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Flag of Derbyshire Coat of arms of Derbyshire
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Bene consulendo" ("By wise deliberation")
Derbyshire within England
Derbyshire in England
Coordinates: Template:Coord/display/title, inline
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region East Midlands
Established Ancient
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant William Tucker
High Sheriff Elizabeth Fothergill (2016–17)
Area 2,625 km2 (1,014 sq mi)
 • Ranked 21st of 48
Population (2005 est.) 981,200
 • Ranked 20th of 48
Density 373/km2 (970/sq mi)
Ethnicity 96.0% White
2.3% S. Asian
1.7% Black, Mixed Race or Chinese
Non-metropolitan county
County council Derbyshire County Council
Executive Labour
Admin HQ Matlock
Area 2,547 km2 (983 sq mi)
 • Ranked 20th of 27
Population 747,500
 • Ranked 11th of 27
Density 293/km2 (760/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 GB-DBY
ONS code 17
GSS code E10000007
Derbyshire numbered districts.svg
Districts of Derbyshire
Unitary County council area
  1. High Peak
  2. Derbyshire Dales
  3. South Derbyshire
  4. Erewash
  5. Amber Valley
  6. North East Derbyshire
  7. Chesterfield
  8. Bolsover
  9. City of Derby
Members of Parliament List of MPs
Police Derbyshire Constabulary
Time zone GMT (UTC)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

Derbyshire (Listeni/ˈdɑːrbʃər/ or /ˈdɑːrbɪʃɪər/; abbreviated Derbys. or Derbs.) is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire, containing the southern extremity of the Pennine range of hills which extend into the north of the county. The county contains part of the National Forest, and borders on Greater Manchester to the northwest, West Yorkshire to the north, South Yorkshire to the northeast, Nottinghamshire to the east, Leicestershire to the southeast, Staffordshire to the west and southwest and Cheshire also to the west. Kinder Scout, at 636 metres (2,087 ft), is the highest point in the county, whilst Trent Meadows, where the River Trent leaves Derbyshire, is its lowest point at 27 metres (89 ft). The River Derwent is the county's longest river at 66 miles (106 km), and runs roughly north to south through the county. In 2003 the Ordnance Survey placed Church Flatts Farm at Coton in the Elms (near Swadlincote) as the furthest point from the sea in Great Britain.

The city of Derby is a unitary authority area, but remains part of the ceremonial county of Derbyshire. The non-metropolitan county contains 30 towns with between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants. There is a large amount of sparsely populated agricultural upland: 75% of the population live in 25% of the area.


See also: History of Derbyshire

The area that is now Derbyshire was first visited, probably briefly, by humans 200,000 years ago during the Aveley interglacial as evidenced by a Middle Paleolithic Acheulean hand axe found near Hopton.

Further occupation came with the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age when Mesolithic hunter gatherers roamed the hilly tundra. Evidence of these nomadic tribes has been found in limestone caves located on the Nottinghamshire border. Deposits left in the caves date the occupancy at around 12,000 to 7,000 BCE.

Arbor low 274167 560a8cc3
The henge monument at Arbor Low

Burial mounds of Neolithic settlers are also situated throughout the county. These chambered tombs were designed for collective burial and are mostly located in the central Derbyshire region. There are tombs at Minninglow and Five Wells that date back to between 2000 and 2500 BCE. Three miles west of Youlgreave lies the Neolithic henge monument of Arbor Low, which has been dated to 2500 BCE.

It is not until the Bronze Age that real signs of agriculture and settlement are found in the county. In the moors of the Peak District signs of clearance, arable fields and hut circles were discovered after archaeological investigation. However this area and another settlement at Swarkestone are all that have been found.

During the Roman invasion the invaders were attracted to Derbyshire because of the lead ore in the limestone hills of the area. They settled throughout the county with forts built near Brough in the Hope Valley and near Glossop. Later they settled around Buxton, famed for its warm springs, and set up a fort near modern-day Derby in an area now known as Little Chester.

Several kings of Mercia are buried in the Repton area.

Following the Norman Conquest, much of the county was subject to the forest laws. To the northwest was the Forest of High Peak under the custodianship of William Peverel and his descendants. The rest of the county was bestowed upon Henry de Ferrers, a part of it becoming Duffield Frith. In time the whole area was given to the Duchy of Lancaster. Meanwhile, the Forest of East Derbyshire covered the whole county to the east of the River Derwent from the reign of Henry II to that of Edward I.


