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Chesterfield High Street and Crooked Spire - - 299634.jpg
High Street, Chesterfield
Grid reference: SK382711
Location: 53°14’9"N, 1°25’39"W
Post town: Chesterfield
Postcode: S40
Dialling code: 01246
Local Government
Council: Chesterfield

Chesterfield is a market town in north-eastern Derbyshire, which stands where the rivers Rother and Hipper meet. Including Staveley, the population (2001) is 100,879, although that of the town itself is 70,260. It is Derbyshire's largest town after Derby.


The crooked spire of St Mary's

The Crooked Spire

Chesterfield is perhaps best known for the "Crooked Spire" of its parish church. It has become a symbol of the town, giving a name to the local football team; The Spireites.

The spire is both twisted and leaning, twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9 feet from its true centre. The leaning characteristic is believed to be the result of the absence of skilled craftsmen (the Black Death had been gone only twelve years before the spire was completed), insufficient cross-bracing, and the use of unseasoned timber.[1]

However, there are many local stories as to how the spire became as it is, less reliant on architectural niceties. One tells that a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shod the Devil, who leaped over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape. Another is that the spire twisted in despire when the last maiden in the town was deflowered (some adding that it will return to true when a maiden is found in the town again!) A variant has it that when a maiden came into the town the spire looked round in surprise.

An interesting point is that the spire is not attached to the church building but is kept on by its own weight. The tower on 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 25cwt.[1]


The town received its charter in the year 1204 from King John which permitted the town to hold a market. Today some two hundred and fifty stalls can still be found in the town centre every Monday, Friday and Saturday.

The 1204 charter also constituted the town as 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.[2] This remained the governing charter until the borough was reformed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.[3]

'The church in the 18th century as sketched by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.'

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.


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,[4] including:

From 1981 to 2002, 15,000 jobs in the coal industry disappeared[5] 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.[6]

Within the town itself, large factories and major employers have disappeared or relocated in the last 10 years, whilst others have reduced their size significantly. Manufacturing employment has fallen by a third since 1991, but the percentage of the population employed in manufacturing is still above the national average.[5] Today, smaller scale firms are to be found on several industrial estates.

The town's biggest employer is now the "Post Office" administration department located 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.[7] Formerly this was Chetwynd House, now substantially demolished and replaced by the new Post Office building.


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