The big idea

Well, getting from A to B quicker, faster, smoother and better than anyone else has always been Derby’s thing. It’s the most advanced city in the country from a transport perspective, and it’s constantly evolving. There’s a real hotbed of engineering innovation here, nurturing a fascination with design and motion. And that’s something that’s not confined to the motor industry, Derby as a city moves fast: it evolves and adapts; and it’s fascinated with design and improvement, almost to the point of obsession.
 

A history in motion

If you want transport heritage, Derby’s got it, particularly where the railways and aero industries are concerned: it’s the home of Britain’s first diesel locomotive, the first British produced jet engine and the first advanced passenger train; the first section of steel track on the whole of the British railway network was laid here, and the first train to run non-stop between London and Glasgow was powered by, yes, Derby-built engines. And it’s a tradition that continues to this day, with three of the biggest transport players being based here: Rolls Royce, Toyota and Bombardier (even the famous and beautiful iron roof at St Pancras was built in nearby Ripley…)
 

Keep on changing

No wonder Derby’s slogan is ‘Derby does it’ – it does it in bucket loads. The last few years have seen some major regeneration and building projects in the city: the redevelopment down at the riverside; the completion of the striking QUAD building (housing a cinema, gallery, café bar and workshop); and the complete overhaul of the old Eagle Shopping Centre in 2007 – it’s now the shiny new Westfield Derby shopping centre, boasting 190 shops and restaurants. And regeneration is something that looks set to continue: the council announced last year that it has set up a £10 million fund for new development in the city. Better get a move on if you want to see the ‘before and after’.
 
And it’s not just the redevelopment that gives Derby its buzz, there’s a thriving university, an exciting nightlife scene and a healthy dose of creative industry, with design and marketing agencies aplenty – not to mention it being the birthplace of a certain Lara Croft.
 

City in the country

So, it’s certainly an exciting time to be in Derby, but it’s not all about redevelopment, urban regeneration and fast-paced living. Because Derby is on the doorstep of some of the most breathtaking countryside in England, the Peak District. It’s Britain’s oldest, and some would say the most beautiful, National Park, and should definitely be on your bucket list. And if you fancy a pint after all that rambling, you’re absolutely in the right place, as Derby has a fine real ale heritage – it’s not for nothing that it’s known as ‘the real ale capital of the midlands’.

You want (5%) proof? How about 140 real ale pubs, several micro breweries, two annual CAMRA festivals and a pub that dates back to 1530 (The Dolphin)? Still not convinced? The Good Beer Guide 2011 says that Derby has the perfect pub crawl. And you can’t say fairer than that.
 
Fancy something a bit more, well, cultural? You could do worse than to check out Sinfonia ViVA, a national orchestra based in Derby, that makes live orchestral music accessible to all.

Essence

A history of invention, innovation, engineering and a love of improvement? It’s got to be moving forward
 

Whos it ideal for/how it can make you feel:

Derbyis inspiring and makes you feel that there is a whole world of possibilities out there: a perfect place for children (and big kids, too) as it really does fire the imagination. What better place to show the next generation what imagination, hard work, dedication and a desire to improve everything can achieve?

The interesting bits in the history:

We know that the area was settled as far back as Roman times as there’s evidence of two Roman forts here, one of which was known as Derventio. During the 9th century, Derby (known then as Northworthige, not exactly the snappiest name) was notable for being the final resting place of St Alkmund.
 
But the town was effectively founded by the Danes in the late 9th century when they invaded England and created a fortified settlement in the area, and promptly named it with a more familiar name: Deoraby (‘By’ is Scandinavian for village; ‘Deor’ for the deer nearby).
They didn’t last long however, as the Saxons took it back in 917; by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 the town could boast a population of over 2000, pretty big back then, and it’s own mint, a sure sign of trading success.
 
During the Middle Ages, the town prospered. By 1399, Derby had become a royal manor and would have been a bustling place to be, with tradesmen such as cloth makers, dyers and fullers all thriving. The Market Place was by now well established. The town became well-served by churches such as  All Saints-  the perpendicular tower is the second tallest and arguably most beautiful of its type in all the country- and other religious establishments, such as the Dominican Friary that was established on what is now Friargate in the 13th century. The Bridge Chapel was built over the River Derwent in the1300’s.
 
Fast forward to the English Civil War in the 17th century and Derby was quite clearly a Parliamentary town (indeed when the Civil War started in nearby Nottingham, only 20 men from Derby went to join up with the King; might have been something to do with the high taxes Charles I levied on the town, which they often refused to pay).
The town also came under the national spotlight some 100 years later, when Bonnie Prince Charlie and his troops set up camp there en route to seizing the British crown. Alas, he was fed spurious information about an army coming to meet him and was subsequently over-ruled by his officers and forced to retreat, and give up the invasion.
 
But that’s not the only incident of national importance in the 18th century,as Derby became the site of the first water-powered silk mill in the country, and the invention in 1759 of the Derby rib revolutionised the manufacture of hose, which led to the first water-powered cotton mill; putting Derby right at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.
 
Also around this time, Derby was gaining a reputation as a centre for intellectual enquiry. Erasmus Darwin had moved to the town, and set up the Derby philosophical society, Joseph Wright - one of the first painters of the Industrial revolution - was pioneering the revolutionary use of light in paintings, Abraham Bennet of Matlock was experimenting with electricity, while John Whitehurst was busy publishing one of the first papers on geology and the origins of the earth. Not exactly a quiet Midlands town then; this place was literally brimming with ideas and movement!
 
