Belper in 1837
Belper is on the east bank of the Derwent, eight miles north of Derby. It is a township and chapelry, in the parish of Duffield, in Appletree hundred. The prosperity of Belper is of modern date, and is to be principally ascribed to the establishment of the cotton-works of Messrs. Strutt. It is now one of the most flourishing towns in Derbyshire.
The older buildings form a very insignificant portion of the place, which consists chiefly of more modern and better erections. New buildings, with neat exteriors, flower-gardens, orchards, and plantations are fast spreading over the rising grounds about the town; and on the opposite side of the Derwent is Bridge Hill, the seat of G. B. Strutt, Esq. Gritstone, which the neighbourhood furnishes of excellent quality, is much used in building.
The ancient chapel, dedicated to St. John, being too small for the increased population of the place, a new church has been erected at an expense of nearly £12,000, defrayed partly by subscription and partly by a grant from the commissioners for building new churches. It stands on a bold elevation above the town, and from its situation and architecture, which is of the florid English style, is a great ornament to the place. It will accommodate 1,500 persons, besides 300 children ; and two-thirds of the sittings are free.
The ancient chapel is still used for evening lectures and for a school-room. There are places of worship for Unitarians (built in 1782, chiefly at the expense of Messrs. Strutt), Independents, General and Particular Baptists, and Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists.
There is a stone bridge of three arches over the Derwent. The population of the chapelry of Belper in 1831 was 7,890 ; half the males above twenty years of age are employed in manufactures. The chief establishments are those of Messrs. Strutt, who have four cotton-mills ; and of Messrs. Ward, Brettle, and Ward, the most extensive hosiery manufacturers in the kingdom : they make both silk and cotton hose. The manufacture of nails, though thought to be declining, is still considerable. Seams of coal are worked with advantage about a mile from Belper.
The market is on Saturday. Coaches to or from London and Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester, pass through the town daily. Many of the tradesmen hold some land, and many persons, whose principal occupation is in trade or manufacture, are also partially agriculture.
The living of Belper is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the vicar of Duffield ; the yearly value is £158, with a glebe-house. The state of education, according to the parliamentary return of 1833, was as follows:-1 infant-school, 50 boys, 30 girls ; 21 day-schools, 356 boys, 288 girls, all instructed at the cost of the parents ; 7 Sunday-schools, 935 boys, 1,027 girls : three of the Sunday-schools have lending libraries attached, and one of them (of above 600 children) is taught on the Lancasterian system. There are two neat almshouses for aged people, with a small endowment.