Chapel-en-le Frith Visitor Guide
Capital of the Peak...
Chapel-en-le-Frith, known to locals as simply 'Chapel', sits on the edge of the Peak District and is just 20 miles from Manchester.
Chapel-en-le-Frith proudly claims to be ‘The Capital of the Peak’, but the name actually comes from the Norman French and means ‘the chapel in the forest.’
This is a reference to the Royal Forest of the Peak, which extended over much of the Peak District during the Middle Ages, and was used by medieval kings and princes for hunting.
Chapel has been described as one of the best-kept secrets of the Peak District, and it certainly hides its charms away from the fleeting passer-by. The opening of the Chapel-en-le-Frith bypass in 1987 meant that many people still miss this charming and ancient market town, as they rush along the A6 between Buxton and Stockport.
The main road through the town, Market Street, always passed below the sloping, cobbled Market Square, which is the real centre of Chapel. It is a delightful place, surrounded by a range of interesting old inns and buildings and watched over by an ancient cross, which may have stood there for over 500 years, and the renovated village stocks.
Church Brow, which leads down from the church to Market Street, is a charming thoroughfare, steep and cobbled, and looking as though it might have been transported from a postcard from the West Country.
Chapel’s modern fortune is based on the huge Ferodo brake linings factory west of the town, founded a century ago by local man Herbert Frood, who first developed a brake block for the horse-drawn carts which then plied across the steep Derbyshire hills.
Chapel had formerly been a centre of the boot and shoe making industry, which strangely enough gave rise to the modern term ‘brake shoes.’ The Ferodo works now produce brake linings for vehicles all over the world.
WHERE IS IT?
Six miles (8km) north of Buxton off the A6.
The town derives its unusual name from a chapel of ease originally built in a clearing in the Royal Forest of the Peak in the 13th century (‘frith’ is the Norman French word for forest). The first chapel was built here for the foresters in 1225, and later the parish church (see below) was dedicated to St Thomas à Becket.
One of the most gruesome episodes in the church’s long history occurred in 1648, when about 1,500 soldiers of the Scottish army of the Duke of Hamilton, taken prisoner after the Battle of Ribbleton Moor near Preston, were locked in the church for 16 days. Forty died in what became known as ‘The Black Hole of Derbyshire,’ and a further ten died when they were marched towards Cheshire.
The Eccles Pike Cross in the churchyard was moved here from Ollerenshaw Farm in 1925. It is believed to be Anglo-Saxon and is covered in intricate carvings which are now very worn. Also in the churchyard is a simple slab marked by the letters PL and engraved by the outline of an axe. It is tempting to think that this so-called ‘Woodcutter’s Grave’ marks the burial place of one of the original foresters of the Royal Forest of the Peak.
The ancient Market Cross, in the cobbled Market Place,has a faint date which may read 1636, but it is thought to be considerably older, and possibly medieval.
The town played its part in early industrial history through the construction of the Peak Forest Tramway by Benjamin Outram in 1794. This connected the limestone quarries around Dove Holes with the canal basin at Buxworth, and provided a further means to getting the stone to markets where it was needed.
PLACES TO GO
The Parish Church
The Parish Church of St Thomas à Becket, dates mainly from the 14th century. The original medieval church was extensively modernised in 1733 by George Platt of Rotherham, who created the crumbling but still dignified Georgian exterior, with its classical porch topped by a sundial, that we see today.
The interior of the building features 19th century box pews and a monument to the former vicar Willam Bagshawe of nearby Ford Hall, who was known as ‘the Apostle of the Peak’ for his evangelistic work as a nonconformist minister during the latter part of the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Bagshawe converted a barn and held nonconformist services there until his death in 1702. In 1711, Bagshawe’s successor, Dr James Clegg, erected a “New” Chapel at nearby Chapel Milton.
Chinley New Chapel is overshadowed by the arches of the Midland Railway viaduct, but is a beautiful early 18th century building. In typical early Geogian style, the interior is simple and stark.
One of the notable features is the gravestone of Grace Murray, a local woman who is said to be the only woman John Wesley loved.
Though Wesley paid many visits to Chinley, visiting Grace and preaching at the New Chapel, the romance never went any further, and she eventually married one of his associates, local preacher John Bennet.
A couple of miles to the north-east of the town on a former farm is the Chestnut Centre, Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park, (01298 814099), a wildlife conservation centre most famous for its otters.
The Chestnut Centre is set in 50 acres of landscaped grounds and is home not only to a unique collection of birds and animals, but to many wild species. It contains Europe’s largest collection of otters, 16 species of owls and other indigenous wildlife including, buzzards, pine martens, polecats, foxes, Scottish wildcats and deer, all in natural surroundings.
The latest attraction at the Chestnut Centre is the UK’s only giant otter, named Manoki, an endangered species and a native of South America.
There is a regular weekly market, held in the cobbled Market Place every Thursday.
A curfew bell has been rung in the town since 1070, and on Shrove Tuesday a so-called ‘Pudding Bell’ is rung at 11am to remind housewives to start to prepare their batter for the pancakes.
Four wells are dressed during the Chapel-en-le-Frith well dressings, held in July. They are to be found outside the Town Hall (where the blessing of the wells service takes place); Nanny’s Well on Crossings Road; at the junction of Bowden Lane and Hayfield Road, and at Sandiway Headon the Buxton Road.
The Chapel-en-le-Frith Carnival is held annually in June, and includes a parade through the town, a barbecue, pet show, quiz, visiting carnival queens, a treasure hunt and a tug-of-war competition.
THINGS TO DO
There are many good walks around Chapel-en-le-Frith. One of the best is the ascent of Eccles Pike, a prominent hill a mile and a half west of the town, which features a circular topograph on its summit with a profile in bronze of the magnificent 360-degree panorama.
FOOD AND DRINK
CoCo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria in Market Street (01298 813180) offers classic Italian cooking in a contemporary setting, while the Stocks Café and Bistro in the Market Place (01298 814906) has traditional home cooking using fresh, local produce served in indoor and outdoor seating. Specials include a traditional Derbyshire breakfast and filled Derbyshire oatcakes.
Wholesome food, fine ales, scenic views of the valley beyond and outdoor seating are on offer at the Lamb Inn, Chinley (Hayfield Road, SK23 6AL, 01663 750519). At Whitehough you’ll find the historic Old Hall Inn (Chinley, SK23 6EJ, 01663 750529), a family-run 16th century inn offering good food, a range of cask ales from around the country and a selection of malt whiskies, wines and lagers, plus quality accommodation.
- Buxton, spa town and shopping centre
- Glossop, bustling former milltown
- New Mills, milltown built around a gorge
- Bakewell, ancient market town
Tourist Information Centres
Buxton Tourist Information Centre, The Crescent, Buxton SK17 6BQ; 01298 25106; www.highpeak.gov.uk; open daily
New Mills Heritage and Information Centre, New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire SK22 3BN; 01663 746202; www.newmillsheritage.com; open daily.
Public toilets and car park
In the town centre.
Thornbrook Surgery, Thornbrook Rd, Chapel-en-le-Frith, SK23 0RH, 01298 812725.
Hospitals: Stepping Hill Hospital, Poplar Grove, Stockport, 0161 483 1010;
Buxton Hospital, London Road, Buxton, 01298 214000;
Cavendish Hospital, Manchester Road, Buxton, 01298 212800.
Copyright Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 22 Jun 2015