Chesterfield

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Chesterfield is a market town and a borough of Derbyshire, England. It lies 24 miles (39 km) north of Derby, on a confluence of the rivers Rother and Hipper. Its population is 70,260 (2001), making it Derbyshire’s largest town (the larger Derby being a city). It is located on the A61, 6 miles (9.7 km) from the M1, and forms part of the Sheffield City Region.

Chesterfield received its market charter in the year 1204, and is currently home to one of the largest open air markets in Britain. The area around the town sits over a large coalfield, which was mined from many surrounding collieries until the 1980s. Little evidence of the mining industry remains today, and the town’s economy has moved towards the tertiary sector. The town’s most famous landmark, which is visible from many viewpoints outside the town, is the distinctive ‘crooked’ spire of its predominantly 14th century church.

The nearby NT property of Hardwick Hall has a Chesterfield address.

The town received its market charter in the year 1204 from King John and around 250 stalls can still be found in the town centre every Monday, Friday and Saturday. The charter constituted the town as a free borough, granting the burgesses of Chesterfield the same privileges as those of Nottingham.

Elizabeth I granted a charter of incorporation in 1594, creating a corporation consisting of a mayor, six aldermen, six brethren, and twelve capital burgesses. This remained the governing charter until the borough was reformed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The borough originally consisted only of the township of Chesterfield, but was extended in 1892 to include parts of surrounding townships. In 1920 there was a major extension to the borough when it absorbed Whittington and Newbold urban district. Chesterfield’s current boundaries date from 1 April 1974, when under the Local Government Act 1972, the Borough of Chesterfield was formed by the amalgamation of the municipal borough with the urban district of Staveley and the parish of Brimington from Chesterfield Rural District.

Chesterfield benefited greatly from the building of the Chesterfield Line – part of the Derby to Leeds railway (North Midland Line), which was begun in 1837 by George Stephenson. During its construction, a sizeable seam of coal was discovered during the construction of the Clay Cross Tunnel. This and the local ironstone were promptly exploited by Stephenson who set up a company in Clay Cross to trade in the minerals.

During his time in Chesterfield, Stephenson lived at Tapton House, and remained there until his death in 1848. He is interred in Trinity Church. In 2006, a statue of Stephenson was erected outside Chesterfield railway station.

Local government in Chesterfield is organised in a two-tier structure. At the upper tier, services such as consumer protection, education, main roads and social services are provided by Derbyshire County Council. At the lower tier, services such as housing, planning, refuse collection and burial grounds are provided by Chesterfield Borough Council. The borough is unparished with the exception of Brimington and Staveley: Brimington Parish Council and Staveley Town Council exercise limited functions in those areas. Chesterfield Borough Council consists of 48 councillors. The council choose one of their members annually to be mayor of Chesterfield, with the 371st mayor elected in May 2011.

The borough council uses armorial bearings originally granted to the previous borough corporation by letters patent dated 10 November 1955. The blazon of the arms is as follows:

Gules a Device representing a Pomegranate Tree as depicted on the ancient Common Seal of the Borough the tree leaved and eradicated proper flowered and fructed Or and for the Crest on a Wreath of the Colours Issuant from a Mural Crown Gules Masoned Or a Mount Vert thereon a Derby Ram passant guardant proper. Supporters: On the dexter side a Cock and on the sinister side a Pynot or Magpie proper each Ducally gorged Or.

The shield is based on the borough’s ancient common seal, which is believed to date from the first half of the 16th century. The seal depicts a stylised pomegranate tree. When the arms were formally granted, the College of Arms expressed the opinion that the plant had been adopted by the town as a symbol of loyalty to the crown, as it was a royal badge used by Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII and Mary Tudor.

The crest depicts a Derby Ram, representing the county of Derbyshire, and a mural crown, suggestive of a town wall and thus borough status. The supporters on either side of the arms represent the Cock and Pynot Inn, Old Whittington. The inn, now Revolution House, was the site of a meeting between conspirators against James II in 1688. Among those meeting there were the Earls of Danby and Devonshire, commemorated by the ducal crowns around the supporters’ necks. The two birds stand on a compartment of rocks and moorland. The motto is “aspire”, a punning reference to the crooked spire of the parish church.

In the last 30 years, the economy in and around Chesterfield has experienced major change, moving the employment base away from the primary and secondary sectors, and towards the tertiary area. The area sits on a large coalfield and the area played host to many coal mines.

From 1981 to 2002, 15,000 jobs in the coal industry disappeared and not a single colliery remains open, although open cast mining continued at Arkwright until a few years ago. Many of the sites were restored by contractor Killingleys for Derbyshire County Council. Very little evidence of the mining industry remains today; a cyclist and walkers route, the “Five Pits Trail” now links some of the former collieries and most of the sites are now indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside.

