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The History of Derby

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The city of Derby has a long history dating back some 2000 years to the time of the Romans . In approximately 50AD, the Romans built their first fort on the site that is now Belper Road in Derby. Situated on the River Derwent, the Roman fortification was known as Derventio. There is some debate as to the origins of the modern name of Derby.
Some suggest it is simply an adaptation of the Roman name and others think that it is a corruption of the Danish/Gaelic word meaning ‘village of the deer’. The town of Derby itself owes its origins more to the Danes, who founded their town in the latter part of the 9th century. Shortly afterwards it was captured by the Saxons who set up a Mint and the town’s first Market. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence which suggests that the town actually became split into a Saxon and Danish half which coexisted peacefully; with the River Derwent as the dividing line.

The growth of Derby continued steadily over several centuries. During the 17th century, Derby became an important stronghold for the Parliamentarians, who had garrisoned a significant number of troops there. These troops were under the command of Sir John Gell and took part in a number of important battles nearby; including the siege of Lichfield and the defense of the City of Nottingham from Loyalist troops.

A century later, Bonnie Prince Charlie stopped off at Derby to set up camp as he made his way southward to seize the Crown of Britain. He had some 9000 troops with him and his visit is commemorated by a room in the Derby Museum which is a replica of his ‘war council’ room that he set up in Derby. There is also a statue of the Prince on horseback at Cathedral Green in Derby. The town and surrounding areas were all central in the period known in England as The Industrial Revolution .

During the 19th century the railway came to Derby; and with it a lot of effort went into upgrading the town. Gas lighting was installed prior to the arrival of the railway in 1839, but the railway was followed by numerous upgrades to the town; such as the arboretum donated in 1840. In 1867 Michael Bass , the brewer, donated some land to be used as a public park. Pugin , the famous architect, designed St Mary’s Church ; built in 1839. During the 19th century the infirmary and children’s hospital were also built. By the end of the century, Derby had its own public swimming pool, library and museum, plus its own School of Art. Horse drawn trams began to operate in the town.

The 20th century saw the development of industry in Derby. Rolls Royce set up a manufacturing plant for its aircraft engines and cars there. The textile industry thrived as did the railway engineering plants. Horse drawn trams gave way to electric trams and eventually buses. The town was unfortunate enough to be bombed by a Zeppelin in 1916, during World War I , a raid which killed 5 people. Derby was upgraded to city status following the promotion of All Saints Church up to cathedral status in 1927. The then Princess Elizabeth visited the city in 1949 to open up the new Council House building.

Nowadays the population of Derby is close to a quarter of a million. The city has a unique claim to fame in that it has become something of a cultural centre for deaf people. It is thought that the percentage of the population in Derby who are deaf is three times the national average.

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