Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

DERBY, a borough and market-town, possessing separate jurisdiction, locally in the hundred of MORLESTON-AND-LITCHURCH, county of DERBY, of which it is the capital, 15 miles (W.) from Nottingham, 29 miles (N.W.) from Leicester, and 126 (N.W.) from London, on the river Derwent, and on the Seal and Arms. high road to Manchester, containing 17,423 inhabitants, and, including parts of certain parishes which extend beyond the limits of the borough, 19,648, but the population since the census of 1821 has greatly increased. The origin of this town is not known: by the Saxons it was called Northworthig, and by the Danes Derwentby, but more commonly Deoraby, of which Derby is a corruption, probably referring to its situation on the Derwent. King Egbert constituted the town a royal burgh, and a mint, was established in it. It was possessed by the Danes and Saxons alternately during their contests.

In 874 it was occupied by Halfolen, a Danish chief, whose head-quarters were at Rippandune, now Repton. Alfred having defeated the Danes, planted a colony here in 880, and constituted this the chief town in the county. The Danes, after a second defeat by the same monarch, regained possession of the place, and retained it till 918, when being taken by surprise, they were completely defeated by the heroic Ethelfleda, Countess of Mercia, and daughter of King Alfred, who, obtaining possession of the town, held it till her death. The Danes, however, retook it soon after her decease, but were again dispossessed by King Edmund I. in 942.

In 1040, during the reign of Edward the Confessor, it contained two hundred and forty-three burgesses, at which time two-thirds of the profits from tolls, &c. belonged to the king, and the remaining third to the Earl of Mercia. In 1066, the king of Norway, at the instigation of Tostig, Harold's brother, invaded the northern parts of England, on which many of the inhabitants of Derby, who were then vassals of Edwin, Earl of Mercia, quitted their homes, and joined the forces of Morcar, Earl of Northumberland, to oppose the invader: but they were defeated with great slaughter, only four days before the latter and his army were destroyed by Harold. On the victor's return to encounter William, Duke of Normandy, he recruited his army at Derby, to which is to be ascribed the diminution of the number of burgesses; for at the time of the Norman survey, they amounted to only one hundred, and of these forty-three were minors.

The town was given by the Conqueror to his illegitimate son, William Peverel, and an augmentation of its privileges ensued, which was followed by a revival of industry, and an increase of its population. In the rebellion of 1745, Derby was occupied by Charles James Stuart, son of the Pretender; but, on the approach of the royal army, commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, he retreated, after levying a contribution of two or three thousand pounds on the inhabitants during his short stay of two days.

Derby is pleasantly situated in a valley which is open to the south, the country in that direction being flat and low; a small brook runs through it under nine stone bridges. The town is large and well built; for, notwithstanding the want of regularity in their appearance, many of the more modern houses are spacious and handsome; it is lighted with gas; the streets are regularly paved, and considerable improvement has recently taken place. An elegant stone bridge of three elliptical arches, over the river Derwent, forms a handsome entrance to the town from Nottingham. The roads in the neighbourhood have been recently improved under the superintendence of Mr. M'Adam, and are in a very good state. Water is abundantly supplied from the Derwent, by means of pipes and machinery.

The Derby Philosophical Society, which has for its object the promotion of scientific knowledge, by occasional meetings and conversation, as well as by the circulation of books, was founded by Dr. Darwin, in 1788; it has a considerable number of members, who are in possession of an extensive and valuable library. Another flourishing institution was commenced in 1808, under the title of the Derby Literary and Philosophical Society, the objects of which are the pursuit of literary and scientific enquiries, by the production and discussion of papers or essays, which may be written on any subject connected with literature or science, excluding only the practical departments of medicine and surgery, politics and religion; but this institution has been almost wholly discontinued.

There are eight or ten other institutions in the town, one of which is devoted exclusively to the cultivation of French literature. An agricultural society was established many years ago, which holds two meetings annually: there are also a mechanics institution, with a library attached to it; a permanent subscription library; a theological book society, &c. The races, which are of considerable repute, are held on a fine course, called the Siddals, and are much frequented. The walks in the vicinity of the town present a variety of scenery, and are very pleasant.

