A Swiss-style tearoom with a thatched roof was constructed here when the River Gardens were first created, opening at Easter 1906. Paid for by George Herbert Strutt, the tearoom was T-shaped with black and white timber framed elevations. The roof was thatched with heather to emulate the crofts on Strutt’s Scottish estates. Changes were made at the close of the first season, as the roof leaked badly, and the building was too small to meet demand. It was dismantled and moved nearer the water, the veranda enlarged, and red tiles replaced the heather roof.
After many years of neglect, the building was demolished and a replacement built, of a similar size, in 2021.
At the rear of the tearoom building is the children’s play area – this was created in 1970 when an area known as the Dock was filled in to create more land. The Dock had been used since 1905 to keep the boats when they were not in use. It was originally part of the water channel which brought water to power Jedidiah Strutt’s first Belper cotton mill, from 1776.
In 1906 George Herbert Strutt provided an experienced boatman to look after the boats in the River Gardens. He appointed John MacArthur, who originated from the Isle of Skye, to do this. John is the great-great-grandfather of Dame Ellen MacArthur, who in 2005 broke the world record for the fastest solo boat trip around the globe. Her first boating experience was in Belper’s River Gardens.