Sheffield and Chesterfield

Sheffield Town Hall and Big Wheel
Sheffield Town Hall and Big Wheel

It’s a wet day so far, not the best sort of day for travelling and exploring, but this the day we’ve been given and we will make the best of it.

I am now at St Pancras station waiting to board my train, having enjoyed a helping of porridge "with fruits of the forest". Because we could not get cheap tickets this time, Tigger has gone on ahead and I am travelling at 9:25 when I can have an off-peak ticket.


I boarded the train at about 9:10. One of the things I like about St Pancras is that they announce these northbound trains in plenty of time. Not having a reservation, I was keen to get aboard early to secure a seat. I have a table seat with an unobstructed window. Usually, I sit on the right, though I don’t know why. Today I am on the left, so I will see the other half of the world!

Wall sculpture, Howard Street, Sheffield
Wall sculpture, Howard Street, Sheffield

In the station there is nothing to see other than the platforms, other trains and people moving about but even this can be entertaining in its way. In seats near mine are two woman, one young (maybe in her thirties) and the other perhaps in her sixties. Her hair is dyed pale blond but with a vivid shocking pink stripe in it. How wonderful is that!

We’re off and I am still alone at my table and can stretch out my long legs. Bliss!


I always bring a book on these trips – presently Paul Theroux’s Happy Isles of Oceania – but I hardly ever read. This is because the scenery claims my attention. Whether it is fields full of sheep, woodland, factories or workshops strung out along the line or built-up areas – even two fire fighters in full kit atop a ladder at their practice tower -, there is always something to see, to wonder at and to learn from.

Sun and water, Sheaf Square
Sun and water, Sheaf Square

Then there are the texts and calls from Tigger, letting me know how she is getting on. I am always relieved to receive the one saying the job is done and within the deadline.

It’s strange to think of us both travelling along the same railway line at the same time but in separate trains miles apart because of cost. Then again, I should just be glad that cheaper tickets are available, allowing me to make the trip at all. Once I reach Sheffield, the separation ends in any case.

A bus driver takes a break (East Midlands Parkway)
A bus driver takes a break (East Midlands Parkway)


After Market Harborough, we ran out for under grey skies. Here, the clouds were white and there was blue spaces between them. Through one of these the sun shone.  This is promising. But I know from experience that this can easily change by the time we reach Sheffield.


The weather kept its promise and the sun was shining in Sheffield but it was much colder than in London, bitingly cold.

Stephenson shows off the Rocket, Chesterfield station
Stephenson shows off the Rocket,
Chesterfield station

I met up with Tigger and we went along the now familiar route to the bus station, aka Sheffield Interchange, and joined the FreeBee. At the museum cafe we had our vegetarian fish and chips lunch and then walked down to the station where we boarded a crowded St Pancras train for the 15 minute ride to Chesterfield.

Chesterfield's famous spire
Chesterfield’s famous spire

It was pretty cold here too but we set out with a will. One of the first interesting places we found was the Chesterfield Museum, sited in the Stephenson Memorial Hall. Unfortunately, although photography is permitted, you have to sign an agreement not to publish your pictures. I therefore cannot show you any of the interesting exhibits. You can take my profound disapproval as read.

Chestfield's logo

The most famous landmark in Chesterfield is no doubt the twisted spire of the Church of St Mary’s and All Saints, Chesterfield’s parish church. A representation of this appears as the town’s logo. There is much debate over what has caused the originally straight spire to warp.

Many theories have been advanced as to the cause of the spire’s spiral twist. One was that the spire was built of unseasoned wood which warped as it dried. This has been dismissed on the grounds that unseasoned wood was normally used in such structures and that travellers have written about Chesterfield through the centuries without remarking on what would have been a very obvious feature of the town. The twist therefore is fairly recent (in historical terms), eliminating the greenwood warping as a cause.

Pomegranate Theatre with reflected sunlight
Pomegranate Theatre with reflected sunlight

Another theory concerns the replacing of the original wooden tiles with lead ones which not only added considerably to the weight of the structure but expanded and contracted with changes of temperature. Heating on the sunward side would be greater’ introducing an asymmetry into the expansion and contraction. Would this be enough to cause the spire to warp in a spiral form? I am not convinced.