And the big change that would catapult Derby forward even faster came in 1840 with the North Midland Railway setting up its works in the town. Following mergers with two other railways the newly-titled Midlands Railway was established and Derby became its headquarters.
 
Pretty soon the town was becoming famous for its research into the design and production of new and more efficient locomotives, and a series of ground-breaking firsts meant the town boomed and became increasingly reliant on the railways.
In the first decade of the 20th century Rolls-Royce made the decision to set up in Derby, attracted by the plentiful cheap raw material, the excellent transport links, including access to London, and no doubt by the undoubted engineering excellence of the town.
 
In World War I both Rolls-Royce and the Midland Railway Company supplied munitions for the war effort; both businesses by now had an excellent reputation. Soon after, in 1936, saw Frank Whittle, submit a spec for a patent for a jet engine; come the Second World War and Rolls-Royce produced 700 Merlin engines to power British planes at the Battle of Britain; in 1948 Derby-built diesels powered the first train to run non-stop between London and Glasgow, and, more recently, in 1992, the world’s biggest carmaker, Toyota, set up in the city.

How to experience

Probably most fitting if you take the train into Derby...
Alight at the station, still an important hub on the railway network, head over the road and to the right join the London Road, turning right towards the city centre. At the first roundabout you’ll come to the new Westfield Centre, Derby’s shiny new shopping complex as well as an Eat Central eaterie and restaurants and a Cinema de Lux; it’s a fitting example of this city’s insatiable desire for building things and moving on.

After this, carrying on along the London Road, you’ll join St Peters Street; look at the building at the intersection; it’s the former Boots building- built for those well-known chemists up the road in Nottingham- and features statues of famous Derby folk at the top of the building; over the road is St Peters Church, the oldest church in the city.

Turn right down East Street until you come to a rather large statue of a Ram, presented to the city in 1995 (the Rams is the nickname for Derby County and the mascot for the Derbyshire Regiment, but The Derby Ram is also an old English folk song about a rather overweight ram and the difficulty of trying to butcher the thing!).

At the Ram, take a left and wander through the old Market Hall. Somewhat overshadowed by the newer Westfield Derby centre this is still a lovely Victorian piece of architecture: look at the ceiling and admire the scale and grandeur of the original building.
Through the Market Hall you come out to the Guildhall Theatre on the right: not the biggest theatre but a cosy atmosphere with a lovely ceiling.

In the Market Place there’s the Assembly Rooms in front of you- for larger events and concerts- and then to the right is the striking QUAD building, home to independent cinema, visual and contemporary arts in the city.

Look out also for the Waterfall feature.
 
Head up past the Waterfall and you’re now on the attractive Iron Gate, part of the Cathedral Quarter. Down on the left stroll up and down Sadler Gate. There’s some cracking independent shops down here- good for clothes, and a smart place for a bite to eat. While down here look out for The Bell, the last coaching inn in the city (it was here that the Derby Midland Cricket club held a meeting in 1884 and formed what was to become Derby County); and Blacksmiths Yard, now home to the relocated 15th century house that was discovered up the street in Market Place when they built the Assembly Rooms!
 
At the end of Sadler Gate, cross the road and you’ve got the Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Alongside natural history displays and Derby porcelain, this is home to a stunning collection of paintings by Derby’s very own Joseph Wright and a fully working Orrery*: well worth a visit. (*a device that shows the relative positions and movement of the planets)
Head back up to Iron Gate and turn left towards the Cathedral. On the way look at some of the beautiful buildings on the left, amongst them old banks, with sumptuous banking halls, old coaching inns; and at number 34, is the site of Wright’s birthplace.
At the top of Iron Gate on the right, is Derby Cathedral, with its’ tall perpendicular church tower. Inside it’s a bright and airy Cathedral, famous for its’ bells being the oldest ring of 10 bells in the world.
 
After the Cathedral head along Queen Street and pop in Ye Olde Dolphin, Derby’s oldest pub - and potentially one of the most haunted (which is saying something as Derby is deemed one of the most haunted cities in the country). While in the pub look down Full Street and you’ll see a wonderful mural on the side of a pub down there: that’s the Silk Mill, and the mural, painted in the 1980s, depicts the Silk Trades lock-out- the first ever industrial strike action fighting for better worker conditions.
Opposite the Silk Mill pub is the next stop on our tour of Derby; the Silk Mill Museum of Industry and History. Situated on the original site of England’s first modern factory, the Derby Silk Mill, this is a perfect showcase for the city’s development including Rolls-Royce engines and exhibits from a proud railway legacy (currently closed for re-development- said you had to be quick!).  The Mill itself makes up part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site- a 15 mile stretch of the Derwent Valley between the city and Matlock Bath- which showcases Derby, and Derbyshire’s, vital contributions to the Industrial Revolution.
 
From here, alongside the River Derwent, why not simply take a stroll along the riverside? One of the many positive things about Derby is the cleanliness and outdoors feel of the city, with over 300 green spaces, England’s very first public park, the Arboretum- and the city’s location on the doorstep of some of the most stunning countryside, namely the Peak District. On the riverside walk look out for the statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie; and if the mood takes you carry on for a mile or so and you’ll be at Pride Park, Derby County’s shiny, (where have we heard that before?) football ground, the only football ground in the country to be opened by the Queen.

So there you have it; never still, always building and improving. Better get there quick before it’s changed again.
 

When to visit

City pics

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Stoke
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Ely
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Lichfield