Ripley stands in an elevated position with good views across the valleys of the River Amber and Derwent. The market place is the focal point of the town, a charter to hold a market and fair on the village green was first granted in 1251 by Henry III. Although the out-door market is not as busy as it used to be Ripley is a good place to shop.
Ripley is a friendly place to visit and with a population of close on 20,000 the town offers a wide variety of shops. Most of the the town's businesses have been established over many years and are still run by their owners. This helps to provide a much more personal touch than that encountered in many chain stores in larger towns and cities.
Coal has been worked in the area since at least the 13th century, and along with iron became a major industry. In 1790, Benjamin Outram and partners formed the Benjamin Outram Company, re-named after his death in 1805 as the Butterley Company to exploit the mineral wealth in the locality. It was Outram who constructed one of the earliest Colliery railway tracks from Ripley to Little Eaton where it met a branch of the Derby Canal.
The company engaged in a wide range of projects, including making cannons for the Napoleonic War, cast iron colonnades for the front of London's Opera House and probably most famous of all helped to rebuild the great cast iron roof at St Pancras Station in London. By 1830 the Butterley Company was considered to be the largest and the second largest iron producer in the East Midlands. In later years it became involved in quarrying and brick making and at its peak in the middle of the 20th century employed around 10,000 workers.
In 1793, the Cromford Canal was completed with a junction at Ripley, the Derby to Chesterfield Turnpike road arrived early in the 19th century and the railway in 1856. Progressively, Ripley emerged as a trading centre as well as an industrial location. The Ripley Co-operative Society was formed in 1860 and, after moving to larger premises 19 years later steadily attracted more people from outlying villages to shop in the town.
Industry in the town continued much as it had done the previous century until the 1960s, when the local coal mines began to close and with the Butterley Company no longer the force that it once was in the town. This led to the provision of light industrial estates and other forms of employment for many local people.
With the award winning Tourist Information Centre attracting in the region of 50,000 inquiries a year, a number of major tourist attractions within easy reach, the town is now in much better heart than it was a few years ago. There is much of both local and international interest in the town. It is to be hoped that the Heritage Centre which closed a few years ago due to the reduction in space available re-opens in a prestige location to help attract more visitors to the town.
Between 1913 and 1932, anyone standing in Ripley Market Place would be able to hop on board the ‘Ripley Rattler’ for a ride on what was considered the most dangerous tramway in Britain. It ran for 11 miles, from Upper Parliament Street in Nottingham to Ripley, with several stopping points on the way and was the longest tramway in the world.
The tramway was so notorious that D H Lawrence, who lived only a few yards from the line, was moved to write an amusing short story ‘Tickets Please’. The single track had 316 passing places, all on the left hand side of the main track, so that when riding from Nottingham passengers had to endure a succession of swinging movements, the more violent the faster the tramcar travelled.
Accidents happened regularly; trams reportedly got jammed under bridges, came off the track and on one occasion, a double-decker tram crashed into the church wall and threw the passengers travelling on the top into the graveyard. A woman was killed saving a child from being run over and a man named Harry Parkin was honoured for bringing a runaway tram to a halt.
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TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
For further information on Ripley, please contact the award winning Tourist Information Centre at:
PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Midland Railway Centre, (Tel. 01773 570140) fine heritage railway offering a seven-mile trip through Amber Valley countryside. The Railway Museum containing a unique collection of restored locomotives and rolling stock: the Golden Valley Light Railway, miniature and model railways form only part of the many attractions. Telephone for details.
Denby Pottery Visitor Centre (Tel. 01773 740799) offers factory tours - booking essential. The visitor centre is open daily from Monday to Saturday from 9.30am - 5pm, Sunday from 10am - 5pm. The museum, cookery emporium and factory shops are all open daily. Free centre entry and car parking. Groups welcome.
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. Normally open: Saturday and Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to the end of October. please confirm details.
In 1887, Cromer House on Butterley Hill was the birthplace of Sir Barnes Wallis. He designed the R100 airship, the Wellington and Wellesley bombers and developed the swing wing plane. Though he is best known for inventing the ‘bouncing bombs’ technique which in 1943, breached the Ruhr Valley Dams, in the heartland of industrial Germany.
Plaque on Cromer House
A plaque and memorial museum in the west tower of Derwent Dam retells the story of the'Dambusters', which many will have seen on film. The Derwent Dams having been used during the Second World War to perfect the bombs.
In May 1958, Harry Greatorex, the owner of the Regal on Nottingham Road, unknowingly pulled off a major coup by signing up The Drifters, who were grateful for the opportunity to perform in the town.
Prior to the event, he persuaded them that they should take the name of their lead singer, Harry Webb. However, he did not think that name sounded quite right, so Harry Webb became Cliff Richard!
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