Chesterfield is mainly famous for the Crooked Spire of its medieval parish church. Indeed, the borough motto is “Aspire”.
Its town-centre buildings would be unremarkable but for the work of the Borough Surveyor from c1904 to 1933, Major Vincent Smith.
He included in the Bill that became the Chesterfield Corporation Act of 1923 a provision for altering the building-lines in order to arcade the new shopping-streets. This provided shelter for pedestrians and additional first-floor space for the buildings’ owners.
While admitting that members of Chesterfield Corporation had visited Chester, he flatly denied that his project meant to imitate Chester’s Rows. He claimed the precedent of the eighteenth-century buildings on Chesterfield Market Place.
In fact, the closest similarity between Chesterfield’s 1920s shops and the black-and-white buildings of Chester is John Douglas’ Shoemakers’ Row of 1897.
So it is that Chesterfield visually resembles its near-namesake Chester, not because of Chester’s unique Rows, but of a link with a late-nineteenth century architect who was himself adapting the idea of the Rows to modern needs.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals: past views of English architecture, please click here.