed in the town.
Today, Chesterfield retains much of its historic character in the town centre, despite modern shopping developments, particularly on Vicar Lane, and has latterly been the benefactor of substantial regeneration of some of its old industrial sites within the borough and beyond.
Chesterfield's most-recognisable landmark, clearly seen from any train passing by the town on the Sheffield to London mainline, is the crooked spire of St Mary's and All Saints Church. It was constructed in 1362, to sit atop a tower built earlier in the century. Although it was built straight, the spire has been both twisted and leaning for many hundreds of years, evidenced in the rich local folklore around the church. One story was that the Devil himself was seated one day on the church, with his tail wrapped around the spire, intent on causing mischief to the town. The townspeople bandied together to ring the church bells, which startled the Devil so much that he jumped and fled, with his swishing tail causing the spire to twist in its wake. Another less favourable estimation of Chesterfielders holds that a virgin once married in the church, and the church was so surprised that it craned its spire around to take a look at the bride. Should a virgin ever again marry in St Mary's Church, the spire will right itself!
The first attempt at an actual historical explanation for the spire's odd shape states that since it was constructed in the wake of the Black Death (bubonic plague), there must have been a lack of skilled craftsmen on hand to complete such a delicate job. The theory holds that a bunch of idiot builders simply bodged it, using the wrong kind of wood and poor techniques. This theory was added to at a later date by claims that the lead tiling that covers the spire twists because of a heat discrepancy when the sun is shining on one side and not the other. As for why this doesn't affect other church spires in the area is unknown; maybe the tales of clumsy devils and rarer-than-hen's-teeth virgins really are true.
National Express coaches run all over England, some routes stopping at Chesterfield.
There is a much reduced service on Sundays.
Chesterfield is close to the M1 motorway and is reached via the A617. However, from Sheffield, it is probably quicker to use the A61. If approaching from the north via the M1, it is recommended that you exit the M1 at Junction 29, as this is considerably quicker. Junction 30 will also be signposted towards Chesterfield, but that route is a slower journey.
Once you are in Chesterfield, there are some spacious car parks dotted around the town centre. Most of these have a moderate parking charge.
Frequent trains link 1 Chesterfield station with Sheffield, Derby, Manchester, Leicester and London St Pancras. If you want to travel on a local train into the Peak District: Hathersage, Edale and Hope, these can be reached from Chesterfield by changing at Sheffield. Through tickets are available.
- 1 St Mary's and All Saint Church (The Crooked Spire), Church Way, ☏ . M–Sa 9AM-4:15PM; daily guided tours of the spire from Easter to Christmas. The town's most famous landmark. Free; spire tour: £5 adult, £3 child.
- 2 Revolution House, High Street, Old Whittington, S41 9JZ, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Summer only: Sa Su bank holiday M 10AM-4PM. 300 years ago, this cottage was an alehouse, the 'Cock and Pynot' ('Pynot' is a dialect word for magpie), and it was here, as history and tradition relate, that three local noblemen - the Earl of Devonshire (from nearby Chatsworth), the Earl of Danby and Mr. John D'Arcy - met to begin planning their part in events which led to the overthrow of King James II in favour of William and Mary of Orange. Free.
- 3 George Stephenson's grave, Holy Trinity Church, St Helen's Close. The final resting place of the civil engineer and "Father of Railways". Free.
- 4 Queen's Park. A beautiful, family-oriented park via a bridge opposite the council house. Free.
- 5 Barrow Hill Roundhouse, Campbell Drive, Barrow Hill S43 2PR, ☏ . Sa Su 10:00-16:00. A Roundhouse is a shed for parking steam locomotives, around a central turntable so they can be reversed or switched onto the railway. This one, which happens to be square, is the last functioning Roundhouse in Britain (though there are turntables elsewhere). There's a collection of heritage steam and diesel locos. The short spur of track is still connected to the main line. Adult £5, child £3.
- Watch football: Chesterfield FC play soccer in the National League, the game's fifth tier. Their home ground is Technique Stadium, capacity 10,500, on B6057 Sheffield Rd a mile north of the railway station.
- 1 Chesterfield Market. The largest market in the area and was given a charter in 1204. This charter states that the market cannot be closed down unless nothing is bought there for a week.
- 2 The Pavements. Shopping centre with typical brand names.
- 3 The Yards. It features a handful of local independent shops, such as Organic Kitchen, Pet Shop and M's gallery.
- Almost every Sunday morning, there is a car boot sale at Holywell Cross car park. This is an ideal place to buy second-hand goods (and get a bargain!). As a result, the car park is closed to traffic on Sundays. However, there is a multi-storey car park adjacent to the car boot sale (open every day including Sundays).
- Vicar Lane and The Pavements Provide most of the usual chanstores you would expect in a large town, The town centre, which links the two, also has numerous chainstores and independent shops
- 1 Crossroads Cafe, 51 Brimington Road North, ☏ . Basic décor with good classic food.
- 2 Rose & Crown, 104 Old Road, Brampton, ☏ .
- 3 The Old Post Restaurant, 43 Holywell Street, ☏ .
- 1 Peacocks Coffee Lounge, 67 Broad Pavement (on Low Pavement), ☏ . A marvellous coffee shop with plenty of seating and, more importantly, brilliant refreshments.
- 2 Northern Tea Merchants merchants, Crown House, 193 Chatsworth Road (a mile west out of the town centre along Chatsworth Road), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Good spot for afternoon tea. Wide range of high quality of tea and coffee beans and big slices of cakes. Also sandwiches and panini. Tea leaves and coffee beans can also be bought to take home.
- 1 Ibis Chesterfield Central, Lordsmill Street (Town Centre), ☏ .
- 2 Premier Inn - Chesterfield North, Tapton Lock Hill, S41 7NJ (behind Tesco Superstore A61), ☏ .
- 3 Premier Inn - Chesterfield West, Baslow Rd, Eastmoor, S42 7DA (Highwayman Pub A619), ☏ .
- 4 Travelodge, Brimington Road North, Old Whittington, S41 9BE (A61 North of Town), ☏ .
- 5 Anis Louise Guest House, 34 Clarence Road, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10:30AM. 4-star guesthouse with private on-site carpark, free wi-fi, and digital TV. All rooms with en-suite bathrooms. £27.
|Routes through Chesterfield|
|Leeds ← Sheffield/Rotherham ←||N S||→ Mansfield → Nottingham/Derby|
|Sheffield (South & West) ←||N S||→ Alfreton → Derby|