Derby enjoyed, under a license from King John, the exclusive privilege of dyeing cloth, but this has wholly declined; it is nevertheless a place of considerable trade. Until of late years, silk was the principal article of manufacture; but to that it has added those of cotton and porcelain, which are carried on to a great extent. The first silk-mill erected in England was built here, about 1718, by Mr. John Lombe, who procured in Italy (by means of bribing two workmen, who accompanied him to England), drawings and models of the silk machinery then in use in that country, for which he took out a patent; its operations are to wind, double, and twist the silk, so as to render it fit for weaving. After the death of Mr. Lombe, about four years afterwards, caused as it is stated by means of poison, administered to him by an Italian female, sent over for that purpose, his cousin Sir Thomas Lombe, relinquished the patent, in consideration of the sum of £14,000, whereby the manufacture was thrown open, and the trade rapidly increased.

The factory stands upon an island in the Derwent, and is built on large piles, over which are turned thirteen arches of stone; the original machinery has been replaced by other less cumbrous, and far more simple in its construction: it is now worked by a water-wheel, twenty-three feet in diameter; and such has been the progressive increase of this branch of manufacture, that there are now nine silk-mills, worked either by water or steam. The weaving of silk was also introduced here in 1827. The porcelain manufacture was established in 1793, and has been brought to great perfection; it gives employment to about two hundred persons; the beautiful ornaments, called "white biscuit figures", are the production of this establishment. The machinery for cutting, polishing, and turning the Derbyshire marble spar is worked by steam; and a variety of sculptured articles, which will bear comparison with those of the best Italian artists, is produced here.

In 1756, Mr. Jedediah Strutt invented and introduced "The Derby ribbed stocking-frame", for which he obtained a patent; and silk, cotton, and fine worsted stockings, are still made. The first fire-proof mill for spinning cotton was erected here in 1793, and there is a considerable trade carried on in cotton-yarn for making bobbin, also in net-lace, galloons, ferrets, and tapes, in red and white lead, tin plates, sheet and bar iron, shot, and jewellery. Hot and cold air-stoves, upon what is called "Silvester's principle", by which the most considerable buildings in the country may be warmed and ventilated, are exclusively made here; it has now become an object of importance in its trade.

The navigation of the Derwent was closed on the completion of the Derby canal; the latter communicating by branches, each about eight miles in length, with the Trent and Erwash canal, thus rendering the former unnecessary. The company entrusted with the management of the canal were empowered by act of parliament to raise the sum of £90,000, and are required, when the dividend exceeds eight per cent., to reduce the tolls; there is a large and convenient wharf for the purpose of loading and unloading the boats. The market days are Wednesday and Friday; and on every alternate Tuesday there is one for fat cattle. The fairs are held on the Monday after January 6th, January 25th, March 21st and the two following days, Friday in Easter-week, Friday after May 1st, Friday in Whitsun-week, July 25th, September 27th, and the two following days, and on the Friday before October 4th; those in March and October are great cheese fairs; the others are principally for cattle.

Henry I. granted the town of Derby to Ralph, Earl of Chester, and gave the inhabitants a charter of incorporation; this charter was materially altered, and their privileges were subsequently enlarged by Henry II., Richard I., and John. James I. gave the corporation authority to hold courts of record, made them independent of any foreign jurisdiction, and empowered them to hold "sessions quarterly, two courts leet, and six fairs yearly". In 1638, mention is first made of a mayor; the corporation, antecedently to that period, having been styled "the Bailiffs and Burgesses of the town of Derby".

In 1680, the charter was surrendered to Charles II., and a new one, now in force, was obtained in 1683, by which the government of the borough is vested in a mayor, nine aldermen, fourteen brethren, and fourteen capital burgesses, who together constitute the common council; and these appoint a recorder, town-clerk (who is also coroner), chamberlain, four Serjeants at mace (one of whom is keeper of the gaol), six constables, and other inferior officers, elected annually on the first Monday after St. Luke's day. The mayor is chosen from among the aldermen, by the aldermen and brethren, and the aldermen from among the brethren, these last being appointed from the capital burgesses.

The mayor, the late mayor (who is always deputy mayor, with equal powers), and the four senior aldermen, are justices of the peace: the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses, must reside within the borough, otherwise they can neither locally vote, nor exercise any official function. The freedom of the borough is inherited by all the sons of a freeman born within the borough, or acquired by serving apprenticeship to a resident freeman, or by gift from the corporation. Sessions for the borough are held by the mayor quarterly, on days appointed by himself.

A court of record is held every second Tuesday, before the mayor, his deputy, the recorder, and the town-clerk, in which pleas to any amount are cognizable; and a court of requests, for the recovery of debts under 40s., was established by act of parliament in the 6th of George III., which is held every third Tuesday. Derby has sent two members to parliament ever since 1294; the right of election is vested in the free burgesses, of whom there are about two thousand; the mayor is the returning officer. The Duke of Devonshire's influence predominates in parliamentary elections.

