Derbyshire Walk - Derby
PUBLISHED: 10:28 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 14:43 03 May 2020
From the hustle and bustle of Derbyshire’s capital city, take a sightseeing walk to where it all began – the site of Derventio on the banks of the River Derwent
DISTANCE: 4.5 miles
PARKING: Various city centre car parks. Cathedral Quarter Parksafe DE1 3NT is closest to the start (grid ref: 350364)
TERRAIN: Mainly paths and pavement with some roadside walking. Occasional steps and trip hazards. Close proximity to river and deep water. Please use pedestrian crossings wherever possible. Toll bridge (£1 charge may apply).
REFRESHMENTS: Numerous venues in Derby; Darley Park Tearooms; The Abbey Inn, Darley Abbey
TOILETS: Public toilets to the rear of the Darley Park tearooms
MAP: OS Explorer 259 – Derby
WALK HIGHLIGHT: Derby’s architectural heritage is to be found around every corner of the walk
DESCRIPTION: Ideally this walk should begin with a look around Derby Museum before heading off to trace the history of our wonderful capital city, passing many churches, mills and monuments whilst enjoying the freedom of riverside paths through Darley Abbey Park.
1 Begin at Derby Museum (free entry) where a maze of rooms contain displays of antiquities and artefacts and an art gallery hosts regularly changing exhibitions. The gallery’s collection of paintings by Joseph Wright (1734-97) is the largest in the world and of international acclaim. See relics and read about Derby’s archaeological heritage. Visit the Bonnie Prince Charlie room that commemorates his time in the city during the Jacobite Uprising. Not included in the walk but only a few minutes away, is Pickford’s House – a time warp of 18th century life. It is situated on nearby Friar Gate where there is a wealth of Georgian, Regency and Victorian architecture (further details and directions are available at the museum).
From the museum cross over The Strand and turn right down the pedestrianised Sadler Gate on a journey through Derby’s Cathedral Quarter. Renowned for its characterful buildings, independent shops and fine dining establishments, you will find old cobbled alleyways leading off into tucked away ancient yards and early dates painted above doors or drainpipes. Notice the Strand Arcade on the right which was built in the 1870s to mimic Burlington Arcade in London, while further along is the black and white timbered Old Bell Hotel with former carriage access leading down the side.
2 On reaching the Market Place turn left up Iron Gate with the tower of the Cathedral to guide you. Above a door on the left is an old plaque to commemorate the birthplace of Joseph Wright whilst across the road is Bennetts, established in 1734 and reputedly one of the UK’s oldest department stores. All Saints’ Church was granted cathedral status in 1927. Founded in the mid 10th century as a collegiate church, the tower was built in the early 16th century to a height of 212ft but the rest of the cathedral dates from when it was rebuilt between 1723-25. Within are many monuments and memorials, including that of Bess of Hardwick, as well as a fabulous wrought-iron rood screen attributed to Robert Bakewell. The cathedral is said to have the oldest ring of 10 bells in the world.
3 Just before the cathedral, turn right down Amen Alley. Carefully cross the road and walk past the statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie, then proceed to the Silk Mill by the side of the River Derwent, Derbyshire’s arterial river. Built in the 1720s by John Lombe and his brother Thomas, this mill is said to have been the first factory in England. It is in the throes of a five year £16.4m programme to create the Derby Silk Mill – Museum of Making and is scheduled to open fully in 2020.
4 Follow the riverside path heading upstream, passing under a wide concrete bridge with a colourful ‘street art’ mural of faces. At the side of the following bridge with the date 1794 carved into its parapet is St Mary’s medieval chapel, one of only six surviving bridge chapels in the country. It was built as a place for early travellers to pray for a safe journey. Near the door is a plaque to commemorate the Padley Martyrs, three Catholic priests who were hanged, drawn and quartered by the side of the bridge in July 1588. Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam were brought here from Padley Manor near Grindleford to the north where they were holding mass in secret for the FitzHerbert family during the reign of Elizabeth I.
5 Continue on the riverside path, passing modern developments of residential apartment blocks, to the next bridge which is just before the Rowing Club buildings and landing stage. Go up steps and cross Handyside Bridge which was constructed in 1877 to carry a branch line of the Great Northern Railway.
6 Turn immediately left and continue on a riverside path through Parker’s Piece and Darley Playing Fields beyond, often a hive of exercise and recreational sports. This is the site of the Roman fort known as Derventio from which Derby became established. Here was an important crossing of the river and the junction of Roman roads from Chester, Cirencester, Chesterfield, Buxton and York.
7 After a footbridge you will come to Folly Lane, lined by houses, on your left. At the T-junction beyond turn left onto Haslam’s Lane and enter the Boar’s Head Cotton Mill complex now known as Darley Abbey Mills. This area is privately owned with businesses still operating from the site. Keep to the main route, watch for vehicles manoeuvring and pay the toll (if asked) before crossing the river bridge. Founded by Walter Evans in 1783, these mills produced high quality thread that was identified by a boar’s head, being the crest on the family coat of arms. Production of cotton thread here ceased in the early 1960s.
8 You have now reached Darley Abbey, a conservation area forming part of the Derwent Valley Mills Heritage Site. Containing mill workers’ cottages and ‘cluster’ houses, Darley Abbey village is situated on the site of one of the largest Augustinian monasteries in the county. Turn left and walk past the riverside gardens and seating area. Walk along Darley Street to The Abbey Inn. Built in the 15th century, this Grade II* listed building is all that remains of the monastic establishment. It was tastefully converted into a hostelry in 1980.
9 After the inn turn left and walk through the public car park to enter Darley Abbey Park near the cricket ground. Walk past Darley Barn Outdoor Centre on your right and then turn right just before a small children’s play area.
10 Follow a path uphill through terraced gardens with ornamental trees to the tearooms. These gardens and parkland were once part of Darley Hall which was demolished in 1962. It had been the home of the Evans family from 1835.
11 Continue uphill from the front of the café to a lodge. Turn left immediately after the lodge gates and walk down the pathway to Darley Grove with its mature trees. Follow this wide pathway with views down over the park and river. Continue to the rear of the rowing club with a high wall to your right inset in part with garages.
12 Arriving back at the residential area with a path on your left leading down to Handyside Bridge, walk straight on along North Parade heading back towards the city centre.
13 Follow the road which is lined in part with 18th and 19th century terraced properties. At the end of the road turn right and head around to the front of St Mary’s Catholic Church. Built in 1839, the architect of this fine church was Augustus W N Pugin, also associated with St Giles (‘Pugin’s Gem’) in Cheadle, Staffordshire. Cross the modern metal footbridge over St Alkmund’s Way, named after the Victorian church demolished to make way for its construction. This route returns you to the Cathedral Quarter.
14 Using pedestrian crossings, cross over the busy junction of roads and head past St Michael’s Church along Queen Street followed by Ye Olde Dolphin Inne which claims to be Derby’s oldest pub, dating from 1530. It is reputedly haunted and forms part of Derby’s popular guided ghost tours. Turn right opposite the cathedral to walk down St Mary’s Gate where on your right you will see the impressive Magistrate’s Courts. Turn left along Bold Lane to return to the Museum.