Most of Derbyshire consists of rolling hills and uplands, with the southern Pennines extending from the north of Derby throughout the Peak District and into the north of the county, reaching a high point at Kinder Scout. The south and east of the county are generally lower around the valley of the River Trent, the Coal Measures, and the areas of clay and sandstones between the Peak District and the south west of the county. The main rivers in the county are the River Derwent and the River Dove which both join the River Trent in the south. The River Derwent rises in the moorland of Bleaklow and flows throughout the Peak District and county for the majority of its course, while the River Dove rises in Axe Edge Moor and forms a boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire for most of its length.

Landscape character

South Wingfield Church flooded
Flooding in South Wingfield Derbyshire in 2012

The varied landscapes within Derbyshire's have been formed mainly as a consequence of the underlying geology, but also by the way the land has been managed and shaped by human activity. The county contains 11 discrete landscape types, known as National Character Areas, which have been described in detail by Natural England and further refined, mapped and described by Derbyshire County Council and the Peak District National Park.

The 11 National Character Areas found within Derbyshire are:

  • Dark Peak
  • White Peak
  • South West Peak
  • Derbyshire Peak Fringe & Lower Derwent
  • Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire & Yorkshire Coalfield
  • Southern Magnesian Limestone
  • Needwood & South Derbyshire Claylands
  • Trent Valley Washlands
  • Melbourne Parklands
  • Leicestershire & South Derbyshire Coalfield
  • Mease/Sence Lowlands


From a geological perspective, Derbyshire's solid geology can be split into two very different halves. The oldest rocks occur in the northern, more upland half of the county, and are mostly of Carboniferous age, comprising limestones, gritstones, sandstones and shales. In its north-east corner to the east of Bolsover there are also Magnesian Limestone rocks of Permian age. In contrast, the southern and more lowland half of Derbyshire contains much softer rocks, mainly mudstones and sandstones of Permo-Triassic age, which create gentler, more rolling landscapes with few rock outcrops. Across both regions can be found drift deposits of Quaternary age – mainly terrace and river gravel deposits and boulder clays. Landslip features are found on unstable layers of sandstones and shales, with Mam Tor and Alport Castles being the most well-known. Cemented screes and tufa deposits occur very rarely in the limestone dales and rivers, whilst underground cave systems have been created naturally in the limestone since Pleistocene times. The recent discovery of a system near Castleton, named Titan, is now known to have the deepest shaft and biggest chamber of any cave in Britain.

The oldest rocks are Lower Carboniferous limestones of Dinantian age, which form the core of the White Peak within the Peak District National Park. Because northern Derbyshire is effectively an uplifted dome of rock layers which have subsequently eroded back to expose older rocks in the centre of that dome, these are encircled by progressively younger limestone rocks until they in turn give way on three sides to Upper Carboniferous shales, gritstones and sandstones of Namurian age.

Peak District Cross Section
A cross-section of northern Derbyshire, from west to east, showing the approximate structure of an eroded dome, with younger Coal Measure rocks to the east, and older limestone exposed in the centre

Younger still are the sandstones, shales and coal deposits found on the eastern flank of Derbyshire, forming the Coal Measures, which are of Westphalian age. All these rock layers disappear south of a line drawn between Ashbourne and Derby under layers of clays and sandstones (Mercia Mudstone Group and Sherwood Sandstones) of Permo-Triassic age. Small amounts of carboniferous limestones, gritstones and coal measures reappear in the far south of Derbyshire from Ticknall (limestone) to Swadlincote (coal measures). Some areas of the White Peak exhibit contemporaneous basalt flows (e.g. Ravens Tor at Millers Dale), as well as subsequent dolerite sill intrusion at a much later stage (e.g.near Tideswell Dale), whilst mineralisation of the carboniferous limestone in a subsequent period created extensive lead and fluorite deposits which have formed a significant part of Derbyshire's economy, as did coal mining. Lead mining has been important here since Roman Times. The much more recent river gravels of the Trent valley remain a significant extractive industry today in south Derbyshire, as does the mining of limestone rock in central and northern parts of the county. Coarse sandstones were once extensively quarried both for local building materials and for the production of gritstone grinding wheels for use in mills, and both former industries have left their mark on the Derbyshire landscape.


