1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chesterfield

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CHESTERFIELD, a market town and municipal borough in the Chesterfield parliamentary division of Derbyshire, England, 24 m. N. by E. of Derby, on the Midland and the Great Central railways. Pop. (1891) 22,009; (1901) 27,185. It lies at the junction of two streams, the Rother and Hipper, in a populous industrial district. It is irregularly built, with narrow streets, but has a spacious market-place. The church of St Mary and All Saints is a large and beautiful cruciform building principally of the Decorated period. Its central tower carries a remarkable twisted spire of wood covered with lead, 230 ft. high; the distortion has evidently taken place through the use of unseasoned timber and consequent warping of the woodwork. The church, which contains numerous interesting monuments, possesses also the unusual feature of an apsidal Decorated chapel. There is an example of flamboyant tracery in one of the windows. Among public buildings, the Stephenson memorial hall (1879), containing a free library, art and science class-rooms, a theatre and the rooms of the Chesterfield Institute, commemorates George Stephenson, the engineer, who resided at Tapton House, close to Chesterfield, in his later life; he died here in 1848, and was buried in Trinity church. Chesterfield grammar school was founded in 1574. The industries of the town include manufactures of cotton, silk, earthenware, machinery and tobacco, with brass and iron founding; while slate and stone are quarried, and there are coal, iron and lead mines in the neighbourhood. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 1216 acres. In the immediate neighbourhood of Chesterfield on the west is the urban district of Brampton and Walton (pop. 2698), to the south-east is Hasland (7427), and to the north-east Brimington (4569).

In spite of the Roman origin suggested by its name, so few remains have been found here that it is doubtful whether Chesterfield was a Roman station. Chesterfield (Cestrefeld) owes its present name to the Saxons. It is mentioned in Domesday only as a bailiwick of Newbold belonging to the king, and granted to William Peverell. In 1204 John gave the manor to William Bruere and granted to the town all the privileges of a free borough which were enjoyed by Nottingham and Derby; but before this it seems to have had prescriptive borough rights. Later charters were granted by various sovereigns, and it was incorporated by Elizabeth in 1598 under the style of a mayor, 6 brethren and 12 capital burgesses. This charter was confirmed by Charles II. (1662), and the town was so governed till the Municipal Act 1835 appointed a mayor, 3 aldermen and 12 councillors. In 1204 John granted two weekly markets, on Tuesday and Saturday, and an annual fair of eight days at the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14). This fair, which is still held, and another on Palm Tuesday, are mentioned in the Quo Warranto roll of 1330. The Tuesday market has long been discontinued. That Chesterfield was early a thriving centre is shown by the charter of John Lord Wake, lord of the manor, granting a gild merchant to the town. In 1266 the town was the scene of a battle between the royal forces and the barons, when Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby, was taken prisoner. In 1586 there was a terrible visitation of the plague; and the parliamentarian forces were overthrown here in the Civil War. With the development of cotton and silk industries the town has increased enormously, and is now second in importance only to Derby among the towns of the county. There is no record that it ever returned representatives to parliament.

See Stephen Glover, History and Gazetteer of the County of Derby (Derby, 1831–1833); J. Pym Yeatman, Records of the Borough of Chesterfield (Chesterfield and Sheffield, 1884); Thomas Ford, History of Chesterfield (London, 1839).