ASHBOURNE is a market town in Derbyshire on the southern edge of the Peak District National Park and has a population on just over 7,000. The town is probably more famed as being the Gateway To Dovedale.

Ashbourne was first mentioned in the Domesday Book and in fact started out as a small Saxon village. In medieval days it was called Essiburn. Ashbourne became a centre of attraction in the 18th and 19th centurys as six coaching roads converged. There have been many famous people connected with the town including Bonny Prince Charlie, Oliver Cromwell, Dr Samuel Johnson, Queen Victoria, James Boswell, Izzak Walton, William Congreve, Thomas Moore, George Eliot, and Catherine Booth just to name a few.

In the centre of Ashbourne is the market place which was first granted a charter to allow stalls in 1257. Ashbourne still operates as a market town on Thursdays and Saturdays. The cattle market (which was a hive of activity many years ago) has now closed and new housing built in it's place. The town was made a royal borough in 1276. Opposite the Market Place is the Town Hall which is also used as a Registry Office as well as a meeting place for coffe mornings and sales, etc.

There are many historic places in the town. One of the main places is Church Street with its fine Georgian houses, old grammar school, almshouses and St Oswalds Church. The church tower of St Oswalds dominates the town with the spire rising to 212ft.

Queen Elizabeth's Grammer School which was founded by Sir Thomas Cockayne has recently moved from 2 sites in the town to it's current location in The Green Road. Work started on the original building in 1585 and continued until 1603. Adjacent to the grammer school is Grey House built in the mid 18th century and across the road is 17th century Mansion House where Dr Samuel Johnson who was a noted lexicographer and traveller frequently stayed.

Along the main street of the town (St. John's Street) is the Green Man and Black Head Hotel with it's famous sign high above the road which commemorates the amalgamation of 2 coaching inns in 1825. Also in St John's Street is the Millennium Clock (erected at the turn of the century) which is opposite the famous Ashbourne Gingerbread Shop (now Birds Bakery). Nearby is the quaint area of Victoria Square which is also known as the butchery. This has many small shops and the Horns public house. In Sturston Street there is a plaque on the front of a small terraced house which indicates the birthplace of Catherine Booth who was the wife of the founder member of the Salvation Army William Booth.

The town of Ashbourne is also famous for it's annual Royal Shrovetide Football Game. This takes place on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year starting at 2pm from the Shaw Croft car park and carrying on until 10pm unless 'goaled'. There are three commemorative cork filled leather balls made for the game and on each day a famous dignitory (well known or local) will throw the ball up. The game is played between two teams (the Up'ards and the Down'ards) between goals at Sturston and Clifton which are about three miles apart. The town is boarded up for the event as the game can be played throughout much of the town. Prince Charles threw the ball up in 2003.

Today Ashbourne has a new Sports and Leisure Centre in Station Road which was officially opened in 2004. Also a new Doctors Surgery has been built on Station Road at the entrance to the Leisure Centre.

The newest development in Ashbourne is on Clifton Road where the 36 acre Nestle factory (which closed in June 2003) was and now is being redeveloped for Retail and Business Units, a Hotel, a Petrol Station, Tennis Courts, Football Pitch, Picnic Area, Housing, as well as the start of the Shrovetide Trial. The main retail outlet will be Homebase. Also a new £20m hospital is to be built on Clifton Road behind the disused railway.




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