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28 October 2014
Legacies - Derby

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Nailers' cross
A nailers' cross uncovered in St John's Churchyard in 1920

© Belper Historical Society
Working hard and playing harder - Belper's "uncivilised" nailers

Belper’s place in the history of the Industrial Revolution was assured when Jedediah Strutt chose the town as the site for his cotton mills. However, by the time that Strutt arrived, Belper was already famous for another industry – nailmaking. Belper was home to a nail industry for at least 700 years, and was widely known for the superior quality of its horse shoe nails, which were even exported to America.

The nailworkers themselves were notorious characters, and they often found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Their defiant independence stood out in stark contrast to the new era of mechanization and capitalization represented by Strutt’s mills, but in the long-term their refusal to come to terms with the new industrial age was responsible for their downfall. More...

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