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Listed Building record MDR4548 - 'New' St Helen's House, King Street, Derby

Type and Period (2)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

(SK 3503 3680) 'St Helen's House' appears at this location on an OS map of 1973. (1) St Helen's House has an excellent stone-faced Palladian mid-18th century front of seven bays, with a three-bay centre that has an attached giant Ionic portico above a rusticated ground floor and crowned by a pediment. In the hall there is a staircase with a fine wrought iron handrail. (2) A grade I listed town mansion, subsequently a school: It was built in 1766-7, and extended c. 1807-9, 1874-8, in the 1890s and in 1914. The original mansion was by Joseph Pickford for John Gisborne. The first extension and internal remodelling was for William Strutt. There was also an extension by Thompson and Young 1874-8 for Derby School. The main mansion has a fine ashlar front, but is otherwise of red brick, with a slate roof. It is built in the Palladian style and is of three storeys. The impressive interior is on a grand scale. The entrance hall decoration includes triglyph and modillion cornice, a fireplace of Hoptonwood stone with cast-iron grate, and elaborate doorcases with panelled mahogany doors. The cross beams with plaster decoration were probably added in the late 19th/early 20th century for strengthening purposes. The cantilevered staircase in the inner staircase hall is also of Hoptonwood stone, with richly carved tread ends and fine wrought-iron balustrade, almost certainly by Benjamin Yates, successor to Robert Bakewell, and in a design produced twice by the latter. An elaborate Venetian window lights the staircase and has Gothic detailing of c. 1807. To the left of the main range, and connected by a single-storey link building (doubled in front probably in the earlier 20th century, but retaining inside the original rusticated front of 1874-8), is the extension for Derby School of 1874-8. It is built in ashlar, with the rear in brick, and in an austere classical style, the ground floor stonework being rusticated. It is of three storeys, with a six-window front at the first floor level. In addition on the left end, and giving access to the former assembly hall, is a covered external stair with decorative cast-iron detailing and balustrade. On the front and below the central first floor window is a foundation stone with inscription dated 1874, perhaps raised to its present position during construction. St Helen's House is an outstanding Palladian town mansion of 1766-7. It is the most important and largest surviving domestic building in Derby, and one of the finest purpose-built town houses to survive in this country outside London. Very significant interior features such as the staircase, plasterwork and fireplaces survive. The large extension for Derby School, by Thompson and Young of 1874-8, set-back and in simpler but similar style, was an attempt, unusual in the 1870's, to add to but not unduly challenge a building already recognised as of great importance. The occupation and ownership by the Strutt family for sixty years is a very significant historic connection with the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site. See list description for more details. (3) St Helen's House, King Street. House of c.1726, built by the Gisbourne family (reputedly designed by Joseph Pickford). Very fine house once owned by William Strutt. Classical façade in ashlar based on Italian palace frontage with central engaged portico with pediment and 4 Ionic columns, dentilled cornice and large urns terminating each corner. Rusticated basement with semi-circular arches, alternating triangular and segmental pediments over first floor windows. Side and rear elevations in brick with ashlar pilasters at each corner. (5) St Helen's House, a magnificent Palladian mansion, was built in 1766-67 by Joseph Pickford for the powerful Derby Alderman John Gisbourne. It had a stable block built round a courtyard slightly to the north. St Helen's House was a 'true' town house, built for occasional use and for entertaining. When it became a permanent residence from 1801, for William Strutt, it required a certain amount of alteration. This included a new kitchen wing and servants' hall, with staff accommodation above, to the east side of the house. The house passed to William's son Edward in 1830 although from the late 1840s he had his main residence elsewhere. In 1861 he loaned the house to Derby (Grammar) School, and in 1862 the house was purchased outright, although Edward Strutt retained what was left of the parkland. The school erected a substantial extension, accompanied by other alterations to the existing building. Further additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th century. The school moved out in 1966, following which the building had various uses and began to deteriorate, with any kind of maintenance ceasing in 1981. In 1995 the house was added to English Heritage's Buildings at Risk Register. (6) Built 1766-67 for John Gisborne, alderman and the Duke of Devonshire's 'fixer' in the town. Based on the Neo-Classical Lansdowne House in London, by Robert Adam. William Strutt, son of cotton pioneer Jedediah, lived here for 30 years, and his refurbishment included some magnificent ceilings, especially the saloon, the hall and staircase, updated heating, a large lower wing and a flushing lavatory on the lines of one by John Whitehurst at Clumber Park. Derby School moved here in 1863, and at this time the chapel, gymnasium and Big School Block to the north of the house were built. (7) In December 2003 Birmingham Archaeology undertook a desk-based and historic building assessment of land in the St Helen's area of Derby city centre. (8) St Helen's House was built in 1766-7 with extensive parkland lying to the north, now mainly built over. It was home from 1803 of William Strutt, chairman of Derby Improvement Commissioners 1788-1829, and eldest son of cotton pioneer Jedidiah Strutt. It was used by Derby Grammar School from 1863 to 1972. (9) A building survey carried out in 2013 indicated that the orginal house of the 1760s, which was built for John Gisbourne, MP for Derby, and designed by James Pickford, was built to a double pile design with 4 large reception rooms on the ground floor accessed via an imposing entrance hall openning on to a grand flight stairs. This form was mirrored on the first floor. Athough the house was mainly of brick, the west front boasted an impressive Palladian stone façade, overlooking an oval approach area. The service wing seems to have lain to the southeast of the house, and a stables on King Street. The house which stood on the northern edge of town, facing on the road from Keddleston and Belper, and boasted very extensive grounds between the road and the river. -It is believed that, towards the end of the 18th century, a modest sized extension was aded to the southeastern corner of the house. This may have coincided with Thomas Gisbourne interiting the house from his father. The service wing seems to have been remodelled at a similar time, when Kings Street and what was then Bridge Gate were widened. At the turn of the 19th century a further extension, mirroring the earlier extension, and probably linked to it, was added to the northeast. This may be linked to William Strutt becoming the owner in 1801. Many of the 18th century and early 19th century interior decortative features still survive in the main rooms behind the principal façade and in the entrance hall and main stairwell. -In 1830 Edward Strutt inherited the house from his father, William. Edward spent little time in Derby. He began to sell-off the parkland peicemeal, and, from 1848, let the house to tenants. In 1860 Edward offered to sell the house to Derby School, which had outgrown its building in St Peter's churchyard, The governors could not afford the asking price of £3,300, so took on the lease. The pupils moved to St Helen's House for the academic year that began in autumn 1861. The governors purchased the house in 1863, for a signifiactly lower sum than Strutt's original asking price. -The coverversion of be house to a school must have entailed alterations to the interior of St Helen's House. However, the main change made by governors in the early years of the use of the site as a school was the construction of the Pearson Building. This was a large three storey stone building in the classical style, to the north of the original house. The ground floor was taken-up by several classrooms. The first floor was occupied by a large hall. Further classrooms occupied the upper floor. The Pearson Building was completed in 1863. -Over the decades of the late 19th century and early 20th century various buildings were added to the site: A brick-built chapel, in a gothic style, to the northwest of the Pearson Buiding, a headmaster's house, also in the gothic style, to the northeast of the Pearson Building, a brick-built chemistry laboritry, to the north of the Pearson Building, and a host of timber classrooms. (10) -

