Darley Abbey and Allestree Walk 24th February 2016

Distance: 6.34 miles.






Car Parking Map

parking map


Notes and photographs.


A photograph of the mills from near the car park taken in October 2015


The walk starts in Darley Park.

What is now the site of one of Derby's most beautiful parks was in fact once home to the county's most important monastic institution: a house of Augustinian Canons established in 1137 and dedicated to St Helena.

Over the centuries the land passed through many hands, reaching local mill owners the Evans family by the early nineteenth century. Under Walter Evans a red brick mansion was constructed on the site – Darley House – surrounded by gardens and plantations.

Twenty acres of these gardens were donated to the former Derby Corporation in 1922, and during the next decade further additions of land were made so that the park consisted of approximately eighty acres by the time it was opened in June 1931.

Included within this eighty acres was some land on the Derwent Bank Estate, intended for use as a recreation ground. When work began on this area to level the ground, a section of Roman road was uncovered, a length of which was for a short time left open for exhibition.

The park was officially opened in June 1931 by the Duke of Kent.

Included with the park was a red brick Georgian mansion, which during the Second World War housed the pupils of Derby School as an evacuation measure to protect them from potential bombings.

Unfortunately, this building had to be demolished in the early 1960s as it became too dangerous and the site was landscaped into the paved garden we see today. Some of the bricks from the original mansion were used to construct the pillars in the current garden. (Thanks to the BBC for this text)

There is a cafe near the car park and public toilets.


Photo of the trees near the cafe taken on 22/2/2016

Near the cafe is a garden containing the national collection of hydrangeas. There is a web site about this collection here. There are also many interesting trees in the park including a Paper Hankie Tree (Davidia involucrata).


Davidia involucrata

The walk goes in the direction of the centre of Derby until it reaches the disused railway bridge which was part of the 'Friargate Line'.

Extract from Wikipedia - with thanks

The GNR Derbyshire and Staffordshire Extension, locally known as the (Derby) Friargate Line is a now closed railway line that linked Nottingham and Grantham to the east of the East Midlands counties to Burton upon Trent to the south west of the area. It was an extension of the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway which had been acquired by the Great Northern Railway. The route cut a direct line through the midlands industrial city of Derby whereupon an impressive warehouse was constructed, large sidings and the pretty Derby Friargate Station. The line had such an impact on Derby, Friargate and the surrounding areas that it became known as the Derby Friargate Line.

Once over the bridge the route takes you through Chester Green parts of which were once Derventio Coritanorum.


Photo of the Roman Well proudly guarded now by a cat.


The Marcus Street information board.

The route then traverses the playing fields to Folly Footbridge and Houses.


The footbridge information board.



Roland Suddaby's famous painting of the houses.

The route then crosses Haslams Lane and follows the course of the River Derwent.


View of the Derwent taken on 22/2/2016

The route then leads under the A38 and along Ford Lane to reach Allestree Park - a Local Nature Reserve.


View of the Lake at Allestree Park - a possible lunch stop using the seats beside the lake.


Allestree Hall

Allestree Hall is a 19th-century former country house situated in Allestree Park, Allestree, Derby. It is a Grade II* listed building but has been unoccupied for many years, and has been placed on the Heritage at Risk Register.

The Mundy family owned the Manor of Allestree from 1516 until Francis Noel Clarke Mundy sold it to Thomas Evans in 1781. It was later the home of William Evans and of his son Sir Thomas William Evans, 1st Baronet. On his death in 1892 the latter bequeathed the estate to his brother in law William Gisborne.

The area known as Allestree Park was enclosed in about 1818. The house begun by Bache Thornhill was completed by John Giradot (High Sheriff of Derbyshire) with three storeys and five bays, the central three bowed with an ionic columned porch.

A large part of the estate was sold for housing development in 1928. The neglected house now stands in a 300-acre (1.2 km2) park and golf course. Allestree Park is a Local Nature Reserve. (Thanks to Wikipedia for this text.)


A view from the top of the park.

After this the route leaves the park and follows Church Walk beside St Edmunds Church and then on to South Avenue off Church Lane. Part way down South Avenue is Nutwood Local Nature Reserve.



Then the route arrives at the mills and the toll bridge at Darley Abbey


Boar's Head Mills

The industrial roots of Darley Abbey date back to the monastic period. After then, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, a series of water powered mills – for corn, flint, leather and paper – were developed on land between Darley Street and the west bank of the River Derwent. The land on the opposite bank was acquired by Thomas Evans for his cotton mills in 1778.

Boar's Head Mills
These mills later became known as the 'Boar's Head Mills' (the Evans family crest was a Boar's Head) and were constructed between 1782 and 1830. The Boar's Head Mills specialised in quality thread for sewing, embroidery and haberdashery. The site contains five main mills and a comprehensive range of ancillary structures, including warehouses, offices, stables, bobbin shops and domestic buildings. The largest of the buildings is 6-storeys high. The oldest building, Long Mill, has an attic floor which was (until 1819) used as a school room where children employed at the mill received a basic education.[5] The mills were originally water-powered. The weirs on the River Derwent created the head of water which powered the wheels that drove the machinery in the mill buildings. Eventually, steam power was used to supplement the water power.

The Evans' involvement in the cotton mills ceased with the death of Walter Evans II in 1903. In 1905, John Peacock, hitherto manager, bought the mills from the estate. The Peacock family ran the business until 1943 when it was sold to J & P Coats of the Coats Viyella Group. Textile use ceased in 1970. In 1969 the sale of the mills for other uses began. Today, Darley Abbey Mills is home to a variety of engineering and light industrial businesses. (Wiki)

A link to the Derwent Valley Mills web site.

After leaving the mills the route goes past The Abbey public house (The Evans family would not allow a public house in the village when they owned it) which is what remains of the Augustinian monastery.

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. 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.


A photograph of the weir at Darley Abbey looking in the direction of The Abbey and the car park.

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