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Victoria Square, Ashbourne
Ashbourne History Walk
By George E Shaw
Follow in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie, discover a link with Shakespeare and walk along a Roman Road. Discover Ashbourne's historical secrets with this short walk around the town. There are plenty of cafes and pubs to stop at on the way!
Now cross the road towards Sainsbury's and walk to the left of the Beresford Arms with a green space on your left. After passing through the Bus Station, we turn right into Compton which gets its name from the Roman Campdene and had its own township. In the 14th Century, during a dispute between market stallholders and the King, traders avoided paying tax by moving over the Bridge and setting up their stalls in Compton - and this explains why the road is so wide.
Ashbourne Police Station & the Wheel Inn
Turn right here and pass the Police Station which until recent years was the Post Office.
Opposite is Henmore Place which used to be Birch's - a builder's yard. Sadly, Birch's joinery shop is now demolished but it used to be a Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1822, where a certain Robert and Christiana Evans used to attend from Roston. The name probably mean little to you - but they were the parents of Mary Anne (or Marianne) Evans - better known as George Elliot.
During the building of the railway this locality was the site of many lodging houses, and part of the street became known as 'The Rookery' from the noise of the fighting between the labourers and Irishmen who came for the Harvesting. Also here, in the region of the DIY shop, were various yards with names such as 'Stag and Pheasant' and 'Rosemary Alley'.
Across the road was the Cross Keys another public house. In fact, at one time, there were at least 50 public houses and alehouses in the town!
Compton is also Down'ard territory (see our section on Ashbourne Shrovetide Football) with the nearby Wheel Inn being a popular meeting place for them before the start of the annual game.
Turning left at the end of Compton, at the traffic lights, is Sturston Road. A short way long, on the right, is a small cottage in which a famous baby, Catherine was born in 1829. She married William Booth and they founded the Salvation Army in 1878. Her memorial can be seen in the Recreation Ground.
Retracing our steps to Compton, turning to the right at the traffic lights, back along the road we find, on the left, Lloyd's Bank, originally the home of the influential Beresford family. Next to the Bank is Compton Bridge, after which Compton becomes Dig Street.
Dig Street was originally called 'Loveditch' as it was regularly used by young couples, but under Puritan influence the 'love' part of the name was dropped, and eventually Ditch was corrupted to Dig.
Next to the bridge is Cary's Wine Bar - formerly Foster's Fishing Tackle Shop. At one time this was The Three Horse Shoes pub and it is reputed the Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there on his way back from Swarkestone in 1745. Adjacent to that is Workhouse Yard which, until 1846, is where the poor of the parish were housed.
Behind the Dovedale Craft Centre was once an 18th-century theatre, while number 15 Dig Street was once The Brick and Tile.
A little further along, The Cheddar Gorge shop is one of the best preserved 17th-century buildings – dated as 1675.
The world's longest pub sign!
Round the corner to the right and you find yourself back on St John Street which takes its name from a hospital which stood there in the 13th Century.
Overhead can be seen the famous sign of The Green Man and Black's Head, noted in the Guiness Book of Records as the longest inn sign in the world. It gained its title when the landlord of the Green Man obtained the neighbouring Blackamore Inn, now turned into shops. look closely at the sign - on one side Blackamoor's face is smiling, and on the other he is scowling.
Ashbourne Gingerbread Shop
Further along, on The Gingerbread Shop can be seen the original wattle and daub which for many years was covered by a mock Elizabethan front.
And further along still, Partners was once Prince's Gate where, in 1928, HRH The Price of Wales (later, Edward VII) walked through to 'turn-up' the Shrovetide ball, thus giving the game its 'Royal' title. A special bridge was built over the Henmore so the prince could throw the ball onto Shaw Croft.
Continuing along St John Street gives a good insight into the building styles of the 18th and 19th centuries. The 'Kingdom Hall' was built in 1858 for a public reading room, and was later used for many years as the Court House.
Now cross the road to return to the Market Place. The present offices of the Ashbourne News Telegraph are on the site of The Barley Mow, later to be called The Queen’s Head. Next to the old cinema, now Cassandra's, is an example of long and short stonework, but observe how the next building has been converted from two buildings into one, the right hand-side having three floors but the left-hand only two.
Ashbourne Town Hall
Then comes the Town Hall or the Market Hall, which opened in 1861. The names of the Market committee appear over the balcony.
On going up Town Hall Yard, on the right hand side can be seen herringbone Elizabethan brickwork.
Nearing the top of the Market Place brings us to the Derbyshire Building Society's offices which is a fine house of the 18th and 19th centuries and originally known as Monument House.
Further up, on the corner is the vet's surgery. Note here the stonework of an earlier building, and above the door, the date 1712. It is here that John Wesley is said to have preached to a crowd of a thousand at 5am in 1772.
Now we are back at the beginning and so we end our tour of Ashbourne.
last updated: 13/05/2008 at 09:53