City Centre Streets 3
This street, which takes its name from the leather workers who would have lived and traded here in times gone by, is one of the oldest streets in the city. It is likely that it would have been known to the Vikings who settled here, hence the word gate in its title. It was first recorded in English in 1368, however a Latin recording of it goes back to the middle of the 13th century when it was home to a Lawrence the Saddler and was recorded as vicum sellariorum.
Although today much of the street appears to be Georgian or Victorian a glance at the rear of many of the buildings shows a very different picture. Rather than rebuild whole properties it was often just the façades that were altered leaving the pitched roofs and gables of much older buildings intact. As a result a number of the properties date from the early part of the 17th century. This can be clearly seen in the views from the cathedral tower elsewhere on this site.
Although narrow the width of the street represents the dimensions of a major thoroughfare in the medieval period and remained open to traffic until 1963 when it became the first street in the town to be pedestrianised. today the Street forms part of the Cathedral Quarter and is home to a specialist and boutique shops and cafes.
The Old Bell Hotel, listed Grade II, is one of Derby's very old pubs, it being built in about 1680 century as a coaching inn by the Meynell family. It was later extended by landlord John Campion with the addition of a grand ballroom in 1776 and it also contains one of the finest 17th century staircases surviving in the city. A more detailed description can be found on the Derby Pubs and Inns page
The picture above shows The Shakespeare public house. A pub has stood on this site since the end of the 17th century, originally called the Ostrich the name was changed to the Shakespeare about a century later. The current building is listed Grade II and is thought to date from the first half of the 18th century.
The Strand Arcade was built in 1880 to join Sadlergate to the Strand which had been created following the culverting of the Markeaton Brook two years earlier. Designed by the architect John Somes Story it took as its inspiration the Burlington Arcade in London.
The building above is of interest for two reasons. The first is a sign for Sadlergate Bridge. Prior to the culverting of Markeaton Brook it used to flow along the end of Sadlergate and this was the site of one of the numerous bridges which used to cross it. the second point of interest is the archway to the left of the picture. This is the entrance to George Yard - see below.
St Mary's Gate
The current Friargate is, historically, made up of two streets, Nuns green and Friargate, although the latter was originally known as Markeaton Lane. Nuns Green was originally land owned by the nunnery of St Mary De Pratis and included meadows, mills as well as the convent buildings themselves. Friargate takes its name from the friary which had been established there sometime in the 13th century by Augustinian monks.
At the dissolution in the 16th century the area around the Friary was sold off and redeveloped with some of the cities oldest surviving buildings to be found there. Nuns Green, on the other hand, was used variously as common land, quarries for brick making, a pinfold and beast markets. In 1768, an act was passed for parts of the land to be sold off to raise money for town improvements such as street lighting. It was this sale that gave us the wonderful Georgian street that today forms the top half of Friargate.
One of the principle figures in the development of Friargate was renowned architect Joseph Pickford. Born in Warwickshire, Pickford learnt his trade in London before moving to Derby in about 1760 where he established a reputation for designing town and country houses following the fashionable Palladian style. As well as designing a number of the houses along Friargate, in 1770 he also built Number 41 for himself. Designed to be both family home and office, its elegant interiors presented a showcase to prospective clients.
After Pickford’s death the house was sold a number of times and at one point was divided into separate dwellings. In 1980 the local city council purchased the house and carried out extensive restoration. Today it is open to the public as a museum of Georgian life.
The building below used to be part of the Friargate School which closed a few years ago due to poor educational standards. The first picture is before restoration of the facade and the second picture shows the building now
A photo of another part of the school which has now been taken over by a company called Nash Interiors and is due to open as an exclusive furniture and interiors showroom after completion of the restoration
Below are a number of miscellaneous pictures of this beautiful street
The building above was originally built as a school but is now a local club.
The building below is the Friary. Now a student bar, it was for many years an hotel, however it was built in the early 18th century for Samuel Crompton whose father had established the towns first bank. Later in the century it became the residence of the Boden family, prominent mill owners and industrialists in the town. As its name suggests however, the history of the site goes back much further. Originally founded in the 13th century by the Dominican order, otherwise known as the Black Friars, it grew substantially over the years at one time having as many as 30 friars in residence. All this changed, though, on 3 January 1539 when the property was surrendered to the Crown as part of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. Little now remains of the original buildings, however a wall at the rear and parts of the cellars are thought to be medieval in origin
Although Friargate is justifiably famous as a beautiful Georgian Street it also contains a number of buildings that have survived from a much earlier period.
