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DERBY DERWENT RIVER WALK I
The locations of the items numbered are shown on the walk map.
Dean’s Field (1) opposite the car park, at the start of the walk, was once the site of several water-powered mills and a corn mill. The house standing close to the river was the paper mill manager’s house. Later, it became the home of Mr Dean, the groundsman for Darley Park, after whom the field is named.
Darley Abbey takes its name from the Norman Abbey of St Mary of Darley which was founded in 1137, and which later became the richest and most powerful abbey in Derbyshire. The land and properties owned by the abbey covered an extensive area not only in Derbyshire, but also in Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire.
Few traces still exist of the abbey following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. Most of the buildings of the once proud monastery were destroyed within two years of the passing of the act. The only survivors were the building in Darley Street, converted into the Abbey Inn (2), in 1979, and some stonework to houses in Abbey Lane and a burial ground beneath Hill Square.
In 1778, Thomas Evans acquired land on the opposite side of the river for his cotton mills. The factory complex later became known as the ‘Boar’s Head Mills’ (3), which was Evans’ crest and achieved recognition, as a symbol of quality, in the parts of the world that he traded. The major part of production was the spinning of yarns for sewing cottons, knitting cottons, stockings and candlewick. The products were sold to all the main garment manufacturers in this country as well as in Europe and North America.
The mills are of immense historical and architectural importance and constitute the most complete of the surviving cotton mills in the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site. Still busy in the 21st century, the mills are now used for a variety of different purposes. The small Gatehouse (4), which nowadays looks rather forlorn, once used to control the flow of workers, raw materials and finished goods in and out of the site.
A more recent arrival to the area is Derby Rugby Club (5), as is the Footbridge (6) by Folly House. Originally the intention was to operate a water mill on the site, but the water flow was not of sufficient strength, due to the weirs upstream at Boar’s Head Mill. As a result the owner sold the building to Evans who converted it into three homes for his workers.
The River Derwent (7) flows for its entire course throughout Derbyshire, from its source between Bleaklow and the Howden Moors to the River Trent, near Shardlow. Almost half the population of England lives within 60 miles of its banks. The importance of the part played by the Derwent Valley during the Industrial Revolution, was recognised in 2001, when the stretch from Masson Mills to the Silk Mill at Derby was awarded World Heritage status.
At the southern end of Darley Park, Handyside’s Bridge (8) was manufactured at Derby’s Britannia Foundry in 1877 to carry the Great Northern Railway Line across the Derwent, with a cantilever pedestrian walkway on its nearside. The line ran from Nottingham Victoria to Eggington Junction, before closure in the 1960s. Andrew Handyside and Company enjoyed an international reputation, perhaps the most remarkable construction being a Moghul style pavilion for use in Bombay.
Rivermead House (9) is Derby’s only high-rise block of flats. Built in 1963, close by the Derwent with rising ground to the rear the building fits more comfortably into its surrounding than many similar blocks in other towns and cities. Along a narrow alley leading from the river path is the Furnace Inn (10). It took over its present premises at the end of the 19th century, which was once part of Andrew Handyside’s, Britannia Foundry.
St Mary’s Bridge (11) is an impressive structure of neo-classical design built by Thomas Harrison, between 1789 and 1794. The original bridge pier can be viewed under the foundations of the chapel and other remnants of the medieval bridge are to be seen in the river. It is remembered as the place where the Padley martyrs remains were hung on the bridge outside the chapel, which at that time was serving as a gaol. They had been hung, drawn and quartered after being convicted of Treason for their religious beliefs.
Standing on the western side of bridge is St Mary’s Bridge Chapel (11), one of only six bridge chapels remaining in England. It gave spiritual reassurance to travellers often about to set off on dangerous journeys. It also acted as a Toll House, where a resident hermit collected tolls from people entering Derby. It is still used for worship and can be visited on selected days and times during the summer.
St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church (12) was built between 1838 and 1844. It has an impressive Neo-Gothic Perpendicular tower and a lofty, simply adorned nave. It was the first major church designed by the celebrated architect, Augustus Pugin, although his son, E W Pugin completed the work.
North Parade (13) is a Grade II listed terrace, originally constructed for a Building Club between 1818 and 1822. The properties have been built in two lots of eight on a falling site, which provides an extra storey at the rear. Ashlar faced and of substantial design they were built by William Smith of Derby, on land made available by William Strutt of St Helen’s.
Situated just off North Parade, in Well Street, is St Alkmund’s Well (14), Derby’s last surviving holy well from those that existed in the Middle Ages. The earliest mentioned was in 1190, but it may date back much further too shortly after 800. This was the time of the dedication of the first minster church of Derby to St Alkmund, the martyred son of the King of Northumbria. The ancient tradition of dressing the well was revived in 1870, but discontinued in the 1960s, when St Alkmund’s Church was demolished to make way for road widening.
Darley Hall (15) was demolished in 1962 and a terrace has been constructed on its foundations. The hall stood on rising ground and looked out on parkland landscaped by William Emes. Following the death of the widow of the last Evans in 1929, the hall and parkland were given to the Corporation, who used it as a school. Shortly after the school moved out in 1961, the hall was demolished, but the stable block survived and the parkland has been retained for public recreation.