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <1> Map: 1973. OS 1:1250.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Pevsner, N. 1979. The Buildings of England: Derbyshire. 2nd ed., revised. p. 178.
  • <3> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. List entry number 1228285.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Steer, J (Derbyshire Archaeological Society). 2002. From Religious Oratory to Spar Manufactory: The Development of the Site of St Helens on King St, Derby.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Morris, M (Mel Morris Conservation). 2004. Study to Identify Candidate Buildings for Grant Assistance and a Review of Conservation Area Boundaries, Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Gazetteer: 15-002.
  • <6> Article in serial: Craven, M. 2005. 'St Helen's House, Derby', Derby Civic Society Newsletter Special Issue. Summer, No. 82.
  • <7> Article in serial: Wrigley, J C. 2005/2006. 'Saving St Helen's', Derby Civic Society Newsletter. No. 83, pp 42.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Hislop, M (Birmingham Archaeology). 2003. Land Between King Street, St. Helen's Street and Lodge Lane, Derby: An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment and Building Assessment. p 8; Plates 4, 5.
  • <9> Bibliographic reference: Derby Civic Society. 2004. Derby Heritage Buildings.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Hurford, M (TPA). 2013. An Historic Building Record and Archaeological Watching Brief at St Helen's House, King Street, Derby.



Grid reference Centred SK 3504 3680 (31m by 61m) Centre

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR5236
  • EDR3895

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Record last edited

Jul 6 2022 1:39PM

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