Ashbourne - view of the church
Ashbourne is the southern gateway to the Peak and lies on the boundary of the Old Red Sandstone of southern Derbyshire and the Limestone which surrounds Dovedale
and the White Peak. Although the town lies a short distance away from the River Dove
, it commands the approach to Dovedale.
Old Grammar School building
It is a colourful and historic town, well established in Saxon times and listed in the Domesday survey, in which it is called `Esseburne' . It was granted a charter for a market in 1257 and made a royal borough in 1276. There is still a market on Thursdays and Saturdays, but at one time there also were regular livestock markets, several annual horse fairs, and even cheese fairs.
Church Street, which leads out west from the town centre, has many fine buildings, including of course St Oswald's church, the former Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School (founded 1585), Owfield's Almshouses (1614-30), Peggies Almshouses (1669) and The Mansion, which was the home of the Rev John Taylor from 1740 to 1787. A colourful character, Taylor was one of Dr Johnson's closest friends, and Johnson was a frequent visitor here.
The Grammer School, named after Queen Elizabeth and known locally as 'QEG', was founded in 1585 by Sir Thomas Cockayne and is a fine example of an Elizabethan public building. The Cockayne family were a notable local Derbyshire family with estates in the area from around 1200 onwards. Their alabaster tombs can be seen in St Oswald's church
The town can also boast of visits by Charles I and Bonny Prince Charlie, who stayed here on his march south to Derby in 1745.
The streets in the centre of the town are quite narrow and the are overhung by the inn sign of the Green Man and Black's Head - a famous Georgian coaching inn once frequented by Dr Johnson and Boswell. To the left are the former Shambles (now called Victoria Square), which lead up to the Market Square, the hub of the modern town. The town has a fairly wide range of shops and of course numerous pubs.
Blacks Head sign
Ashbourne - The Shambles
Probably the most famous feature of Ashbourne is its Shrove-Tide football match - an annual game of 'traditional' football, played between the 'Uppards' and 'Downards' with a leather ball stuffed with sawdust. The only rule is that the ball has to be grounded at either of the two goals, which are 3 miles apart along the valley where Ashbourne lies. Play starts at 2pm and continues until 10pm unless a goal is scored after 5pm. There are hundreds of participants and to describe it as rough would be an understatement - it is a moving brawl which continues through the roads of the town, across fields and even along the bed of the local stream. The violence involved has led to intermittent attempts to ban it, but the game has been played here for hundreds of years and fortunately it still continues.
The Tourist Information Centre is in the market square - telephone 01335 343666