Derby's Heritage Part 05 - St Mary's Gate
w/e 30 May 2010
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

During my working life I had cause to occasionally visit an office in St Mary's Gate but in those days it always seemed to be overcast and intent on finding somewhere to park, I never really took much notice of any of the buildings in the street. That was my loss as I have discovered on this latest excursion.

From The Cathedral

Exiting the Cathedral and having approached from Irongate on the left, our route will eventually head off to the right but this fifth part in the walk will take us straight ahead into St Mary's Gate. Two right turns later will return us almost to this same spot but this is the view from the Cathedral entrance. The building on the left on the corner with Irongate is the Cathedral Centre that we explored in Part 3.
Modern Trappings

If you can exclude the street furniture, the road markings and the vehicles you can almost feel the street oozing with history and heritage. The modern trappings though tend to detract from the street's past but I soon began to wish I had conducted more research into the street before taking the photos. I am sure I walked past buildings that were worthy of a second glance although the impressive doorway on the left immediately caught my eye.
Court Of Probate

The coat of arms and the words "Court of Probate" left no doubt as to the former use of the building and the plaque saying "Probate House" reinforced the fact but now it just houses a solicitor's business. The building became the Court of Probate in 1857 and remained as the District Probate Registry until 1928. It was also an accountant's office before assuming its present role.
New County Offices

A little further down St Mary's Gate is an impressive looking building that dates from 1911. Built at a cost of £30,000 the New County Offices housed the Derbyshire County Council until it left for its new headquarters in Matlock in 1955 when this building was then occupied by the South East Derbyshire Rural District Council.
Cathedral Quarter Hotel

A similar looking building on the opposite side of the road designed in 1893 by John Somes Story of Derby, the County's architect, was the old Derbyshire County Council office built in 1885/6 at a cost of £26,000. It was intended as administrative offices and a police station and in 1996 was taken over by the Derbyshire Police as offices and the Police Museum. Its more recent history records that it was purchased in 2006 and after a sympathetic conversion opened in May 2008 as the Cathedral Quarter Hotel. To bring the story right up to date the hotel has enjoyed royal patronage as this is where the Queen dined on Maundy Thursday this year after the morning service in Derby Cathedral.
Magistrates' Court

I formulated this route around Derby after consulting several leaflets but none of them featured anything about St Mary's Gate except for one particular building. That building designed by George Eaton of Etwall and built in 1659 is the Grade 1 listed County or Shire Hall which, with a cobbled and enclosed courtyard flanked by late Georgian buildings, was converted in 2003 and is now the Magistrates' Court. The stone facade and the twin entrance doors are particularly noteworthy although they did not look quite so pristine when Andy Savage captured them for his in 2001 prior to the renovation.

Magistrates' Court EntranceCoat Of ArmsThe Grade II building to the left of the courtyard and now used as offices for the Magistrates' Court was formerly the King's Arms Hotel of 1798 and later a Police Station. On the wall fronting St Mary's Gate the coat of arms (left) of King George III can still be seen. To the right of the courtyard (right) were the Judges' Lodgings (also Grade II listed) designed by John Welch and built in 1809/10.
St Mary's Gate

Standing beneath the coat of arms and with the Shire Hall on the left, I can only contemplate the history of this street and am grateful to Mike Smith and his Pictures of Derby website which has proved an invaluable source of information for the images on this page and which also includes details of some of the other interesting buildings. Both Andy Savage's and Mike's sites are worth exploring in greater depth.

Looking back to the cathedral, another story I found during my research is briefly worth retelling here. If we had been standing in this vicinity in August 1734 we would have been among a crowd of townspeople looking at a rope attached to the top of All Saints Church (now the cathedral) and running the length of St Mary's Gate. A vagrant attached himself to the rope via a groove in a wooden breastplate with a 13 year old boy in a wheelbarrow attached in a similar fashion behind. They were launched down the rope, the friction causing smoke to follow close behind. Although they landed safely, the next spectacle involved an ass with lead weights attached to its feet. This was also attached to the rope to perform a similar exercise but the combined weight caused the rope to break about half way through the ass's descent and it fell into the crowd with several being injured. The ass however had its fall cushioned by the bodies below and was unhurt. The rope brought down chimneys as well as a number of people. The vagrant meanwhile made good his escape giving up all thoughts of taking a collection.
Former Stables

Continuing on our route and turning right at the bottom of St Mary's Gate into Jury Street, I noticed this building. I had no idea what it was but took this photo as it looked as though it had an interesting past. It turns out that it was originally the Corporation stables built in 1879 by Thomas Colthurst. It became the headquarters of the Fire Service being used extensively during World War 2 and later a City Museum storeroom.
 Back to Part 04
 The Derby Heritage Walk Index
Continued in Part 06

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