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Belper, Derbyshire England

By Hilary Abercrombie

Belper is a medium sized town located between Milford and Matlock Bath on the A6 road.

The town’s name is thought to be a corruption of the name Beaurepair (beautiful retreat), the name given to a hunting lodge, the first record being a charter of 1231.

Although the main claim to fame of Belper is it’s cotton mills, previous to that Belper was famous for nail manufacture. These quality nails were used throughout the world. If your surname is Naylor then it is most probable that your family originate from Belper.

In 1776 Jedediah Strutt arrived in Belper and developed a knitting machine, which made his fortune; Richard Arkwright and Jeremiah Strutt developed a partnership to build the first water powered cotton spinning mills here in Belper. Over the next couple of decades from 1786. six mills were built.

Today only the North and East mills remain, The East mill was built by the English Sewing Cotton Company in 1912.
The North mill is open to the public and if you visit Belper I would recommend that you take a tour round this building.

Between 1838 and 1840 the North Midland Railway was built through this town, it was engineered by George Stephenson. The unusual feature about the path of the railway through Belper is the fact that Mr. Strutt did not want to see the trains, Because of this fact the railway lines run in a cutting. This means no level crossings or footbridges were required.
The new passenger station on King Street was opened on 10th March 1878; the original train station is now covered by the supermarket.

After the Second World War, J.W.Thornton, the chocolate maker moved into the town from Sheffield, this helped to alleviate the employment problems arising from the decline of the Nail manufacturing and the Cotton Mills, the latter have almost disappeared now.

Belper is twinned with Pawtucket Rhode Island, the connection being Samuel Slater from Milford who was an apprentice of Jedediah Strutt and absconded to America to found that country’s cotton spinning industry.

I would like to thank Tony Winslade (qualified Blue Badge Guide for Belper) for a lot of this information.

Some Useful Links for more information on Belper

Strutt’s North Mill

Belper Families