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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 53°01′44″N 1°28′30″W / 53.029°N 1.475°W / 53.029; -1.475

Belper is located in Derbyshire

 Belper shown within Derbyshire
Population 20,548 
OS grid reference SK351476
Parish Belper
District Amber Valley
Shire county Derbyshire
Region East Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BELPER
Postcode district DE56
Dialling code 01773
Police Derbyshire
Fire Derbyshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament Amber Valley
List of places: UK • England • Derbyshire

Belper is a town and civil parish in the local government district of Amber Valley in Derbyshire, England.

It is eight miles north of Derby, on the A6, by the River Derwent, and has a population of 20,548 in 8,790 households (2001 census[1]). It has regular bus services to Derby and to the north, to Ripley and many surrounding villages. Belper railway station is situated on the Midland Main Line, and is mainly served by local trains on the Derwent Valley Line Derby–Matlock service.

As a relatively small town, it has four supermarkets, and a shopping area in the town centre including a large department store. There are several primary schools in the town, and a secondary school.



At the time of the Norman occupation, Belper was part of the land centred on Duffield held by the family of Henry de Ferrers. The Domesday Survey records a manor of "Bradley" which is thought to have been somewhere in the vicinity of the Coppice. At that time it was probably within the Forest of East Derbyshire which covered the whole of the county east of the Derwent. It was possibly appropriated by William de Ferrers, 4th Earl of Derby at some time after it was disafforested in 1225 and became part of Duffield Frith.[2]

The town's name is thought to be a corruption of the name Beaurepaire (beautiful retreat), the name given to a hunting lodge, the first record being a charter of 1231. This would have been the property of Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster who died in 1296, the record of his estate mentioning "a capital mansion". The chapel built at that time still exists. Originally consecrated in 1250 as the Chapel of St. Thomas, it was rededicated to St. John during the reign of King Henry VIII.

St John's Chapel (originally St. Thomas)


A nailer's workshop in Joseph Street
Strutt's North Mill built in 1803, to replace the original one destroyed by fire
Belpers East mill built 1912.

The coal deposits of Derbyshire are frequently associated with ironstone within the clay substrate. Initially obtained from surface workings it would later have been mined in shallow bell pits. It is thought that this was important for the de Ferrers family, who were also ironmasters in Normandy.[3] By the reign of Henry VIII it must have become a substantial village. It is recorded that in 1609 fifty-one persons died of the plague.[4]

From at least the 13th century there were forges in the Belper and Duffield areas and it became a major source of income, particularly for nail making. By the end of the eighteenth century there were around 500 'naylor's' workshops in the town. It was hot exhausting work for very little remuneration and by the end of the century they had been superseded by machinery.

Much of their output was used in the expansion of the town from 1776, for Belper was one of the first 'mill towns', as a result of events at nearby Cromford. The industrialist Jedediah Strutt was a partner of Richard Arkwright and built a water-powered cotton mill of his own, the second in the world, at Belper. In 1784 he built the North Mill, and across the road joined by a bridge, the West Mill. In 1803 the North Mill was burnt down to be replaced by an innovative new structure designed to be fireproof. Other extensions followed, culminating in the East Mill in 1913, a present day Belper landmark. To this day the mill derives power from the river, using turbine-driven electrical generators.

Strutt had previously patented his "Derby Rib" for stockings, and the plentiful supply of cotton encouraged the trade of framework knitting which had been carried on in the town and surrounding villages since the middle of the previous century. Mechanisation arrived about 1850, but, in any case, the fashion for stockings for men was disappearing. However elaborately patterned stockings, for ladies especially, were coming into vogue, and the output of the Belper "cheveners" was much in demand.

The coming of the North Midland Railway in 1840 brought further prosperity and, in 1820 Belper was the first place in the UK to get gas lighting, at a works erected by the Strutts at Milford. Demand was such that in 1850, the Belper Gas and Coke Company was formed, with a works in the present Goods Road. Electricity followed in 1922 from the Derby and Nottingham Electrical Power Company's works at Spondon. The first telephones came in 1895 from the National Telephone Company. The end of the century also brought the motor car, CH218, owned by Mr. James Bakewell of The Elms being possibly the first.

Belper remained a textile and hosiery centre well into the Twentieth century. Meanwhile other companies were developing in various ways. Iron founding led to the Park Foundry becoming a leader in the solid fuel central heating market. Adshead and Ratcliffe had developed Arbolite putty for iron-framed windows, while Dalton and Company which had been producing lubricating oils, developed ways of recovering used engine oil which proved especially useful during the Second World War. In 1938, A.B.Williamson had developed a substance for conditioning silk stockings. The introduction of nylons after the war seemed set to make it redundant, however mechanics and fitters had discovered its usefulness in cleaning hands and it is marketed to this day by Deb Proprietaries as Swarfega.