Within the town itself, large factories and major employers have disappeared or relocated in the last ten years. Markham & Co. manufactured tunnel boring machines such as the one used for the Channel Tunnel between England and France. The company was bought out by Norway’s Kvaerner and subsequently merged with Sheffield based Davy. Their factory on Hollis Lane is now a housing estate) and the former offices were converted into flats and serviced office suites. Dema Glass’s factory near Lockoford Lane shut as is now host to a Tesco Extra and the B2net Stadium, Chesterfield F.C.’s new home ground. GKN closed its factory and the site is now being turned in to a business park.

Others companies have downsized significantly. Robinson’s, who manufacture paper-based packaging in the town, divested their healthcare interests which led to significant downsizing in both the workforce and facilities in Chesterfield. Trebor merged with Bassetts sweets of Sheffield and relocated a modern unit at Holmewood Business park and were taken over by Cadbury. The former factory near Chesterfield railway station has been demolished and is awaiting further development. Chesterfield Cylinders relocated to a much smaller site in Sheffield. Chesterfield Cylinder’s Derby Road site, is now Alma Leisure Park, which includes a Nuffield Health Club, Cineworld, Frankie & Benny’s, McDonald’s, Hobby Horse pub, and a Blockbusters). Their main cylinder factory opposite is now The Spires housing estate. Bryan Donkin Valves relocated to Staveley, a few miles away. Their former factory on Derby Road is under development as Spire Walk Business Park, a B&Q Mini-warehouse and Chesterfield’s new fire station.

Manufacturing employment has fallen by a third since 1991, though the percentage of the population employed in manufacturing is still above the national average, underlining how critical it has been to Chesterfield in the past. Today, smaller scale firms are to be found on several industrial estates, the largest of which is located at Sheepbridge. Business located on the estate include SIG plc subsidiary Warren Insulations, Franke Sisons Ltd (founded in 1784 in Sheffield, and one of the first to manufacture stainless steel kitchen sinks in the 1930s), Rhodes engineering, Chesterfield Felt, and others.

Between the A61 and Brimington Road there is a 40-acre (160,000 m2) clearing due to Arnold Laver’s relocating to a modern sawmill at Halfway, on the Sheffield border. The former sawmill being demolished, with plans being proposed for a new waterside village built around a new marina at the end of the Chesterfield Canal which currently terminates at a weir adjacent to the site.

There is a Morrisons on the junction of Chatsworth Road (A619) and Walton Road (A632), a Sainsbury’s on Rother Way (A619 for Staveley), and a Tesco Extra on the junction of the A619 and A61. The Institute of Business Advisers is based on Queen Street North.

The town’s biggest employer is now the “Post Office” administration departmentlocated in a newly constructed building located on the edge of the town centre. The Royal Mail’s Pensions Service Centre is near the town on Boythorpe Road, in Rowland Hill House. There is another Royal Mail building in the town on West Bars called Future Walk, recently sold to CPP. Formerly this was Chetwynd House, now substantially demolished and replaced by the new Post Office building.

The Town centre of Chesterfield has retained much of its pre-war era layout. Chesterfield is home to one of the largest open air markets in Britain, the stalls sitting either side of the historic Market Hall. In the middle of town, a collection of narrow medieval streets make up “The Shambles”, which house The Royal Oak, one of Britain’s oldest pubs.

Near Holywell Cross is Chesterfield’s largest department store, the Co-operative or Co-op. Their buildings occupy the majority of Elder Way and include an enclosed bridge. In 2001, The Chesterfield and District Co-operative Society was incorporated into a larger regional entity, the Midlands Co-operative Society Limited, now the biggest independent retail Society in the UK.

In the late 1970s a large area between Low Pavement (in the Market Square) and New Beetwell Street was completely demolished (except the original shop fronts) to build “The Pavements” shopping centre, known by some local residents as “The Precinct”, with larger shops such as Boots the Chemists, which was opened in November 1981 by the Prince and Princess of Wales. It has entrances located opposite Chesterfield Market and escalators leading down to New Beetwell Street and the Bus station. An enclosed bridge links the site to a multi-storey car park built at the same time adjacent to the town’s coach station.

Chesterfield’s library is located just outside The Pavements on New Beetwell Street. The library spans several floors and was planned as part of the development. The building was erected later and opened in 1985. In annual figures compiled by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy the Library ranked fifth in the UK for the number of issues in 2008, a rise of one place on the previous year. The area to the side of the library was redeveloped retaining the old narrow passage ways but creating various small shop units & offices in the style of “The Shambles”.

Vicar Lane was redeveloped in 2000 to become a pedestrianised, open-air shopping centre, that involved almost all of the existing buildings being demolished including the now closed Woolworths and the old bus station. The project was so large that two new shopping streets were created as part of the development. It now hosts major chains such as H&M, BHS and Argos. The development was originally planned in the 1980s but was delayed due to the economics at the time. A new multi-storey car park on Beetwell Street was added as part of the revised plan. The area is located between the “Pavements Centre” and Markets and the “Crooked Spire”.

