Blue plaque launch
The Society, in partnership with Derby City Council are pleased to announce the launch of our latest... >>Read more
Blue Plaque Scheme
After many years of campaigning by the Society to have a proper Blue Plaque scheme to honour the Great... >>Read more
Welcome To Derby Civic Society
"A Brighter City of Derby" awards
This Year Contenders
"Our annual awards to the construction industry".
“Founded over fifty years ago Derby Civic Society is a voluntary organisation which encourages the highest standards of building design whether in new builds or restoration.”
“This area of the
site will only be available
to fully paid up members
of the Society. To access
this area, members will be given a special password. For further information contact the Membership Registrar at Derbycivicsoc@aol.com .”
Promoting the best of the new while helping to preserve the
best of the old
“Welcome to the Derby Civic Society website. We are passionate about our city and its heritage. We want to see it thrive, but at the same time retain its unique character.
Derby is an industrial city of over 250,000 people located in the very centre of England on the banks of the River Derwent. It was granted City status by HM Queen Elizabeth II during her Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977.
There has been a settlement here for at least Two Thousand years. The Romans built a fort and then a town called Derventio in the tribal area of the Corieltauvi. Under the Angles the town was re-founded around a Minster church as the centre of an area called Northworthy, part of the Kingdom of Mercia. In the 9th century the Danes captured the town and called it Deoraby which is popularly thought to mean ‘Deer place’ although the more likely derivation is a contraction of the river name with the Norse ‘-by’ suffix added. When Mercia was later divided into shires Derby became the County town which it remained until the 20th century when the County Administration was moved to Matlock. In the eighteenth century Derby was at the heart of the enlightenment movement with great figures like the doctor and philosopher Erasmus Darwin, the clockmaker and engineer John Whitehurst and the artist Joseph Wright all living and working here.
During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie famously held his war council at Exeter House in the town, at which he was persuaded not to push on to London but to retreat to Scotland.
The revolution in manufacturing started in Derby. John Lombe and George Sorocold in 1717 constructed the first textile factory in the world, the Old Silk Mill, which utilised the flow of the river Derwent to power its machinery, and probably the first true factory in England. In 1759, Jedediah Strutt patented and built a machine called the Derby Rib Attachment that revolutionised the manufacture of hose. One of the first Cotton Mills was established at Darley Abbey (now part of the City) in 1782 by Thomas Evans using a process successfully pioneered by Richard Arkwright a few miles up stream at Cromford. Porcelain manufacture was also established in the City from around 1750.
It was during this period that some of Derby’s finest buildings were constructed; notably the Grade I St Helen’s House in King Street (1767) and Pickford’s House in Friargate (1769). The Church of All Saints (which became Derby Cathedral in 1927) was constructed to a Classical design by James Gibbs of 1725 although the tower was built in the 16th Century in the Perpendicular Style. At 212 feet (65 m) tall, it is one of the tallest in England and contains the oldest ring of ten bells in the United Kingdom.
In 1828 the New Guildhall was built. The architect was Mathew Habershon, but it had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1841, this time to the designs of Henry Duesbury. Joseph Strutt acquired land to the South of the City Centre, had the Arboretum laid out and in 1840 donated it to the citizens of Derby, the country’s first purpose built, publicly owned, urban park.
The next revolution to be exploited in Derby was the railways in the 1830s. The Midland Railway was formed in 1844 with the merger of the Midland Counties Railway, the North Midland Railway, and the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway all opened 1839-40. These met at the Tri-Junct station at Derby, where the Company also established its locomotive and later its carriage and wagonworks. The modern successor to the Midland Railway is East Midlands Trains, still based in the City. The Carriage and Wagon works is now owned by Bombardier International. One of the most important railway buildings is the Round House, now part of the Derby College. Built in 1839 it is the oldest surviving locomotive depot of this type in the world, constructed for the servicing of railway locomotives.
In 1908 Rolls Royce Ltd opened their first factory in Derby, initially producing high quality motor-cars. During the First World War the company also started producing aero engines. Car production continued until the outbreak of the Second World War when the facility was moved to Crewe, the Derby factory concentrating on aircraft engines production. Its Merlin engines powered such contemporary aircraft as the Hurricane, Spitfire, Mosquito and Lancaster bomber, playing a major part in the RAF’s success in the conflict.
In 1971 Rolls Royce faced bankruptcy caused by the huge cost of developing the RB 211 jet engine. Eventually, it was saved by the government and nationalised. The Car division became a separate company as it still is, although now owned by BMW. In 1987 Roll Royce plc was privatised and is now one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of aero engines. In 1992 car production returned to Derby with the opening of the Japanese company Toyota, initially producing the Carina E, the Avensis, but more recently the Auris.
Derby is still at the forefront of engineering technological excellence. In fact it has a higher proportion of its work force employed in high technology jobs than anywhere else in the Country including Cambridge. This lead TV presenter Jeremy Paxman to remark “Why can’t more places be like Derby?”