Derby's Heritage Part 34 - Derwent & Morledge
w/e 28 October 20122
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
Heritage Walk Header

The sun had taken a back seat on a dull and drizzly day when we visited Derby for this 34th part of the Heritage Walk and if truth be told, much of the architectural heritage has been consigned to history by redevelopment schemes in the area.

Derby CathedralFor example we have already seen how the demolition of the Power Station has opened up views of the former Collegiate Church (left) from outside the Silk Mill. The Collegiate College of course was granted Cathedral status in 1927 and the open space created by the demolition of the Power Station is now called Swing Bridge & Silk MillCathedral Park. Another recent addition leading from Cathedral Park across the River Derwent is the controversial pedestrian and cycle swing bridge (right). Whilst its construction did not meet with universal approval being dubbed "the bridge to nowhere" it was nominated as a finalist in the 2009 Prime Minister's Awards for Better Public Buildings. Maybe future generations will regard it with the same fondness as we regard the buildings of our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors.

Exeter Bridge

A more traditional bridge is just a little way downstream and can be seen as we approach along the river bank. This is Exeter Bridge which takes its name from the Earl of Exeter whose house stood nearby. It was built after the old bridge was demolished in 1929, the original bridge linking Exeter House with its gardens on the other side of the river. The new bridge was designed by Charles Herbert Aslin of the City Architect's Department. Exeter House was demolished and the bridge widened before the Second World War.
Neglected Buildings

Looking back towards the new swing bridge and the Silk Mill, the building on the left is the rear of the former Magistrate's Court with the old Police Station beyond, both of which date from 1934 and both of which have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and neglect. However in the last few weeks it has been announced that the Garde II listed Court building is to be purchased by the City Council and the Local Studies Library moved there whilst only last week it was reported that the old Police Station is to be demolished and the site redeveloped.
Opening Plaque

Turning our attention back to Exeter Bridge we can see here too that decorations on the four pillars at the corner have also suffered the consequences of weathering. The pillar nearest the river bank from which we reached the bridge bears the plaque pictured above which shows that the bridge was opened on March 13th 1931 by the Rt. Hon. Herbert Morrison MP. PC., the then Minister of Transport in Ramsay MacDonald's government.

Four Derbeians

Immediately above the plaque commemorating the opening of the bridge is one of four Bas relief sculptures of notable Derbeians, the others being on each of the other three pillars. The one above the opening plaque is of John Lombe (1694 - 1722) a pioneer of the silk industry who lived in Full Street and shown above top left.

The other sculpture on the same side of the bridge as Lombe shows William Hutton (top right) the historian who wrote the first published history of Derby in 1791 and who was born in Full Street on September 30th 1723. As a child he had worked at the Silk Mill and later became a bookseller. He died on September 20th 1815.

Opposite Hutton is Herbert Spencer (April 27th 1820 - December 8th 1903) who was born at 12 Exeter Row and who became world famous for his works on philosophy.

Finally and partially obscured by a temporary fence is the figure of physician, botanist and poet Erasmus Darwin. Although born in Newark (December 12th 1731) he lived in or near Derby for about twenty years. The sculpture gives the date of his death as April 18th 1809 although this is a mistake as his biography shows that he died in 1802 a few weeks after moving into Breadsall Priory, just north of Derby and he was buried in Breadsall Church. Erasmus Darwin, whose grandson Charles Darwin is famous for his 1859 book "On the Origin of Species" also lived in Lichfield, Staffordshire and his home there, Erasmus Darwin House, is now a museum about his life and his work.
Riverside Gardens

The temporary fence on Exeter Bridge is currently preventing access to the Riverside Gardens whilst work is carried out of the Council House, the headquarters of Derby City Council but it was always my intention to continue along Derwent Street from the Exeter Bridge to the front of the Council House and into Corporation Street and The Morledge before returning to the river bank a little further downstream.
Council House

I was hoping that by the time we reached this stage of the walk that the work on the Council House would be complete but the white boarding and the temporary walkways in the road show that it is still ongoing. Constructed as a horse-shoe shaped building it was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War and immediately upon completion was occupied by the RAF in 1942 but eventually handed over to the Council in 1946. The official opening ceremony by Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip took place three years later in 1949.
Hidden History

Fountain PlaquePassing along Corporation Street in front of the Council House leads to this roundabout at the start of The Morledge and it is here that the heritage of the city is much harder to find. A small plaque (left) on the roundabout is virtually impossible to read across the road but with the aid of the camera's zoom lens I was able to make out "These fountains were presented to the County Borough of Derby by the White House (Derby) Ltd and associated companies in commemoration of the Mayorality of Councillor Walter White Chairman of Directors". I regret the date on the plaque is indistinct even with the zoom lens.

Shot Tower Information BoardThe brick building behind the trees in the main picture above is Derby Crown Court which opened in 1989 on the site of Charles Aslin's open market of 1931. On a wall nearby is an information board (right) titled "Shot Tower". An image at Picture The Past shows the area about 1930 and the accompanying information tells how hot metal was dropped from the top of the tower to manufacture lead shot. The information board contains similar details saying that the tower stood on this site between 1809 and 1932. It was demolished as part of the Central Improvement Scheme that also included the building of the Council House.
Two Pubs

Much of The Morledge has changed in recent years but two old buildings to survive stand next door to each other. The White Horse pub (previously called the Court House) has stood here since at least 1883 but was rebuilt between 1920 and 1923 when it incorporated a shop on the adjacent Thorntree Lane. The Noah's Ark dates from even earlier (1822) being named after Noah Bullock, a 17th century character of low repute who lived in a boat on the Derwent which he named after his Biblical namesake "The Ark". He was a forger producing counterfeit coins on his boat. He had a son called Japhet and legend has it that he had two more sons called Ham and Shem although this is not substantiated by records. The current pub replaced the original in 1919, the timber facade being added in 1926.
The Morledge

Court/RiverlightsCockpit Information BoardAt this point on The Morledge all the architecture is of the modern variety with the Riverlights development including the new bus station on the left, the multi-storey Cockpit Car Park directly ahead and the Eagle Market on the right. Our route back to the River Derwent will take us between the Riverlights building and the Crown Court (right) but surrounded by other notices and behind a cash machine in the Eagle Market is another information board (left) relating the history of Cockpit Hill.

Click here to see an enlargement of the Cockpit board and there's a gallery of images of the old Art Deco style bus station, which like Exeter Bridge was designed by Charles Aslin, on the BBC site here.
 Back to Part 33
 The Derby Heritage Walk Index
Continued in Part 35

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