“ Enjoy a walk through the narrow streets off Market Place and picture Chesterfield as it was in the middle ages. Wonderful shops and buildings to indulge in. „
The town of Chesterfield in North East Derbyshire was historically speaking one of the most important market towns in northern England. During the Middle Ages there was a weekly food market and people would travel from many miles around to trade their produce. The Shambles area of the town was the centre for these trading activities but more especially it was the home of the meat traders.
For many years Chesterfield was the nearest large town to where I lived and during that period I would visit regularly. These days I only get the chance to visit Chesterfield a few times each year but when I do I always love the old feel of the town and like to see its black and white timber framed buildings. It always reminds me of miniature York or Chester, there is no denying that is a place rich in history and in fact there has been a market here since at least 1165.
The Shambles was the Old English name for a meat market. They were originally known as Flesh-shambles, a corruption of the Anglo Saxon word Fleshemmels, which literally meant Flesh shelves. It was a place where the medieval equivalent of our butchers displayed their meat on stone slabs.
Today there is no meat sold in The Shambles but the narrow cobbled streets still give you an impression of what it must have been like. I imagine it was quite a smelly place back then but now it is spotlessly clean and there are many small boutiques and other shops.
In the middle of The Shambles one of Chesterfield's oldest and smallest public houses can be found called The Royal Oak. This is one of the most accessible of the black and white timber framed buildings but it is actually two different buildings joined together. The oldest building dates from the 12th century and claims to have been a meeting place for the Knights Templars from the Crusades of King Richard 1, whilst the other half of the building dates from the 16th century.
In recent years the local council have erected a number of information placards on the walls of some of the buildings giving their date of construction and a brief outline of what the building was once used for. Some of the damaged cobble stones have also been replaced but the lanes are still a bit tricky underfoot and care should be taken, especially if its been raining when they can become very slippery and rather treacherous.
I would certainly recommend a visit to The Shambles to soak up a bit of history and imagine what life must have been like all of those years ago. I've been here lots of times and I still find The Shambles area of Chesterfield fascinating. It's quite a small area which you could easily pass through in just a few minutes if you didn't stop to browse in the shops along the way but it's well worth a small detour if you are in the centre of the town.
I recently wrote a review on Chesterfield and was suprised to see The Shambles as a topic as it is such a small area and isn't really noticed by anyone who lives in Chesterfield!
I can see how it can be of interest though as it is quite a pretty feature of the town and very historic. The Shambles is basically a square plot of buildings with three streets running through it. One running through the middle and two cutting across it.
Most of the buildings date back to tudor times and one building dates back to the 12th century. This building is now joined to another building from the 16th century and forms Chesterfields oldest pub, The Royal Oak.
Nowadays, the streets seem very narrow (more like alleys) and feels very different to the wide open pavements surrounding The Shambles.
The Shambles contains a health food cafe, a coffee shop, The Body Shop, a decorative clothes shop (filled with sequinned and embroidered designs, very unique and sophisticated - my mum loves that shop), a handbag shop, a high quality bra fitting shop and some 'new age' type of place with candles, scents, beads and stuff. I think that's it. At the end of one of the streets, leading to the High street there is a flower stall which adds to the ambience.
It is a peaceful area which is quite strange as every street that surrounds it is extremely hectic. I would recommend strolling through one day and maybe stopping for a coffee, the coffee shop has outdoor seating and it is a nice place to stop and rest your feet between shopping!