DERBY, Derbyshire - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]
"DERBY, the county town of Derbyshire, a municipal and parliamentary borough and market town, comprising the parishes of St. Alkmund's, St. Peter's St. Michael's, All Saints, and St. Werburgh's, in the hundred of Morleston and Litchurch, in the county of Derby. It is pleasantly situated amid the beautiful scenery of the vale of the Derwent, 132 miles N.N.W. of London by railway, and 126 by road. It is a principal station on the Midland Counties railway, which connects it with Nottingham and Lincoln, Leicester and London, Birmingham, Bristol and Exeter, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.

Derby is supposed to have risen from the Roman town Derventio, whose site is now occupied by Little Chester; in the Saxon time it was called Northworthige and Deoraby. During the period between the years 874 and 918, it was held by the Danes. In 918 Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia, and daughter of Alfred, captured Derby from the Danes; it was afterwards restored to them as one of the "five burghs", but was again taken from them by Edmund. In the reign of Edward the Confessor it was a royal borough and mint town, and of considerable commercial importance, having numerous corn-mills. At this period, and till the Norman Conquest, it was held by the earls of Mercia. William the Conqueror bestowed it on William de Ferrers.

Derby was chartered by Henry I., and given to the earls of Chester. In the reign of Edward III. the privilege of dyeing cloth was granted to it. At the commencement of the war between Charles I. and the parliament it was held by the royalists, but was shortly afterwards taken by the parliamentarians, and remained in their hands till the end of the war. In 1665, and previously in 1592-3, it was visited by the plague. The young Pretender occupied Derby for two days in 1745, and from this point commenced his retreat to Scotland. In 1833-4 a great strike of operatives took place.

Derby has considerable manufactures, the most important being those of silk, cotton, calico, lace, porcelain, china, and Derbyshire or "fluor" spar. The black marble found in Derbyshire is extensively wrought into vases, chimney-pieces, &c. The first silk-mill ever erected in England was built here on a swampy island in the Derwent in 1718, by Mr. John Lombe, who successfully introduced the art of "silk throwing" into this country from Italy; since that time many silk-mills have been built, and this branch of industry may be regarded as the staple of the town.

The manufacture of cotton was introduced at a later period, and is not so extensive as that of silk. Calico was first made here by Arkwright and Strutt. The manufacture of porcelain, which is now equal to the best foreign, was originally established here about 1750 by Mr. Duesbury. Besides the above there are manufactures of paper, white and red lead, jewellery, &c.

The streets of Derby in the old part are narrow. The town is lighted with gas, and supplied with water from the Derwent. The buildings are handsome; the townhall was built in 1828, and was destroyed by fire in 1841; the outer and centre walls were, however, preserved, and now form a portion of the new building; the Ionic portico, which it had previous to the fire, was not restored, but a clock and bell tower has been placed in front. The county-hall is a heavy freestone building, erected in 1660. The railway station is one of the most extensive in the kingdom, the length of buildings and covered platform being no less than 1,050 feet.

Besides the above edifices there are the county gaol assembly room, theatre, Derby and Derbyshire Joint Stock bank, savings-bank, race-stand, and county lunatic asylum. The Arboretum, presented by the late Joseph Strutt, in 1840, and estimated worth £10,000, is a piece of ground of about 15 acres, laid out in walks and planted with trees, shrubs, &c.; on Sundays and one day in the week it is open to the public free, and on other days by payment of an admission fee.

Derby has several fine churches: the most noteworthy are All Saints, on the E. side of the town, near the river, with a rich crocketed tower of Henry VII.'s time, 178 feet high, and Grecian body, by Gibbs, built about 1725; the interior is extremely elegant, and contains a beautiful screen of rich open iron-work, and several interesting monuments, of which that to Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, is the most remarkable. This church was restored about 1850 at a cost of £1,200. The living is a perpetual curacy* in the diocese of Lichfield (in which diocese are all the other churches in Derby), value £216, in the patronage of Simeon's Trustees.

