Monday, 23 January 2017

In Chesterfield

The old market square in Chesterfield

Following on from my brief investigation of Wakefield Cathedral, having still been unable to gain access to the mediaeval churches in Aston and Whiston, both of which are built out of Rotherham Red sandstone, I took another trip to Derbyshire – this time on the X17 bus from Sheffield to Chesterfield, which is set on Deep Hard Rock of the Lower Pennine Coal Measures Formation.

A geological map of the area around Chesterfield

Although Chesterfield has its origins in the Roman fort that was built here in 70 AD and a market has been established since 1165, apart from the ancient street names and a mediaeval street plan, the town only developed after the building of the Chesterfield Canal in 1777 and the vast majority of its historic buildings date from this time onward; however, given that the town is surrounded by outcrops of Carboniferous sandstone, very few of these are built in stone, except for the mediaeval church, and the oldest building in the town centre – the Royal Oak public house – is timber framed and its external fabric dates from the 16th century.

The Royal Oak public house has 12th century origins

The principal reason for my visit was therefore to have a good look at the church of St. Mary and All Saints, which I had passed very many times before when working as a surveyor in the town centre, and is best known for its crooked spire, which forms a very distinctive landmark rising above the town and is known nationally.

The "crooked spire"

Before exploring the exterior and interior of the church, I had a quick look at the nearby museum where, much to my interest, I discovered a mediaeval builders' windlass – one of only a handful remaining in England and which was formerly located in the church tower.

The builders' windlass in Chesterfield Museum & Art Gallery

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