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Derby in 1837

DERBY, the capital of the county to which it gives name, is in the hundred of Morleston and Litchurch, on the right or west bank of the Derwent, a feeder of the Trent, 114 or 115 miles NNW. of London, in a straight line, or 126 miles by the road through St. Albans, Dunstable, Stoney Stratford, Northampton, Market Harborough, Leicester, Mount Sorrel, and Loughborough.

The municipal and parliamentary limits of the borough of Derby coincide, and comprehend the whole of the two parishes of All Saints and St. Werburgh, and portions of the parishes of St. Michael, St. Alkmund, and St. Peter. All that can properly be considered as the town of Derby is within the borough limits, which enclose an area of 1,660 statute acres. (Boundary Reports and Municipal Corporation Reports.)

We may consider Derby as having risen from the ruins of the Roman station, Derventio, which was on the site of Little Chester, a hamlet just out of the boundary of the borough and on the opposite side of the river ; or as having been a British town upon the British road, the Rykneld or Icknield-street. Of this Roman station, Dr. Stukely was able to trace the wall quite round : the enclosure was oblong, and contained five or six acres ; streets or roads were visible in the fields near it, which he supposed to be the suburbs. Coins of brass, silver, and gold, with antiquities of every kind, have been found, and the foundations of buildings are still sometimes discovered. There foundations of a Roman bridge over the Derwent at Little Chester, which may be seen when the water is clear, or felt with an oar.

In the time of the Saxons Derby was called Northworthige ; the name of Deoraby (Derby) is said to have been given it by the Danes, by whom it had been captured. The etymology of this name has been much disputed : we think that the names of the town, of the neighbouring village of Darley, of the Roman station, Derventio and of the river (the Derwent) all contain the same British or Celtic root, ‘dwr,’ water. Skinner (Etymologicon Linguae Anglicanae) derives Derwent from the above and gwen or gwin, clear or bright ; and the name of the town from that of the river, with the addition of the Anglo-Saxon termination ‘bye,’ a habitation. Derby was recovered from the Danes by Ethelfleda, countess of Mercia, and daughter of king Alfred, who took the castle by storm, in 917 or 918. It was again taken by the Danes, and recovered from them by king Edmund I, A. D. 942.

In the time of Edward the Confessor, Derby was a royal burgh with 243 burgesses, besides 41 who occupied land adjoining to the town ; but at the time of the Norman Survey the town was greatly reduced, having only 140 burgesses, 40 of whom were of inferior degree : 103 dwellings waste and empty which had formerly paid taxes. The castle probably went to ruin about the same time : its site is still called the castle-hill and the castle-field. The last remains of the building are said to have disappeared about 250 years since. Hutton traced one of the mounds of it 80 yards long. From the time of the Conquest no historical of interest is connected with Derby for several centuries. King Charles I marched through Derby soon after he set up his standard at Nottingham ; but in the same year the town was garrisoned by the parliamentarians under Sir John Gell, and appears to have remained in the hands of that party through the war ; the garrison however was removed in 1645. In December, 1745, the young Pretender, with his army, entered the town, but staid only two days, retreating into Scotland on the approach of the duke of Cumberland.

The town of Derby has received many charters ; one each from John, Henry VI, Edward VI, James I, and Charles I, and two from Charles II. The last charter of Charles II was, up to the passing of the late Municipal Reform Act, the governing charter; but Derby claimed to borough by prescription. Under the new Act, Derby is divided into six wards, and has twelve aldermen and thirty-six councillors.

Derby is situated in a luxuriant and well cultivated vale, surrounded with beautiful scenery. The streets in the older parts of the town are narrow and winding. The houses are mostly of red brick, the public buildings of stone. The market-place is not large, but commodious ; a new market, adjacent to the old one, and communicating with it by a passage under the new town-hall, was several years since built by the corporation. The churches of Derby are six, one for each of the parishes mentioned above, and another erected within the last few years. All Saints (anciently and still popularly Allhallows church) is on the east side of the town not far from the river : the body of the church is a Roman Doric edifice by Gibbs, opened for divine service in 1725 ; the tower, erected about the time of Henry VIII, is in the perpendicular English style and of peculiar beauty ; its general arrangement and details are very fine. It is 178 feet high, and its situation adds to the effect of its elevation and its fine architecture. This church was formerly collegiate. The new church, St. John’s, is a handsome Gothic building, but in a bad situation. Another handsome new church (that of Trinity), on the London road, has been paid for by public subscription. The new town-hall, between the old and new markets, is a handsome building with an Ionic portico on an elevated basement through which is the communication between the old and new markets. The county-hall is a large but heavy building of freestone, erected in 1660 ; new buildings have been erected behind the county-hall for holding the assizes and quarter-sessions. The borough jail is a plain, substantial, and convenient building ; it was formerly the county prison, but not admitting the classification of prisoners required by the recent act, it was sold by the county to the corporation, and a new county prison, with every convenience for classing the prisoners, has been erected.

