Records from Tutbury Priory show that trading had begun on Derby's Market place at least as far back as the 12th century. By the 13th century the area was thriving, with many shops and stalls springing up. As the years progressed many fine buildings were erected, including a guildhall, assembly rooms and a number of very handsome houses, including the Duke of Newcastle's townhouse in which the historic figure of Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed on his ill-fated march to London. This was later demolished to make way for the current Assembly Rooms building, itself a replacement for the 17th century original which was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.
The area has undergone many changes in appearance over the centuries and today features buildings from many different eras and tastes. Turning on the spot in the market place one is able to trace a history of architecture from the 17th century all the way up to 2008.
Although markets are no longer held on the site, the Market Place is still used for public entertainments & celebrations as well as more solemn events such as the annual Remembrance Day parade. The war memorial (above) was erected here in 1923 & was designed by Charles Clayton Thompson and carved by A G Walker ARA.
In October 2012 Derby unveiled a Speakers Corner, only the 10th such attraction in the country. Designed to encourage free speech it is situated behind the waterfall on the Market Place. In September 2013 it was adorned with some new works of art. This is a series of facial caricatures of real people and comes complete with a set of QR codes which, when scanned with a smart phone launches a short video of the relevant person speaking about something which interest them. Well worth a visit if you happen to be passing, the faces can be seen in the three photos below.
The Royal Oak
An inn is first recorded on this site about 1732, however this was destroyed by fire in the 1880s to be replaced with the current building in 1889. By 1894 however, the inn had closed and the building entered municipal ownership, serving such uses as a mayors parlour, the town clerks office, and a solicitors' premises. In 2004 it was refurbished and became home to the city Registry Office.
The photos above and below show some the detailing on the outside of the building.
This fine house was erected in 1696 by the Franceys family who had originally moved to the area as butchers in 1582 but later became highly successful apothecaries. Their ground floor store survived on the premises until 1971. The house once had ornate interiors, fine joinery and frescoed ceilings and, outside were ornamental pleasure grounds with a small lake and summer house.
There has been a guildhall in the market place since at least Medieval times, although it has probably been replaced many times. Indeed from the 16thcentury it stood on a different part of the Market Place and incorporated the town prison on the ground floor and a large room on the upper floor for use by the Corporation.
This structure was replaced in 1730 by a brick and stone building which stood until 1828. it was in this year that the town improvement act necessitated the moving of the guildhall its current site within the Market Place itself.
Image taken from the cover of Glover's Derby 1843 by Stephen Glover
The building of 1828 (above) was built in the Classical Style to the designs of Matthew Habershon and cost £7000. It featured a large four columned Ionic portico with a pediment above with a large coach arch beneath giving access to the recently completed Market Hall. Sadly this incarnation of the hall was to have only a short life as it was severely damaged by fire on October 21st1841.
The result was that the interior and facade were completely redesigned by Duesbury and Lee in 1842 who removed the portico and added the square clock tower topped with a cupola and weather vane which can still be seen today. The ground floor still retains the archway which leads to a cobbled way, flanked by cast iron columns. These can be seen painted yellow in the accompanying photo (below), unfortunately in a recent redecoration they have now been painted white and are a lot less pleasing to the eye.
Either side of the tower are panels of relief sculpture by John Bell. These represent on one side judicial proceedings and on the other municipal, the two fundemental uses of the building when it was built and until it was superceded by the Council House in 1954.
The building now houses a small art gallery on the first floor, whilst the rest of the building forms the small but very beautiful Guildhall theatre.
This controversial piece of public art was designed by William Pye and installed in 1995 as part of the pedestrianisation of the whole area. It was greeted by a decidedly mixed public response – many people had wanted a traditional fountain. However the waterfall is a unique and original design which invites interaction from the public, who can climb to the viewing platform on top or walk behind or through the water itself – very popular with children in the summer.
The Quad is the newest building on the Market Place, opening in September 2008 and brings the architecture of the area right up to date. Designed by award-winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley and costing £11.2 million, the building provides a venue for contemporary art and cinema.
Housing two cinemas, an art gallery, work spaces, the British Film Institute’sMediatheque facility and a restaurant/café the building is designed to be one of five Arts Council funded focal points for contemporary art in the East Midlands.
Although typically controversial in its modernist design the building does pay homage to traditional architectural techniques being clad in a local Derby stone, one of the few buildings in the area to employ local materials.
It is rare that Derby is brave enough to carry out cutting edge designs in its buildings and despite much negative comment in the letters pages of the local newspaper during the design and building of Quad it nevertheless seems to be proving popular with the public since its opening and recently celebrated its 500,000th visitor.
This building (above & below), an early example of Art Deco architecture was built in 1925 for the company of Barlow & Taylor, as a privately owned department store with a café on the top floor. After its closure it became for many years the main branch of the Derbyshire Building Society. 2004 saw the building empty again but shortly after it was divided up and converted into a restaurant and betting shop and the upper floors converted into luxury apartments.