Horse and cart
Horse and cart

We took a look at the outdoor market, which is quite large and sells a wide variety of goods.

Chesterfield Market
Chesterfield Market

Around the market place, there are also shops and we visited one of these, Fred’s Haberdashery. This was to buy red ribbon for my new hat.

Fred's Haberdashery
Fred’s Haberdashery

As the day wore on it became colder still. We stopped Peacock’s Coffee Lounge for coffee and then began to work our way, without hurry, back to the station.

Peacock's Coffee Lounge
Peacock’s Coffee Lounge

Tigger was booked onto the 17:38 so we had to take that train. We reached the station nearly an hour beforehand and sat in the waiting room on platform 1 before moving the the waiting room on platform 2 from which our train would depart. We hoped it would be warmer that the other but it wasn’t.

The moon over Chesterfield station
The moon over Chesterfield station

The train was quite full but Tigger claimed her reserved seat and I found a vacant one nearby. Sorted!

The journey back is less interesting because it is dark outside and therefore there is less to see, although the lights have a certain beauty. On the other hand, it is good to be somewhere warm after the cold streets and waiting rooms.

An alternative to the market: the shopping centre
An alternative to the market: the shopping centre

Although there was a sameness about this trip because we have been to Sheffield so often lately, we managed to add some novelty by spending the afternoon in Chesterfield. The cold made this visit less pleasant than it might otherwise have been so perhaps we can come here again in better weather and explore it more fully and in a more relaxed mood.

Chesterfield, a cobbled street
Chesterfield, a cobbled street

We have been to Chesterfield before, of course, and know it to be an interesting and well kept town with items of historical interest.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Sheffield and Chesterfield

  1. Reluctant Blogger says:

    If I were you and did all this travelling about, I think I would have to have a big map on the wall of my study with pins in it and then threads to show all the places I had been. I always wanted to do that as a child but never went to enough places to make it interesting. I guess Sheffield would be a bit over-pinned by now though.

    I love all the old shop names – haberdashery is such a fine a fine word – reminds me of “Are you being served” although I am not sure whether it was one of the departments listed in the opening tune.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I like old shops too. In this one I was able to buy a yard of ribbon whereas in modern shops I would probably have to buy a fixed length in a packet.

      I find it ominous that Chesterfield has a modern style shopping centre operating alongside the open market and the fish and meat market.

      In a way I verbally “pin” our travels in my blog. I can just imagine the map falling off the wall and scattering the pins. I would give up at that point…!

  2. Ancient Brit says:

    Ah, fond memories of freezing to death while sitting waiting on a railway platform (and this despite wearing the woolly coms normally reserved for my motorcycle trips – for a brief period I was even a courier myself, but always on the bike – and several layers of clothing on top of those).

    That was the West Midlands, though. I was on my way back home to Oxford after visiting my mate Gordon in Walsall.

    When the train eventually arrived (delayed as per Standing Instructions, Passengers, Irritating, For The Use Of) the heating had failed and it was as cold inside the carriage as it had been on the platform. Brrr and Grrr.

    Interesting photoreport, though. I had either never known or forgotten about the twisted spire in Chesterfield. I have my own pet theory: Deranged Maypole Dancing. Those university students always got up to some mischief during rag week and it was probably them. That or a rare twister that descended during the night.

    Thanks for the images. I share your frustration about being prevented from publishing photos – I seem to recall that the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford has a similar restriction (I could be unfairly maligning them; it’s been a good few decades since I went there. Interesting place – lots of shrunken heads. Although that could have been the students, again…).

    Best,

    Peter

    • SilverTiger says:

      I wear thermal underwear these cold days too. Unfortunately, I didn’t wear it yesterday, underestimating how cold it was going to be.

      I certainly do deprecate museums prohibiting publishing of one’s own photos when it’s not for profit, especially when they receive public funding.

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