Derby's Heritage Part 01 - The Introduction
w/e 31 January 2010
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

"Heritage" - So what do we understand by the term "heritage"?Well when some building of interest is demolished we've often heard said that we've lost part of our heritage and I always associate the term with something from many years ago. But in law, anything that "has been or may be inherited by legal descent or succession" is regarded as "heritage" so for the purpose of this series I suppose that anything I come across from history or from modern times can be regarded as fair game. That is the premise I am working on anyway and as can be seen in the variety of architectural styles from various times in history in the title image above, the city of Derby has a great deal of heritage to be explored.

There are a variety of leaflets and guides usually available from the Tourist Information Centre and I have managed to accumulate quite a collection. One leaflet in particular includes three walks - the Joseph Wright Walk, the City Circuit which includes most of the Joseph Wright Walk and also takes in a whole lot more of the city centre plus a Riverside Walk. A separate leaflet looks at the wildlife along the River Derwent and yet another details a heritage walk around Chester Green, just north of the city centre. Finally another leaflet by the Derby Civic Society includes details of over twenty "Heritage Buildings" in central Derby with nearly thirty more in outer Derby. From these and a number of other mini-guides I have devised a route that will encompass many of the sites in or near the city centre.

It is perhaps worth pointing out now that there are already several web sites that cover many of the places we will visit not least among them, Andy Savage's Derby Photos, Mike Smith's Pictures of Derby and Denis Eardley's Discover Derbyshire all of which can be accessed from the Links page on this site but the difference with this series is that we will be following a pre-determined route and viewing the places in sequence. It will also be a voyage of discovery for me as I learn more about our county capital.

Assembly Rooms

The route begins like many of those detailed in the aforementioned leaflets at Derby’s largest arts and entertainment complex, the Assembly Rooms. This series could be of epic proportions as preliminary planning has already identified about a hundred locations and the route will pass through the Market Place on more than one occasion. In this initial part we will therefore, only look at a few of the sites in the Market Place leaving some for later parts in the series.
Box Office

The modern Assembly Rooms, replacing an earlier building, opened in 1977 and has two multipurpose auditoria, the Great Hall and the Darwin Suite, the entrance to the Darwin Suite, a function room with the flexibility to hold concerts and limited theatrical presentations being on the extreme left of this image next to the Box Office. Posters and flyers in the window advertise forthcoming attractions and events.
Jacobean Ceiling

 In the foyer of the Darwin Suite there is an almost complete original Jacobean ceiling that came from the seventeenth century Newcastle House that stood on the site of the development and was discovered when it was demolished. A plaque on the wall in the foyer (below) gives more details about the ceiling.
Jacobean Ceiling PlaqueDerby is known as the "Ghost Capital of Great Britain" with over 1,000 paranormal sightings, one of which is actually in the Darwin Suite. It is reputedly haunted by a group of twentieth century singing and dancing children and it has also been reported that a Victorian woman has been seen walking in the building.

On our brief visit into the foyer to capture these images, I have to say that no such apparitions made their presence known to us - but we didn't hang about to find out.

The Darwin Suite itself is named in honour of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) one of a number of famous Derbeians that we will encounter in our walk around the city. Erasmus Darwin was born at Elston Hall, near Newark on Trent in Nottinghamshire, educated at Chesterfield in Derbyshire and at at St John's College, Cambridge. He returned as a physician to Nottingham in 1756 and moved a year later to Lichfield in Staffordshire. He wooed Elizabeth Pole and she became his second wife following the death of her husband. They moved to her home, Radbourne Hall, about four miles west of Derby and then in 1782, to Full Street in Derby which is adjacent to the Assembly Rooms. Darwin's final move to Breadsall Priory on the outskirts of Derby was curtailed by his sudden death in 1802 and he is buried in All Saints Church, Breadsall. During his lifetime Erasmus Darwin had outlined an evolutionist theory that paved the way for his more famous grandson's work - Charles Darwin's "On The Origin Of Species". Charles also had a famous grandfather on his maternal side from the Midlands and that was Josiah Wedgwood of pottery fame.
Tourist Information

The Tourist Information Centre is part of the Assembly Rooms Complex and stands where the original Assembly Rooms building stood. That was built between 1752 and 1755 and was a place where music recitals and dances were held for the middle classes.

SK3454 : Tramway Museum, Town End by Alan Murray-Rust
Tramway Museum, Town End
  © Copyright Alan Murray-Rust and licensed for reuse under this
Creative Commons Licence.
It was still standing in the middle of the twentieth century but was gutted by fire in November 1963 .

When demolished in the early 1970s the interior was lost forever but the five bay stone facade was re-erected brick by brick at the
National Tramway Museum
in Crich just a few miles north of Derby where it can still be seen.

SK3454 : Crich, Derby Assembly Rooms by Betty Longbottom
Crich, Derby Assembly Rooms
  © Copyright Betty Longbottom and licensed for reuse under this
Creative Commons Licence.

There is also a photo of the building in its original position on the bygonederbyshire website here.
Big Screen

The view today is unrecognisable from the image at bygonederbyshire but the Tourist Information Centre where the original building stood is directly behind the Big Screen that was erected and launched in July 2007. The screen itself is one of twenty or more in various cities throughout the country that is a collaboration between the BBC, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and local authorities.

Quoting from the BBC site: "With a 360 degree camera on top and ability to interact with events below, Derby's Big Screen is much more than just a big telly." At the opening of the Big Screen, people in the Market Place were able to watch live opera from Covent Garden and many other events have been screened since including live events and community projects from across the region.
Water Feature

At the opposite end of the Market Place to the Tourist Information Centre and the Big Screen is the Waterfall Feature - or as can be seen in this image the waterless feature - designed by William Pye. It was built in 1995 but I've not seen water flowing over the structure for some time now. I don't know whether it has just been switched off during the winter months as a safety precaution but as we will be passing this way again later I'll try and capture an image when it is in full flow.
Franceys's House

Also at the far end of the Market Place is the building known as Franceys's House. It dates from 1695 and was built for Alderman William Franceys. The building that replaced a house built in 1640 by his uncle once had two first floor rooms with frescoed ceilings by Francis Bassano. The Franceys were originally butchers moving to the area in 1582. Both William and his son Henry traded as chemists or apothecaries as they were then known and both became Mayors of Derby, William in 1697 and 1699 and Henry in 1747. Henry however died while in office and his term was completed by the previous Mayor, Humphrey Booth. Their store on the ground floor of the building survived until 1971.

Our route from outside Franceys's House will take us along Irongate towards Derby Cathedral and in the next part we will meet another famous Derbeian, the celebrated artist Joseph Wright. Derby achieved city status on June 7th 1977 to mark the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne. During her reign, the Queen has visited Derby several times and it was announced this week that her next visit is scheduled for April 1st when she will be distributing Maundy Money at the Cathedral on Maundy Thursday.
 The Derby Heritage Walk Index
Continued in Part 02

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