Above you see the coat of arms of Derby. Although I wasn’t born there, all my relatives on my mother’s side of the family are from Derby, and I spent nearly all my first 18 years there.
The name Derby — [dɑːbi] and you pronounce it any other way at your peril — is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle (c. 900) as Deoraby, which may be a corruption of the name of the Roman camp Derventio, which was in the area of the city now known as Little Chester. Derby lies on the River Derwent, whose name is derived from a Celtic word meaning “valley of oaks”, apparently. Another explanation for the city’s name is that it means “animal farm”, deriving from Old English dēor (= “animal/deer”) + Norse by (= “settlement”). This theory is probably the reason for the central part of the coat of arms, which is known as “the buck in the park”.
A couple of notable events in Derby’s history, apart from the residence of yours truly (hoho):
- 1735: Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, married Elizabeth Porter in St. Werbergh’s Church in the centre of Derby. Johnson was born and brought up in Lichfield in Staffordshire.
- 1745: The advance party of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army reached Swarkestone Bridge just south of Derby (see map). There had been reports (unfounded apparently) of an army marching north to oppose them, and of little support further south for the Jacobite cause. Charlie, holed up in Exeter House in Derby, was forced by his commanders to give up and retreat all the way back to Scotland.
Some musings on Derby language and speech will have to wait for another day.