Derbyshire Back to Homepage >>


. The northernmost county of the English Midlands, Derbyshire shares with Yorkshire , Staffordshire and Cheshire the majestic limestone scenery of the Peak District; the National Park created in 1951 has been described as a massive rockery garden, 30 miles long and 20 miles at its widest point.

. A spur of the Pennines lies to the northwest of the county. This long range of hills runs for 150 miles from the Scottish border to the Peak District of Derbyshire.

. The hilly county rises steadily in the northeast, to the border with the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the heather and peat moorlands lie on a bed of millstone grit, flanking the central area of limestone laid down millions of years ago. The latter gives rise to the spectacular limestone caverns. Towards the east and the Nottinghamshire border are the economically important coal seams which, in the past, have been much exploited.

. Further south is the moorland country, divided by gorges or dales, with Dove Dale reputed to be the most beautiful.


Origin of name: Formerly known as Northworthy, meaning "North Enclosure" in English, it was renamed Deoraby by the Danes from the concentration of deer, possibly in some sort of enclosure. Derby therefore means deer village or village with a deer park or enclosure. Name first recorded: 1049. Motto: Bene consulendo ("By good counsel").


County Town: DERBY : The product of the industrial revolution and designated a city in 1977. The museum of the Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company houses a treasure trove of Crown Derby. Famous for Rolls-Royce engines. The cathedral was built in 1725.

Other Towns

ASHBOURNE: Gateway to Dove Dale and looking much as Charles 1 saw it when he attended a service in the church here with its 215-foot spire after defeat at Naseby in 1&45. The recipe for a distinctive local gingerbread is said to have come from French prisoners billeted here during the Napoleonic Wars and has been passed down from Ashbourne baker to baker ever since. Nice with Ashbourne water!

BAKEWELL: Busy cattle market town and largest of the Peak District National Park . Beautiful 12th century church and fine five-arched medieval bridge.

BUXTON: The highest town in England and perfect base for exploring the moors and dales. The Duke of Devonshire built the Crescent and Pump Rooms opposite the town's hot springs . Join the locals and fill your own bottle with spa water from St Ann 's Well.

CHESTERFIELD : centre for the county's coal and iron, but best known for its 238-foot twisted spire on top of All Saints' Church which is nearly 8 feet out of true and is visible for many miles around.

MATLOCK: Amidst romantic scenery a River Derwent spa town with a great hydro centre built during the 19th century at Matlock Bank. Nearby Hall Leys Gardens stretch along the river.

. Alfreton . Belper . Bolsover . Chapel-en-le-Frith . Clay Cross . Dronfield . Eckington . Glossop . Hadfield . Heanor . llkeston . Killamarsh . Long Eaton . Mickleover . New Mills . Ripley . Sandiacre . Shirebrook . South Normanton . Staveley . Swadlincote . Whaley Bridge


Derwent, Dove, Trent , Wye.


Kinder Scout at 2,088 feet.


. Shrove Tuesday: Shrovetide Football - Ashbourne. Two teams, the Up'ards born north of the Henmore stream and the Down'ards from the south bank, battle in a game akin to rugby but with a minimum of rules. Royal Derbyshire stuff.

. Shrove Tuesday: Winster Pancake Races - Winster.

. Easter: Egg Rolling - Bunkers Hill, Derby. Traditional custom symbolizing the rolling away of the rock at the entrance to Christ's tomb.

. April/October: Barmote Courts - Wirksworth and Eyam. The oldest industrial courts in England , dealing with matters relating to lead mining and ownership of mines.

. May: Chatsworth Angling Fair.

. Late June: Well Dressing Ceremonies - Bakewell. As a thanksgiving for the supply of pure water, panels are erected around village wells. These are lavishly decorated with leaves, mosses and flowers pressed into the clay surface to form pictures, usually with a biblical theme. Also at Wirksworth (4th week of May), Monyash (1stweek of June), Hope, Tideswell, Buxton and Youlgrave (3rd or 4th week of June).

