Pint Pleasures: Three Pubs in Chesterfield / Predicting Bird Behaviour

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Previous Pint Pleasures - December 8, 2006

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Market Hotel, New Square, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

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Royal Oak, 1 The Shambles, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

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Cock & Magpie, 2 Church Street, Old Whittington, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Yet another column that's very late. Extremely late, considering it was due up in 2006 and it's now a year later. There's one thing about New Year's that's really starting to bug me. It's when people say "See you next year" when they mean next week or even tomorrow. Time is rushing by fast enough and the days are already so blurred that there is no need to rush things.

Ah, well, on with more important things. A few months ago, when my California friend Barb came for a visit, we decided to take a day trip somewhere on the train. As a much cheaper alternative to York (£27 return from Sheffield), we decided to go to Chesterfield (£3.60 return). As Barb was continuing on to Dublin to spend a few days near the Spike, I thought she might enjoy adding the Crooked Spire to her list of phallic tourist attractions.

We were fortunate enough to visit on a market day. With over 200 stalls, the traditional open-air Chesterfield Market has been operating since the 12th Century, and its current site dates from the 1220s. After meeting a couple of friends at the Rutland we walked by the open market walls where all sorts of fresh produce and crafts were on sale.

As there were no cask ale stalls we abandoned our market tour and stopped into the Market Hotel, just across from the Market Hall. This inviting pub features wood fittings, flagstone floors, and a central bar with a whole line of handpumps. While Barb stuck with her traditional Stella, Ali and Marian and I all had pints of Exmoor Wildcat (4.5% ABV, Exmoor Ales Ltd., Wiveliscombe, Somerset). This beer has a very nice roasty malt flavour, very very roasty! Mrow! Yes, it is a lovely pint, an excellent beer which makes my tongue purr. RrrrrrrwwwwwwmmmmmeeeeOWWW!!!

Our next stop was the Royal Oak, hidden away in the cobblestone streets of the Shambles. Although the older of this pub's two buildings dates from the 16th century, it was first mentioned as an inn in 1772. At one point it became two butcher shops and a house, and in 1815 it reverted back to a pub. Supposedly one of Chesterfield's secret underground passageways leads to one of the Royal Oak's cellars. As there was only a short time before we had to catch the train back to Sheffield, I had a half pint of Black Sheep (3.8% ABV, Black Sheep Brewery, Ripon, North Yorkshire) which was excellent. Sadly I had to abandon my half at its halfway point in order to rush to the station, wait for our thrice-delayed train and then catch a taxi to the chemist before it closed, all for the sake of a prescription. Ah, well, there's always next time...

A few months earlier Andrew and I stopped for lunch at the Cock and Magpie, located in the suburb of Whittington which dates from the 12th century. The original Whittington pub, the Cock and Pynot, was the meeting place of a group of men, including the first Duke of Devonshire, who planned the overthrow of James II. Known as the Revolution House, that pub became a museum, and the newer Cock and Magpie was built nearby.

This is a food pub which specialises in seafood and features an attractive nonsmoking restaurant in the back. The front bar has low beamed ceilings, cubbyholes and arches, and paintings of animals and of the pub. On the weekend lunchtime we stopped in, the place was packed with a wedding party, so everybody was dressed up except for us -- in fact with my short jeans, camisole, and windblown hair on this particularly muggy tropical-storm day, I felt quite down-dressed. We had pints of Lakeland Ale (3.5% ABV, Jennings Bros., Cockermouth, Cumbria), which has an amber colour and lots of that Jennings flavour. And it's a good strength for a lunchtime pint. Our prawn jackets were very good, with nicely cooked potatoes and decent prawns, and we shared a side of the best onion rings I've had for decades! And the prices are typical pub prices: including drinks our entire bill came to £14. You can't beat that.

As we enjoyed our pints and food we pondered the painting featured above our table titled "The Cock and Magpie". So what's the story with the cock and magpie, anyway? The cock looked as if it has the upper hand in the situation, but Andrew thought it was just posturing and that the magpie would probably steal the cock's comb. One can only wonder...

Market Hotel Updates
(Last updated 10 June 2015)
Royal Oak Updates
(Last updated 5 May 2011)