The History Of The Derby Roundhouse
The Derby Roundhouse is a building well-deserving of its landmark status given its historical significance in the city and Britain as a whole. The Roundhouse – located next to Derby Railway station at Pride Park and built by Robert Stephenson for the North Midland Railway in 1839 – was the first of its kind in the country, and it is even believed to be the first in the world, yet this this historical status was very nearly not enough to keep it alive. Over the centuries since it was first designed, the Derby Roundhouse has gone from a vital innovation in the industry to a dilapidated relic back to an important part of the community.
The purpose of the roundhouse was fairly straightforward when it was designed and it operations would inspire the creation of other models and buildings across the country’s network of railways. The problem with locomotives in those days – and in many cases the carriages too – was that they were only able to travel in a single direction; once they had reached the end of the line they had to be turned around to make the return journey. The Derby Roundhouse held the deceptively simple solution of a turntable and, as the building developed, it became home to a carriage shop where the carriages could be repaired after their journey and three storey office complex that wrapped around the Roundhouse’s North West sector.
From a forgotten relic to a new centre for the Derby community.
As the industry went into decline and the decision was made to close Derby Railway Works, there were fears that this historical roundhouse would be next for the chop. Luckily for residents and railway enthusiasts, the roundhouse was saved from demolition and received Grade II status to ensure that it was listed and safe. This status aside, given its state of disrepair upon surveying it for restoration, the idea that it was “saved” was questionable. At the time, the building was said to be falling down around the restoration team with staircases rotting away, yet they were still able to transform the building and rediscover its former glory.
The final restoration of the Derby roundhouse was surprisingly sympathetic and the designers were able to restore the important, historical elements while using modern initiatives to further showcase the building’s worth and purpose. The rail spurs are still in place, the turntable is still operational and there is now a clear section of floor looking into the basement where the engines were cleaned.
The restored, architectural roundhouse was reopened by the Princess Royal in 2010 as part of the Derby College campus so it could provide space for a range of courses, from Hair and Beauty to the arguably more apt Construction and Engineering. When the hall is not being used by the students, tourists and members of the public can enjoy guided tours and the annual beer festival. The Derby Roundhouse clearly continues to play an important role in the development of the city, it still has a strong connection to its residents over 170 years on and hopefully its worth will be seen for many more years to come.