Derbyshire (/ˈdɑːrbɪˌʃɪər, -ʃər/) 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 north-west, West Yorkshire to the north, South Yorkshire to the north-east, Nottinghamshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south-east, Staffordshire to the west and south-west 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).:1 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 farthest 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 10,000–100,000 inhabitants. There is much sparsely populated agricultural upland.
The area that is now Derbyshire was first visited, probably briefly, by humans 200,000 years ago during the Aveley interglacial, as shown by a Middle Paleolithic Acheulean hand axe found near Hopton. Further occupation came with the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age.
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 the county’s highest 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.
The 11 National Character Areas found within Derbyshire are:
- Dark Peak
- White Peak
- South West Peak
- Derbyshire Peak Fringe and Lower Derwent
- Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire Coalfield
- Southern Magnesian Limestone
- Needwood and South Derbyshire Claylands
- Trent Valley Washlands
- Melbourne Parklands
- Leicestershire & South Derbyshire Coalfield
- Mease/Sence Lowlands
Derbyshire has a mixture of a rural economy in the west, with a former coal-mining economy in the north-east (Bolsover district), the Erewash Valley around Ilkeston and in the south around Swadlincote. The rural landscape varies from arable farmland in the flatlands to the south of Derby, to upland pasture and moorland in the high gritstone uplands of the southern Pennines.
Derbyshire is rich in natural mineral resources such as lead, iron, coal, and limestone, which have been exploited over a long period. Lead, for example, has been mined since Roman times. The limestone outcrops in the central area led to the establishment of large quarries to supply the industries of surrounding towns with lime for building and steelmaking, and latterly in the 20th-century cement manufacture. The Industrial Revolution also increased demand for building stone, and in the late 19th and early 20th-century, the arrival of the railways led to a large number of stone quarries being established. This industry has left its mark on the countryside, but is still a major industry: a lot of the stone is supplied as crushed stone for road building and concrete manufacture, and is moved by rail.
Derbyshire's relative remoteness in the late 18th century and an abundance of fast-flowing streams led to a proliferation of the use of hydropower at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, following the mills pioneered by Richard Arkwright. Derbyshire has been said to be the home of the Industrial Revolution, and part of the Derwent Valley has been given World Heritage status in acknowledgement of this historic importance.
Nationally famous companies in Derbyshire include Rolls-Royce, one of the world's leading aerospace companies, based since before World War I in Derby, Thorntons just south of Alfreton and Toyota, who have one of the UK's largest car manufacturing plants at Burnaston. Ashbourne Water used to be bottled in Buxton by Nestlé Waters UK until 2006 and Buxton Water still is.
The Derbyshire school system is comprehensive with no selective schools. The independent sector includes Repton School, Ockbrook School, Trent College and The Elms School.
The county of Derbyshire has many attractions for tourists and local people. It offers Peak District scenery such as Mam Tor and Kinder Scout, and more urban attractions such as Bakewell, Buxton and Derby. Such places 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 in 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 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 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.