Thursday, 21 August 2008

What's in a View - Derby & the Derwent from Exeter Bridge

Those readers familiar with the Derby townscape will be well aware of how it has changed over the years, often not for the better, a matter frequently discussed by Maxwell Craven and others in articles in The Derby Evening Telegraph's Bygones section and on the You & Yesterday web site. I was fortunate enough recently to win on eBay a rather nice early print of one of the most well known, enduring of Derby views and, in the course of sharing it with Photo-Sleuth readers, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to show how this view has changed over the course of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The photograph was taken from the Exeter Bridge, Derby in a north-westerly direction up the Derwent River towards the old Silk Mill. It is a 127 x 171 mm (5" x 6¾") print mounted with several others on both sides of an album page, now removed from the album. This particular photograph is annotated in black ink, "The Derwent from Exeter Bridge Derby," but another has the date, "1884-12-30" written underneath. I was unsure whether the photographs were taken by the album owner on that date, or merely purchased then - I suspected the latter, as it is an excellent view, but more of that later. However, the date appears to be fairly close to when the photo was taken. At left is the tower of All Saints, Derby's Cathedral, in the centre the spire of St Alkmund's church and the tower of the Roman Catholic church, and at right the old silk mill built by George Socorold in the early 1700s.

Image © and courtesy Derby Museum & Art Gallery and Breedon Books

This painting of the Derwent from Exeter Bridge by Robert Bradley shown above is reproduced in Goodey's Derby by Sarah Allard & Nicola Rippon (publ. 2003 by Breedon Books, ISBN 1 85983 379 9, but unfortunately out of print). The caption states that, although nominally dated 1838, it could not have been painted prior to 1845-6, when the spire was added to the tower of St Alkmund's church. On the far left can be seen Exeter House, which was built for the Earl of Exeter, briefly occupied by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 and later owned by the Bingham and Strutt families; it was demolished in 1854.

Image © and courtesy of Maxwell Craven & the Derby Museum

The earliest photograph that I have found of this view up the Derwent is a calotype attributed to W. Stretch (Ref. DBYMU.L1988) in Maxwell Craven's Keene's Derby (publ. 1993 by Breedon Books, ISBN 1 873626 60 6). It is dated 1855, and was therefore taken shortly after the demolition of Exeter House, although only the foot of the garden of this property is included.

The photographer is on the east (or left) bank of the Derwent, roughly in the position shown on the 1852 map of Derby included below, drawn up in the same year as the Exeter Bridge was constructed, replacing a smaller wooden footbridge. The photographer's position and approximate field of view is depicted on the map with a red dot and lines (click on the image to view a more detailed version). On the right hand side of the photo (east bank) the area is largely undeveloped, with market gardens on the banks as shown on the map.

Image © and courtesy of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society
Portion of a Facsimile Edition of a Map of the Borough of Derby with Portions of Darley, Litchurch, and Little Chester
(publ. 1980 by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society)

Image © and courtesy of Maxwell Craven & the Derby Museum

The next photograph, dated c. 1865 by Craven (also from Keene's Derby) has some significant differences from that of a decade earlier, including a builder's yard (accessed off Burghley Street) appearing in the former Exeter House garden, modifications to the roof and gable ends of the multi-storey building in the middle, and cottages appearing in Silk Mill Lane. Unfortunately, the haze obscures the spires of St Alkmund's and the St Mary's Roman Catholic Church.

Image © and courtesy of Maxwell Craven & the Derby Museum

Keene's June 1874 photograph, again from Keene's Derby, is also hazy, presumably due to growing factory pollution, but the spire of St Alkmund's and tower of St Mary's are both visible once again. The builder's yard on the left has gone.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The 1884 photograph is included again here, to show it in the proper time sequence. The gardens on the east bank have been replaced by the timber yard of W. & J. Lowe. The multi-storey building to the right of the tower of the cathedral now has a sign on the gable end - enlargement of this portion of the photograph enables part of the name of the company to be deciphered.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Kelly's 1891 Trade Directory confirms that "James & George Haywood, iron & steel warehouse" were situated between number 4 and "Eastwood & Co., tanners" at 6 Full Street. It is worth noting that in this view there is a single large chimney to the right of the Silk Mill Tower.

I found this black-and-white postcard view, published at an unknown date, which appears to be exactly the same image as my print of 1884. It is inscribed, "R. KEENE LTD." in the bottom right hand corner, implying that my print was probably also taken by Keene. To be honest, I am not surprised. Keene was an excellent photographer, always able to capture landscapes in the best light, and this particular one, in my view, is the best of the lot!

