Arts Derbyshire Header Image

Derbyshire heritage - Derbyshire County Council's blue plaques

Derbyshire County Council asked the residents of Derbyshire to nominate Derbyshire people or places that should be honoured with one of its prestigious new blue plaques.

Second round of winners announced

The second group of six blue plaque tributes were awarded to:

  • William Barron - Borrowash

  • Sir Henry Royce - Quarndon

  • Samuel Slater - Belper

  • John Smedley - Matlock

  • Alison Uttley - Cromford

  • Sir Joseph Whitworth - Darley Dale

Read more about each of the winners below. 

Biographies of Winners

William_BarronWilliam Barron – gardener, nurseryman and landscape gardener

Born to a gardener in Eccles, Berwickshire, Scotland on 7 September 1805. William Barron began his career as an apprentice at Blackadder in Berwickshire before moving to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh where he was in charge of the glasshouses. In 1930 he was appointed gardener to Charles Stanhope, the fourth earl of Harrington at Elvaston Castle, Derbyshire and was commissioned to create a new garden.

He married Elizabeth Ashby and together they had a son, John. When Charles Stanhope died in 1851, the fifth earl of Harrington, Leicester Stanhope, opened the gardens to the public and instructed Barron to create a new commercial nursery in the garden.

After the death of the fifth earl in 1862, Barron bought 40 acres for a nursery site in Borrowash, and was joined in business by his son in 1867. 
William Barron & Son formed a reputation for plant sales, landscape gardening, the transplantation of large tress and a leading provider of public park designs. William Barron died on 8 April 1891 in Borrowash.

William Barron was nominated by Rosemary Woodhouse of Breaston.

Sir Henry Royce – world-famous engineer

Sir Frederick Henry Royce was born in Peterborough on 27 March 1863. His interest in mechanical engineering began in 1901 when he bought a second-hand French Decauville and was unimpressed with the engineering of the motor. He built his own car in his workshop over the next three years and subsequently built two more, selling one to Henry Edmunds who then introduced Royce to Charles Rolls.

Henry Royce and Charles Rolls set up Rolls-Royce in 1906, and in 1908 manufacturing was moved to a new purpose-built factory in Derby. It was during this time that Henry Royce lived at Quarndon House, Quarndon (formerly The Knoll). After three years at Quarndon House, Royce built his own house in the village; Holmwood on Burley Lane, but was unable to stay long as he became ill from overwork and lack of food and sleep.

Sir Henry Royce died on 22 April 1933 at his home in West Sussex. His motto was: "Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it." His last regret being that he did not work harder.

Sir Henry Royce was nominated by Bryan Harris of Quarndon.

Samuel Slater – “Father of the American Industrial Revolution”

Samuel SlaterBorn in Belper on 9 June 1768, Samuel Slater is very little known in his home country. At the age of 14 he began his first apprenticeship in the textiles industry with Jedidiah Strutt, a former partner of Richard Arkwright. In eight years he rose to become superintendant of Strutt’s mill and had gained a comprehensive understanding of Arkwright’s machines.

Believing that the British textile industry had reached its peak, Slater secretly emigrated to the USA in 1789, evading a law banning industrial experts from emigrating to countries where commercial rivals might benefit from their knowledge. In 1793, Slater built the USA’s first successful water powered spinning machine in an existing building in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In 1803, together with his brother he built a mill village called Slatersville and he employed families, including children, to live and work at the site. This factory system became known as the Rhode Island System and was subsequently imitated across New England.

Former American President Andrew Jackson referred to Samuel Slater as the “Father of the American Industrial Revolution.” While trade workers in the Belper area who feared losing their jobs to foreign competitors dubbed him “Slater the Traitor”. Samuel Slater died on 21 April 1835 in Webster, Massachusetts.

Samuel Slater was nominated by Rosemary Timms of Milford.

John Smedley – hydropathic pioneer  

John Smedley's HydroBorn in Wirksworth on 12 June 1803, his father, John Smedley Senior, had a small spinning and hosiery business but lost most of his property when his brother, Isaac, ran into money problems. John Junior, with the help of his mother and a contract from the army, re-established his father’s business and in 1818 it had outgrown Wirksworth and moved into Lea Mills, near Cromford.

