Visit Belper in the Derwent Valley
This is an area of friendly and welcoming communities, home to people with a strong sense of place and a deep pride in their heritage. With a tradition of entrepreneurs, creatives and independent traders, these are vibrant towns and villages which celebrate their history and community spirit through festivals of arts, music and food.
Here, the Strutt family created new industrial communities in a pastoral landscape, much of which still remains. The legacy of these pioneers is everywhere to be seen – in stone-built mills, weirs, workers’ cottages, allotments and public buildings – their revolutionary ideas reaching out across the globe.
Today, the community’s connection with landscape is strong. This place of wide valley views, rolling hills and a river which constantly shifts its mood – from powerful to serene – provides havens for wildlife and a sense of awe for the many who visit.
The Mills, Museum and Visitor Centre
Standing at the northern entrance to Belper is the mill complex, once described as ‘the best in England’. The mill complex includes William Strutt’s North Mill of 1804. Although overshadowed by the vast East Mill of 1912, Strutt’s North Mill is far more noteworthy and remarkable. Not only is it home to the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre and textile museum, but it was constructed using pioneering ‘fire proof’ technology. Here, you’ll discover the area’s celebrated textile traditions and enter the lives of those who worked in the mills.
The River and Belper River Gardens
Outside the mill, why not stop to experience the drama of the horseshoe weir? Along with the watercourses on the complex, it provided power to the mills, an engineering wonder of its day. Then, take a leisurely walk around the beautiful River Gardens, Belper’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’. These Edwardian Gardens with their promenade along the river were gifted to the town by the Strutt family in 1906. Here you can take a moment to relax and watch the river flow by, with a refreshing cuppa from the kiosk until the new tearooms are open. During the summer, you can hire rowing boats, pedaloes and Swan boats to take on the river.
Explore the streets of the factory community created by the Strutts for their mill workers from the 1780s. Long Row, with its cobbled road (over the A6 from the mills) is a great place to start. Then, take a stroll around Belper town centre to discover many independent and traditional shops, and a range of eateries.
While in Belper, pop into De Bradelei Mill on Chapel Street, now a small Shopping Village. This impressive building, however, was once used by hosiery producer George Brettle and Company. Brettles provided stockings for Queen Victoria and King George III, as well as the vest worn by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
A truly amazing high street experience!
It’s no wonder that Belper was selected as the Winner of the Market Town Category and the ‘Winner of Winners’ in the first Great British High Street Awards in 2014. This was a well-deserved achievement, and a contributing factor was the World Heritage Site’s Ambassador Scheme. The scheme is an opportunity for businesses to learn more about the area, so they can let their customers know what a great destination Belper is. If you’re new to the area, look out for our vinyl logos in shop windows and pop in to talk to staff.
The judges again selected Belper as ‘Best High Street in England’ in the Great British High Street Awards in 2019, recognising its continued improvements.
Visit Belper and find out why it is such a Winner!
Milford and Makeney
Following the river downstream, you will arrive at Milford, where Jedediah Strutt established his second cotton manufactory. Discover the remnants of the mill complex, and the cottages, church and school built to serve this industrial community.
The village was also home for several members of the Strutt family. The Strutt residencies, Milford House and Makeney Hall still exist today, one now a care home, the other a hotel. Just beyond Makeney Hall Hotel, you’ll find The Holly Bush, one of the oldest inns in the district.