Darley Abbey

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Darley Abbey
St Matthew's Church
Darley Abbey is located in Derbyshire
Darley Abbey
Darley Abbey
 Darley Abbey shown within Derbyshire
Shire county Derbyshire
Region East Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Police Derbyshire
Fire Derbyshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
List of places

Coordinates: 52°56′28″N 1°28′42″W / 52.940987°N 1.478267°W / 52.940987; -1.478267

Darley Abbey is a village on the outskirts of Derby, England. The village is located on the River Derwent and is associated with the world heritage site of Derwent Valley Mills.


Darley Abbey (Monastery)[edit]

The Abbey Pub

The Augustinian monastery of Darley Abbey has a rather confused foundation. In 1154, Robert de Ferrers, 2nd Earl of Derby made a donation to St Helen's Priory, Derby for them to establish a new religious house. He donated the churches of Uttoxeter and Crich, an oratory and cemetery at Osmaston, and tithes from his property in Derby and land in Oddebrook and Aldwark.[1] A new monastery however was not constructed, as no suitable location was identified.

Around 1160, Hugh, the rural dean of Derby, donated his land at "Little Darley" to St Helen's Priory for the establishment of the monastery.

Darley Abbey was a daughter establishment to St Helen's Priory, however, shortly after its establishment, many of the canons of the Priory transferred to Darley, St Helen's serving as a hospital.[1][2]

Darley Abbey received numerous donations, mainly from the burgesses of Derby, including land at Crich, Wessington, Youlgreave, Lea, Dethick, Tansley and Little Chester, and the advowsons of the churches at Brailsford, Bolsover, Pentrich, Ripley, Ashover, Scarcliffe, South Wingfield, and St Peter's, St Michael's, and St Werburgh's in Derby.[1] The Abbey also came into the possession of the manors of Aldwark, Butterley, Normanton and Wessington.[1]

Between 1250 and 1252 Ralph, son of Ralph de Wistanton, made numerous donations to the abbey, even though he was a man described as "of quite limited resources".[1] The reason was that by donating to the abbey, Ralph could deprive the Jewish money-lenders of what he owed them, as Jews could not seize church property. Ralph eventually signed over all of his positions to the abbey; the abbey in return provided him, his wife Joan, and their sons John and Nicholas, with food, clothing and "honourable lodgings".[1] The family appears to have been very well cared for by the abbey, having been given both a servant and a handmaid, large amounts of food, seven gallons of beer a week, a horse, an large annual allowance of quality clothing, and small yearly pensions for additions purchases of clothing.[1]

In 1291, the abbey is recorded as having an income of £72 19s. 3½d.[1]

By the early 14th century, the abbey had fallen into poverty and two canons had to be sent to other monasteries as they could not be sustained at Darley.[1] One source blames the abbey's poverty on failed harvests and heavy mortality of their cattle.[1] Another, however, blames the Abbot of Darley, who is accused of "selling the woods and wasting the goods and leasing the lands of the abbey, to its great impoverishment".[1]

The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 recorded the abbey's income of £258 13s. 5d.[1]

The Abbey was surrendered for dissolution on 22 October 1538.[1]

There are only two remaining buildings from the monastic period.[citation needed] One is now the Abbey Pub (also known as the Abbey Inn), a Grade II* listed building. Constructed in the 15th century, it is thought to have been part of the Abbot's residence.[3] The building appears to have been roofless for most of its post-dissolution life;[citation needed] a new roof was added in the 1920s and the building reinforced in the 1950s following some movement within the walls.[3] The building was renovated to its present state in 1978.[citation needed] The other monastic survivor makes up part of a private dwelling on Abbey Lane.[4]

Village History[edit]

View of the toll bridge and mill across the River Derwent

The mill was built in 1783 by Thomas Evans, who hailed from a family with interests in lead iron and copper.[5] Initially, he partnered with Richard Arkwright and Jedediah Strutt in the venture.[citation needed] It was a six-storey building powered by water, with an enormous weir across the river.[citation needed] It was destroyed by fire in 1788 and rebuilt with sheets of tin nailed to the beams as protection.[citation needed][6] Thomas's son Walter ( who married Elizabeth Strutt, a daughter of Jedediah) constructed a factory village of three-storey cottages across the river from the mill for his employees.[7] A traveller in 1829 wrote favourably of the village

I passed through Darley, interesting as the seat of the extensive cotton and paper mills of the Messrs, Evans, and also as an exhibition of their unwearied philanthropy to their numerous work-people. The whole forms a neat town, displaying general comfort, with institutions of all kinds, for the improvement of the physical and moral condition of some hundred families….kindness and rewards are constantly bestowed in promoting cleanliness and neatness, and in stimulating industry and good conduct. All that Mr Owen has benevolently fancied, these gentlemen and this amiable lady have realised. It was cheering to view the neatness and comfort of the houses, the honey-suckles, jessamines, and roses growing in front, and the domestic occupations of persons who, in the same employment, in worse conducted establishments, live in filth, rags and squalid misery[5]

This village, along with its toll road, still exists today.[citation needed] In 1970, the entire area was made into a conservation area, leading to it being part of the Derwent Valley Mills heritage area.[citation needed]


  • Darley Park is an 80-acre (320,000 m2) picturesque park featuring many different gardens and wildlife areas.[citation needed] Given to the people of Derby in 1931 by the Evans family, who lived at Darley Hall.[citation needed] The Hall was demolished in the early 1960s, but parts of the original ground floor remain, now used as terracing for a small cafe.[citation needed] Darley Park plays host every first Sunday of September to the Darley Park open-air concert, one of the largest free concerts in the country.[citation needed]
  • Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy is one of the largest schools in Derby with around 1500 pupils.[citation needed] The school dates back to 1986, but with several schools previously occupying the site including St Ralph Sherwin.[citation needed]
  • Saint Mary's Catholic School is a historic coeducational Catholic school that can trace its roots back to 1813/1814 and has since moved to a new building on three separate occasions.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m William Page (ed.) (1907). 'Houses of Austin canons: The abbey of Darley', A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=40122. pp. 46–54. 
  2. ^ William Page (ed.) (1907). 'Hospitals: St Helen & St James, Derby', A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2. pp. 83–84. 
  3. ^ a b English Heritage. "Abbey Inn". Pastscape. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Darley Abbey". Retrieved 2009-05-17. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b "Sir Richard Phillips’s Tour". Leicester Chronicle. 9 May 1829. 
  6. ^ Cooper, B., (1983) Transformation of a Valley: The Derbyshire Derwent, Heinemann, republished 1991 Cromford: Scarthin Books
  7. ^ "Member Biographies: William Evans". History of Parliament. Retrieved 2 August 2014. : William was the son of Elizabeth and William Evans who was a half-brother of Walter

External links[edit]