Because of its central location in England, and its altitude range from 27 metres in the south to 636 metres in the north, Derbyshire contains many species at the edge of their UK distribution ranges. Some species with a predominantly northern British distribution are at the southern limit of their range, whilst others with a more southern distribution are at their northern limit in Derbyshire. As climate change progresses, a number of sensitive species are now being seen to be either expanding or contracting their range as a result. For the purposes of protecting and recording the county's most important habitats, Derbyshire has been split into two regions, each with its own Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), based around National Character Areas. The Peak District BAP includes all of Derbyshire's uplands of the Dark Peak, South-West Peak and White Peak, including area of limestone beyond the national park boundary. The remaining areas are monitored and recorded in the Lowland Derbyshire Biodiversity Action Plan, which subdivides the landscape into eight smaller Action Areas.

The Derbyshire Biological Records Centre was formerly based at Derby Museum & Art Gallery, but since 2011 has been managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Two of Englands 48 Local Nature Partnerships (LNP) also cover Derbyshire; these are the Peak District LNP and the Lowland Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire LNP.


Since 2002 the county flower for Derbyshire has been Jacob's-ladder (Polemonium caeruleum), a relatively rare species, and very characteristic of certain limestone dales in the White Peak. Derbyshire is known to have contained 1,919 separate taxa of vascular plants (including species, hybrids and micro-species) since modern recording began, of which 1,133 are known to be either native or archaeophyte, the remainder being non-native species. These comprise 336 established species, 433 casuals and 17 unassigned. It is known that 34 species of plants once native here have been lost from Derbyshire (i.e. become locally extinct) since modern plant recording began in the 17th century. Derbyshire contains two endemic vascular plants, found nowhere else in the world: Rubus durescens, occurring in central Derbyshire, and Derby hawkweed (Hieracium naviense), still known only from Winnats Pass. One endemic species of moss, Derbyshire Feather Moss, occurs in one small 3-metre patch in just one Derbyshire limestone dale, its sole world location intentionally kept confidential. The distribution and status of vascular plants in Derbyshire have been recorded over the last 120 years in a series of four major botanical works, each by different authors between 1889 and 2015, but all entitled The Flora of Derbyshire. Plant recording is mainly undertaken locally by volunteers from the Derbyshire Flora Group, and by staff at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Peak District National Park.

Map of Derbyshire boundaries plus Peak District
Map of Derbyshire boundaries with Peak District also shown. Black = modern Geographic boundary, Red = Vice-county boundary (VC57) where this differs from modern; Dotted Blue = Peak District boundary

The Dark Peak is characterised by heathlands, bogs, gritstone edges and acid grasslands containing relatively few species, with plants such as heather (Calluna vulgaris), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and hare's-tail cotton grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) being dominant on the high moors. The dales of the White Peak are known for habitats such as calcareous grassland, ash woodlands and rock outcrops in all of which a much greater richness of lime-loving species occurs than elsewhere in the county. These include various orchids (such as early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), dark-red helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) and fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera)), common rockrose (Helianthemum nummularium), spring cinquefoil (Helianthemum nummularium) and grass of parnassus (Parnassia palustris). Specialised communities of plants occur on former lead workings, where typical metallophyte species include spring sandwort (Minuartia verna), alpine penny-cress (Thlaspi caerulescens) (both known locally in Derbyshire as Leadwort), as well as mountain pansy (Viola lutea) and moonwort (Botrychium lunaria).

As at 2015, Derbyshire contains 304 vascular plant species now designate as either of international, national or local conservation concern because of their rarity or recent declines, and are collectively listed as Derbyshire Red Data plants. Work on recording and publishing a bryophyte flora for Derbyshire is still ongoing; as at 2012 a total of 518 bryophyte species had been recorded for the county.

Botanical recording in the UK predominantly uses the unchanging vice-county boundary system, which results in a slightly different map of Derbyshire than the modern geographic county.


A number of specialist organisations protect, promote and monitor records of individual animal groups across Derbyshire. The main ones are Derbyshire Ornithological Society; Derbyshire Mammal Group; Derbyshire Bat Group, Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group, and the Derbyshire & Nottingham Entomological Society. All maintain databases of wildlife sightings, whilst some such as the Derbyshire Ornithological Society provide alerts of rare sightings on their websites or social media pages, and also publish major works describing the status and distribution of species.