St Matthew’s School (16), built in 1826 was extremely advanced in design for its time. It had spacious airy class rooms with high ceilings and large well-lit windows and an attractive clock set in the front of the building. The left-hand wing served as accommodation for the schoolmaster and the right for the schoolmistress. The school has now been re-housed close to St Matthew’s Church.
A city of considerable character, surrounded by attractive countryside. With the Peak District National Park, the second most visited National Park in the world, only a few miles to the north and the National Forest a short distance away to the south.
Located near the centre of the country, Derby has excellent communications and is well served by road, rail and air. The city lies at the junction of the main A6, A38 and A52 roads and junction 25 of the M1 is 15 minutes drive away. East Midlands Airport is an easy 12 miles drive to the south east of Derby.
Interpretation Board - St Mary's Bridge
THE EVANS LEGACY
Darley Abbey forms part of The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site because of the pioneering work of the Evans family. Thomas Evans, born in 1723 and educated at Cambridge University, was the driving force. His enterprise produced great wealth and considerable influence for the family. He expanded the family business and became a leading industrialist.
Following the construction of the cotton mill at Darley Abbey in 1783, extensions took place at regular intervals. The mill complex eventually comprising five main mills, and an assortment of sheds where dyeing and drying took place. Other buildings on the site were used for offices, stabling and domestic purposes. A weir was constructed diagonally across the Derwent to control the flow of the river and a bridge built to link the village to the cotton mill.
All this industrial development required a substantial labour force, and the Evans family set about the task of acquiring and maintaining sufficient people to meet the growing demand for labour. This was no easy task as many framework knitters blamed the factory system for taking away their livelihood and independence. There was also a suspicion about the working conditions in factories.
Generous inducements were offered to potential workers in the form of above average wages and new well-built brick-houses, together with a parcel of land and a cow. The houses were mostly of three storeys in height, the first phase at Flat Square, Hill Square, Brick Row and the upper part of Mile Ash Lane.
'Boar's Head Mills'
About ten years later a second phase was added, in New Road and Lavender Row and finally, by the 1870s, the lower part of Mile Ash Lane. The four houses in Mile Ash Road, built during the early 1790s, are the oldest surviving examples of cluster houses, joined side-to-side and back-to-back.
Apart from providing houses, the Evans family had an elegantly designed school built, with spacious classrooms, well-lit by large windows and a handsome clock set high in the front wall. They also built St Matthew’s Church, provided a playing field for the village, bathing facilities on the riverbank, a free medical service and organised a carnival at Whitsuntide.
Thomas Evans had Darley House built in 1783, but it was demolished in the 1930s and the only building that remains is the Gate Keeper’s Lodge. In 1844, the Evans family moved to Darley Hall, which Alderman William Woolley had built over one hundred years previously. The era ended with the death of Ada Evans, the widow of Walter Evans, in 1929. The estate was broken up and the village of Darley Abbey went into decline.
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Darley Abbey Park
PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
St Mary’s Bridge Chapel (Tel. 01332 341201) is one of only six bridge chapels left in the British Isles. It stands beside the 18th century St Mary’s Bridge, which replaced a medieval bridge to which the chapel was attached. It is not particularly impressive from the outside, nor is it blessed with a quiet location, sandwiched between the Derby Ring Road and the still busy road across St Mary's Bridge. Once inside, all that changes. The noise vanishes and there is a feeling of peace and tranquillity. The white painted walls, the simple furniture and the lack of fussiness all add to the attraction of this wonderful place. Open selected days during the summer.
Pickford’s House Museum (01332 255363) housed in a handsome Grade I listed building, built in 1769 by Derby architect, Joseph Pickford for his own occupation. It was opened as a museum in 1988 and delightfully recreates a scene of Georgian domestic life with splendidly furnished rooms and fine costume displays. Open daily, apart from during the Christmas and New Year break.
Derby City Museum and Art Gallery (01332 716659) houses the prestigious Joseph Wright collection of paintings. A programme of special exhibitions supports permanent displays relating to the city’s archaeology, history, wildlife and local regiments. The brand new Ceramics Gallery provides an additional attraction. Open daily apart from during the Christmas and New Year Break.
The Abbey Inn: (Tel. 01332 558297) the layout is of a simple medieval hall-house and is thought to have been used by the Abbey as a guesthouse for travellers and pilgrims during the 13th century. From 1932 to 1977, it was unoccupied, before conversion into a public house. Open lunchtimes and evenings from Monday to Friday, all day at the weekends. Meals served at lunchtimes only.
Darley Park Tearooms: (Tel. 01332 556447) delightfully situated, overlooking flowerbeds and Darley Abbey Park, with distant views of Derby Cathedral. There is plenty of seating outside on the terrace. Normally open from 10-4pm during the week, longer at the weekend, but arrangements may be changed at short notice dependent on weather conditions – telephone for further information. Light refreshments served.
DERBY DERWENT RIVER WALKS
Abbey pub sign
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