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Pants, Sweets and Smelly Fish!
Chesterfield Market Hall
Member Name: tange
Chesterfield Market Hall
Advantages: A wide variety of different shops - many of which are under cover
Disadvantages: Fish market is a little smelly!
The Chesterfield Fair was held yearly and attracted people from outside the county to buy and sell. This bought the town to the attention of the King and put the market on a national footing – King John granted the town a Market Charter in 1204. This charter gave the Lord of the Manor the right to hold regular markets and also increased the town’s status to a Borough. The town now holds regular markets on Monday, Friday and Saturday, with a Flea Market on Thursdays. There are also monthly Farmers’ Markets and special Continental Markets.
Originally the Market place was located near the famous Crooked Spire of St. Mary & All Saints Church, but, by the middle of the 13th Century, the site was deemed too small and the market moved to its present location. There are now two market places (the main market and the New Square, smaller market) separated by the impressive Market Hall in the centre. This lovely building was built in 1857 by the Chesterfield Market Company for the “Shelter and safeguard of market people” and was purchased by Chesterfield Corporation in 1872 for £11.500. It was restored to its Victorian splendor in 1980, when it was reopened by the president of the National Market Traders Federation (Mrs. Margaret Troop JP) in the November of that year. The structure is pretty impressive and is a wonderful piece of Victorian architecture. The clock tower in the centre is particularly nice and looks especially nice in the run up to Christmas, when it has lights and Christmas trees adorning the outside. You can see the building from both ends of town and the clock is pretty accurate most of the time.
The Market Hall opens Monday to Saturday until 5pm – it used to have and early closing day on Wednesday, but now it opens all day. If you are planning to bring a group to visit Chesterfield you can also arrange free coaching parking by ringing the Tourist Information Centre (01246 345777/8). If you are coming by car there are two multi-storey car parks, two large surface car parks and a number of smaller pay and display parking areas at various places around the town centre. There is no free parking and charges vary depending on length of stay. They are too long and boring for me to list here, so I advise you go to http://www.chesterfieldbc.gov.uk/site/default.asp? CATID=364&CID=2021&ttype=full where all the charges and locations of parking locations are given. I am lucky because I currently live within walking distance of the centre and previously I was on a good bus route.
Downstairs you will find meat and fish stalls – these tend to close a little earlier than the rest of the shops inside, so I recommend that you go in the mornings if you want to be sure of getting the best produce. This area can be quite smelly due to the meat and fish on display, but it is worth a wander through to see all the shellfish and meat spread out on display. Working up from this part of the building you can progress in a spiral gradually going up past the shops to the top of the building. There’s a lift or stairs to the upper areas if you want to go straight there, but the gradual progression is much better and definitely more pleasant because you can look at the shops on the way - this also means that virtually all the building is accessible to wheelchair users.
As you go up to the café and function rooms at the top of the Market Hall you will go past a wide variety of different shops selling virtually everything you can think of. Units are located throughout and, for example, include shoe shops, sweet shops (Auntie Dot’s is my favourite and has been around since the 60s), fabric, gifts (there is a gothic shop that’s worth a look, which has some unique jewelry and clothing), greetings cards, electrical goods and toiletries. There is a lot to look at and even more to spend your money on! Some of the traders have been in residence for more years than they would care to remember too, so you have the chance to meet some real characters while you shop. They are all a pretty friendly crowd and the place is quite vibrant and full of life.
The Market Hall is not just for tourists either and is extremely well used by us locals! We even held a Beer Festival in the function room in 2004! I shop in the building on a regular basis. Primarily I visit the fish and meat stalls, the cut price toiletry and make-up shop (near the main entrance), the card shop, Auntie Dot’s and the little watch maker who changes my watch battery for me! There's also an underwear unit that is pretty reasonably priced.
Even when I’m not shopping, the Market Hall makes a good place for a browse round and for shelter from the rain. It also stays quite cool on warmer days, which makes it a good shelter from all the elements!
If you do want to brave the weather there are also shops located all around the outside of the building. These all have separate doors and are independent units. There are some really good shops here, including a great sandwich shop, a newsagent, a fruit and veg shop (which sells some more obscure varieties), a cheese shop, a local butcher and a shop which sells candles and gifts. You will also find that some of these outside edge shops also display their goods outside on the street, adding to the whole shopping experience and market feel. There are also some public toilets here which are open all day (but close in the evening).
My particular recommendation is the cheese shop! It is called the Cheese Factor and is located on the top edge of the Market Hall building, virtually opposite the Post Office. They sell some interesting cheeses and will even put together a cheese board selection if you like. You can try a bit to see if you like it and can then purchase any size slices of the cheese – however small the amount. They also sell Derbyshire oatcakes and other local produce; their cheese and turkey cobs are also very reasonably priced. I would also recommend the Sandwich shop. They are called Upper Crust (get it? ;)) and do the most massive crusty cobs with interesting fillings – the Derbyshire Delight is a must, as is the Crab stick and egg!
If you are planning a trip to Chesterfield a visit to the Market Hall MUST be on your “to do” list! The building is easy to spot and is dwarfed only by the church, so you will be able to find it from pretty much anywhere in the town centre. The variety of shops and the chance to see a bit of the hustle and bustle of market life makes it an excellent place to visit and an equally excellent place for a bit of retail therapy. It is also good to support our local food producers and retailers, to ensure they stay in business. We also need to ensure that the Market Hall is well used and is kept open to provide a pleasant place to shop for future generations!
You can spend as much or as little time and money as you want and looking is free!
~~~FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.
Tel: +44 (0) 1246 345777 / 8
Fax: +44 (0) 1246 345770
Summary: A historic building with a good range of shops.