There are several towns in the county with Derby being the largest and most populous. At the time of the 2011 census, a population of 770,600 lived in the county with 248,752 (32%) living in Derby. The table below shows all towns with over 10,000 inhabitants.

Rank Town Population Borough/District Notes
1 Derby 248,752 (2011) City of Derby
2 Chesterfield 103,788 (2011) Chesterfield
3 Long Eaton 45,000 Erewash
4 Ilkeston 37,550 (2001) Erewash
5 Swadlincote 36,000 (2004) South Derbyshire
6 Belper 21,823 (2011) Amber Valley Figure is for Belper civil parish, which includes Milford and Blackbrook
7 Dronfield 21,261 (2011) North East Derbyshire Figure is for Dronfield civil parish, which includes Dronfield Woodhouse and Coal Aston
8 Buxton 20,836 (2001) High Peak
9 Ripley 20,807 (2011) Amber Valley Figure is for Ripley civil parish, which includes Heage, Ambergate and Waingroves
10 Staveley 18,247 (2011) Chesterfield Figure is for Staveley civil parish, which includes Mastin Moor, Duckmanton, Inkersall Green and Hollingwood
11 Glossop 17,576 (2011) High Peak Figure is for the electoral wards of Howard Town, Old Glossop, Dinting, Simmondley and Whitfield.
12 Heanor 17,251 (2011) Amber Valley Figure is for Heanor and Loscoe civil parish, which includes Loscoe but excludes Heanor Gate
13 Bolsover 11,673 (2011) Bolsover Figure is for Old Bolsover civil parish, which includes Shuttlewood, Stanfree and Whaley, but excludes part of Hillstown.
14 Eckington 11,152 (2001) North East Derbyshire Figure is for Eckington civil parish, which includes Renishaw, Spinkhill, Marsh Lane and Ridgeway.

Historic areas

Some settlements which were historically part of the county now fall under the counties of Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, South Yorkshire, and Staffordshire:

Cheshire/Greater Manchester Marple Bridge (historically part of Marple)
Leicestershire Measham
South Yorkshire Mosborough, Totley, Dore
Staffordshire Burton-upon-Trent (part)

Local attractions

The scenic Derbyshire that attracts tourists

The county of Derbyshire has many attractions for both tourists and local people. The county offers Peak District scenery such as Mam Tor and Kinder Scout, and more metropolitan attractions such as Bakewell, Buxton and Derby. Local places of interest include Bolsover Castle, Castleton, Chatsworth House, National Tramway Museum at Crich, Peak Rail steam railway, Midland Railway steam railway, Dovedale, Haddon Hall, the Heights of Abraham and Matlock Bath.

In the north of the county, three large reservoirs, Howden, Derwent and Ladybower, were built during the early part of the 20th century to supply the rapidly growing populations of Sheffield, Derby and Leicester with drinking water. The moorland catchment area around these is part of the Peak District National Park and is extensively used for leisure pursuits such as walking and cycling.

There are many properties and lands in the care of the National Trust that are open to the public, such as Calke Abbey, Hardwick Hall, High Peak Estate, Ilam Park, Kedleston Hall, Longshaw Estate near Hathersage, and Sudbury Hall on the Staffordshire border.

Notable gardens in Derbyshire include the formal gardens in the 17th–18th-century French style at Melbourne Hall south of Derby, the listed garden at Renishaw Hall near Eckington, Lea Rhododendron Gardens near Matlock, the Royal Horticultural Society recommended Bluebell Arboretum near Swadlincote, and the extensive gardens at Chatsworth House.

County emblems

Derbyshire flag
Flag of Derbyshire

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Jacob's Ladder as the county flower.

In September 2006, an unofficial county flag was introduced, largely on the initiative of BBC Radio Derby. The flag consists of a white-bordered dark green cross encompassing a golden Tudor rose (an historical symbol of the county) all set in a blue field. The blue field represents the many waters of the county, its rivers and reservoirs, while the cross is green to mark the great areas of countryside.

In 2015, BBC Radio Derby commissioned a Derbyshire anthem, entitled 'Our Derbyshire', including lyrics suggested by its listeners. It received its first performance on 17 September 2015 at Derby Cathedral.


