During 2023 the society will  meet face to face subject to covid precautions.

All talks take place in Strutt’s Community Centre and start at 7.30pm.

The Programme of talks for 2023.

Wednesday  4th January

Brettles of Belper

Gary Spendlove

Gary worked his way up from the shop floor of Brettles to become sales director, now he runs the Slenderella group based in Belper. Brettles grew from a small local hosiery firm in the early 19th Century to become part of the international Courtaulds company by the end of the 20th century.

Wednesday  1st February

The Life and Work of a Master Thatcher

David Wood

Discover the ancient art of thatching – still very much alive today through the skill of modern master thatcher David Wood. David has been thatching for 48 years. When he left school, he took up an apprenticeship with George Mellor, a master thatcher from Cromford. He has worked on a wide variety of properties and gets immense job satisfaction from his trade. David is a member and Chairman of the North of England & Scotland Master Thatchers Association.


Wednesday 1st March

The Evans family – their local, national and international influence

Katherine Everitt

Katherine, a local PhD student, will cover the history and background of the Evans family of Derbyshire, including their connectivity and interactions in local, national and international trade. From a yeoman farmer to a baronet in six generations, the rise and decline of the family.

Wednesday 5th April

The History of Silkolene Lubricants of Belper –  Derbyshire’s own oil company

Cliff Lea

Cliff was formerly employed in the oil industry. His talk will cover the early history and later development of  Dalton & Co Ltd, producers of Silkolene Lubricants. He’ll explain how the company started and the sites on which it developed, from their early production of animal medicines to their later supply of synthetic oils for the jet age. It will include a look at the war years, their production of Vaseline and their work with Rolls Royce.

Wednesday 3rd May (evening visit)

Belper Unitarian Chapel

Jan Barrett

A chance to look round Belper’s Unitarian Chapel.  The chapel remains today very much as it was in the 18th and 19th century. Underneath the tiered box-pews there is an arched catacomb where members of the Strutt family are interred.

Wednesday 7th June (evening walk)

Water Power in Belper Past and Present

Ian Jackson

A walk around the waterways of the Belper Complex, seeing how the Strutt’s used water from the River Derwent to power the 11 water wheels. Recent research has uncovered additional information about the original 1776 ‘South Mill’, the site of which continues to use water today to generate electricity, supplying the national grid.

Saturday 8th July (afternoon walk)

A Walk to Crossroads Farm

Adrian Farmer

A wander over Bridge Hill for a rare look in the grounds of Crossroads Farm, one of the Strutt family’s farms. Some inclines. Sensible shoes essential.

2pm from the North Mill car park (by the weir).

Society members only.

Saturday 5th August

Walk around southern Duffield

Robert Reid

This is a follow up from last year’s walk around the castle and northern Duffield.

The walk starting at Duffield Bridge will include a visit to St Alkmund’s Parish Church, continuing along Church Walk to Duffield Hall, picking up heritage features along the way such as ancient trackways, fields, nailmakers  etc.

Meet at the Bridge Inn, Duffield. Parking available at Duffield Church.

Wednesday 6th September

The West Mill Jubilee Clock Tower

Barbara Bowman

The talk will look at the history of the West Mill Jubilee Clock Tower – why it was built, how and by whom in the context of the changing relationships at the end of the 19th century.

George Herbert Strutt, John Hunter (Strutt’s “man of business”) and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria will all feature prominantly.

Wednesday 4th October

What do we really know about Jedediah Strutt?

Rosemary Annable

Very little is known of the family background and early life of Jedediah Strutt. In 19th century histories he was portrayed as an exemplar of ‘self-improvement’ against the odds of humble beginnings and an uncaring father. By the 21st century his origins were portrayed as more gentrified. So who was Jedediah Strutt? And who was responsible for forging his baptism in the Blackwell parish register?


Wednesday 1st November AGM

Everything but cotton… the industrialisation of Ambergate

Steve Hill

The talk takes a look at the range of industries that have been active in the area, traces the development of transport links, and explores the impact of The Butterley Company and other important local families in shaping the Ambergate of today.


Wednesday 6th December

“Where was Belper’s Medieval Manor House & Roman Settlement and is it all about the Nailers?”

Denise Grace

Belper was known as the settlement of Bradelei when mentioned in Doomsday and later called Beaurepaire when developed by the Normans. Manorial records state that the Manor House was adjacent to the Chapel – now St Johns – but its actual position has been “lost” since the early 19th Century.

A more recent discovery in the Laund area of Belper has now taken the settlement back almost another 1000 years, to the time of the Roman occupation. During excavations on this site ‘finds’ included rare pottery sherds, a piece of ‘high status’ glass and evidence of ferrous metalworking.