7 Surprising Facts You Might Not Know about Derby

By Ian Weightman

Created April 14, 2020

Last updated March 12, 2023

Derby is the site of the world's first factory

Exterior of the Silk Mill in Derby

Derby’s history of innovation is to be marked by a new, £17m Museum of Making. Within the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the site of the world’s first factory, the museum will profile the city’s 300-year history of “making”, displaying over 50,000 objects. Revealing the whole building to the public for the very first time, the transformation of this striking and historic building will be one of the most significant heritage developments in the UK once it opens.

Image for Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Place

Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Silk Mill Lane, Derby

Derbyshire girl Florence Nightingale turns 200 this year

Pencil sketch of Florence Nightingale

Born on May 12, 1820, the nursing pioneer spent her early years in Derbyshire, where her family owned a large estate. She became a part of an augmented reality installation, which superimposed a computer-generated image of 10 famous names at locations across Derby city centre.

Derby ‘gave birth’ to Laura Croft and helped bring Batman to life

Lara Croft's Derby star

Video game character Lara Croft, who already has a road named after her in the city, may be fictional, but the English archaeologist – beloved by millions in games and films – was “born” at Core Design in Derby. Local lad Liam Sharp, meanwhile, whose talent for art was spotted at his school in Derby, is now a British comic book artist, writer and publisher whose fame increased dramatically when he began working in the United States on books including Superman and Batman for DC Comics as well as X-Men, Hulk and Spider-Man for Marvel Comics.

Derby Cathedral has the second highest perpendicular church tower in England

Looking up at Derby Cathedral's tower

Image credit: Averill Photography

Its bells are the oldest set of 10 bells in the world, one of which was cast in 1520 during the reign of Henry VIII, and is still in use almost 500 years later (making it one of the oldest working objects in Derby). Among its many treasures are the tomb of Bess of Hardwick – designed by the powerful lady herself – and the intricate Bakewell Screen.

Image for Derby Cathedral

Place

Derby Cathedral

18-19 Iron Gate, Derby

Derby has the largest collection of Joseph Wright paintings in the world

Visitors looking at Joseph Wright paintings

Joseph Wright of Derby was one of the most important painters of the late 18th century, whose paintings grace the walls of world-famous galleries in St Petersburg, New York, London and Australia – but it’s Derby which houses the world’s largest collection of Joseph Wright paintings at the Museum & Art Gallery. Born in Derby in 1734. Wright remained closely involved with his home town, where he lived and worked for most of his life.

Image for The Museum and Art Gallery

Place

The Museum and Art Gallery

The Strand, Derby

The inventor of the hot dog was a Derbeian!

Close up of hotdogs

Image credit: Willems Photography

Who knew that Derby was the home of the inventor of this legendary American snack, but that’s the claim for Harry M Stevens, who put his catering skills to use after immigrating to the USA in the 1800s. Credited with designing the baseball scorecard, and with pioneering soda drinking through a paper straw, the story goes that he came up with the idea of putting ‘dachshund’ sausages into rolls to warm up fans at his baseball concession in New York. Keeping the tradition alive, Annie’s Burger Shack in Derby was voted the Best Burger Bar in England 2019.

Image for Annie's Burger Shack Derby

Place

Annie's Burger Shack Derby

Friary Street, Derby

Royal Crown Derby was the earliest manufacturer of English fine bone china

Royal Crown china cup

The company still has the original pattern books from which the dinner service for the first- class passengers aboard the Titanic was chosen.

Image for Royal Crown Derby Museum and Archive Tours

Place

Royal Crown Derby Museum and Archive Tours

194 Osmaston Road, Derby

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