Derby has a theatre and an assembly-room. There are places of worship for different classes of dissenters, one each for Presbyterians, Independents, Particular Baptists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and Swedenborgians ; two for the General Baptists and five for different classes of Methodists. There is a stone bridge of three arches, a wooden bridge and a towing bridge over the Derwent, and three stone bridges across the Markeaton brook, which flows through the town into the Derwent. Derby is lighted with gas, and supplied with water from the Derwent

The principal manufactures are of silk and cotton. goods, porcelain, jewellery, and ornamental articles made of the various kinds of spar found in the county, red and white lead, lead-pipe, sheet-lead, cast-iron, ribbed stockings, bobbin-net, and other lace. There is a considerable printing and publishing establishment and several printing offices.

In the early part of the eighteenth century the Italians exclusively possessed the art of spinning, or, as it is technically called, ‘throwing’ silk, and the British weaver had to import thrown silk at an exorbitant price. In 1702 a Mr. Crotchet erected a small silk-mill ; but his capital and machinery were insufficient, and he failed. In 1717 Mr. John Lombe, who had in disguise and by bribing the workmen, obtained access to the machinery of the silk-throwsters of Piedmont in Italy, agreed with the corporation of Derby to rent, on a long lease, for £8 a year, an island or swamp in the river Derwent, 500 feet long and 52 wide. Here he erected, at a cost of £30,000, an immense silk-mill, now the property of the corporation, the lease having expired. The foundation was formed with oaken piles 16 to 20 feet long, and over this mass of timber was laid a foundation of stone on which were turned stone arches that support the walls. In 1718 Lombe took out a patent, and was proceeding successfully in his business when he died, cut off, as it was thought, by poison, through the agency of an Italian woman, employed by the Italian manufacturers whose business he had drawn away to himself. He was succeeded in his mill by his brother William, and afterwards by his cousin Sir Thomas Lombe. The accounts of the machinery of this immense mill have been much exaggerated : the wheels have been said to amount to 26,000 ; Hutton’s authority is the best, for he served an apprenticeship of seven years in the mill, and he reduces these wheels to 13,384 The whole was moved by one water-wheel. Many throwing-mills have since been erected at Derby, and this branch of industry may be regarded as the staple of the town. The cotton manufacture is of later introduction and of smaller extent. The manufacture of porcelain was introduced nearly a century ago; and the articles, both in design and execution, have been carried to a high pitch of excellence : the making of figures and ornaments in what is termed ‘biscuit ware,’ was for some time peculiar to this town, and we believe is so still. The spars of the county, especially the fluor spar or ‘blue John,’ are wrought into vases and other ornaments, and the black marble of Ashford into vases, columns, chimney-pieces, &c. These spar and marble-works were for some time carried on in the building erected by Crotchet in the year 1702 for a silk throwing-mill ; the turning-lathes were set in motion by a water-wheel.

The population of Derby amounted in 1831 to 23,627, of whom 11,269 were males and 12,358 females. Of 5,780 males upwards of 20 years of age, 140 were engaged in agricultural pursuits, 953 in manufactures or making machinery, 2,714 in retail trade or handicrafts, 1,172 in miscellaneous labour, and 85 were servants. The number of capitalists, bankers, and professional or other educated men was 427, and the occupation of 289 was not stated. The population had increased very much in forty years - in 1792 it was 8,563 ; in 1801, 10,832 ; in 1811, 13,043, and in 1821, 17,428. As, since 1831 many new buildings have been erected, and the place is said (Report of Commiss. on Municip. Corporations) to be flourishing, we shall not be far wrong in estimating the present population at 28,000.

