Short Walk from the Coppice Car Park

From the Mary Smedley Papers donated to the society shortly before her death in 2020.

Here are a few things to look for on a short walk from the Coppice car park next to the Market Place.

From the car park you can look out over the Parks. The Belper Park, or Lady Park as it was known during the time it was part of the Duffield Frith (an ancient word for forest), was an enclosed area where the does (female deer) could be kept safe and well nourished after the breeding season.

Walk up the steps by the back wall and follow the steep cobbled channel or alley, leading from the Coppice to The Butts. At the top of this channel there is a row of stone terraced cottages across the road, built in 1829 by John Williams Melbourne. Walk along the path by these cottages and through the lych gate at the top, which leads into St. John’s Churchyard.

The Butts 1880s
Melbourne's terrace on The Butts in the 1880s

St John’s Chapel was built as a foresters’ chapel about 1250. Belper’s growth as an industrial centre during the later part of the 18th century and the early 19th century gave rise to a considerable increase in the population, which necessitated the building of a larger church. After St. Peter’s Church was built in 1822 St. John’s Church was largely neglected. In the 1980s it was decided that a new use should be found for it and it was converted into a Town Council office, meeting room and heritage centre.

St John's Chapel
Painting of St John's Chapel in 1845.

Walk back through the lych gate and take the short path to the left and turn left again.

The next buildings along the road are the two Matthew Smith almshouses. At the corner of St. John’s Road is the former St. John’s School, re-built in 1912 on the site of the first National School in Belper.

St John's School before it was rebuilt
St John's School before it was rebuilt.

Continue along Nottingham Road to numbers 23 and 25 (on the other side of the road). Between these two houses there is a channel or alley leading down to Parkside. Take care, as it is on a slope and can be slippy when wet.

At the bottom of this channel turn left to the bottom of Parkside and just before the bridge over the brook turn left and follow the path known as the Dunge (it can be a little overgrown in summer but it is there). This path will bring you out onto the recreation ground with the remains of the mill race on your right.

On the left, as you walk, there are two routes up to Nottingham Road. First is Jacob’s Ladder where there was one of two ancient Belper wells, which were once dressed. Further on, Stoney Steps is a gentler slope.

Walk across the small bridge on your right and follow this path to the entrance of the recreation ground from Mill Lane. At this point don’t leave the recreation ground, but instead follow the path between the brook and the wall, which is known as Walker Bottoms. On the left you will pass the Bath House, opened in 1848 with pleasure grounds, and later converted into a farm. You will come to a double stile – turn left here.

Walker Bottoms in 1948
Walker Bottoms in 1948

Walk along the path, which will lead you on to Nottingham Road, then turn left and return along Nottingham Road to The Butts. Head down High Pavement to the Market Place and your starting point in the Coppice car park.