BELPER HERITAGE CENTRE
The story of Belper really begins as a small settlement in the Royal hunting forest of Duffield Frith when it was given the name of ‘Beaurepaire’ which means ‘beautiful place’. In the mid 1200s, William de Ferrers, who was lord of the manor at Belper and several other manors, built a small stone church in a clearing, so that the foresters and their families would have somewhere to worship close to home. It was first dedicated to Thomas Becket, but re-dedicated to St John during the Reformation.
Up until 1770, Belper was only a small village surrounded by fields with a population of just over 500 people. But, in 1771 Sir Richard Arkwright went into partnership with Samuel Need of Nottingham and Jedediah Strutt to develop water powered mills along the Derwent. This transformed Belper over the next few years, with mills springing up along the riverbank and houses and other service requirements being built to meet the demands of the rapidly increasing population.
St Peters Church, off Church Lane was built to meet the spiritual needs of a growing population, when St John’s Chapel became too small to satisfy the rising demand. Today, it has changed very little in appearance, but is now used for the joint purpose of Town Council Chambers and Heritage Centre.
The chapel is an area known as The Butts, where archery practice once took place, and where horsefairs were held twice a year. The market place was at one time an area of wasteland, where in 1762, John Wesley preached. This leads down to King Street, the main shopping area.
St John's Heritage Centre is, open weekdays from 9.30am to 12.30pm, also it is open on the last Saturday in the month. The chapel contains an interesting collection of old photographs of Belper and other memorabilia.
St. John’s Chapel Heritage Centre (Tel. 01773 822116)
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Derwent Valley Visitor Centre: (Tel: 01773 880474) situated in Strutt's, North Mill where superb displays of hand spinning wheels, Hargreaves’s Spinning Jenny and many more exhibits bring this old mill back to life. See feature.
Belper River Gardens (Tel. 01773 880474/841488) are tucked away behind North Mill and hide from the A6 behind a high brick wall. The result is that many people miss seeing these delightful gardens. Where you will find flowerbeds, an arboretum, a bandstand, water gardens, children’s playground and boating facilities. See feature.
Heage Windmill (Tel. 01773 853579 - when mill closed telephone 01773 853136) a Grade II listed building, is the only working, stone-towered, multi-sailed windmill in England. Spectacular views across the Derwent Valley. Visitor Centre and shop. Light refreshments. See feature.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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