Welcome to Belper, a key community within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. It was here that Jedediah Strutt and his sons began their pioneer cotton mill business, and by building and buying homes and facilities for their workers created one of the world’s first industrial communities.
The importance of the Belper mills and their historic industrial neighbours at Cromford, Darley Abbey and Derby was reflected by the World Heritage Site status given to the Derwent Valley Mills in December 2001. Belper is also within the National Heritage CorridorTM. But Belper was not just known for cotton spinning – its industrial heritage dates back centuries, and was highly diverse.
Two of Britain’s largest hosiery producers were based in the town throughout the 19th century, whilst nailmaking in the town dates back to the Norman Conquest. From travelling caravans to cotton vests, from rope and railway cuttings to toffee and quality furniture – they were all produced in Belper, and kept thousands of people in work. One of the best-known hosiers of the 19th and 20th centuries was George Brettle and Co.
Their Chapel Street premises are now the home of De Bradelei Mill, and it is from there that this short walk through the town begins.
This leaflet will help you find some of the most significant buildings in the town, and show you a little of Belper’s industrial past, and its wider setting. The end point is the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre, inside Strutt’s North Mill, where you’ll find more information about the town.
It is then just a short walk back to the De Bradelei Mill complex. At De Bradelei Mill you will find an interpretation board which will tell you more about this industrial community, and its links to the hosiery indu