Chesterfield is a market town in the under-rated and stunningly beautiful county of Derbyshire. In the centre is the 14th-century church St Mary and All Saints. I like to put ancient buildings into some kind of historical context because it helps create a better understanding of the building itself and the people who made it. This church was built during the Hundred Years War when English kings and English armies were fighting in France. Probably a lot more relevant to the people of Chesterfield was the fact that about 10 years earlier The Black Death arrived in Britain. It’s been estimated that between 30% to 60% of Europe’s population was wiped out and it would take until the 17th century for it to reach pre-plague figures. We can be pretty certain that anyone who worked on the Chesterfield church was personally affected by the natural disaster and it could even account for the town’s main claim to fame – the crooked church spire which leans almost 10 feet from its true centre.
Legend has it that the devil twisted the spire when a virgin married in the church, saying that he would untwist it when the next virgin bride got married there… The more probable explanation is that too much unseasoned wood was used in its construction and the burden of carrying 32 tons of lead tiles made the wood contort. And it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that the wood was unseasoned because there was a shortage of craftsmen who knew what you can and can’t do when building tall spires.
Another reason to visit Chesterfield is its open air market, one of the largest in England, dating back to at least 1165. (Henry II was on the throne back then, conquering Ireland and Wales, fighting with his children and Thomas Becket. Ok, enough context.)
There’s a General Market on Monday, Friday and Saturday, 9am – 4pm selling everything from fabric to fruit, cards to carpets and bangles to bikes
A proper Flea Market is held on Thursdays between 9am – 4pm
This is my favourite with over 150 stalls full of second-hand goods and unusual bric-a-brac, antique treasures, vintage clothes, jewellery and crafts.
The Farmers’ Market is on the second Thursday of every month and the Artisan Market is on the last Sunday of the month, giving a showcase to local culinary knowledge, artisan craftmanship and skills from previous generations.
This stunning picture of the Crooked Spire was taken during an eclipse by Alan Wright