Derby: If These Walls Could Talk Volume One

The buildings of any city not only provide the locations for its most important events and everyday activities, but also reflect the endeavour, needs and passions of its residents. 

In this first volume of Derby: If These Walls Could Talk, Nicola Rippon looks at what the built environment tells us about the history of Derby and its citizens, from the Roman fort of Derventio to the Victorian Market Hall. It is the story of Derby from the city’s origins to the very beginning of the modern era.

Published May 2020. 108 pages, text and pictures, 234 x 156mm.
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Although the area we now call Derby has been inhabited for thousands of years, only with the arrival of the Romans after AD43 do we have formal, recorded settlements in the area. In the almost 2,000 years since the Romans arrived, the people who have dwelt here have built, for themselves, and their neighbours, places of shelter both grand and humble, places of production, of government, of law and order and of education. They have provided for themselves houses of worship and places of culture and entertainment. Volume One considers Derby from its first inhabitants to its establishment as an industrialised, culturally rich town in the early 19th century.

Shakespeare’s Sicinius asked: ‘What is the city but the people?’ Just like any other place, Derby has taken form, and shape, and purpose from the requirements of its citizens. If these walls could talk, what story might they tell? These volumes allow 60 or so of our most important buildings to do just that and to guide us through the very history of the town that became a city.

The buildings selected for these volumes were not chosen because of their great architectural or aesthetic merits. Although many do have those qualities, some appear entirely mundane. Several no longer have a place in our townscape. But many continue to be useful. Others lie abandoned or in virtual ruin. Hopefully readers will agree with the inclusion of most of them although they will have their own preferences. I make no excuse for the inclusion, or omission, of my choices. They were selected because they take us to the critical points in our city’s history, to witness life here, and to meet our great citizens, some famed, most anonymous. Each structure plays its own part in teaching us just how Derby became the city it is today. 

Much of the research for this book has come from the pages of local newspapers. What we now know as the Derby Telegraph was previously known as the Derby Evening Telegraph and the Derby Daily Telegraph. For ease, I have chosen to use modern title.