Belper was once famous for nail making, however it was the genius of the Strutt family who changed the face of the town. Jedediah Strutt built one of the world's earliest water-powered cotton mills. Later a fireproof mill was built by his son William and this had a significant impact on future development. An apprentice called Samuel Slater worked at the mill and after he emigrated to America, he became known as the Father of American Manufacturers.

The Amber Valley area is twinned with the Blackstone Valley in Rhode Island and Belper is twinned with Pawtucket because of these early industrialists. Clost to the mill complex the beautiful River Gardens offer a tranquil place to watch the world go by.

During the summer months, well dressings take place in the gardens or there might be a band concert of theatre production to enjoy. The oldest building in Belper is St John's Chapel dating from 1250.