City Centre Streets 1
This section will look at some the main thoroughfares in the city today. As well as showing pictures of the streets and some of the prominent buildings an overview of the history and development of the streets, which often date back many centuries, will also be given.
The city of Derby can trace its history back at least as far as the Romans who founded a settlement, Derventio, at what is now Chester Green. However with the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century the Roman fort was largely abandoned and the incoming Saxons, who named the town Northworthy, moved their settlement into the area now occupied by the town, particularly the area around the Wardwick. With the invasion of the Vikings in the latter half of the 1st millennium the town became part of the Danelaw and acquired its current name of Derby. The influence of this Viking past can still be seen in the names of some of the streets – the term gate is Norse for street.
St Peter's Street
This street, which bisects the town and could be considered its main street, approximately follows the prehistoric north-south trackway. The street takes its name from the ancient church of St Peter's which was founded by at least 1086. Despite it's great age, the street has few buildings of any great age surviving, although some fine buildings have been erected in the past 150 years - a tribute to it's ongoing importance as a centre for commerce within the town.
The building above, listed Grade 2, was erected in 1912 by the Boots company on the corner of St Peter's Street and East Street. Venetian windows, Stuccoed gables and niches containing statues of Derby worthies including Florence Nightingale and William Hutton, give the building a very elegant appearance.
Designed in 1930 by R Lutyens, son of the renowned architect Sir Edwin, this grand Art Deco style building, above, was built for Marks and Spencers, who occupied it until moving to larger premises in 2007. It is now occupied by Tesco and JJB sports.
This grand building on the corner of the street is the premises of the HSBC bank. Built in a classical style in 1910 it replaced the town house of Joseph Strutt. Known as Thorntree House, Strutt opened it to the public as an Art Gallery and Museum - the first in the town. Interestingly the narrow road to the side of the building is known as Thorntree Lane and is one of the Medieval Streets in the town. This would have been the width of many of the streets in the town before their widening in the 19th century.
Another example of an historically important building , hidden away and largely unnoticed is Ryans Bar which can be found next to the church. It is in fact an early 17th century building featuring a rare Dutch Gable. Opened originally as the Green Man it retained that name until 1995 when it was refurbished and renamed.
The building that is now Waterstones bookshop was built in 1898 to the designs of John Wills for Councillor G E Franklin He was the owner of the Public Benefit Boot & Shoe Company and this was the Derby Branch of his company. The building is actually called Babington Buildings after the large Jacobean house that stood on the site until 1897 and was surrounded by 13 acres of parkland and flower beds.
St Peter's Churchyard
One of Derby's ancient thoroughfares, St Peter's Churchyard runs alongside the oldest of the cities many churches. Parts of this building date from at least 1350 (this can be seen in the churches section of this website). A number of fine buildings also grace this street today.
Thurman & Malin was once Derby's finest department store, opening in 1879 and closing in 1970. It's main premises were on St Peters Street with the building, below, being an extension added in about 1900.
The fine Grade 2 listed building below, built in the late 19th Century of red brick and terracotta, was once the combined home for the County Court and the Inland Revenue. In 1992 it was converted into offices, a function it maintains today.
The building shown in the following two photos was for nearly 300 years the home of the Derby Grammar School. Following the issuing of a Royal Charter in 1554 by Queen Mary the school was established in the 16th century building below, although it is believed to be built on 12th century foundations. Over the years Derby School educated a number of Derby’s most famous residents including, John Flamstead, Joseph Wright and the Rev John Cotton, founder of Boston US.
The school eventually moved to new premises at St Helens House and the building put to other uses. In 1952 it was given a Grade II* listing and in the 1990s became a heritage centre and café. In recent years it has been transformed into a hairdressing salon, although a great deal of conservation work has apparently been undertaken by the new owners
East Street/Exchange Street
East Street is another of Derby's ancient streets and was, for many years known as Bag Lane. The street first recorded as long ago as 1220 in a charter of the Abbey of Darley and at this time it was known as Baggelon, which can be interpreted as 'beggar lane' an area of poor housing and squalor. This description appears to have remained valid until at least the 19th century and it is thought that the plague began here in 1635. Little appears to have been done to improve the street until it was realigned and metalled in 1789 and drains were laid in 1795. Widened at the end of the 19th century, it acquired its current, unimaginative, name sometime around 1891. Today the street is lined with retail premises and entrances to the Westfield Shopping Centre and the Eagle covered Market.
The building above, now home to the Derbyshire Building Society, started life as a furniture warehouse, however in the 1930s it was converted into an Art Deco inspired cinema. The facade is made of Portland Stone and features a carving of the Egyptian Winged Isis.
Below are two views of the old Co-operative Society building on the corner of East Street and Exchange Street.
The Derby Co-operative Society was established in 1850, making it only the third such group in the country, after the Rochdale Pioneers. Originally run from a small unassuming hayloft in George's Yard the Society gradually expanded, opening stores across the town. The success of the group led to them opening the first department store in the city, later moving to the two premises shown here.
The imposing and ornate building was erected in 1913 to the designs of Alexander Macpherson. Begun in 1912, the building took five years to complete. It has some fine carved stone detailing and this was created by the stone masons of the Co-op funeral Service.
The building is no longer occupied by the Co-op, instead providing premises for a number of other smaller retail units on the ground floor. The Co-op department store continues to occupy their later building on the opposite corner of the street (below).
Looking down Exchange Street towards the entrance to the Victorian Market Hall.
The 1913 Co-op building can be seen on the right of the picture with the current, 1928, premises on the left.
Exchange Street, which runs at right angles to East Street, came into existence sometime between 1874 and 1878. It takes its name from the Corn Exchange building which stands at its junction with Albert Street (below).
The Corn Exchange Building is Grade 2 listed and was built in 1862 by the Corn Exchange Company. Although primarily built for the trading of corn the building was also used for concerts & exhibitions & this continued even after the Company was wound up in 1881. Following WW1 the building was converted into a dance hall, the Palais de Danse which had dances twice a day. This continued until 1929 when the building was taken over by the Derby Evening Telegraph. Since 1981 when the paper moved out the building has been divided into a number of shops & offices as well as a large snooker hall.
Although this street follows a direct line from Irongate to the ancient King Street, it did not in fact become a separate entity until sometime around the middle of the 18th century, first appearing in 1767 on a map by Peter Perez Burdett. It is not known for definite who the street was named after, although Maxwell Craven in his book 'Street by Street Derby' puts forward the idea that it was most likely Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III.
Today the street is home to a number of interesting buildings including the Cathedral, the swimming baths and the cities oldest pub.
The building below is actually a timber framed building, now covered in Stucco, and dates from about 1630. It was built as a town house for the Meynall family of Bradley Hall.
The property later became the workshop for the Arts and Crafts iron-smith called William Haslam who left his mark on the window sill.
Reputedly the cities oldest public house, the Dolphin, below, was first licensed in 1530 as a coaching inn, possibly serving as a stopping off point for highwaymen. The corridor running through the ground floor was once a Derby street. Numerous ghosts are said to occupy the building and it features in the local city ghost walks