Business declined again when the Napoleonic War finished and John Senior retired leaving John Junior to take over. In 1823 he was insolvent but managed to avoid bankruptcy, and by 1840 he had successfully introduced new weaving and spinning processes, leaving the business on a steady footing. After becoming ill with typhus dever, he became a believer in hydrotherapy, and thus built his own hydro on Matlock Bank. He introduced his own mild water cure and his standard of care for his patients was extremely high.

Smedley encouraged other businessmen to enter the hydropathic trade, and when he died on 27 July 1874, Matlock was filled with hydros of all shapes and sizes. Smedley’s hydro was bought in 1955 by Derbyshire County Council and now serves as their headquarters.

John Smedley was nominated by Peter Wild of the Matlock Civic Association.

Alison Uttley – world famous author

Alison UttleyBorn Alice Jane Taylor at Castle Top Farm, near Cromford on 17 December1884, Alison Uttley read physics at Manchester University and became only the second woman to graduate from the university with honours. She went on to train as a teacher at Cambridge, before living and working in London and marrying James Uttley with whom she had one son; John Corin Uttley.

James Uttley took his own life in 1930, forcing Alison into a writing career in order to support herself and her son. She began writing children’s books, her career blossomed and she expanded into writing for older children and adults.

She wrote over 100 books, her most famous being a series of tales about animals, including The Little Grey Rabbit and The Little Red Fox. She was awarded an honorary Litt.D by Manchester University in 1970. Alison Uttley died in hospital on 7 May1976. Her son, John, took his own life two years later.

Alison Uttley was nominated by Gilly and Simon Groom of Dethick. 

Sir Joseph Whitworth – industrial engineer

Joseph WhitworthThe son of a local schoolmaster, Joseph Whitworth was born on 21 December 1803 in Stockport, Cheshire. At the age of 14 he began an apprenticeship at his uncle’s cotton mill in Oakerthorpe, Derbyshire but left in 1821 at the age of 18 to fulfill his ambition to become a practical engineer making machines at Crighton & Co, a leading machine making company in Manchester.

In 1825 he moved to London and worked for Henry Maudslay at his works in Lambeth Marsh, before setting up his own company in Manchester in 1833. By 1874 he had gone from a handful of workers to 750, and his company had become a limited company. His most renowned invention was the ‘British Standard Whitworth’ screw thread.

He made his fortune and bough a large estate in Darley Dale, including Stancliffe Hall. Sir Joseph Whitworth died on the French Riviera on 22 January 1887 and is buried in St Helen’s churchyard in Darley Dale.

Sir Joseph Whitworth was nominated by Peter Wood of Oakerthorpe.

Biographies of Past Winners

The first round of nominations from the public yielded 63 ideas! After a big public vote, the following were chosen - read more about the winners here.

Richard Arkwright Junior - entrepreneur - Bakewell  

Richard ArkwrightYou’ll all know Richard Arkwright senior - the brilliant Georgian entrepreneur who built the first water Richard Arkwright junior, his wife Mary and their daughter Anne.  Derby City Museum and Art Gallery powered cotton spinning mill in Cromford. But it was his only son Richard junior who looked after the commercial and financial side of things to expand their empire so successfully.

Richard junior was sent by his father to Bakewell to build Lumford Mill - almost as big as the two Cromford mills put together. Over the next 20 years he went on to build many more mills. Partly because of Ark wrights, cotton clothing is worn by most people in most countries of the world.

Richard junior built his own house near Lumford Mill, married in 1780 and raised eight children before his father died in 1792. Richard’s family then went to Willersley Castle, Cromford. Lumford House is still there much as he built it.

Richard Arkwright Junior nominated by Bakewell and District Historical Society.

Lady Baden-Powell – heroine of the Girl Guides Association - Chesterfield  

Olave Baden PowellBaroness Olave St Clair Baden-Powell (Lady Baden-Powell) was born in 1889 at Stubbing Court near Chesterfield – a Georgian country house. She was married to Lord Baden-Powell - founder of the Boy Scout movement – and supported him hugely in his scouting work. But later she threw her energies into the organisation set up for girls – The Girl Guides Association.