The old town-hall, erected on the site of the ancient guildhall, about the year 1730, though in itself a good building, was found, from its isolated situation in the market-place, to be a great obstruction to business, and has therefore been taken down; a new one, nearly in a line with the south side of the market-place, has been erected; it presents a handsome appearance, and, being built on arches, is connected with a new markethouse built by the corporation. The assizes and general quarter sessions were formerly held in the county-hall, a spacious handsome building of freestone, built in 1660; new courts of a more convenient construction having been subsequently erected.

Adjoining the hall, on the right, is a handsome brick building, erected in 1811, for the accommodation of the judges; and on the left an hotel. The town gaol, which until lately was the county prison, is a plain, solid, brick building, erected about 1756; but not admitting of the arrangements required by a late act of parliament, a new county gaol and house of correction, affording ample means of classification, has been erected upon the radiating principle, at an expense of £63,000; it comprises one hundred and sixty-four cells, and twenty-one courts, a chapel and a house for the governor.

Derby is divided into five parishes, viz., All Saints, St. Werburgh's, St. Alkmund's, St. Peter's, and St. Michael's, of which the last three extend into the hundred of Morleston and Litchurch; they are all in the archdeaconry of Derby, and diocese of Lichfield and Coventry.

The living of All Saints is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation. The church, which, prior to the dissolution, was collegiate, is considered the principal architectural ornament of the town; the body, erected in 1725, from a design by Gibbs, at an expense of £4000, is in the Roman Doric style, and the interior particularly light, elegant, and spacious; the tower, one hundred and eighty feet high, erected in the reign of Henry VII., is in the later English style, the upper part being richly ornamented with buttresses, pinnacles, battlements, and tracery. Rich open screen-work of iron, said to have cost £500, separates the east end of the church from the place allotted for divine worship, in the centre of which is an elegant chancel. Over an altar-piece of Derbyshire marble is a fine painting by Rawlinson; and on the southern side of the chancel a monument to the memory of William, Earl of Devonshire, who died in 1628, and his countess, whose figures stand under a dome, nearly twelve feet in height: there is also a splendid mural monument to the memory of the celebrated Countess of Shrewsbury, executed under her own inspection.

The living of St. Alkmund's is a vicarage, not in charge, in the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation. The church is supposed to have been originally founded early in the ninth century in honour of Alkmund, son of Alured, the deposed King of Northumberland, who being slain in battle, while endeavouring to reinstate his father, was first interred at Lilleshall, in Shropshire, but removed thence and deposited in this church. Many pilgrimages were formerly made to his tomb, which, in point of miracles, was exceeded in renown only by that of Thomas a Becket, at Canterbury.

The chapelries of Little Eaton and Darley are in this parish, though without the limits of the borough. The living of St. Peter's is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £8, and in the patronage of the Rev. T. Wright's family, of Market-Bosworth. The church is ancient, but of uncertain date.

The living of St. Werburgh's is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £5. 12. 8., and in the patronage of the Crown. The original church of St. Werburgh is supposed to have been built prior to the Conquest. From being situated near Markeaton-brook, its foundation was injured by occasional floods; so that in 1601 the tower fell, and within a century afterwards, the church having become ruinous, the present edifice was erected. A chapel of ease, dedicated to St. John, capable of accommodating one thousand four hundred persons, has recently been erected in the later English style, at an expense of about £8000, one half of which was defrayed by the parliamentary commissioners, and the other by subscription among the inhabitants.

The living of St. Michael's is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £4. 15., endowed with £400 private benefaction, £400 royal bounty, and £2000 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Crown. The church is very ancient, and of uncertain date. An episcopal chapel, dedicated to St. George, has recently been erected in this parish, capable of seating one thousand persons. There are places of worship for General and Particular Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyan Methodists (New and Old connexion), Swedenborgians, and Unitarians, and a Roman Catholic chapel.

The free grammar school is said to have been founded in the reign of Henry II., soon after the removal of the canons of the priory of St. Helen's, at Derby, to Darley. Walter Durdant, Bishop of Lichfield, in his charter, makes mention of the school of Derby, as the gift of himself and William de Barba Aprilis. Queen Mary, in the first year of her reign, granted a charter to the corporation, in which provision is made for the support of this school, by the payment of £13. 6. 8. per annum; the queen's grant was also accompanied by the patronage of two of the churches. The sum of £25 is annually paid to the master, by the Master and Fellows of Emanuel College, Cambridge, under the will of Mr. Ash, who also founded ten exhibitions at the same college, for boys educated at this school and at that of Ashby de la Zouch.

