Recently, I visited Derby for the first time. I parked my car at the Parksafe car park in the Cathedral Quarter. This place styles itself as the safest car park in the world. You are issued with a plastic token, slightly larger than a credit card, when you arrive and before you can leave the building as a pedestrian, you have to activate your parking space by placing the token against a reader and keying in the number of your parking space. A voice indicates your parking space has been activated, which I believe means a motion indicator has been set underneath your car. To get yourself out of the building, you have to place the token against a reader on the exit door and another voice tells you the door is now unlocked and you can leave the car park.
Having negotiated the various readers and voices, I found myself outside standing by a detailed map of the centre of Derby. I was able to quickly work out where the Cathedral was and I duly headed there. The Cathedral of All Saints was largely being ignored by all the passers-by, apart from myself, who was admiring the freshly cleaned 600-year old tower built in the Perpendicular Gothic style. On the other side of the cathedral was a statue of the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, on horseback.
This statues commemorates his arrival in the city on December 4th, 1745. This was the furthest south the main part of the Jacobite army reached. About seventy highlanders were sent to the Swarkestone Bridge near Melbourne a few miles further south, the only route to London. These troops secured the bridge against British soldiers, whilst Charlie and his generals held a council of war.
Against what the prince believed was his better judgement, the council decided that, in the face of advancing government troops, the Jacobites should withdraw from Derby and head back to Scotland, where, of course, they met a fateful end at Culloden in 1746.
Next, I walked about fifty yards to the five-storey high Silk Mill next to the River Derwent. The museum is housed in Lombe’s Mill, an historic former silk mill which marks the southern end of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. In this mill, on the upper three floors, the silk was twisted into thread by winding engines that spun the raw silk. On the lowest two floors, eight spinning mills produced basic thread. The single source of power was water from the river. The mill employed between 200-400 people. The fact that the mill turned raw silk into thread, as a complete process in one place, has led the Lombes’ silk mill to be described as the first successful use of the factory system in Britain.
I followed the riverside path, past the mill and under two bridges carrying road traffic, and found myself in another world away from the city. I was in Darley Park, with grass and trees stretching for a few hundred yards to the horizon. This park, by the river, is exceedingly pleasant and separates the city centre from the pretty and exclusive village of Darley Abbey.
Back in Derby I enjoyed looking around the rest of the Cathedral Quarter with its narrower streets and older buildings. I can recommend the coffee and cake in the Good Green Cafe at one end of the Strand Arcade.