The centre of the City of Derby is an eclectic blend of old and new. The mix includes the Cathedral, Georgian buildings in Friargate and cobbled streets, next to C20th urban townscape.
The once splendid Friar Gate Bridge dates from 1878. Local iron foundry Andrew Handyman & Co. designed the bridge for the Great Northern Railway. In keeping with Friar Gate, the bridge needed to be special. The rail line closed in 1964 and the bridge now serves no purpose other than decorative. In the 1970s, the council bought the bridge for £1. Today, it needs some love and care, and there is a local action group campaigning for funds to help preserve it.
The Cathedral, in the centre of town, is a popular destination for visitors. It was originally All Saints church which dated from the C10th and became the Cathedral in 1927. The early parts of the church are medieval, including the Tower which stands at 212 feet and has 189 steps. Inside the Cathedral is Bess of Hardwick’s tomb. The Cathedral is open every day and groups can book an organised tour.
In common with other towns and villages of the C13th, Derby saw the arrival of the Friars. The Dominican, Black Friars, preached in and around the town and built their Friary in Friargate. Kings Edward II and Edward III, and Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, were benefactors of the Friary. The extensive park lands included fish ponds and a chapel. The Friary was dissolved by Henry VIII. The site is still known as the Friary, and the present building dates from 1731.
Shopping in Derby
Derby Cathedral Quarter won the city location award at the prestigious Great British High Street Awards 2016. The Quarter combines retail, leisure, culture and professional services, together with a year round event’s programme to keep us interested and entertained.
Enchanted old world streets have arcades connecting them, and you’ll find surprising hidden entrances. The specialist shops and independent retailers make shopping here a unique experience with a high interest value.
Events in the summer include the Saturday Street Circus on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 11 – 3pm in the Marketplace. And, on the 3rd Saturday there’s the Knickerbocker Glorious with music and performance arts; again, between 11 – 3 pm. On the 4th Saturday the Edwardian Street Theatre will enchant shoppers! And, on every 3rd Thursday there’s a Farmers’ Market.
Bennets Irongate is a one-off, independent department store. There’s been a shop here for 284 years since 1734. It occupies a beautiful and quirky building, with stunning staircases, balconies, and interesting corners. It sells everything from ironmongery to Steiff bears and of course has a tea room and café.
There are three museums to inspire you with artefacts, buildings and knowledge about the town’s heritage. The Silk Museum is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site. On the site of the original factory, the museum is temporarily closed for re-modelling as Derby Silk Mill – Museum of Making which opens in summer of 2020.
Derby Museum and Art Gallery is on The Strand, Derby. The art on display includes the work of the famous Enlightenment artist Joseph Wright, who was born in Derby in 1734. The Archeological Gallery has a Bronze-Age longboat carved from a single log. There are many other artefacts dating from pre-history through to more recent times. Some found in digs, others accidentally – perhaps the hoard of a Roman who expected to return to find it again.
Pickford House in Friargate was the home of Enlightenment architect Joseph Pickford. Now the house and garden form a museum of life from the C18th onwards. You can start at the bottom with the cellars and air-raid shelter. Then, work your way up, via the scullery and other rooms, through the house to the top floor gallery. Or, why not take a look at the virtual reality tour https://www.derbymuseums.org/locations/pickfords-house .
Derby Arena at Pride Park in Derby, opened in 2015 and is a sports and cultural centre. It houses a 250m indoor cycle track, a state-of-art gym , a café and a bar.