Chesterfield’s story and character has been over 2,000 years in the making. From its roots as a Roman fort close to the very edge of the Roman Empire its excellent transport links helped it become a prosperous market town in the Middle Ages, serving north eastern Derbyshire and beyond. The natural resources of the surrounding countryside, agricultural and mineral encouraged the growth of important early industries, particularly leather making and iron working.
From the development of cucumber straighteners to disposable nappies Chestefield people and businesses have been renowned for their creativity. With Industrial Revolution entrepreneurs and innovators such as George Stephenson and social reformer Violet Markham and the wool, leather and mining industries through to the 19th Century manufacturing at Robinsons, Dema Glass and Donkins the area has led the way in many fields.
Rich supplies of coal in the locality were exploited by a diverse range of manufacturing industries from malting and brewing, to heavy engineering by way of pill boxes, pipes, bottles and bandages. Their products reached the corners of the British Empire thanks in no small part to Chesterfield’s adopted son and Father of the Railways, George Stephenson. Chesterfield’s lead merchants and industrialists were involved in developing some of the first steam engines. They were also quick to invest in the Chesterfield Canal, which pushed the boundaries of construction with the most complex flight of locks and longest tunnel ever built at that time.
Known both as the ‘Heart of Industrial England’ and ‘The Gateway to the Peak’, with thanks to its independent and entrepreneurial spirit, Chesterfield has weathered plagues, wars, recessions and the conformity of the 1960s to emerge in the present still looking forward and proud to be itself – a town with a twist.
Where to find out more about Chesterfield’s past|.