Recent times

King Street, Belper
Bridge Street looking north. The East Mill can be seen in the background

Before 1983 the town gave its name to the Belper constituency, which from 1945 to 1970 was the seat of George Brown, the often controversial deputy leader of the Labour Party.

After the Second World War, J. W. Thornton, the chocolate maker, moved into the town from Sheffield, which helped to alleviate the employment problems arising from the contraction of the earlier industries. In recent years, the company completed a move to a new site a few miles away in Swanwick.

Cotton spinning and textile production has virtually ended and all that nowadays remains of Strutt's Mills is the large East Mill and the smaller North Mill, preserved as part of the Derwent Valley Mills heritage sites. In 2001 the valley between Derby's silk mill, through Belper, to Arkwright's Cromford Mills was given World Heritage status. The weir at Belper used to power four mill complexes. Even now it provides all the electricity for the North and East Mills.

Among the Strutts' bequests to the town was the Herbert Strutt Grammar School. This became a primary school in 1973 with the opening of Belper High School, and remained in use as such until the Easter break in 2008 when it was replaced by a new building on the edge of the town. Notable among its students were the actors Alan Bates and Timothy Dalton, while the actress Suzy Kendall was born and grew up in the town.

Belper is twinned with Pawtucket, Rhode Island , the connection being Samuel Slater of Milford who was an apprentice of Jedediah Strutt and absconded to America to found that country's cotton spinning industry.

Belper made international news in 2001 after rejecting a gift of a large fibreglass Mr. Potato Head model from Pawtucket, as residents considered it was "ugly".

At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Belper-born swimmer Ross Davenport won two gold medals and a silver for England.

In 2009, the "Do Us A Flavour" competition for the next Walkers crisp flavour was won by "Builder's Breakfast". The idea came from a woman local to the town.

Local government

Belper is in the Amber Valley district of Derbyshire. It also has a town council.


The oldest of the current churches is Belper Unitarian Church built in 1788. The present Methodist Church was opened on June 28 1807 and was originally built to hold 1400 worshippers.

A prominent landmark, St Peter's Anglican Church was built in 1824 to replace the smaller 13th century St John's Chapel which is now used as a town council and heritage chamber. A second Anglican Church, Christ Church, was built in 1850. A local saying calls St Peter's the low church in the high place and Christ Church the high church in the low place based on their different liturgical traditions.

The town is also home to a Baptist, a spiritualist, a Catholic and other Methodist Churches at Openwoodgate and Kilburn, as well as Emmanuel Community Church.


Belper School and Sixth Form Centre (the town's secondary school) has approximately 1400 pupils aged 11–18. It was originally named "Belper High School" when it was built in 1973, and is adjacent to Belper Leisure Centre. Its most famous "old boy" is probably Ross Davenport, winner of two gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Another former pupil of note is the late Alison Hargreaves, holder of a number of 'firsts' in the mountaineering world.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Belper was the site of an experimental three-tier education system, comprising a number of primary schools (age 5–9 years), feeding into two main secondary schools (age 9–13 years), pupils from both of which then usually attended a single American-style high school (age 13–18 years). In the mid-1980s, this scheme was abandoned, and the current two-tier system adopted. At the same time, one of the two secondary schools, Parks Secondary School, was closed down and the buildings, which were in a poor state of repair, demolished. In recent years, the site of the former Parks Secondary School has been used for a new school.


Primary schools

  • Holbrook Primary School
  • St Elizabeth's Primary School
  • St Johns Primary School
  • Herbert Strutt Primary School
  • Pottery Primary School
  • Long Row Primary School
  • Ambergate Primary School

Secondary schools



As a relatively small town, it has four supermarkets (Morrisons, Haldanes, Co-op and Iceland), supplemented by a small but busy shopping area mainly centred around King Street, including a large department store (De Bradelei Stores) and a Tackle & R.F.D Gun Shop (Belper Tackle). There are proposed plans to build a Tesco supermarket on the site of the the old Thorntons factory on Derwent Street. These plans have been largely opposed by the town, as there would be a bypass road for the Tesco store which would be built through the Meadows cricket ground and tennis courts. A group dubbed 'BATS' (Belper Against Tesco Superstore) has been formed to protest against these plans.

Sister cities

Famous residents

See also


  1. ^ "2001 Census: Key Statistics: Parish Headcounts: Area: Belper CP (Parish)". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  2. ^ Turbutt, G., (1999) A History of Derbyshire. Volume 2: Medieval Derbyshire, Cardiff: Merton Priory Press
  3. ^ [ projects/eastmidsfw/pdfs/26deras.pdf Dave Barrett, Derbyshire County Council, East Midlands Archaeological Research Framework: Resource Assessment of Medieval Derbyshire]
  4. ^ 'Parishes: Doveridge - Duffield', Magna Britannia: volume 5: Derbyshire (1817), pp. 129-142. URL: Date accessed: 27 August 2008.
  5. ^ Timothy Dalton biography accessed June 2007
  6. ^ Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography by Brian Parks
  7. ^ Everett et al. (Slater Study Group) (2006) "Samuel Slater - Hero or Traitor?" Milford, Derbyshire: Maypole Promotions
  8. ^ Samuel Slater at accessed June 2007
  9. ^ Derbyshire at Accessed June 2007
  10. ^ Jedediah Strutt Biography
  11. ^ Frank Swettenham at accessed June 2007
  • Naylor, P. (Ed) (2000) An Illustrated History of Belper and its Environs Belper: M.G.Morris

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Belper is a town in Amber Valley, Derbyshire.

