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CATHEDRAL QUARTER TRAIL – NUMBER 2
From the Tourist Information Centre walk across the top side of the Market Place, which almost certainly did not come into existence until around 1100 according to recent excavations. An ancient trackway used to run along the south side of where the Market Place now stands and was in existence many years before Derby came onto the scene.
After the Norman Conquest, rapid expansion took place and other markets sprang up. In the Corn Market grain was traded; at the top end of Friar Gate farm animals were bought and sold along with produce. A market was also developed in the Morledge, where fairs were held.
The Market Place has been extended over the years and through traffic removed. It is now large enough to serve as an event space, with the potential to host lots of different activities that add to Derby’s public life. Over Christmas and the New Year 2007/8, an ice skating rink proved a very popular attraction. But markets are not forgotten and a regular monthly Farmers’ Markets is held, where most of the food is grown within a 40 mile radius of Derby. The market also sells a wide range of other goods, the list of which is growing all the time.
The Big Screen in the Market Place makes Derby unique in the East Midlands. It connects the city to the seven other screen cities in the UK as well as screens across the rest of the world!! From live opera performances and concerts, to interactive games, events and videos from local bands, to up-to-date information on Derby are shown, together with regularly updated City Diary listings.
A large part of the top side of the Market Place is taken up by the Assembly Rooms, which were built by Casson, Conder and Partners between 1973 and 1977, to replace the 17th century Newcastle House and former Assembly Rooms. Following a fire in 1963, the main building was demolished, but the façade was carefully removed and re-erected at the National Tramway Village at Crich. The Tourist Information Centre now stands on the site of the old building.
The Assembly Rooms is Derby's leading entertainment venue. It promotes a year round programme of Arts and Entertainment, including an orchestral season, comedy, rock and pop events, family entertainment, such as the annual pantomime, dance, drama and children's shows. It also offers space for a range of events including conferences, corporate presentations, trade exhibitions, dinner dances and weddings. Along with the Guildhall, the Assembly Rooms will be hosting the CAMRA Real Ale Beer Festival in 2008 (January and July).
On the Iron Gate side of the Market Place, Francey’s House particularly attracts the eye. An eight-bay four storey house, it once had two first-floor rooms with frescoed ceilings by Francis Bassano. It was built in 1695 for Alderman William Francey and replaced a previous house built by his uncle 55 years previously.
The premises currently occupied by Lloyds Bank were built by the same builder as Francey’s House, at the turn of the 18th century. It was at one time occupied by Bemrose, the well known Derby printing firm. The arrival of the railway in 1839 and the award of the contract to print the timetables and stationery led to them eventually moving to larger premises. They have now grown to such an extent that they are based on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1745 the building was commandeered by Colonel Gordon of Glenbucket, for the period of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s stay in Derby.
On reaching the other side of the Market Place, go down Sadler Gate. Unlike its neighbour Iron Gate, it has not been widened and is much older than it appears at first glance. In the past the fronts of the buildings have been modernised to keep up with fashion, but the backs left untouched. A walk up the various yards reveals many of the properties date back to the 17th century. George Yard, a narrow thoroughfare that runs parallel to Sadler Gate, in particular provides plenty of evidence of this fact.
The street has become much safer since pedestrianisation. Gone are the days when coaches negotiated the difficult corner into Sadler Gate from Iron Gate at breakneck speed. On this very corner, in May 1837, a lady was knocked down and suffered a broken leg as she tried to get out of the way of a carriage. Two years later, a coach with four horses failed to navigate the corner and crashed into the wall.
Sadler Gate links Iron Gate with Bold Lane and The Strand and is a hive of activity during the day with the emphasis on shopping and eating. Evenings see a transformation, when the clubs, bars and pubs attract crowds of fun seekers and diners.
In earlier days Sadler Gate had several busy coaching inns. Minimal time was allowed for passengers to seek refreshment and for horses to be changed, before the coachman’s horn sounded for departure. The Bell still survives from that era; it stands with its entrance at right angles to Sadler Gate with black and white mock-Tudor timbering. This was added by the builders Ford and Weston as part of a decorative refurbishment in 1929 using timber that had been rescued from other local sites!
The Meynell family built this splendid old coaching inn built around 1680. John Campion acquired the freehold in 1780, and added a fine ballroom, which was subject to later alteration. During the floods of 1842, the nine year old grandson of John Campion II was 'launched in a wash-tub in the cellars' - the purpose to save some vintage bottles of wine placed there by his great-grandfather!
The Bell was a favourite watering-hole for local politicians, some of whom tried to bribe the local electorate to vote for them by providing free drinks on Polling Day. Sir Henry Harpur in his quest to get elected even had a list of 42 public houses, including The Bell, where voters benefited from his largess at election time. Those who did not have the right to vote tended to riot in disappointment both at missing out on the ballot and also the free beer.
The Old Blacksmith’s Yard is a particularly attractive enclosure off Sadler Gate, where horses once stood waiting to be shod. It is now the home of the façade of a re-built 15th century house, the timbers of which were found when the present Assembly Rooms in the Market Place were being constructed.
Continue down Sadler Gate past the Strand Arcade, which was created in the early 1870s to replicate London’s Burlington Arcade, from designs by John Story. At the bottom of the street look up and you will see the sign ‘Sadler Gate Bridge’ which is where the old bridge over Markeaton Brook used to stand before it was culverted.
