The school was built 1907–09, commissioned by George Herbert Strutt - a direct descendent of Jedediah Strutt, the famous industrialist who developed the cotton industry in Belper.
Herbert Strutt, whose bust is shown opposite, was given the go-ahead to provide a school for the town in March 1907,and the site he chose for the new school was opposite the town‘s workhouse, Babington House. The school was designed by local architects, Hunter and Woodhouse, in a style that would complement this older building.
By the spring of 1909 the work was complete, and the school, named after its creator, was officially opened on May 7th. The Duke of Devonshire carried out the opening ceremony.
On completion the building was a presented by George Herbert Strutt to the County Council for use as a Higher Grade Elementary School and Pupil Teacher Centre.
The school cost some £20,000. The original headmaster was Mr W W Tunnicliffe, who was appointed in February 1909 and served in that post until his retirement in 1936. It is an historic building listed Grade 2.
It was decided some five years later that an extension was needed, costing Alderman Strutt a further £10,000.
In 1927 a further plot of land (the present car park and rear gardens) was sold by Strutt to the County Council, together with the playing fields presently used by the Belper Rugby Club.
Later the school became a Grammar School, then a Middle School in 1973 and a Primary School in 1986. The County Council have now built a new primary school off Bargate Road and the school has moved there.
Some photographs seen on this website from the first years of the Herbert Strutt School are part of a photographic album presented to the school by students J and B Snow in 1911, and now in the possession of Belper Historical Society. Amongst them is one of the original staff. With headmaster Mr W W Tunnicliffe (centre) are Mrs B M Davenport, Miss E M Barker, Miss N Symons, Mr H G Wright, Mr J W Raistrick, Mr H B Snow and Mr S E House. There are also many more group shots.
In the school hall sat the bust of George Herbert Strutt, presented to the founder of the school in January 1910 in appreciation of his paying for the building of the school, and providing the land.
About 1,500 people from the surrounding areas had donated money towards the bust, which Mr Strutt decided should remain at the school.
Herbert Strutt School became a primary school following a shake-up in education brought in by the Government in 1971. It remained a primary school until its closure in February 2007, when children moved to a new school, taking the Herbert Strutt name with them.
When it was not needed as a school, the original 1909 Strutt conveyance said what should happen:
"...the said hereitaments and premises hereby conveyed shall be held IN TRUST for and be conveyed and assured to the Belper Urban District Council or its successors in fee simple for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the township of Belper aforesaid in such manner as the said Urban District Council or its successors shall from time to time determine...."
Amber Valley Borough Council is the successor to Belper Urban District Council. In 2007 the Council agreed - after representations from the Belper Civic Forum - to "dispose of the Herbert Strutt School on the open market for conversion to primarily residential use, subject to listed building consent" and that any proceeds be disposed of "in accordance with the charitable objectives of the Herbert Strutt Charity".
The Herbert Strutt Charity Trust was established in 1986 and is administered jointly by Amber Valley Borough Council and Belper Town Council. The fund is mostly made up of the net sale proceeds from Gibfield Lane Baths and other minor sales. The Charity awards Funds for charitable purposes to benefit residents of the area served by Belper Town Council (which includes Milford).
In December 2006 at the first open meeting of the Belper Civic Forum the future of this building came out on top of the list of people‘s concerns.
The vast majority wished the building to be converted to community use. Most wished for it be a library and adult community education centre. Other uses suggested were community meeting rooms, conference centre, performing arts venue, business start up centre, archive for Belper artefacts and photos and partly converted to apartments to help pay for the community uses.