A Taste of the Peak District

Accommodation, activities and attractions of the Peak District of the UK

Image, Chatsworth House, a short drive north of Belper, Derbysjire.

Crich, town in the Peak District of Derbyshire that is close to belper. Image - the wild moorland of the Peak District, easily accessible from Belper, Derbyshire.

Site Map >> Home >> Towns >> Belper

Situated on the river Derwent, Belper in Derbyshire is one of the key sites of the Dewent Valley World Heritage Corridor. Today, Belper is a bustling town on the busy A6 with many buildings that bear testament to its industrial heritage. Sport is important in Belper, with successful football, hockey and cricket teams.


Belper, Derbyshire - From cottage industry to the industrial revolution, one of the key towns in the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site.

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Originally named ‘Beaurepaire’ (meaning beautiful retreat), Belper’s first major industry was nail making. This possibly arose because of the need for nails to shoe horses in the nearby Royal Forest. Nailmaking dates back to at least the 13th century, probably earlier. Nail making was essentially a cottage industry with the nailmakers working in small workshops next to their homes (One fine example of a nailmakers workshop is still standing in Joseph Street).

It was a hard life as you might imagine. They collected iron rods from a ‘Nail Master’ and turned these into nails over the course of the week. To ensure maximum production, if the nailmakers wasted more that a few pounds (kilos in this day and age!) their pay was severely docked. Nailmaking ceased in the early part of the twentieth century although the tradition is still remembered in the nickname of Belper Town FC - The Nailers.

Nail making was eclipsed during the nineteenth century by the textile industry. A local family, the Strutts, were the key players in Belper, organising the construction of a dozen or so major textile factories and related buildings. The first was by Jedediah Strutt. He trained as a wheelwright and partnered Sir Richard Arkwright and Samuel Need (the latter was the financial backer) in the construction of Cromford mill. When his North mill was gutted by fire in 1803, his son William rebuilt it as a fireproof building - one of the first of its kind. The North mill houses the visitors centre where you can see the original construction plus many items of contemporary machinery, carefully restored. Another interesting feature that has survived is the bridge over the road by the mill - in this you can see loupholes added to defend the mill complex against any possible attack by the Luddites. The presence of these mills has resulted in the designation of the Derwent Valley from Derby to Matlock as a World Heritage Site.

By all counts, the Strutt family could be regarded as enlightened employers, providing many local facilities including housing for their employees. Long Row is a row of workers cottages that is a sought after area of Belper today.

The East Mill is now used by a number of local businesses and was built much more recently, in 1912. In 1990, the tall chimney that dominated the skyline was reduced in size because it was found to be unsafe.

The railway came to Belper in the early 1800s, it is set into a cutting so that it did not spoil the view of the Strutt family. Several cottages in Long Row were demolished to make way for the railway (check out the house numbers either side of the railway bridge).

More recent major industries include the manufacture of gas fires, chocolates (although Thornton’s are  now manufacturing elsewhere), hosiery, and an inland oil refinery (Silkolene, sadly now closed and the site redeveloped for housing). The latter was owned by the Dalton family whose best known member is probably Timothy - the actor who played 007 - James Bond. Deb chemicals is still going strong and still making Swarfega.



Belper Links

The Little Gallery - Derbyshire contemporary art and picture framing.


Belper North Mill

Belper Town Council links page with every conceivable link that you need related to Belper

Belper Research - informative Belper site with dozens of local links.

The Milk Race and subsequently re-named Tour of Britain always had at least one Peak District/Derbyshire stage. It has  passed through Belper on two occasions within the last decade. The Tour was resurrected after a 5 year absence and looks set for future success, sensibly the organisers ran it along similar lines to the Tour de France with many sponsors rather than relying on just one. Belper featured on the BBC Grandstand programme as the riders descended Bridge hill and rounded the hairpin at Bridge Foot. Click here for images of the riders and the race as it passed through Belper in 2004.

The Lion Hotel is situated in the centre of one of Derbyshire's most historic towns - Belper. The hotel provides an extremely high level of comfort and service. It is a perfect place to stay whilst you visit the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site ... more details and online booking.

Click here to book your stay at the Lion Hotel in Belper.

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Copyright - Chevinside Publications 2002 - 2007. If you use any material from this site please credit it accordingly and link to our site. This page was last updated on Monday, October 15, 2007. The information on this Peak District web site is given in good faith and is for information only, we cannot be held responsible for how the information is subsequently used. You should satisfy yourself of the correctness before visiting or contacting these Peak District attractions or businesses.