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A look at a random selection of mostly traditional

city centre pubs in Derby.




The Romans were the first to  introduce pubs to this country. At small shops where wine and food were served to customers seated on stools round a communal table. But no trace of this tradition has been found during the Dark Ages.

Evidence of the existence of inns in the Middle Ages exists, when inns were run by monks who offered travellers shelter and food, as well as drink.

Monastic inns were kept separate from the monasteries they served,  the buildings identified by signs invariably of a religious nature.

The earliest reference found to an inn,  in Derby  refers to 'William the Innkeeper'. The location of the inn is not stated, but further mention is made about a financial transaction with Abbot and Canons of Darley. It may well be that he kept the Abbey's inn.

The Abbey Inn at Darley Abbey

The Old Silk Mill


For centuries the pub has been the place where friends, families, colleagues and people wanting companionship meet. A pub is a place where people gather to celebrate,  do business, play games or just to seek quiet relaxation.

Changes in the law have now made the pub a place for families. The pub is re-establishing itself as the place to eat, a tradition that all but disappeared after the last war.

Many of the pubs in Derby City Centre provide meals and nearly all serve hot drinks.


The industrial revolution gave added momentum to the growth of coaching and its inns. The movement of goods and people was essential to trade and commerce.

Frequent stops to rest, feed and water the horses, as well as refresh the coachmen and passengers were essential. The coaching inn met this need. If the inn was well placed on a busy route or at a terminus, it would have enough trade to prosper, others were not so fortunate.

In the late eighteenth century, business was also boosted at  inns, where the regulated mail service called. Derby had a number of coaching inns.

The George was one of the most famous and busiest coaching inns in Derby, during that era. The London to Nottingham stage coach ran from the George from 1735, and in 1766 the post office coach also ran from the inn.

 The George (Jorrocks)


The arrival of the railways dealt a death blow to the coaching inns

Coaches were often uncomfortable and despite improvements to roads and carriage suspension, the whole experience was not a pleasant one. Breakdowns and crashes were not uncommon and there was the risk of being robbed by highwaymen. Passengers who rode on top of the coach were sometimes thrown off and even freezing to death was not unknown.

The modern hotel gradually took the place of the coaching inns, as the public gradually started to travel by train, where comfort was much greater and journey times quicker.

On the 30 May 1839, the first railway train steamed into Derby. The excited crowds watching the train’s arrival, little realised how this event would change the face of Derby.

 Initially, three railway companies operated from Derby, until 1844, when they amalgamated to form the Midland Railway. This hectic activity attracted swarms of workers from all over the country and in 1851 records showed that 43% of the adults in the town had been born outside the county.

Most had jobs in the railway works, but others were employed by companies that sprang up because of the railway’s arrival and the Midland’s expansion from a provincial company into the third largest in Britain, before the amalgamation into the LMS in 1923.   


Roman excavations have revealed over a thousand trade signs, a great many of which belonged to inns.

The Dolphin was a well known Christian symbol in medieval days, which gives credibility to the presumed date of the founding of the pub of that name in Derby. 

The Old Dolphin Inn

The Red Lion is the most common pub sign in England, and was an interpretation of the lion on John of Gaunt's shield.

Pub signs often have historical connections. In Derby, The Royal Standard,  is named after the Sovereign's personal flag, which is always flown when the King or Queen is personally present.


Test your knowledge of the pubs in the city centre by answering ten questions.

Click here for the questions


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




Select a pub and click to go to the page.


Babington Arms

Old Bell

Brick and Tile

Bridge Inn

Brunswick Inn

Cattle Market Hotel(Smithfield)

Crown and Cushion


Exeter Arms

Flower Pot

Friary Hotel

George Inn (Jorrocks)


Midland Hotel

Noah's Ark

Royal Standard

Seven Stars



Old Silk Mill

Old Spa Inn

The Standing Order

Tiger Inn

Wardwick Tavern




If this feature proves popular, further pubs will be added in 2006, concentrating on Derby suburbs.

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