Hot Spot: Chesterfield, Derbyshire

How St Mary and All Saints came by its famous crooked steeple is still open for debate. Robert Liebman is inspired by this charming market town
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The Independent Online

How do you straighten out a crooked spire? According to one legend, the deviation in the famous spire of the Church of St Mary and All Saints, which leans more than nine feet from its true centre, occurred when a virgin was being married down below. The spire twisted round to see this novelty. Should another virgin wed in the church, the steeple will fix itself. Time will tell.

How do you straighten out a crooked spire? According to one legend, the deviation in the famous spire of the Church of St Mary and All Saints, which leans more than nine feet from its true centre, occurred when a virgin was being married down below. The spire twisted round to see this novelty. Should another virgin wed in the church, the steeple will fix itself. Time will tell.

Chesterfield's other church is Trinity, overshadowed by St Mary and All Saints but renowned as the burial place of locomotive engineer George Stephenson. "This rural quiet market town is close to the Peak District, provides easy access to many major towns and cities and is within commuting distance of Nottingham and Sheffield," notes Stephen Wolfenden of Halifax.

"Chesterfield's Victorian houses remain popular with second and third-time buyers and interest is shown in them as soon as they come on to the market." Prices increased 22 per cent last year to an average £125,000; you'll pay more in the catchment area of Brookfield Community School.

"Sheffield prices have gone off the scale, and Derby, Leeds, Nottingham, Rotherham and Doncaster are also more expensive," says Barbara Tasdeler of Beechwood estate agents. "We are centrally located on the M1, and many people who are relocating to nearby cities live here. Chesterfield too has attracted new industry, many in information technology."

Strong economic activity in this erstwhile mining town brought heightened demand for transient housing, which landlords eagerly satisfied: "Last year many people were buying five or six properties at a time to rent out," says Tasdeler. But no feeding frenzy lasts forever: "We are flooded with investors, and now they are selling. They bought small flats for £55,000 to £60,000 last year which are now fetching between £112,000 and £120,000."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

The Chesterfield-London St Pancras train also links with Derby. Junctions 29 and 30 of the M1 are a few miles east; Sheffield is 12 miles north via the A61 dual carriageway. East Midlands airport is 35 miles, and Manchester airport is 47 miles.

Blame it on Bolsover

Another legend holds that the spire's misalignment occurred when a nervous Bolsover blacksmith, aiming at the Devil's shoe, missed and drove a nail into his foot instead. Flying by the church in pain, the Devil lashed out, twisting the spire.

Blame it on...

Responsibility for the crooked spire probably rests with green untreated timber, 32 tonnes of lead tiles and cowboy builders.

Nice neighbours

Peak District National Park is a few miles west of Chesterfield. Area piles include Chatsworth House, Hardwick Hall, Bolsover Castle and Haddon Hall.

Small print

Beechwood estate agents distributes a map including this handwritten proviso: "For guidance only. There is no guarantee of a school place even if a house is purchased within Brookfield normal area."

Prices

A modern two-bed semi, in rural Lower Pilsley, with detached double garage and rear garden, c.£104,950, and a three-bed semi in the Brookfield catchment area, c.£105,000, at Spire. A modern two-bed, mid-terrace, in Riverside Village, with rear paved patio, £117,500, at Beechwood.

Family houses

A recently built, two-bed semi with garden in a modern development in Grassmoor, c.£110,000, and a recently modernised three-bed, detached house with garage and views over open fields in Cutthorpe, c.£260,000, at Spire. In Tupton, Hagg Hill Farm is a three-bed barn conversion with double garage, c.£295,000 Spire. A modern detached executive house with large rooms on a large plot, £385,000 at Beechwood.

Apart from what

The three-bed Hunloke Farm in Wingerworth is one of five barn conversions. "All mains services are available apart from mains sewerage. A Klargester system has been installed to create the link to the mains drains," c.£235,000, Spire.

Bungalows

Also in Wingerworth, a two-reception four-bed detached bungalow with detached double garage and large garden, c.£279,950, Spire. An extended and refurbished three-bed dormer bungalow with exposed beams in Holymoorside, £425,000, Beechwood.

Three into one

Singular in name, the three-double-bed Cliff Cottage is a stone-built semi, made of three 18th-century artisan's cottages with views over countryside; £239,950 at Beechwood.

Half-million

A detached five-double-bed Victorian "gentleman's residence" near the town centre, with original materials and period features, Beechwood, £495,000. Also spacious (2,000sq ft) and cheaper at £450,000 is a recently built five-bed detached house, in Hasland, south Chesterfield; Halifax.

New

Westbury's 72-unit St Helena's Mews at Canal Wharf has three-bed terraces from £154,995 (01246 222099).

Estate agents

Beechwood, 01246 558193; Halifax, 01246 236991; Spire, 01246 540540.

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