. Late July: Clipping the Church - Burbage, near Buxton. Ceremony dating back to Roman times. Parishioners encircle the building holding hands as an affectionate embrace or "clipping" of the edifice.

. August to October: Venetian Nights - Matlock. A spectacular illuminated event, rivalling the Blackpool illuminations, on the River Derwent and its banks as it passes through Derwent Gardens , displaying lighted tableaux and river craft.

. Last Sunday in August: Plague Memorial Service - Eyam.

. April/May: Buxton Music Festival - Buxton.

. July to early August: Buxton Shakespeare Festival.

. March: Clay Cross Fair - Clay Cross.

. 4th week in May: Derbyshire County Show - Elvaston Park, Derby .

. August: Bakewell Show.


. The ancestress of the Dukes of Devonshire and of Portland , Bess of Hardwick was born at the Hall around 1527. After marrying, and burying, four wealthy husbands,

at the age of 70, she returned to supervise the construction of a new Hall over the next seven years. Her initials, six feet high, are visible on the parapets of the towers.

. The lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson was married to Mrs Elizabeth Porter at Derby in July 1735.

. Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher, was employed as a tutor and secretary to members of the Devonshire family from 1610, but died at Hardwick Hall in 1679 at the ripe old age of 91.

. Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing training, was the daughter of a Derbyshire gentleman and although born in Florence , spent much of her early childhood at Lea Hirst, near Crich.

. Sir Osbert and Dame Edith Sitwell lived at Renishaw Hall, near Eckington.

. The novelist George Eliot set her first novel Adorn Bede in Derbyshire, although changing the names of the towns and local places referred to in the plot.


Derbyshire's Local Government: The County of Derbyshire is governed by a two tier system with Derbyshire County Council in part control of the whole county bar Derby itself! There are seven district councils on the second level - Amber Valley , Bolsover, Chesterfield , Derbyshire Dales, High Peak , North East Derbyshire and South Derbyshire . The City of Derby has its own unitary council where Derbyshire County Council has no jurisdiction! Measham is a detached part of Derbyshire within Leicestershire controlled by that County's council and the District Council of North West Leicestershire.


THE NORTH OF the county is the high Peak District, the land of mountain, moor and plain, of lonely meres and murmuring streams, while the feel of the towns is summed up by places like the elegant spa town of Buxton , and Ashbourne, and Bakewell. Southern Derbyshire used to be busy, active, lively and industrial. Here were the grim pitheads and smoking chimneys, yet not so far away some of the best known stately homes in the land. The combination of grit and grace means Derbyshire has just about everything . . . except a seaside!


The county town and borough of Derby , on the River Derwent, developed as an important route focus at the foot of the Pennines . In Anglo-Saxon times it was known as Northwothige, but under the Danes as Deoraby, from which its present name is derived. In 1977 it was granted city status but, with its centre now a mass of shopping malls, holds little of interest for visitors apart from the Arboretum, its oldest park which contains a monument to the car-maker Henry Royce. The early industrial growth of the town in the 18th century was initially helped by a canal network, and later it became a major rail centre. Rail, aircraft and motor manufacturing (including the famous Rolls-Royce marque) of various types are still very important to its prosperity. Silk spinning by machine was introduced in 1719 from Italy , and many local people were once involved in the manufacture of silk hosiery, lace and cotton, and a number of factories making yarn, fabric and clothes are still prominent. Perhaps its best known product is its high-grade porcelain. After a visit by George III in 1773, the town was granted a patent to mark its china with a crown, and the local product became known as Crown Derby . In 1890 Queen Victoria amended this to Royal Crown Derby .

