Pickford acquired the forty-five yard long building plot where Pickford’s House stands today in the Nun’s Green development area, where fashionable three-storey properties were being built, in September 1768 and the house was completed by 28 July 1770 when he took out a Sun Assurance Company Fire Policy.  The front exterior and three ground floor reception rooms were architecturally superior, designed to impress potential clients, whereas behind the scenes Pickford’s wife Mary, and his two young sons lived in plainer accommodation with their dog.  At the rear of the house stood Pickford’s builder’s yard and stonemason’s workshops, and probably the original kitchen facilities.

Born in Warwickshire in 1734 Pickford came from a family of stonemasons and builders.  He appears to have settled in Derby in 1763 to act as contractor for the building of the new Assembly Rooms.  By the late 1760s he had undertaken a number of architectural projects in the Midlands, including the building of the prestigious new factory and hall at Etruria for the potter Josiah Wedgwood.  One of his finest surviving works locally, is St. Helen’s House, Derby, completed in 1767 for John Gisborne.

The Back Garden
Constructed as a small formal garden typical of the late 18th century, using plants that would have been available at the time.  There is no evidence of a garden at 41 Friar Gate in Pickford’s time, as he is known to have had his workshops at the rear of his house.  The garden is based on the plan of a formal garden in Louth, Lincolnshire.  The design and planting plans have been created by Broomfield College, Morley, and were put in place from September 1989.  The well used for water in the house was found in the rear garden during this work, and has been covered by a metal grille.  A lovely pace to sit and rest out of the bustle of the city.

The Kitchen and Back Kitchen
The rear wing of the house was built sometime between 1812 and 1831 by the Reverend Joseph Pickford, to house kitchen and washing facilities on the lower ground floor, and Pickford’s own bed and dressing rooms above.

Although the ‘cooking apparatus’ in the kitchen had long since been removed, a reproduction has now been installed cast from a surviving example from the Judge’s Lodgings, Nottingham.  This type of open range was invented by William Strutt who, before 1808, had one made for himself by John Harrison, who had a foundry at Bridge Gate, Derby.  Harrison perfected the design and later marketed the range himself, selling examples to local properties like Catton Hall and Pickford’s House.

In these rooms, the preparation and cooking of meals to feed a fairly small family together with their servants would have taken place.  None of the labour-saving gadgets, such as food mincers, pressure cookers and mechanical food whisks that appear in Victorian kitchens of the late 19th century are present, although compared with 17th and 18th century examples, this kitchen is well equipped.

The Wood Children
Joseph Wright, oil on canvas, 1789.

The three children of Hugh Wood, of Swanwick Hall in Derbyshire, are getting ready to play a game of cricket. Robert Wood, the oldest child, dominates the apex of Wright’s triangular composition, and leans casually on a cricket bat. His step-brother, John, prepares a simple wicket made of tree twigs, while his step-sister Mary plays with the ball.

With their loose hair and healthy, alert faces, the Wood Children reveal the benefits of outdoor pursuits and unrestrictive clothing that reflected contemporary ideals in child rearing. This sense of naturalness was central to the popular appeal of Wright’s portraits of children, and earned him a number of similar commissions from Derbyshire families, including the Pickfords, during the 1770s and 1780s.

The Bedrooms
As the visitor goes up to the first floor the arch to the right leads to the Master Suite, which is of superior size and is detached slightly from the other bedrooms, partly through its raised floor level due to the height of the dining room below.  The cast-iron firegrate and wooden surround in the bedroom are eighteenth century in date and originally must have had, in addition, an ornamental surround with niches on either side.

The architectural details of the room are plain and unpretentious, common in bedrooms of this period, and perhaps dictated by Pickford’s lack of funds.  The dressing room, with its small corner fireplace, is accessible from the bedroom, and like all dressing rooms, has separate access from the landing for servants.


Joseph Wright of Derby defined the 18th Century, the age of enlightenment and the industrial revolution.


Joseph Pickford the architect built this house in 1769-70 as his family home and workplace.

The Soldiers Story

Dedicated to the history of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, The Sherwood Foresters and the Derbyshire Yeomanry.

Archaeology Gallery

Discover more about The Origins of Derby in our fascinating and unique collection.


Transitional Spaces are the places that we are beginning to use to show our previously stored collections.


Derby Museums have a collection that is wide ranging and varied. We hope that you find something to interest you.


The Mildand Railway Study Centre at the Silk Mill is the UK's largest pre-nationalisation railway archive.

About Us

Derby Museums is a charitable trust responsible for the rich cultural and creative history of Derby. The Trust manages three sites: the City Museum and Art Gallery, Pickford’s House and The Silk Mill, and all art and collections are held and curated by the Trust.

Derby Museums,
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Derby, DE1 1BS

01332 641901

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