There’s a double celebration of Belper’s historic First Family this week, with a blue
plaque announcement and an auction success for the town’s museum.
The Strutt family created the world’s first Cotton Mill Town when they built the mills, housing and facilities in Belper from 1776. Five generations of the Strutts were benefactors for the town, the last being George Herbert Strutt who created the RiverGardens, and built a grammar school and swimming baths.
His efforts to provide for the town before his death in 1926 will now becommemorated with a blue plaque at the Makeney Hall Hotel near Milford, his former home. He was one of six names to be selected in a public vote for this honour, whichwill be provided by Derbyshire County Council.
The news came just a day after the only known painted portraits of his parents George Henry and Agnes Strutt were acquired for the Strutt’s North Mill Museum.
They were successfully bought at auction thanks to Heritage Lottery funding provided through the Enlightenment Project, which has enabled museums in the county to purchase artefacts from the Enlightenment era.
“They are beautiful portraits, and bring to life two of the key family members – theparents of George Herbert Strutt,” said Natascha Wintersinger, manager of the museum. “I’m delighted we secured them for the museum so that everyone can enjoy them.”
The news of both the paintings acquisition and the blue plaque announcement came as welcome news to Lin Ryan, the grand-daughter of George Herbert Strutt, who lives in Ireland but has renewed links between the family and the town with visits to Belper in the past two years.
She said: “In my mind, the plaque will not only be a fitting memorial to my grandfather George Herbert Strutt, but also for his youngest daughter Bridget, my Mum, who died in September this year. She was very happy that her father’s work and generosity was recognised and that a link has been established between those who wish to perpetuate his memory and the present generations of her branch of the family.”
George Herbert Strutt’s name was put forward for the public vote by Adrian Farmer,Heritage Co-ordinator for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. He said: “I’m so pleased George Herbert Strutt’s name received public support.
“The Strutts madesuch an impact on Belper, and world history. The plaque at Makeney, with the portraits in the museum, will help people to understand and appreciate them more fully.”
A shortlist of 12 Derbyshire people were put forward for a blue plaque.
Also successfully nominated were Florence Nightingale and Cromford Canal.
Nursing legend Florence spent her childgood at Lea Hurst near Holloway. She loved the place and chose to go straight there on her return from the Crimean War in 1856.
The Cromford Canal was reinvigorated in the 1970s and was nominated by Patrick Morriss of the Friends of Cromford Canal.