1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Derby (England)

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7915381911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 8 — Derby (England)

DERBY, a municipal, county and parliamentary borough, and the county town of Derbyshire, England, 1283/4 m. N.N.W. of London by the Midland railway; it is also served by the Great Northern railway. Pop. (1891) 94,146; (1901) 114,848. Occupying a position almost in the centre of England, the town is situated chiefly on the western bank of the river Derwent, on an undulating site encircled with gentle eminences, from which flow the Markeaton and other brooks. In the second half of the 19th century the prosperity of the town was enhanced by the establishment of the head offices and principal workshops of the Midland Railway Company. Derby possesses several handsome public buildings, including the town hall, a spacious range of buildings erected for the postal and inland revenue offices, the county hall, corn exchange and market hall. Among churches may be mentioned St Peter’s a fine building principally of Perpendicular date but with earlier portions; St Alkmund’s with its lofty spire, Decorated in style; St Andrew’s, in the same style, by Sir G. G. Scott; and All Saints’, which contains a beautiful choir-screen, good stained glass and monuments by L. F. Roubiliac, Sir Francis Chantrey and others. The body of this church is in classic style (1725), but the tower was built 1509–1527, and is one of the finest in the midland counties, built in three tiers, and crowned with battlements and pinnacles, which give it a total height of 210 ft. The Roman Catholic church of St Mary is one of the best examples of the work of A. W. Pugin. The Derby grammar school, one of the most ancient in England, was placed in 1160 under the administration of the chapter of Darley Abbey, which lay a little north of Derby. It occupies St Helen’s House, once the town residence of the Strutt family, and has been enlarged in modern times, accommodating about 160 boys. The Derby municipal technical college is administered by the corporation. Other institutions include schools of science and art, public library, museum and art gallery, the Devonshire almshouses, a remodelled foundation inaugurated by Elizabeth, countess of Shrewsbury, in the 16th century, and the town and county infirmary. The free library and museum buildings, together with a recreation ground, were gifts to the town from M. T. Bass, M.P. (d. 1884), while an arboretum of seventeen acres was presented to the town by Joseph Strutt in 1840.

Derby has been long celebrated for its porcelain, which rivalled that of Saxony and France. This manufacture was introduced about 1750, and although for a time partially abandoned, it has been revived. There are also spar works where the fluor-spar, or Blue John, is wrought into a variety of useful and ornamental articles. The manufacture of silk, hosiery, lace and cotton formerly employed a large portion of the population, and there are still numerous silk mills and elastic web works. Silk “throwing” or spinning was introduced into England in 1717 by John Lombe, who found out the secrets of the craft when visiting Piedmont, and set up machinery in Derby. Other industries include the manufacture of paint, shot, white and red lead and varnish; and there are sawmills and tanneries. The manufacture of hosiery profited greatly by the inventions of Jedediah Strutt about 1750. In the northern suburb of Littlechester, there are chemical and steam boiler works. The Midland railway works employ a large number of hands. Derby is a suffragan bishopric in the diocese of Southwell. The parliamentary borough returns two members. The town is governed by a mayor, sixteen aldermen and forty-two councillors. Area, 3449 acres.

Littlechester, as its name indicates, was the site of a Roman fort or village; the site is in great part built over and the remains practically effaced. Derby was known in the time of the heptarchy as Northworthig, and did not receive the name of Deoraby or Derby until after it was given up to the Danes by the treaty of Wedmore and had become one of their five boroughs, probably ruled in the ordinary way by an earl with twelve “lawmen” under him. Being won back among the sweeping conquests of Æthelflæd, lady of the Mercians, in 917, it prospered during the 10th century, and by the reign of Edward the Confessor there were 243 burgesses in Derby. However, by 1086 this number had decreased to 100, while 103 “manses” which used to be assessed were waste. In spite of this the amount rendered by the town to the lord had increased from £24 to £30. The first extant charter granted to Derby is dated 1206 and is a grant of all those privileges which the burgesses of Nottingham had in the time of Henry I. and Henry II., which included freedom from toll, a gild merchant, power to elect a provost at their will, and the privilege of holding the town at the ancient farm with an increase of £10 yearly. The charter also provides that no one shall dye cloth within ten leagues of Derby except in the borough. A second charter, granted by Henry III. in 1229, limits the power of electing a provost by requiring that he shall be removed if he be displeasing to the king. Henry III. also granted the burgesses two other charters, one in 1225 confirming their privileges and granting that the comitatus of Derby should in future be held on Thursdays in the borough, the other in 1260 granting that no Jew should be allowed to live in the town. In 1337 Edward III. on the petition of the burgesses granted that they might have two bailiffs instead of one. Derby was incorporated by James I. in 1611 under the name of the bailiffs and burgesses of Derby, but Charles I. in 1637 appointed a mayor, nine aldermen, fourteen brethren and fourteen capital burgesses. In 1680 the burgesses were obliged to resign their charters, and received a new one, which did not, however, alter the government of the town. Derby has been represented in parliament by two members since 1295. In the rebellion of 1745 the young Pretender marched with his army as far south as Derby, where the council was held which decided that he should return to Scotland instead of going on to London.

Among early works on Derby are W. Hutton, History of Derby (London, 1791); R. Simpson, History and Antiquities of Derby (Derby, 1826).