St. Alkmund's church, rebuilt in 1846, at a cost of above £10,000, is a handsome and commodious edifice, with a tower and spire at the western end 207 feet in height; it has accommodation for 1,250 persons. The living is a vicarage*, value £300, in the patronage of the Rev. E. H. Abney. St. Werburgh's stands on an old site. It has a fine Gothic tower. The old church frequently suffered from its nearness to the Markeaton brook: in 1601 the tower fell, and in 1698 the church itself fell, but was rebuilt in 1708. The living is a vicarage*, value £312, in the patronage of the lord chancellor.

St. Michael's church is a Gothic building, with a square embattled tower. The living is a vicarage*, value £115, in the patronage of the lord chancellor. St. John's has accommodation for 1,250 persons. The living is a perpetual curacy*, value £220, in the patronage of the Vicar of St. Werburgh's. Besides the above, Derby has five other churches - St. Peter's, Trinity, Christ's, St. Paul's, and St. Anne's; the Roman Catholic church of St. Mary, built by Pugin in 1838; seven Methodist chapels, three Independent, one Unitarian, one Society of Friends, and a Jerusalem temple.

The public schools of Derby are the grammar school, founded in the reign of Henry II., and chartered by Mary, one of the oldest in the kingdom; two endowed, eight Church of England (two National), three Independent, one Wesleyan, one Roman Catholic, one British, one ragged, and one prison school. The scientific and useful institutions of the town are, the Philosophical Society, established by Darwin in 1783, with a good library, museum, &c.; the Athenæum, the town and county museum, the town and county library, news-rooms, the mechanics' institute, and the mechanics' hall.

Derby has numerous charities: the infirmary, built at a cost of £17,870, with accommodation for a large number of patients; the Devonshire almshouses, founded by Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury for the support of poor men and women; Wilmot's almshouses for four men and women; Large's almshouses for five clergymen's widows; Liversage's almshouses, consisting of thirteen houses, built in 1836, when any vacancy occurs the vicar and churchwardens of St. Peter's parish appoint the alms people.

Derby has few antiquities. Some traces of De Pratis Nunnery, founded in 1160 by the abbots of Darley, and of a castle at Castlefield, still exist; coins of brass, silver, and gold, and a Roman pavement have been found at Little Chester, where are also some remains of a bridge, and of the British road Icknield Street.

Since 1294 Derby has returned two members to parliament. The limits of the municipal and parliamentary boroughs are co-extensive, comprising, according to the census of 1861, 9,014 houses, inhabited by a population of 43,091, against 40,609 in 1851, thus showing an increase of 2,482 in the decennial period. The town is divided into six wards, governed by a mayor, 12 aldermen, and 36 councillors. The assizes for the county, and the sessions (except the Midsummer, which are held at Chesterfield) are held here. Derby Union contains five parishes:- St. Alkmund's, St. Michael's, St. Peter's, which extend beyond the borough, All Saints, and St. Werburgh's.

Among the natives of the town were Dr. Thomas Linacre, a learned physician in the time of Henry VIII.; Richardson; Hutton, who wrote the history of the town; Wright, the painter; Sir H. Bateman; the two Allestreys; Mawe, the mineralogist; Botton, Robinson, and Swetnam, the divines. The first Earl of Macclesfield, afterwards Lord Chancellor, and Dr. Darwin were residents of the town.

The market is held on Friday, and one for the sale of meat and provisions on Saturday evening; cattle markets are held on Tuesday and Friday. There are fairs on Friday in Easter week, Friday after May-day, Friday in Whitsun week, Friday before Midsummer Day, 26th July, Friday before Michaelmas (cattle), and Friday after the Epiphany. Two fairs are also held for the sale of cheese - one on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd March, and the other on the 27th, 28th, and 29th September."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin HINSON ©2003]