Derby's Historical Museums
From its industrial heritage to a snapshot of the ordinary lives of its citizens, Derby's museums help tell the city's story. Visiting one of the city's museums will help visitors understand the life and times of Derby's residents throughout the centuries. Below you'll find information on Derby's most popular museums. You can find other Derby attractions here, or click this link for tourist information.
Derby Silk Mill
The Derby Silk Mill is a museum of industry at Lombe's Mill, once a silk mill during the early years of the industrial revolution. Situated in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was formerly known as the Derby Industrial Museum when it was founded in 1974. The museum sits on one of the world's earliest factories. Used to twist silk together into thread, Britain's first mill was built between 1717 and 1721 along the River Derwent. The Silk Mill was constructed in order to house large machines used for twisting silk, which were designed by John Lombe and based on similar machinery used in Italy. The machines allowed silk to be produced at a much higher rate and in greater quantities than traditional methods of using spinning wheels. Soon after designing the machines, Lombe would die amidst rumours that he was murdered by Italians for his industrial espionage.
Closed in 2011, the museum at the Silk Mill reopened in 2013. It is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday each week. As part of Derby's Remake the Museum project, the Silk Mill is undergoing a renaissance with new displays that reflect input from local citizens. The museum is owned by the Derby City Council and managed by Derby Museums, a charitable trust that is also responsible for Pickford's House and the Darby Museum and Art Gallery. Admission to the Silk Mill is free. For more information visit the Silk Mill.
Derby Museum and Art Gallery
Located in the heart of the city, the Derby Museum and Art Gallery was founded in 1879 thanks to efforts of the Derby Town and County Museum and Natural History Society. Established in 1836, the society opened its doors to members at the Full Street Public Bath. Items owned by the society were occasionally exhibited to the public and eventually found their way into the current museum's collection. An art gallery was added later and opened in 1882. It features several paintings and sketches by Joseph Wright of Derby, as well as an extensive collection donated by Alfred E. Goodey.
The Derby Museum and Art Gallery houses collections of regional and national importance. The museum boasts a large collection of local porcelain, including a major exhibit on pieces made by the historic Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company. Other exhibits focus on archaeology, geology, natural history and military history. Many of Joseph Wright's art work reflect Derby during the Enlightenment, including paintings of members of the Lunar Society. Based in Birmingham, the society featured learned members and key industry figures from across the English Midlands.
The Derby Museum and Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday, as well as Bank Holiday Mondays. Admission to the museum is free. For more information, visit www.derbymuseums.org/museumartgallery.
Pickford's House is home to the Museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume. The museum is housed in an attractive Georgian town house built in 1770 by architect Joseph Pickford. Owned by the Derby City Council, the home was converted into a museum in 1988. Exhibits at Pickford's House tell the story of Derby during the late Georgian period, particularly for a professional and his family. This contrasts with similar museums housed in other historic homes, which often only give perspectives of aristocrats.
The ground floor of Pickford's House reflects the period with furnishings from the early nineteenth century. It also features displays with costumes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Bedrooms are decorated from 1815, while servants' bedrooms, kitchens, the scullery and the laundry reflect what they might have appeared like in 1830. The property also has a builder's yard and a cellar that has been converted into a 1940s bomb shelter. Pickford's House also boasts an interesting and unique model toy theatre collection.
Located on Friar Gate, the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday. Entry to Pickford's House is free of charge. For more information about the museum visit Pickford's House.
Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre
The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company is one of the oldest porcelain manufacturers in England. Based in Derby, the company is known for its handmade bone china and has produced porcelain items since around 1750. The Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre south of the city centre includes a museum with a vast collection of porcelain items. The museum houses the largest collection of Derby Porcelain in the world. Open from Monday to Saturday, the museum tells over 250 years of Royal Crown Derby's history.
The Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre also offers tours of the storied company's factory on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Visitors get an opportunity see how each stunning piece of fine bone china is made by skilled artisans. While the visitor centre and museum are free to visit, factory tours are available at a fee and advanced booking is required. The visitor centre also has an inviting coffee shop and the Royal Crown Derby Shop with tableware and other exclusive collectables. For more information, visit www.royalcrownderby.co.uk/visiting.