Pizza building plaque honour for Derby clockmaker John Whitehurst

By Derby Telegraph

Posted on 10 December, 2013


Master clockmaker and scientist John Whitehurst is to become the latest notable son of Derby to be honoured with a blue plaque.


The action is particularly appropriate as it is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Whitehurst – a fact that led to a musical tribute being paid to him during this year's Darley Park concert.


Although he was born in Congleton, Cheshire, Whitehurst spent 44 years in Derby, where he was a member of the enlightened and educated Lunar Society and was a contemporary of Derby artist Joseph Wright.


The Lunar Society was a grouping of prominent 18th-century artists, scientists, industrialists, philosophers and intellectuals, whose ideas became known as the Midlands Enlightenment.


As well as clocks, Whitehurst also created compasses, barometers and thermometers and was a geologist, discovering fossilised bones of animals in the Peak District.


The blue plaque will be placed on the building where he worked at 24 Iron Gate, now occupied by Pizza Express, although he also worked in Queen Street.

Alan Grimadell, chairman of Derby Civic Society, which jointly administers the blue plaque scheme with the city council, said: "Whitehurst had premises under the arch to the side of the building, which is why it is appropriate to mark the place with a blue plaque.


"He entered into business for himself in Derby in 1736 when he was 23 years old.


"His close friends also included Benjamin Franklin, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood.


"It has been suggested that Whitehurst is the model for Joseph Wright's painting of a philosopher lecturing on the orrery.


"We are very proud to celebrate the life and achievements with the placing of a blue plaque."


Seven other plaques have already been put in place for other noted luminaries such as Thomas Duesbury, founder of the Crown Derby china works, suffragette Alice Wheeldon, architect Joseph Pickford and industrialists John and Thomas Lombe.


Councillor Asaf Afzal, city council cabinet member for planning, environment and public protection, said: "We are delighted to celebrate the life of Whitehurst.
"He was an extraordinary, pioneering 18th-century scientist and entrepreneur.


"He typifies the enterprise that Derby is famous for and is another reason to be proud of Derby.''


There are plans to recognise 25 notable figures with plaques.


Whitehurst's plaque will be unveiled on Wednesday, December 11, at 1pm.

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