Derbyshire Compared
UK Census 2011 Derby Derbyshire East Midlands England
Total population 248,752 769,686 4,533,222 53,012,456
Foreign born (outside Europe) 9.3% 1.4% 6.4% 9.3%
White 80.2% 97.5% 89.3% 85.5%
Asian 12.6% 1.1% 6.4% 7.7%
Black 3.0% 0.4% 1.7% 3.4%
Christian 52.7% 63.6% 58.8% 59.4%
Muslim 7.6% 0.3% 3.1% 5.0%
Hindu 0.9% 0.2% 2.0% 1.5%
No religion 27.6% 28.0% 27.5% 24.7%
Over 65 15.1% 18.6% 17.1% 16.3%
Unemployed 5.2% 3.9% 4.2% 4.4%

In 1801 the population was 147,481 According to the UK Census 2001 there were 956,301 people spread out over the county's 254,615 hectares. This was estimated to have risen to 990,400 in 2006.

The county's population grew by 3.0% from 1991 to 2001 which is around 21,100 people. This figure is higher than the national average of 2.65% but lower than the East Midlands average of 4.0%. The county as a whole has an average population density of 2.9 people per hectare making it less densely populated than England as a whole. The density varies considerably throughout the county with the lowest being in the region of Derbyshire Dales at 0.88, and highest outside of the main cities in the region of Erewash which has 10.04 people per hectare.

Population since 1801
Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
non-metropolitan county
132,786 223,414 465,896 542,697 565,826 590,470 613,301 637,645 651,284 666,013 687,404 717,935 734,585 769,686
unitary authority
14,695 48,506 118,469 132,188 142,824 154,316 167,321 181,423 199,578 219,558 214,424 225,296 221,716 248,752
as a ceremonial county
147,481 271,920 584,365 674,885 708,650 744,786 780,622 819,068 850,862 885,571 901,828 943,231 956,301 1,018438

In literature and popular culture

In Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, Pemberley—the country home of Fitzwilliam Darcy—is situated in Derbyshire. In that novel, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is named as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Pemberley. In the 2005 film adaptation of the novel, Chatsworth House itself represents Pemberley. In one scene characters discuss visits to Matlock and Dovedale.

Sir Walter Scott's 1823 novel Peveril of the Peak is partly set in Derbyshire.

The events of the play Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard, take place in the fictional country house of Sidley Park in Derbyshire.

Alfreton is mentioned in the novel Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence, when a character gets a train to Alfreton and walks to Crich to see a lover.

George Eliot's novel Adam Bede is set in a fictional town based on Wirksworth.

Georgette Heyer's detective/romance novel The Toll-Gate is set in 1817 around a fictional toll-gate in Derbyshire.

The 1969 film Women in Love by Ken Russell had various scenes filmed in and around Elvaston Castle, most notably the Greco-Roman wrestling scene, which was filmed in the castle's Great Hall.

The 1986 film Lady Jane by Trevor Nunn, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes, has scenes filmed at Haddon Hall.

The 1987 film The Princess Bride by Rob Reiner, starring Robin Wright and Cary Elwes, was partly filmed in Derbyshire. It included scenes at Haddon Hall and in the White Peak and Dark Peak.

The 1988 film The Lair of the White Worm by Ken Russell, starring Hugh Grant, was filmed in Derbyshire. The opening title sequence is of Thor's Cave in the Manifold valley.

The 1993–2002 TV series Peak Practice was set in Crich and Fritchley, except for the twelfth and final series, and originally starred Kevin Whately and Amanda Burton. In 2003 an unrelated and less successful medical TV drama, Sweet Medicine, was mostly filmed in the historic market town of Wirksworth.

Other Derbyshire locations in which British TV scenes have been filmed include:

  • Hadfield: The League of Gentlemen;
  • Alderwasley: Stig of the Dump;
  • Ashbourne and Vernon Street in Derby: Nanny;
  • Repton and especially Repton School: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (in both 1939 and 1983 versions);
  • Shirebrook: The Full Monty;
  • Wingfield Manor: 1980s BBC TV series of The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Chesterfield: The twisted spire of Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield was made famous by its use in the opening credits of the 1966–71 ecclesiastical BBC TV sitcom All Gas and Gaiters, featuring Derek Nimmo.

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