Derby's Heritage Part 15 - Derby Museum & Art Gallery
w/e 27 March 2011
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
Heritage Walk Header

Our meanderings around our county town have now brought us to the Derby Museum and Art Gallery to which I have devoted the whole of this fifteenth part of the walk. It not only gives us the chance to reflect on some of the sites we have already visited in Derby but also to see some of the artifacts and exhibits from other areas of Derbyshire as well.

Central Library

Derby Museum and Art Gallery complex also contains the Central Library and a month on from our last visit showed that the road works are still ongoing and part of the building is still obscured by scaffolding. In fact the library is closed for a five week period whilst alterations take place so views of the wrought iron staircase and frescoed gallery in the building were not possible - the Museum and Art Gallery were however open. The library is a Gothic style building and was built in 1879 to a competition winning design by R. K. Freeman having been funded by Michael Thomas Bass MP whose statue stands (as we saw in Part 14) in Museum Square which is to the left of the image above.

Art Gallery in The StrandWhen the scaffold is removed it will reveal the library entrance and a Franco-Flemish tower with Arts and Crafts detailing but entry to the Renaissance style museum and art gallery (right) which was added in 1882 by John Soames Storey is via The Strand which runs at the rear of the library. It can be accessed by continuing along The Wardwick in front of the library and doubling back along The Strand; taking a short cut through a passage at the side of the library or by walking through Museum Square. All the buildings in the complex are now Grade II listed.
A new booklet "Let's Go Wild In Derby" detailing free walks and activities for 2011 has been published by Derby City Council and it contains a small panel that reads: "Derbyshire geology and wildlife feature in the Museum's displays, with a Time Tunnel, walk-in cave, hands-on exhibits, discovery area and a stunning series of reconstructed natural settings with typical Derbyshire wildlife." Whilst all of that is true it does not really convey the excellence of the interesting exhibits and displays in the museum that tell a fascinating story about the county. The images on this page too, hardly scratch the surface and a visit is heartily recommended but if you do make the trip please allow yourself plenty of time to appreciate all that the museum holds.

Hanson Logboat

The first exhibit we saw that occupied the whole of one room was the "Hanson Logboat" which was discovered a few miles to the south of Derby by workmen in Hanson's Quarry at Shardlow in 1998. Carbon dating has indicated that the boat is some 3500 years old and although similar logboats have been discovered in other parts of the country, this one was unusual in that it appeared to be complete with its cargo, a load of Bromsgrove Sandstone that is found a little way upstream at Kings Mills. A series of panels in front of the boat reveals a wealth of information about the boat and the Bronze Age and there is a page devoted to it on the Wikipedia website - click here to view.
Repton Stone

In a room adjacent to the logboat is another important find from the south of the county, the Repton Stone. This is part of an eighth century Anglo Saxon cross that once stood outside the church at Repton. It is believed by archaeologists that the cross was a memorial to Æthelbald who was King of Mercia from 716 to 757AD. It was originally about 10 feet high and probably smashed by the Vikings in 873AD. Thought to have been finally broken up and buried around 1100 it was discovered during excavations in 1979.

Next to the Repton Stone is a reminder of a part of Derby that we saw in the eleventh part of this Heritage Walk. This is the St Alkmund Sarcophagus (right) which was uncovered in 1967 when St Alkmund's Church was demolished during the construction of the inner ring road. St Alkmund's Church was situated on Derby’s oldest Christian site. It pre-dates the town and the highly ornamented stone coffin from Saxon times that has been attributed to St Alkmund is believed by some experts to be for another, nameless but significant, elder.
Roman Period

In the same room there is a display recalling the Roman Period in Derby with relics discovered nearby and also a map of the Little Chester area that indicates the routes of the Roman roads. This too is also an opportunity for reflection to recall our exploration of the Little Chester area earlier in this walk.
Joseph Wright Gallery

Even earlier in the walk we passed the memorial and the site of Joseph Wright's birthplace, the famous artist born in Derby in 1734 and the next room we visited is devoted to the man himself. The Wright Gallery is to be refurbished during 2011 and several of his works are currently on loan but those that remain including "The Wood Children" of 1789 (above top right) display a certain charm even to my eye. Personally I prefer his landscape paintings but his "Richard Arkwright, his wife and child" (above left) from 1790 is a good example of Wright's talent as an artist. Wright's acclaimed masterpiece "A Philosopher giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in which a lamp is put in place of the Sun" from 1766 was not on display but a replica of an orrery (above bottom right) forms the centrepiece of the room. This working model of the solar system that demonstrates the movement of the planets around the sun was made for the museum between 1993 and 1995 by John Gleave.
The Soldier's Story

So far in our tour of the museum, many of the exhibits have been in glass cabinets as you would expect to see in many similar establishments but the next room we entered told the "Soldier's Story" and had undergone a total refurbishment between 2006 and 2008 and now is much more hands-on with audio visual displays and new high-technology fixtures and fittings. The "Story" tells the history of regiments associated with Derbyshire including the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, the Derbyshire Yeomanry and the Sherwood Foresters.
Nature Of Derbyshire

Moving on and we found the natural history of Derbyshire well covered too and with my background in mapping I found the three dimensional relief map of the county particularly interesting. It came as something of a surprise though to find a display entitled "When Hippos Swam In The Derwent ...." (right) that contained the skeleton of a hippopotamus that was excavated when a well was being dug in the yard of the Crown Inn at Allenton in 1895. The remains have been dated and are about 120 thousand years old. Other bones excavated at the same time have been identified as being the breastbone of an elephant and the femur of a rhinoceros.
Geology Section

The StrandThe StrandOther displays here cover Derbyshire's geology and include the walk-in cave (above left) complete with stalactites and stalagmites common in the Peak District. There is also the Time Tunnel (above right) tracing the natural history of the area from millions of years ago. We could have spent much longer in the museum but as it was time to move on, we exited into the impressive architecture on The Strand.

 Back to Part 14
 The Derby Heritage Walk Index
Continued in Part 16

Site Navigation

"Pick A Picture"
Weekly Favourites
Latest Images
Holidays &
Days Out
Special Features
The Guest Page
Site search Web search

powered by FreeFind
Jigsaw Puzzles
Recommended Links

Terms & Conditions of Use
This website is copyright but licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence.
Please credit the photographer Garth Newton, or add a link to these pages.