Derby returns two members to parliament. It returned burgesses to parliament, 26 Edward I, and has continued to do so ever since. The number of parliamentary electors registered in 1832 was 1,384, viz.: 372 freemen and 1,012 ten-pound occupiers. Derby is also the chief place of election, and one of the polling stations for the southern division of Derbyshire. The assizes for the county are held here, also the Epiphany, Easter, and Michaelmas sessions ; the Midsummer sessions are held at Chesterfield. The borough sessions of the peace are held quarterly before the Recorder ; a petty sessions is held daily. There are Courts of Record and of Requests for the borough. The principal market is on Friday. A cattle-market is held once a fortnight on Tuesday. There are nine fairs in the year for cattle, cheese, pedlery, &c., which are, for the most part, well attended. The river Derwent was, several years since, made navigable from the town of Derby to its junction with the Trent, but, since the opening of the Derby canal, the navigation has been disused. This canal branches from the Trent and Mersey (or Grand Trunk) canal at Swarkestone, a few miles south of Derby, runs northward, and intersects the Derwent at Derby, a towing-bridge being thrown across that river. From Derby the course of the canal is eastward until it joins the Erewash canal at Sandiacre. Over the Markeaton brook, which runs through Derby, the canal is carried in a cast-iron trough or aqueduct. From Derby a short branch of this canal extends to Little Eaton, three or four miles north of Derby, with two arms to the quarries on Little Eaton common. The Derby canal is 44 feet wide at top and 24 feet wide at bottom, and 5 feet deep. Derby is supplied by this canal with coals, building-stone, gypsum, and other things.

There were formerly four religious houses at or close to Derby ; an abbey (St. Helen’s) of Augustin canons, a nunnery of Benedictines, and houses of Dominicans and Cluniacs. St. Helen’s Abbey was founded by Robert de Ferrariis, or de Ferrers, second Earl Ferrers. This abbey appears to have been first established in Derby town, and afterwards removed to a site about a mile north of Derby, where has subsequently risen the village of Darley or Darley Abbey. Its yearly revenue at the suppression was £285, 9 shillings and 6 pence gross, or £258, 13 shillings and 5 pence clear. The Benedictine nunnery, founded by one of the abbots of St. Helen’s, had, at the dissolution, a yearly revenue of £21, 18 shillings and 8 pence gross, or £18, 6 shillings and 2 pence clear. There was one hospital, or perhaps two, for leprous persons.

There are several alms-houses at Derby : those founded by the countess of Shrewsbury, in 1599, for eight men and four women ; those founded by Robert Wilmot, in 1638, for six poor men and four women, now for four poor men and four women ; Large’s Hospital, founded by Edward Large, in 1709, for five clergymen’s widows, and enriched by subsequent donations. The countess of Shrewsbury’s almshouses were rebuilt by the late duke of Devonshire, about 1777, in a style of architecture which has been considered too ornate for a charitable foundation of so humble a character. Thirteen neat and substantial almshouses have been lately erected from the funds of a charity bequeathed 300 years ago by Mr. Robert Liversage to the parish of St. Peter. There is a county infirmary equal to the accommodation of eighty patients besides those who have infectious disorders. The building is plain and neat in its architectural character, built of hard whitish stone. The internal arrangements, which are exceedingly convenient, were chiefly planned by the late William Strutt, Esq. There are also in the town a self-supporting charitable and parochial dispensary, a ladies’ charity for the assistance of poor women during their confinement, and many friendly societies, or benefit clubs.

There were in Derby, in 1833, one boarding-school containing 20 girls, and twenty-five day-schools, of all kinds, in which instruction was given to nearly 800 boys, 300 girls, and between 200 and 300 children whose sex is not discriminated in the returns. The grammar-school, one of the twenty-five mentioned above, is supposed to be one of the most ancient endowments of the kind in England. It was formerly very flourishing, and enjoyed a high reputation, but at the time of the return had only one or two scholars. At present (1837) we are informed that it is again getting into repute. Two of the day-schools are on the ‘national’ system, and one on the Lancasterian system, and three are infant schools. The number of Sunday-schools was twenty-four, and in these were instructed 3,198 children, viz.: 1,152 boys, 1,326 girls, and 720 whose sex is not mentioned. In some of the Sunday-schools the children are taught writing and arithmetic on an evening in the week ; to some schools lending-libraries are attached.

Of institutions for literary and scientific purposes there are - The Philosophical Society (originally held at the house of Dr. Darwin), with a good library, a collection of fossils, and mathematical and philosophical apparatus ; the Permanent Library, which has lately been much enlarged, and has a public news-room and museum attached to it ; and the Mechanics’ Institution, the members of which have lately erected a handsome and spacious room for their meetings. Two weekly newspapers are published at Derby.