The spa town of Buxton is a real treat. The Romans in AD 79 were the first to take advantage of the famous spring which gushes 1,500 gallons of water an hour at a constant temperature of 28 degrees centigrade. Its reputation became famous over succeeding generations, and even during her period in captivity Mary, Queen of Scots, was allowed to come here to take the waters as part of her treatment for rheumatism. The town enjoyed its hey-day towards the end of the 18th century when the fifth Duke of Devonshire decided to try and make it a rival to Bath and Cheltenham . Although his plan didn't succeed, Lower Buxton still has some graceful buildings from this period. The thermal baths closed in 1972 and, apart from a French-owned bottling plant, only a few local people still make the effort to fill their bottles at St Ann 's Well on The Crescent. The 1,000- seater Opera House nearby is the main venue for the annual Buxton Opera Festival each July, and Poole 's Cavern, a mile south of the town, offers an alternative to the town's manmade architectural sights; the quite remarkable stalactite and stalagmite formations in a series of large chambers.

There are a number of other limestone caverns in the county open to guided tours, especially in the area around Castleton. The substantial Peak Cavern once provided sufficient room for a small village and a rope factory which provided rigging for Drake's Golden Hind and many other famous ships of bygone years; while the nearby Speedwell Cavern contains the Bottomless Pit, where 40,000 tons of mining rubble were dumped without visibly raising the water level. Two other caves are the world's only source of sparkling fluorspar, used in ornaments and jewellery. The Blue John Cavern and the Treak Cliff Cavern, both near Speedwell, are open to the public Another major above-ground attraction is The Palace of the Peak, alias Chatsworth House, the seat of the Devonshire family. A vast Palladian mansion built by the fourth Duke between 1687 and 1707, it's set in a spacious deer park , with gardens landscaped by Capability Brown. The house is crammed with a priceless collection of books, furniture and paintings including works by Rembrandt and Reynolds. Chatsworth annually boosts its business by staging a brass band festival, an angling fair, show jumping and horse trials. More than half a million people visit it each year; the current Duchess of Devonshire calls it 'a town'. Chatsworth featured in the 1972 film Lady

Caroline Lamb (who was a niece of the fifth Duke), which starred actress Sarah Miles. (She was badly injured falling from a horse during the two week location filming there.) Haddon Hall, near Matlock, is one of the finest medieval manor houses in England which passed from its original Norman owners, the Avenells, into the hands of the Vernon family and then, by marriage, to the Dukes of Rutland . The hall fell into disrepair but has been fully restored this century, and provided the setting for Franco Zeffirelli's 1995 film of Jane Eyre. The town of Bakewell, two miles north and on the banks of the River Wye, is noted primarily for the Bakewell Pudding, more commonly known as the mass- manufactured tart, an almond-flavoured Victorian confection as the result of a culinary mishap after a cook maladroitly confused a recipe for strawberry tart.


There are numerous Bronze Age remains scattered across the Peak District, relics of the Beaker folk who penetrated the region. The Romans did not tame the wild peaks and only forayed into the high hills for lead. Their roads passed along either side of the Pennines . But they were the first to make use of the lowland areas, which eventually became part of the kingdom of Mercia . William de Peveril, the natural son of William the Conqueror, built a castle named Peak, near Castleton. William de Ferrers, the Earl of Derby, fought on the side of the barons against Henry III, but was forced to flee after

being defeated at Chesterfield . He took refuge in the local church but was betrayed by a local girl whose lover had been killed in the battle. He was imprisoned at Windsor .Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner at Chatsworth and Wingfield Manor where her jailor was George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury . He later arranged for her execution. The pretty village of Eyam , eight miles north, earned the epithet 'the plague village' in 1666 after three-quarters of its population of 350 had died from bubonic plague, apparently transmitted by fleas contained in a package of cloth brought from London . The epidemic was stopped from spreading by a self-imposed quarantine organized by the local rector, William Mompesson, whose grave, along with those others who died in the plague, stands in the local churchyard. Among these are the Riley Graves where a mother buried her husband, three sons and three daughters over a space of eight days in August 1666.

William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, was instrumental in bringing William of Orange to England . He and his fellow conspirators laid their plans in the 'plotting parlours' of an inn on Whittington Moor. The inhabitants of Derbyshire have played their part in social insurrection. They supported the views expressed by Dr Sacheverell in his assize sermon in 1710 against the effects of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and in the 1800s the Luddite movement against industrial mechanization caused great damage to the new weaving machines.

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