BELPER, a market-town and chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Duffield, hundred of Appletree, S. division of the county of Derby, 8 miles (N.) from Derby, and 134 (N. N. W.) from London; containing, with nearly the whole of the ecclesiastical parish of Bridge-Hill, 9885 inhabitants. This place, at which were formerly a park and hunting-seat belonging to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was an inconsiderable village, inhabited principally by nailers, till the year 1777, when the cotton manufacture was introduced by Messrs. Strutt, since which it has risen into a considerable town. It is pleasantly situated on the river Derwent, over which a handsome stone bridge of three arches was recently erected; the former bridge, said to have been built by John of Gaunt, having been destroyed, in 1795, by a great flood. The town consists of several streets, is partially paved, lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water. There are five mills for the spinning of cotton, &c., belonging to Messrs. Strutt, who make their own machinery on the spot; two of these, and a bleaching-mill and dyehouse, are about a mile and a half lower down the river, over which the proprietors have built a neat stone bridge of two arches. Here are also two of the largest manufactories in the kingdom for silk and cotton hose, established in 1790 by Messrs. Ward, Brettle, and Ward, and now carried on by Messrs. Ward, Sturt, Sharpe, and Ward, and by George Brettle and Company, who employ more than 6000 persons, principally in the surrounding villages. The nails made here, especially those for the shoeing of horses, are much in demand. The Midland railway has a station at Belper. The market is on Saturday, and fairs are held on May 12th and Oct. 31st, for hornedcattle, sheep, and horses. The county magistrates hold a petty-session for the district every Wednesday; and courts for the manor are held when occasion requires, under the steward: the powers of the county debtcourt of Belper, established in 1847, extend over part of the registration-districts of Belper and Basford.
The parish comprises 2852 acres, whereof two-thirds are pasture, and the remainder arable, with a little woodland and some ornamental planting. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £158; patron, the Vicar of Duffield; impropriator, Lord Beauchamp. The present chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was erected in 1824, at an expense of upwards of £12,000, which was partly defrayed by a parliamentary grant; it is a handsome structure, in the decorated English style, with a lofty pinnacled tower. The old chapel, built by John of Gaunt, and the burial-ground of which is still used, is now a district church. Divine service is also performed in Bridge-Hill. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Unitarians; and a Lancasterian school, in which 500 children are taught, is supported by the proprietors of the cotton-works. Henry Smith, Esq., endowed two almshouses, and bequeathed an estate producing £30 per annum, directing the rental to be divided equally between the minister and the poor of Belper; two other almshouses were endowed by James Sims, with £12 per annum. The union of Belper comprises 35 parishes and places, and contains a population of 46,235. In a field in the neighbourhood may still be traced the massive foundations of the mansion in which John of Gaunt resided.