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Belper Neighbourhood Plan Working Group c/o Belper Town Council, The Butts, Belper, Derbys. DE56 1HX
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People are thought to have lived in Belper for the last 2000 years, and it was a community when the Normans arrived in 1066. Belper was famous for Nail making in Roman times. Nail making was carried out in small forges in peoples’ gardens, and only ceased in Belper in 1913.
Belper is referred to in the Doomsday Book as Beaurepaire “a good place to come back to”. There were four places in England called Beaurepaire by the Normans. All four now have anglicised names. Current research has shown Belper to be a globally unique place name.
The lands in South Derbyshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were given to the de Ferrers family by William the Conqueror following the Norman invasion of England. The de Ferrers built a castle on the top of the Chevin above Milford, the remains of which can be seen today. It had walls that were second in thickness only to those of the Tower of London.
In the 12th Century the de Ferrers set up a deer park which stretched from Far Laund on the eastern edge of Belper to Ravensdale about 12 miles to the west of Belper and from Shining Cliff Wood in the north to Duffield in the south. This was part of Duffield Frith (or Duffield Forest in modern English). They also built the first St Johns Chapel, “a chapel of ease for the foresters and huntsmen of Beaurepaire”.
Some of the deer park can still be seen today. Belper Parks was where pregnant does and young deer were over wintered as the two essentials for a medieval deer park grow in abundance in the Parks. They are Holly, which being an evergreen, had leaves in the winter to feed the deer and Oak to provide palings to keep the deer in.
There was a rebellion against King Henry III, Second Barons' War (1264–1267). The de Ferrers backed the loosing side who wanted to re-
The current St Johns Chapel is thought to have been built by Edmund Crouchback to make his mark on his new lands, in or shortly after 1276. It has pointed Gothic windows not curved Norman windows. The Chapel is now leased from the Bishop of Derby by Belper Town Council. Today, the Chapel is used for Council meetings and a place for a wide variety of voluntary organisations to meet.
In 1399 the son of John O' Gaunt became the 1st Duke of Lancaster and King Henry IV the founder of the House of Lancaster, and so Belper Parks became a royal deer park.
The last monarch to hunt in Duffield Frith is thought to have been Henry VIII. The deer were all gone by 1580. The site was sold off by Charles I in 1632 when Parliament refused to give the King the taxes the exchequer collected. Belper Parks was farmed from 1632 through to 1985 when the last farmers, Richard Millward and Mary Smedley found farming in the Parks was no longer a viable proposition.
From 1985 to January 2004 the Parks were classed by Amber Valley Borough Council as waste land. The grass was left uncut and formed clumps making it difficult and dangerous to walk through.
Belper Parks became a Local Nature Reserve on 31st January 2004, which gives the site a higher status than housing.
The biggest change to Belper came in 1771 when Jedidiah Strutt and Richard Arkwright built their first water powered cotton mill on the banks of the River Derwent, this was the “white hot technology” of the 18th Century with the Spinning Jenny significantly increasing the productivity of the spinners and weavers of the Derwent Valley. Their first mill was at Cromford to prove the concept of machines doing the work of people. Cromford Mill was the world’s first factory. Along with the mills the Strutts bought most of Belper and erected very substantial stone built houses many of which are still lived in today. They also introduced a lot of other industries to the town that were essential to the building and maintenance of the mill. Belper grew from a village of 2-
The Luddites also visited Belper, the Mill doors were fitted with special hinges that had no external pin that could be knocked out.
Following the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Parliament donated £1,000,000 to the Church of England as a thank offering to God from the nation for the saving of the UK at the battle of Waterloo. (The battle was won due to a shower of rain causing the French to delay their attack and to get bogged down in the mud between the two armies). The money was given to build larger churches in the new large industrial towns to reduce the likelihood of the revolutions that went in phases across continental Europe at that time. One of these churches was St Peters Church Belper, which opened in 1853 and effectively made St Johns Chapel redundant. Although St Johns was used during WW 2 as it was less of a target for German bombers and only held a congregation of 200 souls. The Vicar of Belper conducted up to 9 services each Sunday so all those who wanted to go to church could do so!
Belper Town Council resolved to have a Neighbourhood Plan at their meeting in April 2014, the area of the plan was approved in Feb 2015.
Following meetings during the summer of 2015 a group of local residents have begun work to draft a Neighbourhood Plan for Belper. This will enable all people living in the area to join together to comment on how we would like our town to develop over the next 10 to 15 years. Residents’ views will be sought on matters such as new housing development, leisure and transport facilities, opportunities for retail and employment parks and public open spaces and more generally how we want the Belper area to feel as a place to live and work. The Steering group will be holding meetings and seeking the views of local residents, business people and landowners during a consultation period which will culminate in a local referendum to hopefully be held in May 2017.
There is more information about the history of Belper at www.belperparks.info/humanhistory.html