Sightseeing in Derby

Despite laying claim to part of a World Heritage Site, the real attractions of Derby can be found outside the city with numerous historical sites to visit, not to mention the famous Peak District to enjoy.

The World Heritage Site in Derby is the Derwent Valley Mills which starts in the city centre and carries on up to Matlock Bath in the north of Derbyshire County. The site follows the river downstream and shows the importance of the River Derwent in the industrial revolution and the development of factories. It includes, the first water-powered cotton spinning mill built by Sir Richard Arkwright in the 1770s at Cromford. Also at Cromford, you can see the village he built to house the workers in the factory. The site starts at Masson Mills in Matlock Baths and ends at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, in the city centre some 25 kilometres later.

The Derby Museum and Art Gallery, on the Strand in the city centre, itself has several galleries with a variety of art work, archaeological and historical artefacts as well as natural history displays. Providing a slightly more different experience is Derby’s Museum of Industry and History. Occupying the site of one of the world’s oldest factories, the Silk Mill which was built in 1702, it tells the story of the various industries most closely associated with Derby. Off Full Street on Silk Mill Lane, exhibitions include those taking the visitor through the history of the Railway industry and Rolls Royce in Derby, as well as even older industries such as mining, pottery and foundry work. The museum also incorporates the Midland Railway Study Centre, which is an archive of the railways in Derby from 1844 to 1922. Derby has had a cathedral since 1924, although the site of the cathedral has been one with a church on it since 943. The church of All Saints became Derby Cathedral following the formation of the Diocese of Derby in 1927. At this point Derby was not a city and would not gain city status for another 50 years, making Derby quite unique in being a town with a cathedral. The present building was erected in the 1730s and features an iron screen made by local ironsmith, Robert Bakewell. The cathedral is on Iron Gate and has the second highest cathedral tower in the country. Also in the city is the Derby Arboretum, which was the first purposely designed park in the country. The land was donated to the citizens of Derby in 1840 by Joseph Strutt, for “a botanical tree garden for instruction and pleasure”. The garden was designed and planted by John Claudius Loudon.

Moving away from the city centre and out in the county there is a wealth of attractions and sights to see. During a trip to Derbyshire it would be almost impossible to not also visit the Peak District, Britain’s first national park. Here you can enjoy the local tradition of Well-Dressing or enjoy in its many hills and valleys like Dovedale or the Amber Valley. One of the country’s most famous stately homes is Chatsworth House. The first house on this site was built in the 1550s by ‘Besse of Hardwick’ and her husband. By 1618 her son, Wiliam, became the first Earl of Devonshire. Then in 1686 the 4th Earl was made the Duke of Devonshire for the support he gave to bringing William of Orange to the English throne. The present Duke is the twelfth, Peregrine Cavendish, having succeeded his late father in 2004. Along with exquisite gardens the house also has an extensive collection of jewellery, art, furniture and various mechanical devices. Another famous stately house in Derbyshire is Haddon Hall. The family home of the Manvers family, who have owned it since 1567, it occupies a site on which a manor house was built in the 12th century and still retains some of those original features. Haddon hall is acknowledged as being one of the finest examples of a Tudor building in England; it is set in the Peak District of Derbyshire not far from Bakewell.  The ruins of the old Hardwick Hall are alongside the newer buildings at Doe Lea, not far from Chesterfield. The ruins were another house built for Besse of Hardwick in the 1500s and are surrounded by parkland, orchards and a herb garden. At Crich is the home of the National Tramway Museum, the Tramway Village. If you feel the need to move into some more modern history then a visit to Crich is recommended. Here you can see a range of 19th and 20th century trams, as well as undertaking short journeys on them. Quite simply a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in transport history. Finally if you think you need a break from all of this culture, then head for the Gulliver’s theme park at Matlock Bath. Big dippers and Log Flumes, Carousels and Chair Lifts, there’s sure to be something here to entertain and amuse you.

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