A History of Derby

The Roman Derby

Derby was founded as a Roman fort. In 43 AD, the Romans conquered Britain. They erected a fort on the location of Belper Road in 50 AD, west of the River Derwent. Then, in 80 AD, they erected a new fort on the river’s east bank. Derventio was the name given by the Romans to the fort. Derby may have had a civilian community outside the fort. Civilians might sell items to soldiers.

However, Roman culture deteriorated in the fourth century. In 407 AD, the last Roman soldiers departed Britain. Derby’s Roman structures were abandoned and demolished.

Derby Of The Danes & Saxons

After the Romans left, there might have been a Saxon settlement on the site of Derby. However, after invading England in 873 AD, the Danes established the town of Derby. They established a fortified colony in Derby. It was a simple area to fortify. The river Derwent sheltered it to the east. Derby was shielded to the east and south by a branch of the Derwent. The only thing the Danes needed to do was strengthen the northern access between the two rivers. They excavated a ditch and built an earthen bank topped with a wooden barrier. Derby is derived from the Danish words deor, which means deer settlement.

Derby was taken by native Saxons in 917 and became part of the kingdom of England. Derby was more than just a walled town. Derby was also a commercial centre. It had a mint and a market in the 10th century. Craftsmen such as blacksmiths, coopers, carpenters, and comb makers would have worked in the little town.

Derby had a population of roughly 2,000 people at the time of the Domesday Book (1086). That may appear modest to us, but by the standards of the day, it was a decent-sized town. (A typical community had just 100 or 150 people).

The Middle Ages Derby

Derby was granted a charter in 1154. (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). A new charter granted the inhabitants of Derby the authority to rule themselves in 1204. They were permitted to elect two bailiffs to run the town. Derby merchants were also permitted to organise a merchant’s guild. The guild governed town trade and defended the interests of its members.

Medieval Derby was home to a variety of trades. A wool industry existed. The wool was weaved before being fulled. This suggests it was cleansed and thickened by crushing it in a water-clay combination. After then, the wool was coloured. There were also a lot of leather artisans who were creating gloves and saddles. Butchers, bakers, brewers, carpenters, and blacksmiths were also present, as they are in every community.

Derby developed in size and wealth during the Middle Ages, and it may have had a population of approximately 3,500 in the 14th century. Derby was a huge and significant town at the time.

In 1140, St James Priory (a minor monastery) was established in Derby. A ‘hospital,’ where monks cared for the impoverished and sick, was added in the 13th century. Outside of town, on the location of Leonard Street, there was also a leper hostel.

Around 1230 Dominican friars (dubbed Blackfriars due to the red of their robes) arrived in Derby. Friars were similar to monks, but instead of retreating from society, they went out to preach and assist the destitute.


In 1536-39, Henry VIII closed Derby’s priory, leprosy hostel, and friary. During his rule, however, the tower of All Saints Church was erected. During the reign of his daughter Mary, a lady called Joan Wast was burnt at the stake at Derby for heresy.

Derby, like many towns at the time, had plague outbreaks. In 1636 and 1665, there were significant epidemics.

Derby, on the other hand, continued to flourish. Its textile industry thrived. Brewing and, later in the century, clock manufacture were other important businesses in the 17th century. Meanwhile, Derby received a new charter and a mayor in 1637.

Derby received a piped water supply in 1695. (for those who could afford to be connected). A watermill pushed the water through wooden pipes.


Derby was a small market town in the 18th century. Derby became the first silk mill in England in 1717. In 1726, All Saints Church was renovated.

Then, in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his forces controlled Derby for barely two days before fleeing. Derby began producing porcelain in the mid-eighteenth century.

In 1773, George III paid a visit to Derby and consented to have a depiction of a crown printed on porcelain. It was afterwards dubbed the Crown Derby. (In 1890 Queen Victoria approved it may be dubbed Royal Crown Derby).

Derby’s living conditions improved in the 18th century, at least for the wealthy. The streets were lit by oil lamps beginning in 1735. An act of parliament established a group of men in 1768 to be responsible for paving, cleaning, and lighting Derby’s streets.


Derby’s streets were lighted by gas beginning in 1821. The railway arrived in Derby in 1839. The Arboretum was then given to the town as a gift in 1840 by a man called Joseph Strutt. Michael Bass, a brewer, donated property to the town in 1867 to be utilised as a public park.

St Mary’s Church was constructed in 1839. A W Pugin, the great architect, designed it (1812-1852). Derby’s new Town Hall was erected in 1842. An infirmary was erected in 1810, and a hospital for ill children was built in 1877.

Life in Derby gradually improved in the nineteenth century. Derby’s first public swimming pool was erected in 1873. Derby School of Art first opened its doors in 1878. In 1879, a public library and museum were erected.

Horse-drawn trams began operating in Derby streets in 1880, and the city’s first electric lights were turned on in 1894. In the 1890s, slum clearance in Derby began, albeit on a small scale.

Midland Railway Company began manufacturing railway engines in Derby in the mid-nineteenth century. The railway workshops quickly became into a major employment. Derby also had a large number of iron foundries. Brewing and paint manufacturing were also important businesses in Derby during the nineteenth century. Interested in more facts about derby?

Derby expanded considerably in the nineteenth century. The town’s limits were expanded to encompass New Normanton and Little Chester in 1877. Many new residences were erected in Normanton and Peartree in the late nineteenth century.


Rolls Royce chose to construct a facility in Derby in 1907 to manufacture automobiles and aviation engines. Other 20th-century industries in Derby were Derby had the first electric trams in 1904. They were phased out in 1930 and replaced with buses. Meanwhile, Derby’s first cinema debuted in 1910.

A Zeppelin airship bombed Derby in 1916, killing five people, and a war memorial was created in Derby in 1924. All Saints Church was named a cathedral in 1927, and City Hospital was erected in 1929.

A ring road was built around Derby in the 1930s. Furthermore, John Logie Baird’s Roadshow exhibited television in Derby in 1933.

In 1931, Markeaton Park was opened to the public. The River Gardens first opened its doors in 1934. Derby had a new bus station in 1933, and the Council House was completed between 1939 and 1941. Meanwhile, slum clearance proceeded in the 1920s and 1930s, and the first municipal dwellings were completed.

74 people were killed and almost 300 were injured by German bombing in Derby during WWII.

Derby City Council constructed many more council dwellings after 1945. Mackworth had the largest municipal estate developed in the early 1950s. Many private dwellings were also constructed. Between Chaddesden and Breadsall, a vast estate of private dwellings was erected in the 1980s.

Derby Silk Mill was converted into a museum in 1974. The Eagle Centre was constructed in 1975. It is currently known as the Derbion. Derby Theatre launched the same year, 1975.

Derby thrived in the late twentieth century. Derby was twinned with the German city of Osnabruck in 1976. Derby was named a city in 1977.

Pickford’s House Museum first opened its doors in 1988, and the Ram sculpture on Albion Street was installed in 1995.

Modern Day Derby

Derby’s industrial economy is still thriving in the early twenty-first century. There is also a substantial tourism business. Derby Silk Mill will be restored in 2018.

Derby has a population of 256,000 people in 2019.

Railway engineering and the production of aircraft engines are two examples. A textile industry existed as well.

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