This is part of a heritage trail around Belper, taking in some of the key historic areas, and talking about some of the people involved in the development of the town. You can find a map of the trail, and information on where to find interpretation boards containing more details on the town and its history at www.derwentvalleymills.org/belper.
George Brettle and Company
George Brettle and Company was built on Chapel Street between May 1834 and June 1835. The company was once one of the UK’s biggest hosiery and knitwear producers, with sites in Belper and London. They produced stockings for Queen Victoria, with a fine black floral design, hand-sewn – or ‘chevened’ – onto her black stockings. Much of the chevening was performed at home in cottages, often by young girls, some starting as young as the age of five. Hosiery was brought into Belper in skips, by the railway, and delivered to cheveners in their cottages. The trade was controlled by the chevening mistresses who each had their own teams of home workers. The system continued well into the 20th century.
Courtaulds bought Brettles in 1964 and closed the site in May 1987. Much of it was demolished for a retail park, but the main building survives, now occupied by the De Bradelei Mill retail outlet.
The Brettles Orangery
Part of the George Brettle and Company factory complex was the Orangery – here, potential buyers could scrutinise samples and catalogues whilst breathing in the air scented by orange blossoms.
The orangery became first a restaurant, then a McDonald’s fast-food outlet, and is now a café, on the south side of the former Brettles complex.
Methodism in Belper
To the north of this building is the Central Methodist Chapel, built in 1807 as the Trinity Methodist Chapel. Methodism arrived in Belper around 1770, with early services being held outside in the Market Place, at a butcher’s shop in Wellington Court and in the cottage next to where the chapel now stands. The first chapel was built in the cottage garden in 1781, and it has been claimed John Wesley, founder of Methodism, preached there before the roof was in place, although no mention of it is made in his diaries. He was certainly in Belper five years later, preaching in the Market Place before leading a procession down to the chapel.
The congregation rapidly grew, so a new chapel was built, the present building, officially opening on 28 June 1807. This was known as the Trinity Methodist Chapel. It was a massive building for the size of settlement Belper then was, seating 1,400 people at a time when the total population of Belper was probably no more than 5,000. An adjoining schoolroom and burial ground were also provided.
A key figure in building this chapel was William Bourne, whose pottery lay to the west of the town, and, after a move to a neighbouring village, later became internationally known as Denby Pottery.
The chapel became the Central Methodist after it combined with the falling congregations of Field Head Chapel on Chesterfield Road and Salem Chapel on Green Lane in 1965. The other chapels closed and were soon demolished.