Derby after dark

The ‘urbanization of the human population’ has arguably been increasing over recent decades. For this module, a walk was assigned which triggered a theme I wanted to focus on – places of history that had not been urbanised. During several walks through Derby city centre throughout the day, I was bombarded with a chaotic atmosphere which led me to believe this city was a theatre of social action. This is a scene I have been familiar to, therefore I wanted to delve deeper into another sector of city life. I decided I wanted to take a different approach of the streets and focus on Derby after dark. In particular, I had an aim to discover the darker history of Derby, by being visually transported back in time, to how Derby once was. So I started with the old Derby Jail…

Derby Gaol

I started my walk at Friar Gate, a place I recognise as home to many shops, food outlets and bars. Throughout my walk I was aiming to locate a building of history with a deep story behind it. I was not disappointed when I came across Derby Gaol. Today the building is the host of a small museum, displaying the crime and punishment that was seen in Derbyshire in the 1800s. However, its history portrays a much darker perception of the building and this can first be noticed with the thick metal spikes surrounding the walls of the entrance. Derby Gaol was the site of countless hangings and executions, with the prison cells still existing today; available for the publics’ viewing. Although now a small museum, this building has arguably still remained a landmark in Derby as a museum piece left from history for tourists and locals to visit. Viewing the gaol at dark, was an interesting but mainly spooky experience for me, mainly due to my prior knowledge of the institution!

Joseph Wright’s House

Another theme that struck me during my walk throughout the city was the prominent inner city decay. This appeared more noticeable throughout the quiet streets at night as opposed to a bustling city centre during the day. This could be seen at the once historical building and home of Derby artist, Joseph Wright.

Although from a distance the building looks well-kept and structured, it is a different picture whilst taking a closure look, with graffiti covering the boarded up doors, broken windows and cigarette butts surrounding the floor of the entrance. Random acts of violence arise from underlying societal and economic issues, and this property seems to have fallen victim to them.

Derby Hippodrome

Derby Hippodrome once was a beautiful variety theatre and cinema in the 1900s, however today you would not believe this was the case. Coming to the end of my walk, I ended up here, not knowing what I would find. The huge building could be as great as it once was, but with a lot of work. Shattered windows and graffitied doors led me to feel uneasy so I did not stay here long…

This extent of vandalism and neglect to the building could be due to a lack of funding which leads to frustration, crime, property vandalism, run- down buildings and vulnerable infrastructure. It is clear that areas in Derby such as this one have been stuck in a cycle of deterioration for many years; the more that the city is expanding, the greater the problems in the city centre.

So, after my night time walk across the city, I did not struggle for historical buildings and landmarks to research. Some, like Vernon Gate were kept in order and were almost as beautiful nowas they were when they were built. However it seemed throughout time that several of Derby’s inner city landmarks have become rotten and run down. This is unfortunate and possibly due to a lack of funding, but will Derby ever be repaired?

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