Belper sits at the heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and is beautifully situated alongside the River Derwent. Jedediah Strutt's mighty Belper North Mill built in 1776 is the centrepiece in this World Heritage Derbyshire town which was at the centre of technological shifts in the textile industry during the 18th century. Strutt's North Mill is one of the highlight heritage attractions along the Derwent Valley Mills Heritage trail which weaves up from Derby following the path of the River Derwent via Cromford to Matlock Bath.
Attractions in Belper alongside the spectacular Strutt's North Mill include the Belper Riverside Gardens and there are many mill worker cottages and historic building built by Strutt for his workers around Belper town. The Belper, Ripley and Denby area is a hotspot for designer factory shopping at discount prices. Not to be missed are the Aristoc seconds and full range at North Mill in Belper and the Denby Pottery Factory Shop and Visitor Centre in Denby. Numerous other great factory shops sit around the area, many of which like De Bradelei Mill Shop in Belper are located within heritage old mills.
Belper alongside the River Derwent has a rich heritage stretching back to the medieval period when it was a beautiful retreat within the Duffield Frith (forest). The village village was transformed from the early period of the industrial revolution after Jedediah Strutt built his first water powered cotton spinning mill in Belper in 1776. Between 1777 and 1815 the Strutts developed a network of mills in Belper. The village was often referred to as 'Strutt's village'. Both Belper and nearby Milford are World Heritage gems demonstrating the shift in mill building design in this early period from basic timer buildings to mighty stone fire proof mills. Today Belper is at the heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, with centrepiece the magnificent Strutt's North Mill in Belper which is home to The Derwent Valley Visitor Centre.
Attractions in Belper alongside Strutt's North Mill include stunning riverside walks along the River Derwent and around the Belper River Gardens which contain a bandstand which hosts concerts in summer. Belper town boasts a wide choice of pubs, shops and amenities and there is fascinating heritage architecture in Belper, much of which was built by the Strutt family for their mill workers from the 1780s. Town tours of Belper are available from Strutt's Mill and the tours take in various mill workers cottages and buildings constructed by the Strutts.
The entrepreneur Jedediah Strutt was born into a small farming family in nearby South Normanton in 1726. Famously painted by Joseph Wright of Derby (the portrait is on display in Derby Museum & Art Gallery) and a one-time partner of Richard Arkwright, Strutt's success began when he perfected a machine to produce ribbed stockings. He then went on to build cotton mills here in Belper and at nearby Milford to the south of Belper. Milford also sits within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site and heritage buildings built by Strutt also feature at Milford. A Unitarian by faith, Strutt was known as good employer in the Unitarian paternalistic sense. Joseph Wright's portrait of Strutt at the Derby Museum & Art Gallery is well worth viewing as it captures a certain religious pathos and introspection in the man. Wright's portrait of Strutt (painted in 1790) is very different from his portrait of Arkwright (painted in 1789-90), also on show at Derby Museum & Art Gallery.
The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, within which Strutt's North Mill at Belper is included, pushes up from Derby to Matlock Bath following the path of the River Derwent. Spectacular heritage mills, mill worker cottages, pumphouses, factory villages and parks, many of which were built by Arkwright and Strutt, all feature along the route. The first 'modern' factory, John Lombe's Silk Mill built in the early 1720s is at Derby whilst Arkwright's mighty Masson Mills is at Matlock Bath. World Heritage Status is awarded to areas that have made a significant contribution to history and contain historic buildings of great interest. Belper and the Derwent Valley Mills trail represents one of the key sites in Britain marking the shift in technology during the 18th century from water power to mighty modern factories within the textile industry.
A superb choice of designer factory shops, some with visitor centres, can be found around Belper, Ripley and Denby. In Belper you'll find a complete range of Aristoc hosiery and end of line stock at discount prices within the historic Strutt's North Mill. Aristoc have been based here in Belper for several centuries. Embroidered stockings made in Belper by Aristoc were particularly world famous. A display of cotton spinning machinery used in hosiery manufacture is at Belper North Mill as well as a collection of silk and cotton stockings dating from between 1820 and 1930.
Other great designer mill shops in Belper include the De Bradelei Mill Shop, a clearing house for top designer labels available with up to 70 percent discount. De Bradelei Mill Shop sits within a historic mill in Belper where Queen Victoria's Coronation stockings were famously made! Brands at discount prices on sale here include Windsmoor, Planet, French Connection, Alexon, Jaegar Knitwear and many more. De Bradelei also has a sister site, De Bradelei Junior at Unity Mill House, Derwent Street Belper.
Just to the south of Ripley sits Denby village, home to the famous Denby Pottery Factory Shop and Visitor Centre. Workshop and factory tours are available here alongside a huge collection of beautiful Denby pottery and accessories, with seconds available at discount prices. Dartington Crystal glassware, vases and satin flowers are also on sale at the Denby Pottery Factory Outlet. At Ripley essential viewing is The Dolls House Emporium selling both dolls houses and miniatures.
Just north of Belper sits the beautiful historic Heage Windmill located betwen Heage and Nether Heage villages. The Heage Windmill is a working windmill built in 1797 and restored in 2002 and includes a historic drying kiln. The Heage Windmill is open to the public from Easter until the end of October and visitors are taken on guided tours of the windmill lasting around 1 hour. On windy days you'll see the mill sails turning.
Tours of the Heage Windmill dig deep into the history of the mill and explain how stoneground flour is traditionally milled. A small shop, toilet facilities including a disabled toilet and outside seating are all onsite. Snacks and drinks are available. Find out more via the Heage Windmill website guide.
There's a wonderful, traditional English pub located in the village of Duffield serving food every lunchtime with a range of drinks from real ales to lagers, wines and spirits to soft drinks. Garden area and function room available. Listed in the 2011 Good Beer Guide.
You can also visit nearby Kedleston Hall, a Palladian mansion designed by Robert Adam. Former resident Lord Curzon collected a number of treasures which are visible in the Eastern Museum. You can take a walk in the Rose Garden, avoid the haha, and explore 820 acres of grounds.