Being the most central city in Britain, Derby benefits from both the class, elegance, and architecture of the lowlands, and the history, character, and charm of the north.
Having gained city status in 1977, and despite boasting a current population of 252,500, Derby has been able to retain a welcoming, small-town feeling, perhaps due to the compactness of its city centre, but also due to its resilient market scene. Best revealed by the city’s famed market hall, the Victorian building the market takes place in truly sets the tone for market trade of a bygone-era, and kept alive in the heart of Derby, with plenty of local produce sellers on site.
As if the surrounding Peak District wasn’t enough, Derby has plenty of lovely parks and countryside within the city itself- the city is split by the River Derwent, making for easy access to river-bank greenery at various points throughout the city. Derby is also home to Markeaton Park, a stunning 207-acre public park and activity centre.
Derby wears its rich industrial past on its sleeve, having been one of the most affluent cities during the industrial revolution-era. The city’s centrepiece being the Derby Silk Mill, the first ever silk throwing mill in Britain, which is open to the public today as a museum, showcasing the monumental role Derby played during the revolutionary-era.
Over the centuries, Derby has been the residence some of the most prestigious families in Britain, which can be seen in the sheer number of stately homes found in Derbyshire- the Peak District region with the most famous of manors. Derby has a wide variety of these stately homes open to the public, from the elegant Kedleston Hall, with its restored grand, neo-classical structure, to the dilapidated Calke Abbey, with its untouched rooms and wide collections of natural history.
Market Hall – Derby’s Market Hall is an unmissable way to soak up Derby’s culture, produce, and delicacies. Found in the Cathedral quarter of the city, the Market Hall is located an elegant Victorian grade-II listed building designed by Rowland Mason Ordish, who also designed the dome of the Albert Hall in London. Inside you’ll find an extensive selection of local purveyors, selling everything you’d expect from a town market, alongside the very best in local produce, including general groceries such as fish and vegetables. This is a great place to try the local Derbyshire delicacy, pyclets, which is essentially a thin crumpet glazed in sweet (or savoury!) toppings. Open every day besides Sunday, the Market Hall is a must to get the fully Derby experience.
Derby Museum & Art Gallery – Derby Museum & Art Gallery is where to find out about Derby’s history and view some of the best artworks by Derby-grown artists. Opened in 1882, the museum displays some of the finest artefacts of Derby’s rich past, covering military, geological, natural and archaeological history. The Derby Museum & Art Gallery is also where you’ll find the paintings of Joseph Wright of Derby, the 18th-century portrait and landscape maestro, who was acclaimed for capturing the essence of the industrial revolution in the Peak District.
Pickford House Derby – Pickford House is an elegantly restored Georgian townhouse, located in Derby’s Frair Gate area. This grade-II listed building was designed and built by renowned provincial architect Joseph Pickford in 1770 and became the Pickford family residence. Today, the kitchen, laundry, cellar, pantry, dining room, drawing room, and servant’s bedroom, have all been restored to their Georgian-era glory, creating a great sense of how life was lived for visitors. Upstairs there are also several restored toy theatres that will definitely delight younger age groups.
Kedleston Hall – Kedleston Hall is a National Trust-owned country house located in Kedleston Village, Derby. The Palladian-style building was constructed in 1765 by the then-unknown architect Robert Adam, originally intended to be ‘a temple of arts’ as opposed to a family residence, despite this, it has housed the the Curzon family ever since.
The interior is truly a neoclassical image of wealth and grandeur; upon entering the north-side of the building, visitors are immediately greeted by a lofty marble hall that’s designed to evoke the allure of a courtyard in a Roman villa; this opens onto the saloon, featuring an impressive glass oculus dome, 62-feet high. Much of the interior rooms have been restored wholly to their original intentions, except from what once was the Great Kitchen, which is now the visitor’s restaurant.
On the ground floor, the hall features the ‘Eastern Museum’, which showcases several interesting objects obtained by George Curzon himself from voyages through Asia during the colonial period, making this an incredibly unique experience for anyone interested in imperial history.
In terms of outdoor space, the gardens are equally as pleasing on the eye as the house’s interior, featuring a neo-classical fishing room- complete with a plunge pool, a viewing tower, a lake, and a small waterfall.
Calke Abbey – Calke Abbey is a national trust-owned country house situated near Ticknall, Derbyshire. On the former site of Calke Priory, Calke Abbey, as it stands today, was built in the early 18th Century by Sir John Harpur and was the formal residence of the Harper family for 300 years. The Harpur heirs had a shared enthusiasm for natural history, and many had vast personal collections, which included bones, eggs, deer mounts, and insects- many specimens of which are on display throughout the house.
The family were unable to maintain the house due to financial difficulties, and it was bought by the national trust in 1985. What makes Calke Abbey a truly unique experience is that it has been almost perfectly preserved in a state of disrepair and decay. It exudes the atmosphere of an abandoned building, with empty rooms, untidiness, half-stripped wallpaper, and many of the Harpur family’s belongings left untouched. This is definitely one for the ‘urban explorers’ out there.
Derby Ghost Walks -Not for the faint at heart, the two ghost walks of Derby consist of eerie walks around the city centre and former jail. The city centre walk takes you underground to the Guildhall tunnels, and around a selection of pubs and venues, known for paranormal activity. The second walk leads you to the Derby Gaol, where participants have a go at becoming an inmate. These walks have garnered worldwide recognition amongst fans of the paranormal, and even featured on the TV show Most Haunted!
Markeaton Park – Derby’s Markeaton Park is a 207-acre activity hub, attracting 1 million people per year. Markeaton Park is effectively Derby’s main sports complex and is where you’ll find a number of activities taking place, such as donkey riding, court-based sports, aerial assault courses, pitch and putt, and boating-based sports.