On leaving Sadler Gate continue forward into Cheapside. Where following the closure of Ashley's chemist's shop, in 1980, the buildings at the rear were left semi-derelict until taken over by Seymour's Bar. The wine bar is reputedly haunted by an old lady dressed in grey. Many of the sightings are accompanied by a very strong smell of lavender. Objects also get moved around or disappear, only to be found later in a completely different place - not an uncommon occurrence in many households! The top floors were once used for weaving.
The former settlement of Wardwick had a church at its centre since at least 700AD. St Werburgh’s Church, on the corner of Cheapside and Friar Gate, originally set within the small settlement of Warwick, has been re-built many times. Its medieval tower collapsed in 1601 and was replaced seven years later by its present tower. Most of the remainder of the church dates back to the 1890s, when it was largely rebuilt after being declared unsafe. The register goes back to 1588 and it was here that Doctor Johnson married Tetty Porter on the 7th July 1735. Sadly, the church closed for worship in the 1980s, opening as a shopping gallery nine years later, but this venture was not a success and it closed down a few years later. It re-opened recently as a Chinese restaurant.
Turn right and walk up Friar Gate, one of Derby’s oldest streets, which has retained many of its older buildings. Just past St Werburgh’s Church, the former Derby Gas, Light and Coke Company showrooms and offices used to operate. Built in 1889, the name of the company can still be seen on the wall of what is a fine piece of ornate Victorian brickwork. The first public gas lamp was lit in the Market Place, on 19 February 1821, twenty years later an Act of Parliament allowed Derby Gas Light and Coke Company to supply customers outside Borough, which led to further expansion.
The Friary Hotel was built on part of the grounds that once belonged to a Dominican Monastery. They erected a large friary here with some 16 acres of parkland featuring fishponds, a chapel and other buildings.
In 1731, a town house was built on the site where The Friary Hotel now stands. The town house was originally erected for Samuel Crompton, probably to a design by Richard Jackson. It was extended in 1760 and again in 1875 and the 1950s. From 1873 to 1922, it was the home of the Boden family. Henry Boden and his wife Mary worked tirelessly for temperance, but following the death of Henry Boden, in 1922, his widow finding the house too large sold it to the Whitaker family. Shortly afterwards they set about transforming it into a licensed hotel, much to the annoyance of Mrs Boden.
From The Friary look diagonally back down Friar Gate to get a good view of Gell’s House, Derby’s finest surviving complete 17th century town house. The four storey gabled building was the Parliamentary head quarters during the English Civil war. It was probably built for Col Thomas Gell, the brother of Sir John Gell the notorious governor of Derby during the war. The Gell family lived at Hopton Hall for nearly 500 years and were the dominating influence in the area, before it was sold in 1989. The Hall hides behind a red brick crinkle-crankle wall on the eastern side of Hopton. The wall traps the rays of the sun to assist fruit growing.
At the traffic lights go to the right and walk along Ford Street, until you reach Willow Row, where you turn right. Here you pass the £12m Joseph Wright Centre facility, which is part of Derby College and follows the merger of Mackworth, Broomfield and Wilmorton Colleges. The name originates from the internationally famous, local artist whose work in the mid to late 18th Century was inspired by scientific and technological art forms. The building’s high-impact design produced by local architects is unique to Derby and covers 6600 square metres of floor space over four storeys. As a result of the success of the centre over the first two years, the building is being extended to increase study and social space for students which will open to students early in 2008.
Leaving Willow Row behind, the side of the Magistrates Courts Centre comes into view leading round into St Mary’s Gate. The street has traditionally been the legal quarter of Derby. On the left at the bottom, the former Shire Hall, converted into the city’s Magistrates Court in 2003, built in 1660 is a Grade I listed building. Its main function was to hold the assizes and retain the prisoners during trials. The cobbled and enclosed courtyard is a notable feature and is flanked by late Georgian buildings, one formerly being the King’s Arms Hotel. It was established in 1798, in order to provide refreshment to those, attorneys, witnesses and others, involved in the Assizes. George III’s magnificent coat of arms is in pride of place at the entrance to St Mary’s Gate.
The first day of the Assize was a colourful occasion. After the Judges had attended the Assize service at All Saints’ Church (now Derby Cathedral), they would arrive by coach in the Courtyard. They would be preceded by halberdiers and trumpeters, whose trumpets bore the banners of the High Sheriff of the year. Crowds of people used to gather outside the gates to see the spectacle as well as at those times when Royal proclamations were made and the results of Parliamentary elections announced. The Assizes were held here from 1660-1971, when it became a Crown Court, before losing its status in 1989 with the opening of the much larger Crown Court building on the Morledge.
The Cathedral Quarter Hotel will be Derby’s first boutique hotel, and is due to be opened by Finesse Hotels early in 2008 at a cost of £3.8 million. The Grade II listed building, was originally used as offices for Derbyshire County Council and then South Derbyshire District Council, before it went into ownership of the Derbyshire police. The first hotel to be established by the Finesse Group followed the purchase of the Lion Hotel Belper, in 2000.
At the top of St Mary’s Gate, turn right and walk down Iron Gate (described in Trail Number 1), turning left at the bottom across the Market Place to the starting point of the trail.
A view of the Guildhall from the north side of the Market Place, just before turning up Iron Gate.
Go to Page 2 Heritage Walk Map
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