Image © and courtesy Derby Museum & Art Gallery and Breedon Books

W.F. Austin painted this view of the Derwent and the old Silk Mill (from Goodey's Derby) in about 1889, five years after the previous photograph. Although done from a slightly different position and angle, the view is little changed, apart from a little artistic license perhaps resulting in a tidying up of the timber merchant's premises, and some vegetation removed from around the Silk Mill.

Image © and courtesy of Maxwell Craven & the Derby Museum

According to Maxwell Craven, this view was taken by Richard Keene on 1 June 1891, and there are now some big differences. The Silk Mill Doubling Shop (the large building to the left of the Silk Mill Tower) has completely gone, and just to the left of where it was, in front of the St Alkmund's & St Mary church towers, there are now two large chimneys. The Haywood sign has also gone, replaced by one for "EASTWOOD'S TANNERY." Also, there is a new building in the former Exeter House garden, on the extreme left of the view.

Image © Ordnance Survey and courtesy of Alan Godfrey maps
Portion of Old Ordnance Survey Map of Derby (North) Second Edition 1901
(Surveyed in 1881 & Revised in 1899) Derbyshire Sheet 50.8
Reduced from the original & Reprinted by Alan Godfrey Maps

Image © and courtesy of W.W. Winter Ltd.

The view in the above photograph was taken by W.W. Winter, and is featured in The Winter's Collection of Derby: Volume Two by Maxwell Craven & Angela Rippon (publ. 1996 by Breedon Books, ISBN 1 85983 055 2). Unfortunately, no date is given, but it is very similar to the view in Keene's 1891 photograph (see above). I believe it was probably taken in the mid- to late 1890s.

The post mark on the reverse of this black-and-white postcard view is unfortunately not very clear - it possibly reads 17 AUG [19]20 - but the stamp used (a 1d George V red definitive) suggests a date of between 1918 and 1921. Due to post-War inflation, the postage rates for postcards were increased from ½d to 1d in June 1918, and from 1d to 1½d in June 1921. [Source: Postage rates for postcards sent within the UK, by Peter Stubbs] However, the view is so similar to the previous photograph taken by W.W. Winter Ltd. that I believe it may be the same image. The ripples of water in the river are so similar that I think the old view may have been republished as a postcard three decades later, with the EASTWOOD'S TANNERY signs retouched out.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This colourised postcard view, titled "Derby from the River," is very similar, although not identical, to the Winter photo. It was produced by postcard publisher Hartmann (Ref. 2535.10), and carries a franking mark clearly dated "AU 24 05" i.e. 24 August 1905. It may have been printed from a Winter or Keene photograph taken in the 1890s. The vegetation appears considerably more luscious than in previous views, but this may just be the result of the colourising.

Image © and courtesy of the Shardlow Heritage Centre

A rather gaudily colourised postcard from the Reliable Series (Ref. 289/6), published by W.R. & S. Ltd, Edinburgh [Source: Edinphoto] is postmarked 6 June 1908 (Courtesy of Shardlow Heritage Centre). Presumably it was taken in the early 1900s.

Another colourised postcard, entitled "Derby from River," was posted in Derby in July 1916. The publisher is merely identified on the reverse with a "W" inside a diamond. The most significant changes in the view are that the buildings in the former Exeter House garden have completely changed, and the larger (or closer) of the two chimneys in front of the church towers has gone. In addition, the tannery signs have disappeared.

Image © and collection of Nigel Aspdin

Several decades later ... the site of the former Exeter House is occupied by the now empty and boarded up old Derby Magistrate Courts, the back of which can be seen at the left of this photo, very kindly taken for me in June this year by Nigel Aspdin. The tower of All Saints is just visible. Immediately to the right of the Magistrates' Court, and mostly obscured by it, is the back of the derelict old Police Station, which also awaits redevelopment. All of the chimneys have now gone!

Image © and courtesy of BBC

This artist's impression (Courtesy of a BBC article, Changing Derbyshire) is unfortunately looking in the opposite direction, with Cathedral Green on the right. However, it is obvious that the projected development and new footbridge over the Derwent will result in another very different view.


  1. This is an excellent article. I love before and after shots, but you've gone further and produced before, after, after, after, after...

    I can confirm that the Winter shot and the following postcard are the same shot. I have overlaid them in Photoshop, and they line up precisely. The postcard image has been edited slightly, but it is the same one.

  2. I really enjoyed your efforts Brett - i like to think my ancestors stood and enjoyed the view at some time over the years. Thankyou!,,,,,Andrea

  3. Excellent feature. Thanks for this!


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