Ashbourne, Derbyshire is a market town with a lot to offer to any visitor. It first allowed market stalls to open in 1257, and became a royal borough in 1276. Even today, after over 700 years, visitors can enjoy market days on Thursdays and Saturdays. Local producers sell their produce and other goods on these days.
One of the things Ashbourne is known for are the beautiful Georgian houses along Church Street. Also along this street are an old grammar school, almshouses and St. Oswald church.
St. Oswald’s Church’s spire projects majestically over the town. It’s height totals 212 feet. St. Oswald was an Anglo saint who was king of Northumbria. The church contains two chapels dedicated to two local families. One of the chapels has many monuments, including one to Penelope Boothby, a six-year-old who died in 1791. The church has a nave and a south aisle which cross with the tower and spire. The chancel is the oldest part of the church and includes an arching window to the east. A church has stood on this same location since Saxon times. In a 1913 excavation a Norman crypt was uncovered.
Across from the church is Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. It was built with red sandstone and a multi-gabled roof. Sir Thomas Cockayne founded the school in 1585. The school was to be destroyed until the Derbyshire Archaeological Society saved it a century ago. It is a Grade 1 Listed building.
Beside the school is Grey House. This house was built, with a large Doric porch and many Venetian windows, in the mid-eighteenth century. Currently it is used as a girls boarding school. Across the street is where the famous lexicographer and traveler, Dr. Samuel Johnson would often visit with his friend, Dr. John Taylor.
There are many almshouses in Ashbourne. In 1640, Owlsfield Almshouse was built. It was originally built for the poor people in the area. In 1841, it was updated with an additional floor added. Another almshouse, Pegg’s Almshouse, is next door. Local sandstone was used to construct this almshouse. Another almshouse here is the Clergy Widows Almshouse. This was built in 1733 to entertain the widows of four clergymen of the Church of England. These may now be seen from the outside, as they are private flats.
Following Church Street will bring visitors to the Green Man and Black’s Head Royal Hotel. It is the location of the longest inn sign, as recorded in Guiness Book of World Records. The hotel was formed in 1750, when two coaching inns joined. Queen Victoria visited the hotel and the occasion was noted by the addition of “royal” to the name.
Behind the inn is the location of Shaw Croft. This is where the kick off of the Royal Shrovetide Football Match occurs. This game takes place annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. The two teams which compete in this two-day match are the Up’ards and the Down’ards, as are determined by their location in the town. Each side may have over 100 people on it. The game is played over streets and streams and the opposing goals are located at Sturgton and Clifton, three miles apart. The kick-off to this free-for-all is carried out by a VIP. In 2003, the Prince of Wales had this privilege.
Ashbourne is also known for the Gingerbread Shop and the delicious product it sells. It is located in St. John Street. There is a café here that serves snacks, including ice cream and gingerbread men.
Town Centre is home to Ashbourne Memorial Gardens. Visitors are welcome to come here to relax and enjoy the plant-life or play a game of ball on one of the fields. There is also a statue here of Catherine Booth, the co-founder of the Salvation Army. Booth was born in Ashbourne.
Every July, since 1985, Ashbourne has hosted the largest Highland game, outside of Scotland. During this gathering observers can see highland dancing and sports along with hearing the bagpipe competition.
Along with the sights, activities and sounds of Ashbourne, there are also fine accommodations for sleeping and eating. There are a variety of self-catering cottages along with hotels and bed and breakfasts. Diners can enjoy a wide range of cuisine in a wide variety of locations. For award winning dining, there is the Dining Room or the Bramhalls. Or there are also bistros, coffee shops and cafes which can be found throughout the town.
For the shoppers there are many independently owned shops, boutiques, antique and jewelry stores.
Ashbourne has quite a bit to offer to anyone who is visiting the Derbyshire area.