Derby Historical Attractions

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Derby is home to stunning historical attractions from a period that saw England and the rest of the world transformed. Visitors will also find a range of landmarks that evoke earlier times in Derby's history. Below you'll find information on Derby's most popular historical attractions. You can find other Derby attractions here, or click this link for tourist information.

Derby Cathedral

Officially becoming a cathedral only in the twentieth century, Derby Cathedral was originally founded in 943 by King Edmund I. Officially the Cathedral of All Saints, the cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Derby. The current building dates from the fourteenth century, although its design is based on an earlier medieval incarnation. Derby Cathedral features a beautiful sixteenth century tower, which visitors can climb to get a birds-eye view of the city. The 65-metre (212-foot) tower is Gothic in styule and has the oldest ring of ten bells found in the UK. Peregrine falcons are known to nest in the tower and are best viewed during the spring or early summer. Much of the remainder of the cathedral is classical in style and dates from the early Georgian period, having been rebuilt in 1725 and expanded in 1972. Highlights include a memorial to Bess of Hardwick and Cavendish brasses for Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and scientist Henry Cavendish. Derby Cathedral also boasts an eighteenth century nave with a painted wrought-iron rood screen created by local smith Robert Bakewell.

The Chapel of St. Mary's on the Bridge

St. Mary's is a fourteenth century bridge chapel and one of the few surviving chapels of its kind in England. A smaller chapel had been located on the site of the current building since the late thirteenth century before the present chapel was erected. The stunning chapel is one of the oldest buildings in Derby and was once used by travellers to pray for a safe journey. Situated next to the River Derwent, St. Mary's Chapel has a simple interior with an altar designed by Ronald Pope and a stained glass window by Mary Dobson.

Derby Market Hall

Built in 1866, Derby Market Hall was designed by engineer Rowland Mason Ordish of Melbourne, Australia. The impressive structure features an inspiring ironwork roof, a highlight of the building with impressive details. Ordish also worked on London's Albert Bridge, the dome of the historic Albert Hall, and the roof of St. Pancras Station in London with William Barlow. Visitors to Derby Market Hall will find everything here, from electronic devices to fresh local produce to one-of-a-kind novelties and crafts. Located in Derby's Cathedral Quarter, the market sits behind the Guildhall. The market is open from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays.

Derby Goal

Derby Goal included five prisons, with remnants of two continuing to survive as tourist attractions. The original goal on Friar Gate operated from 1756 to 1846 and was the site of several hangings. Today, the site has a small museum with a replica of the gallows and exhibits on executions carried out at the goal. Derby Goal also has two cells with original doors and prisoners' graffiti with names, dates and other etchings. It is thought to be haunted and popular ghost walks and overnight vigils are organised throughout the year. Derby Goal is open on Saturdays, although private tours may be arranged during the week for groups of 10 or more people. A second goal known as the Vernon Street Prison was used as a county goal between 1843 and 1919 and as a military prison until 1929. Although demolished to make way for a greyhound racing stadium and now used as offices, the original façade remains and is worth a visit.

Derby Arboretum

Derby Arboretum was the first public park in England. Originally donated to the town by former mayor Joseph Strutt, the park opened in 1840. The Arboretum features several notable building and statues, including the Florentine Boar statue that has stood in the park since 1806 when the land served as a private garden. The original statue was damaged during the Second World War and replaced in 2005. Other notable landmarks include an original Grove Street entrance and a fountain from 1846. The Arboretum also includes modern sports facilities, playground and other recreational facilities. Open throughout the year, the Derby Arboretum is located in Rose Hill south of the city centre.

Derby Silk Mill

The Derby Silk Mill forms part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering a large stretch of the Derwent Valley, the World Heritage Site includes mill complexes, settlements with workers' houses, weirs on the river, and transportation networks. The eighteenth century Derby Silk Mill was the site of the UK's first factory and helped spawn the Industrial Revolution. It housed machinery the spun silk into threads that revolutionised how silk was produced. Open Thursdays to Sundays, the Silk Mill is undergoing a revitalisation project that will see new exhibits informed by input from local residents.