The first picture below shows what used to be the townhouse of the Gell family Built for them in the early years of the 17th century it was their town residence throughout the during the Civil War where it was also used as the headquarters of Sir John Gell, head of the family and also the Parliamentarian commander for the area. it continued to be lived in by the family until 1852
The two photos above show the remains of the town's Grade II listed medieval market cross. Also known historically as the Vinegar stone, it was used during a plague epidemic in the 17th century as a market stone. Supposedly traders would leave coins in a well of vinegar in the top as it was believed this would stop the spread of the disease.
Sculptural piece on Friargate representing the 1821 Reform Bill riots and the crowds that gathered in the town. As well as standing for the Riots in general it also represents a specific incident that occurred. On the opposite side of the road stood the towns gaol. Rioters broke into the gaol and freed the prisoners. Some of these prisoners were being held in the condemned cells which were underground. The sculpture represents the condemned prisoners coming up into the light and to freedom. Designed by Timothy Clapcott and installed in 2000 as part of the Sustrans cycle network development. The photos above show the 'heads' before they were restored in 2013. The pictures below show them as they are today.
There are also still buildings showing the more industrial aspect of the later 18th and 19th centuries
This street appears to have developed piecemeal over the last 500 years. First alluded to in 1510 it is properly recorded in a description of Newland Lane alias Green Lane in 1577. By 1610 the street had begun to see some development and this continued gradually over the succeeding years. And included a number of large houses including Abbots Hill House and Greenhill House. The latter of these is thought to have been built in the late 1600s however by 1829 it had been substantialy rebuilt and had been converted into Derby's first Lunatic Asylum, a privately run institution overseen by Thomas Fisher. It seems that in setting up this institiution the owner sold off a large part of the pleasure grounds and these were converted into allotments to feed the growing population of the town. These, however, had been lost to developers within 20-30 years and are now covered by the surrounding streets.
The street has suffered of late from the downturn in the economy and poor investment. There are a number of empty buildings that require sensitive attention, particularly the hippodrome but also the old Debenham's building at the bottom of the street which has remained empty since the building of the Westfield / Intu shopping centre. The council have spent the past few years buying up large tracts of land and empty buildings and are planning a substantial redevelopment in the near future. Hopefully this will provide the regeneration this area desperately needs
College Chambers (above) now a hotel
The building in the following pictures is the Derby College of Art. This beautiful example of Victorian Gothic architecture dates from 1876 with additions of 1899, and was designed by the company of F W Waller of Waller and Son. Sadly the building is now closed and awaiting a buyer.
Derby Hippodrome (below)
Much has been written about the Derby Hippodrome in recent years, sadly most of it negative. Before I mention that though, here is a brief history.
Opened as a Variety Theatre in 1914 the building was designed by Newcastle architects Marshall & Tweedy and had a capacity of 2000 split over 3 levels. The theatre was able to attract a stellar line-up of acts which included George Formby, Marie Lloyd and Gracie Fields. It is even claimed that Bud Flanagan composed the song Underneath The Arches whilst performing here. Although it was successful for a few decades, however, the rise of 'moving pictures' in the first half of the 20th century meant that this success could not be maintained. So, in September 1930 it was converted into a cinema which it remained for another 20 years.
Then, in 1950, the building had a renaissance and was turned back into a live theatre venue, playing host to numerous acts of international fame including Tommy Cooper, Ronnie Corbett and Morcambe and Wise.
Sadly this was not to last and it closed again in 1959, partly due to the rise in television. The building remained boarded up until it was purchased by Mecca and converted into a Bingo Hall, remaining in this capacity until its closure in 2007
Shortly after it was purchased by a London Developer, Christopher Anthony, who did not appear to the best interests of the building in mind as he wanted to convert it into a multi-story car park – something not popular with the people of the city, Not long after, whilst allegedly carrying out some remedial work to the roof, a substantial part of the building collapsed and was rendered unsafe. Since then there has been a serious arson attack and the building remains partly derelict with most of its beautiful internal décor stripped away.
There is currently no plan in place for this iconic building. An organisation, the Hippodrome Trust is seeking to restore the building for use as a theatre but its current owners, a London bank, appear content to wait for it to fall down
Derelict Presbyterian Church
Currently being converted into luxury appartments