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Site record MDR11254 - Medieval town, Derby

Type and Period (1)

  • (Saxon - 410 AD to 1065 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

As part of archaeological work undertaken on the site of the new Magistrates' Court in Derby (SMR 18998), the historical development of the site was reviewed and, in particular, its probable position within the medieval town. The extents of the new, planned Norman town are quite distinctive on Speed's map of 1610. The settlement was organised along the ridge with a spinal road running north-north-west from a crossing over the Markeaton Brook to the location of St Alkmund's. The new settlement was probably defined by the Markeaton Brook and River Derwent extending northwards to the back plots off Walker Lane. Saddler Gate divides the town in half, the southern part containing the market and the northern the Cathedral. Excavation revealed features, dated by the finds they contained, which demonstrated settlement, and horn working or tanning, on this piece of marginal land in the medieval period (SMR 32488). (1) A reference to the town ditch in the Darley Abbey cartulary shows that the town was or had been defended by c.1275. The street names shed no light on the location of these defences, although the layout of Walker Lane, Full Street, Sadler Gate and Bold Lane have the appearance of preserving a defensive circuit. (2) In 1972 excavations of an area on the south-west corner of Full Street, Derby, where it runs into the Market Square, were conducted in advance of construction of the new Civic Centre, and recovered a medieval and post-medieval series of pottery and other finds, which it is suggested represents the domestic refuse from tenements close to the Market Place. Evidence for building, was slight; only one tenuous indication of a building, or more probably, a property division, was encountered. All traces of the medieval and later buildings to which the pits related have been removed by modern cellars. (3) At the end of the 16th century Derby had a population of 2000-2500. Many of these were involved in crafts and trades, or were retailers living in and around Irongate, the Market Place and Sadlergate. Kilns and warehouses in St Peter's parish suggest a more industrialised area in the south of the town, but there was a baker's shop in Babington Lane, butchers' stalls in the Market Place, and tailors living on the Morledge. Clothworking was the town's staple industry, and tailors and clothworkers had their own trade company. The town was governed by two bailiffs chosen annually by the burgesses, with the Earl of Shrewsbury as High Steward. A charter of 1555 confirmed the burgesses in their monopoly on buying and selling in the market, and gave a large gift of property to the bailiffs and burgesses, the rents from which were to be used to maintain perpetual vicars in All Saints and St Alkmund's churches. St Michael's, St Peter's and St Werburgh's completed the number of parishes in the town. The medieval religious foundations such as Kings Mead Nunnery, and the Dominican Friary in Friargate had been turned into private residences by the end of the 16th century. Documentary evidence suggests that the town was undergoing a period of hardship at the end of the 16th century, and plague was ever present. (4) The Domesday Survey of 1086 records 10 mills in Derby, although there had been 14 in 1066. One mill is likely to have been in the area later occupied by St Michael's Mills, and another in the area occupied by the corn mill known in the 18th century as Derby Corn Mill or the Town Corn Mill. The town appears to have declined in the period 1066-86, with 123 former residences empty at the time of the survey, perhaps indicating an exodus to the countryside. (5)

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Unpublished document: Archaeological Investigations (Hereford Archaeology). 2003. Derby Magistrates Court, St Mary's Gate, Derby, Archaeological Excavation, Building Recording and Analyses. Vols. I & II plus Building Recording Survey Figs.. SMR Doc. No. 671.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Kinsley, A & Morris, T (TPAT). 1994. An Archaeological Assessment and Evaluation of the Development Site at Derby Court House, Walker Lane, Derby. Interim Report.. SMR Doc. No. 352; p 5.
  • <3> Article in serial: Hall, R & Coppack, G. 1972. 'Excavations at Full Street, Derby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 92, pp 29-77.
  • <4> Article in serial: Lord, E. 1997. 'Trespassers and debtors: Derby at the end of the sixteenth century', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 117, pp 97-109.
  • <5> Unpublished document: May, R (ARCUS). 2007. Archaeological desk-based assessment of Land at Cathedral Green, Full Street, Derby. 8-9.



Grid reference Centred SK 35191 36365 (447m by 435m)

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Record last edited

Jun 5 2024 5:04PM

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