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Hosiery and knitwear were major industries in Belper in the late 18th century The industry was organised on the 'putting out system' where a master hosier put out yarn to framework knitters who worked from their homes. Work was spread far and wide between villages within a 25 mile radius of Belper, this was done to prevent knitters joining together in unions and forcing the price up. The week following the distribution of the yarn, the stockings would be collected and the knitters paid for their work.

About this time John Ward established his spinning business in Belper and was buying from the Strutts. Early in the 19th century, George Brettle joined the business and the firm started to expand rapidly. By 1812 the company was employing over 1,000 staff and even had a London address. Seventeen years later they were the leading hosiers in the country with 4,000 framework knitting machines under their control.

On William Ward's death in 1833, George Brettle set up his own business, building a new warehouse on the site occupied since 1994, by the De Bradelei Mill Shop.  Brettles  business was almost as big as Ward's had been and by 1844 was employing over 6,000 frames. In addition to stockings panteloons, drawers, gloves and caps were manufactured. The last out-work done for Brettles was carried out in the 1930s by a Mr Haslam working from his Bargate premises.

Belper's reputation for the manufacture of hosiery and other cotton goods was known throughout the country, stockings were supplied for George III and his grand-daughter Queen Victoria. It is said that the cotton vest worn by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar was made in the town.

In 1936, George Brettle & Co. employed 1,500 people in Belper, 500 in London and 60 travellers. However, in 1964, it was taken over by Courtaulds and closed 23 years later. The premises are now as a discount shopping outlet, which helps to bring visitors into the town. For anyone wanting refreshment while visiting the outlet, the delightful Chevin Coffee Shop is a good choice. It has recently received The National Heartbeat Award for Healthy Food.

Further information may be obtained about the De Bradelei Mill Shop by contacting them at Chapel Street, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1AR (Tel. 01773 829830) or by visiting their website at:

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Derwent Valley Visitor Centre: (Tel: 01773 880474) situated in Strutt's, North Mill where superb displays of hand spinning wheels, Hargreavesís Spinning Jenny and many more exhibits bring this old mill back to life. See feature.

Belper River Gardens (Tel. 01773  880474/841488) are tucked away behind North Mill and hide from the A6 behind a high brick wall. The result is that many people miss seeing these delightful gardens. Where you will find  flowerbeds, an arboretum, a bandstand, water gardens, childrenís playground and boating facilities. See feature.

Heage Windmill (Tel. 01773 853579 - when mill closed telephone 01773 853136) a Grade II listed building, is the only working, stone-towered, multi-sailed windmill in England. Spectacular views across the Derwent Valley. Visitor Centre and shop. Light refreshments.See feature.



A special new sub-section has been added to this website, based on the Discover Derby Supplement, published by the Derby Evening Telegraph during March 2005. The most recent additions are:

 Click below for details.

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All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.