The Winding Wheel, previously an Odeon Cinema, is a multi-purpose venue, hosting concerts, exhibitions, conferences, dinners, family parties, dances, banquets, wedding receptions, meetings, product launches and lectures. Past notable appearances include Ricky Tomlinson, Joe Longthorne and Patrick McGuinness. Chesterfield Symphony Orchestra give three concerts a year at the Winding Wheel.

“The Pomegranate Theatre” (formerly known for many years as ‘Chesterfield Civic Theatre’, and prior to that ‘The Stephenson Memorial Theatre’) is a listed Victorian building (in what is now known as the Stephenson Memorial Hall), with a small auditorium, seating around 500 people. A variety of shows are performed throughout the year. Also in the Stephenson Memorial Hall is the Chesterfield Museum, opened in 1994. Until 1984 it was used for the town’s lending library. The museum is owned by Chesterfield Borough Council, as are the Winding Wheel and the Pomegranate Theatre. The box office for both entertainment venues is located in the entrance area of the theatre.

The Royal Mail building Future Walk, on West Bars, was the former site of Chetwynd House (referred to locally as “the AGD”). Here a work by sculptor Barbara Hepworth Carved Reclining Form or Rosewall was prominently displayed for many years and nicknamed Isaiah by local critics, due to it resembling a crude human face with one eye higher than the other (“eye’s higher”). Soon after its installation a painted nose and mouth were added, and the work was surrounded by screens for some time while cleaning took place. The work was under the threat of being sold in 2005, but the plan was eventually scrapped, recognising the piece’s national significance. Other artworks of note include ‘A System of Support and Balance’ by Paul Lewthwaite located outside Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.

Junction 29 of the M1 motorway at Heath links Chesterfield to the motorway network to the south, via the A617 dual-carriageway. Construction of the new Junction 29a has been completed at Markham Vale, Duckmanton, and the new junction opened at the end of June 2008, but the signs do not signpost Chesterfield. The town has links to the M1 at Junction 30 and to the north via the A619. Other major roads include the A61 Sheffield Road (north)/Derby Road (south) (with a dual carriageway beginning in the town centre and continuing onto Sheffield) and the A619 (a major inroad to the Peak District, eventually joining the A6 near Bakewell) and the A632 to Matlock.

Chesterfield railway station is located on the Midland Main Line, with East Midlands Trains providing services to London, Sheffield, Leicester, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham and Norwich and CrossCountry serving Newcastle upon Tyne, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Plymouth.

Chesterfield previously had two other rail stations. Chesterfield Market Place railway station was closed in 1951, following the collapse of Bolsover tunnel. It had served as the terminus of the Chesterfield to Lincoln line, built in 1897 by the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway (LD&ECR). None of the original buildings remains, the site of the former station being now owned by the Post Office. Chesterfield Central Station closed in 1963, in conjunction with the general wind down of passenger train activity on the Great Central Railway (GCR). Chesterfield’s inner relief road, part of the A61, now runs along some of the disused trackbed, and the station was demolished in 1973 to make way for the road.

These railways all crossed each other at Horns Bridge, the Midland Mainline passed over the GCR loop in to Chesterfield, and the LD&ECR passed over both on a 700 feet (210 m) long viaduct. Horns Bridge has been substantially redeveloped since the latter two railways closed and Horns Bridge Roundabout, where the A61 Derby Road and A617 Lordsmill Street meet, now occupies the site. The viaduct was demolished in the 1970s.

In addition to railways, Chesterfield had a tramway system, which was built in 1882 and closed in 1927.

The Chesterfield Canal linked the town to the national network of waterways, and was the most important trade route through the 19th century. Overtaken by rail and then road for freight transport it fell into disuse, but has been partially restored since the mid-20th century for leisure use. However, the section through Chesterfield remains isolated from the rest of the waterway network.

Chesterfield is perhaps best known for the “Crooked Spire” of its Church of Saint Mary and All Saints and is why the local football team is known as The Spireites.

The spire is both twisted and leaning, twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) from its true centre. Folklore recounts that a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shod the Devil, who leapt over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape. In reality the leaning characteristic has been attributed to various causes, including the absence of skilled craftsmen (the Black Death having been gone only twelve years prior to the spire’s completion), the use of unseasoned timber, and insufficient cross-bracing. According to the curators of Chesterfield Museum, it is now believed that the bend began when the original wooden roof tiles were replaced by heavier slate and lead. The bend in the spire (the twist being deliberate) follows the direction of the sun and has been caused by heat expansion and a weight it was never designed for. There is also no record of a bend until after the slate change. An interesting point is that the spire is not attached to the church building but is kept on by its own weight. The tower which the spire sits upon contains 10 bells. These bells were cast in 1947 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, replacing a previous ring. The heaviest weighs 25 long cwt 0 qtr 0 lb (2,800 lb or 1,270 kg).

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