Derby

One and a half hours by train from London St Pancras.

The art interest of Derby is limited, and the Victorian art interest more so. The visitor in sympathy with these pages should see at least the Museum and Art Gallery, the Cathedral, and the Guildhall.

Museum and Art Gallery

The Museum and Art Gallery has restricted room for art, as it shares its space, understandably, with palaeontology, geology (important locally, with Blue John among other minerals), natural history, Egyptian and other historical items, etc. The art is displayed in temporary exhibitions, but there are a few works permanently on display. Most notably, a whole room devoted to the painter Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), too early for these pages. His pictures are mostly portraits, and typically have a small patch of contrasting brightness, on an otherwise dark canvas, most arrestingly in the Orerie, a candle-lit scene.

We may also note a few oversentimental but otherwise harmless landscapes by George Turner of Derby (1841-1910), and views of Derby by Joseph Lark Pratt (1805-73).

There are half a dozen bits of sculpture, including a ĺ figure of a nude by G.A. Rossi, dated 1876, an anonymous half-figure of a man, his chest pierced by an arrow, and busts by Chantrey (William Strutt), John Steell (Florence Nightingale), the rarely seen Joseph Clarke of Birmingham (C. Sylvester), T Fowke (Thomas Bass MP) and local sculptor W. J. Coffee (Erasmus Darwin), all good work.

We should at least mention the room of Derby Porcelain, though the florid sentimental pieces are not in line with the inclinations of these pages. Started in about 1748, the manufacture continued all through the 19th Century in the form of Royal Crown Derby.

Cathedral

A rather small cathedral, though the tower is tall enough. The ceiling and much else is modern, but there are a couple of things going back to the previous church on the site, demolished in 1723, and given the size, a decent collection of more recent monuments around the walls.

So far as the monuments for which we can identify the sculptors go, from the 19th Century are a plaque showing a kneeling weeping girl by a pot on a plinth, with a second girl standing behind, by Chantrey, whom we met in the Art Gallery, and a small monument by Westmacott for Mrs Chichester depicting a reclining classical girl reading. From the 18th Century is an important and original composition by Rysbrack to Caroline, Countess of Bessborough, a bust by Nollekins of William Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough and Roubilliacís monument to William Chambers, with two portrait busts and rather elevated reclining cherubs.

Of the non-attributable monuments, from the 17th Century there is a grand tomb of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, with much paint and a full reclining effigy, and the William Wheler Monument with two half-figures, Classical pots and the head of a cherub. And earliest of all, a 16th Century wooden effigy of probably Sub-Dean Johnson. Among the more modest plaques, note the 19th Century monument to Daniel Parker Coke, with particularly excellent figure, and several Greek pots in high relief from the 18th Century.

And against one wall rests the completely plain flagstone to Joseph Wright of Derby, apparently reused from some earlier monument.

Outdoor Statues

Elsewhere in the centre, there are a very few statues to be aware of. Beside the art gallery is a bronze statue of Michael Thomas Bass MP by the eminent J. E. Boehm, seemingly rather younger than the portrait bust by Fowke seen in the gallery.

The characteristic style of the town architecture is based on pale stone classical buildings, with minor floral decoration at the tops of the Corinthian pillars and doors, rather than anything figural or animal. The exception is the Mechanics Institution next to the library on Wardwick. This augments the vegetable ornament with mythical beasts, and little heads above the windows on the first floor, and on each side of the arch of the door, a little scene: to the left, a man on his stool admiring his own portrait on an easel, and to the right, two women helping a boy to choose books in a library.

Opposite St Peterís church in the street of the same name is a decorated building with four statues, painted but probably plaster underneath, showing local worthies, including Florence Nightingale.

The Guildhall has a distinctive tower and dome dating from 1842, and two large panels with high relief sculpture by John Bell showing figures in Roman costume Ė to the left, a court scene, to the right perhaps deliberations in a council chamber, so covering Law and Government.

And finally, in front of this building, a World War I memorial with a sympathetic mother and child in bronze by the estimable G. A. Lawson.

M. T. Bass MP, by J. E. Boehm

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