Monday 15 July 2013

A Walk Around Derby

I spent the weekend in Derby, at the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention.  It was a busy weekend, and I didn't have time to set foot outside the hotel at all during the Convention, but before it started on Friday, I had a walk around Derby.  I had never been there before - it's not exactly a tourist hotspot but it has some interesting bits.

We were staying in what used to be the Midland Hotel, built in 1841, which is claimed to be the first railway hotel in the country.  Queen Victoria allegedly stayed there in 1849. Very handy for arriving by train (which I did).  It's now a Hallmark Inn, and they seem to have tried to cover up the previous name on the facade - you can see what it previously looked like here.  It's a comfortable hotel, but there's very little sign of its history inside the building - I can't help feeling that the present owners don't value its heritage.

Outside, there's a war memorial to the employees of the Midland Railway who were killed in the First World War - I took a photo for John.  (Pity about the car inconsiderately stopped on a double yellow line.)

Midland Railway War Memorial, Derby

They seem very proud of Florence Nightingale in Derby - I saw two statues of her, and there's a memorial tablet in the Cathedral.  Her family were associated with Matlock (in Derbyshire), and she was of course born in Florence, so the connection seems a little bit tenuous.

Florence Nightingale, Derby

The Nightingale Home, Derby

On my walk, I got as far as the Cathedral, where there is a very grand monument to Bess of Hardwick, who is buried in the crypt.  She designed it and had it built before she died (in 1608), so that she could be sure that it was sufficiently magnificent and said nice things about her.  She had four husbands and outlived them all.  Each left her richer than before, until she ended up extremely rich.  She built Hardwick Hall, "more glass than wall", and she lived to be 87.  A splendid woman.

Bess of Hardwick's Monument

And on the way back to the hotel, I found the Market Hall, a huge Victorian construction.

Derby Market Hall

... which has a pikelet stall just inside the entrance.  We had pikelets when I was a child, in Sheffield, although they were what everyone else calls crumpets.  In Derby Market Hall, they spell the word "pyclet", but pikelet is the spelling I am used to, and shows how it's pronounced.  The Derby Pyclet Company make their pikelets on the premises, on hot plates.  They look like an American pancake, but they aren't sweet and the raising agent is yeast, or like a thin crumpet.   I was very tempted, but I had already had lunch, so I settled for a gooseberry fool, which they were also selling as a special seasonal treat. I sat at the stall to eat it, while Mark and Martin cooked their pikelets and told me about the difficulties of controlling the yeast mixture on a hot day (which Friday was).

The Derby Pyclet Company stall

Pikelets cooking
Pikelets to take home
The pikelets were selling like the proverbial hot cakes.  I intended to go back on the following day to buy some to bring home, but I was too busy at the Convention and didn't have time.  Another day. 

A couple of other quirky things I saw in Derby:  there was a relief panel of a traffic policeman on the Magistrates' Offices building.  The building is surrounded by hoardings and looks derelict, so I hope the panel survives.  Judging by the car with the spare wheel on the running board, I guess it dates from the 1930s.

Magistrates Offices, Derby
And I found another panel featuring a policeman, high on the facade of a 1930s cinema (now the COSMO restaurant).  

Facade of former Gaumont Cinema, Derby

The policeman is on the left, with a truncheon, and I think a flashlight that he has dropped. The other characters appear to be clowns - the one on the right is waving a string of sausages and appears to have a goose hanging out of his pocket. Or maybe it's something to do with Punch and Judy (which involves both a policeman and a string of sausages). 

And then I went back to the hotel, and didn't go outside again until Sunday afternoon, when I left to catch the train home.  I'll write about the Convention next time.

1 comment:

  1. The pyclets are wonderful! If I am ever in Derby round about lunchtime, I head for the stall.

    They made some fantastic quince jam last year too.


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