Mrs. Jane Walton, who died in 1603, also bequeathed the sum of £40 for the benefit of the master and usher, and £100 to the master of St. John's College, Cambridge, towards the maintenance of such of the young men educated here as should be admitted into that college. Flamsteed, the celebrated astronomer, received the elementary part of his education at this institution. In 1812, National schools were established in the parish of St. Werburgh, in which about ninety boys and one hundred girls are instructed; and in 1829, schools upon the same system were opened in the parish of St. Peter, which afford instruction to one hundred boys and seventy girls. There is also a school upon the Lancasterian plan, in which about one hundred and forty boys are taught; also several infant schools.

The Devonshire almshouse was founded by the Countess of Shrewsbury, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and endowed with a bequest of £100 a year. In 1777, it was rebuilt in a handsome style, at the expense of the then Duke of Devonshire, who, before his death, added a farther endowment of £50 a year: eight men and four women are now supported in it. About 1716, Edward Large, Esq. endowed an almshouse near the top of Friargate, for five widows of clergymen, each of whom receives about £26 per annum. Robert Willymott, Esq., of Chaddesden, by will dated September 1st, 1629, founded and endowed ten almshouses, for six men and four women, to be supported by his heirs in perpetuity; these were rebuilt by Sir Robert Wilmot, in 1814. A munificent bequest was also made by Richard Crawshaw, Esq., who died in 1631, of upwards of £4000, for the benefit of the poor of Derby, including the maintenance of lectures, and other laudable purposes: additional bequests have lately been made to this charity, which has now a revenue of £750 per annum.

There is an asylum for discharged female prisoners, the object of which is, by the inculcation of moral principles, to restore them to society and to useful employment. Robert Lyversege, dyer, of the parish of St. Peter's, bequeathed various lands and tenements "for good and godly purposes", the present rental of which, about £700, is from the renewal of leases, continually increasing; the poor have also the benefit of numerous small bequests.

The general infirmary is situated near the London road, on a healthful, airy, and dry plot of ground; the building is constructed of hard white stone, of a handsome, yet simple elevation of three stories, containing a light central hall, with a double staircase: there are two light and spacious rooms, one for each sex, called day or convalescent rooms; a statue of Æsculapius, indicating its useful design, is placed upon the centre of the dome, which is of iron. The building is calculated to accommodate more than one hundred patients: three physicians, four surgeons, and a house apothecary, are appointed to the institution. It is surrounded by fourteen acres of land, purchased to prevent the near approach of buildings, and cost nearly £18,000.

The ordnance depôt, situated near the infirmary, erected according to a design by Mr. Wyatt, in 1805, has been purchased of government, and converted into a silk-mill. About half a century ago there were vestiges of an ancient castle, but the site is now completely covered with buildings. Remains of St. Mary's chapel, supposed to have been the church of St. Mary given by William the Conqueror to the abbey of Burton, still exist: the chapel, in the time of Charles II., was used by the Presbyterians, but was subsequently converted into small tenements. Of several religious houses which once had existence here there are no traces.

Among the eminent native's of Derby may be mentioned Dr. Thomas Linacre, the founder of the College of Physicians in London, of which he was president till his death, in 1524; Samuel Richardson, the novelist, in 1689; William Hutton, in 1723; and Joseph Wright, the celebrated painter, in 1734; this distinguished artist resided here during the greater part of his life, and died in 1797; his view of Ulswater, which is considered to be one of the finest efforts of British genius, in landscape, was purchased by Sir Richard Arkwright, for £315, and is now at Willersley castle, in this county. Thomas Parker, Earl of Macclesfield, and Lord High Chancellor, resided here during the early part of his life; and while practising in this town as an attorney, laid the foundation of his future fame. John Whitehurst, an ingenious mechanist and philosopher, also resided here about the middle of the last century; and Dr. Erasmus Darwin here spent the last twenty years of his life, and died in 1802. Derby gives the title of earl to the family of Stanley.

LITCHURCH, a hamlet in that part of the parish of ST-PETER-DERBY, which is in the hundred of MORLESTON-and-LITCHURCH, county of DERBY, 1 mile (S.E.) from Derby, containing 93 inhabitants.

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