She started by organising guiding in Sussex where - as county commissioner – she set up and recruited guiding units across the county. It was her success there that led to her appointment as chief commissioner and to her being asked to expand the organisation throughout Great Britain.

Today the Girl Guides Association operates in more than 100 countries with over 10 million members promoting friendship and understanding between women and girls of all nations. She has received numerous honours from around the world.

Baroness Baden Powell was nominated by Louise Collins of New Whittington.

Jedidiah Buxton – untaught mathematical genius - Elmton

Jedidiah Buxton was an untaught mathematical genius born at Elmton, near Bolsover in 1701. Despite being son of the village school master he remained illiterate and was a farm labourer all his life. However, his mental arithmetic skills were astonishing and brought him to the attention of organisations like the Royal Society of London.

It was there that he performed such tasks as multiplying four figures by four figures and extracting the square root of a number. Today he would probably be diagnosed as autistic.

He preferred to live his life quietly in his home village where he assisted with the calculation of land size not only into acres, roods and perches but into square inches. These days displays in the village about Jedidiah attract people from far and wide -such is the interest in Elmton’s most famous son.

Jedidiah Buxton was nominated by Elmton with Creswell Local History Group.

Arthur Lowe – Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army - Hayfield  
Arthur LoweBorn in Hayfield in 1915 Arthur Lowe planned to join the merchant navy but this plan was sunk because of his poor eyesight. Instead he worked in an aeroplane factory. He served in the army in the Middle East during World War II and was popular for the shows he put on for the troops.

Eventually he turned to a full time acting career – performing regularly on stage, appearing in around 50 films and landing a regular TV role as draper and preacher, Leonard Swindley in Coronation Street. His most loved role is probably as Captain George Mainwaring in Dad’s Army.  He maintained contact with Hayfield throughout his life and died in 1982.

Arthur Lowe was nominated by Hayfield Civic Trust.

Sir Joseph Paxton – Chatsworth House head gardener and famous designer - Chatsworth Park  

Sir Joseph Paxton is most famous for designing the original Crystal Palace Conservatory in London. But he also had considerable impact in Derbyshire. The seventh son in a farming family he was born in 1803. He excelled first in horticulture and by the time he was 20 years old he came to Chatsworth House as Head Gardener.   While he was at Chatsworth he became a director of the Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway. It was he who designed the station building, station offices and employee cottages in Rowsley.

During his life, Paxton designed important buildings throughout the country – most notably the revolutionary glass “palace” for the Great Exhibition of 1851. He also went into publishing and became an MP.

His Derbyshire links remained strong throughout. He died in 1865 and is buried with his wife - Sarah Bown, a local girl from Matlock - in Edensor churchyard.

Sir Joseph Paxton was nominated by Rowsley Parish Council.

George Stephenson – “Father of the railways” - Chesterfield  
Born near Newcastle upon Tyne in 1781, George Stephenson is renowned as being the "Father of the railways". He was both a civil and mechanical engineer who built the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives. Railway travel started on 27th September 1825 when Stephenson's Locomotion ran from Darlington to Stockton. It carried 450 passengers at 15 miles an hour.

He continued to work on improving the quality of the locomotives used on the railway lines he constructed. In 1838 he bought Tapton House - a Georgian mansion near Chesterfield. In partnership with others he opened coalmines, ironworks and limestone quarries in the area.

Stephenson also owned a small farm where he experimented with stock breeding, new types of manure and animal food. He died in 1848 and is buried at Holy Trinity Church in Chesterfield.

George Stephenson was nominated by William Eyre of Dronfield Woodhouse.

Get involved

If you have information that we haven’t included here, then let us know. Similarly, if you consider yourself the expert on a particular subject, or you simply fancy writing up and getting some information published for this series, then get in touch by email at

Featured artists

Angela Thompson

Angela Thompson

Paula Sharples

Paula Sharples

Richard Bett

Richard Bett


Derbyshire Festivals

Take a look at all the amazing festivals that Derbyshire has to offer right throughout 2020, right on your doorstep - come along, join in the fun and see the world-class entertainment.

Arts Derbyshire on Facebook and Twitter

Come and join in the conversation.