Get in

By train

Belper is on the mainline between Derby and Chesterfield/Sheffield and is also served by the Derwent Valley line between Derby and Matlock. Trains run roughly every 2 hours - see for timetable details. The station is unmanned so buy tickets to any destination nationwide on the train. (If you join at a station like Derby with a booking office you must buy your ticket beforehand)

By bus

there are regular bus services to Derby, Nottingham, Manchester (a long but beautiful journey on TransPeak) and other local towns. For Ashbourne, change at Derby.

By car/cycle

Belper is on the A6 and close to the A38. Major roads lead to Chesterfield, Nottingham, Derby, Matlock and Ashbourne.

Get around

Shanksie's pony is fine for the main part of town, but pack an extra bottle of pop if you're pushing a buggy or wheelchair from the river to St John's Chapel (especially if you go up Long Row - it's steep and cobbled). Park in the North Mill car park (free), Bridge Street, Field Lane or the Market Place (all pay and display). Some on-street parking is also available.

  • Belper North Mill Tel 01773 880744 Email Web [1]

This is one of the oldest surviving cotton mills in the world and well worth a visit. A walking tour round Belper also starts from here taking you through the Cluster housing, along the jittys (aka gennels, alleys, snickets, passageways) up to St John's Chapel (13th century) and finishing in one of the 30 or so pubs within a short walk. The North Mill website has a printable guide to the walk.

A number of other walks also exist around the town. Beth's Poetry Trail Web [2] offers installations of poems throughout the town and is a memorial to Beth Fender, the founder of Belper's two poetry groups.

  • The River Gardens are also pleasant especially on Sunday afternoons in summer when free concerts are on.


There are a Somerfield, a Morrisons and a Co-op within walking distance of town and several sandwich and cake shops for a quick snack.

Fresh Basil is a fantastic deli for breakfast and lunch.

For sitting down, Bengal Blues (near marketplace), Maharaja (17-18 Market Place) and Elachi (A6 opposite library) serve good Indian food, River Gardens (bottom of Long Row) and Ming Court (up from Morrisons roundabout) are good for Chinese, Big Buddha (part of the North Mill) does nice Thai food and George's sells excellent fish and chips on the A6 next to the garage.


Belper is home to over 30 pubs.



The Lion Hotel Tel 01773 824033 has 22 rooms from around £100 per night

Makeney Hall Hotel Tel 01332 842999 has 40 room for around £50 pppn

Holiday Cottages

Several dotted around the town.

Youth Hostel

Shining Cliff YHA is about 2 miles north, but be warned it's in the middle of a wood and only accessible on foot. Don't watch the Blair Witch Project before you go...

Get out

The Ritz, an independent one-screen cinema opened in late 2006. Film times can be found online here [3]

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BELPER, a market-town in the mid-parliamentary division of Derbyshire, England, on the river Derwent, 7 m. N. of Derby on the Midland railway. Pop. of urban district (1901), 10,934. The chapel of St John is said to have been founded by Edmund Crouchback, second son of Henry about the middle of the 13th century. There is an Anglican convent of the Sisters of St Lawrence, with orphanage and school. For a considerable period one of the most flourishing towns in the county, Belper owed its prosperity to the establishment of cotton works in 1776 by Messrs Strutt, the title of Baron Belper (cr. 1856), in the Strutt family, being taken from the town. Belper also manufactures linen, hosiery, silk and earthenware; and after the decline of nail-making, once an important industry, engineering works and iron foundries were opened. The Derwent provides water-power for the cotton-mills. John of Gaunt is said to have been a great benefactor to Belper, and the foundations of a massive building have been believed to mark the site of his residence. A chapel which he founded is incorporated with a modern schoolhouse. The scenery in the neighbourhood of Belper, especially to the west, is beautiful; but there are collieries, lead-mines and quarries in the vicinity of the town.

Belper (Beaurepaire) until 1846 formed part of the parish of Duffield, granted by William to Henry de Ferrers, earl of Derby. There is no distinct mention of Belper till 1296, when the manor was held by Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster, who is said to have enclosed a park and built a hunting seat, to which, from its situation, he gave the name Beaurepaire. The manor thus became parcel of the duchy of Lancaster and is said to have been the residence of John of Gaunt. It afterwards passed with Duffield to the Jodrell family. In a great storm in 1 545, 40 houses were destroyed, and the place was the plague in 1609.

See C. Willott, Historical Records of Belper.

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