The surrounding area has been industrialised since the late 18th century. One of the earliest companies to take advantage of the mineral resources around Ripley was the Butterley Company. The company was formed in 1790 and still survives to the day in the guise of Butterley Engineering, Butterley Brick and Butterley Aggregates (now all separate companies). Over the last 200 years the companies have been a steelworks, coal mining, quarrying, railway, foundry, brickworks. One of the early, and most well known, examples of the work of the company includes the graceful arched roof of St. Pancras Station in London. A recent major achievement was the design and construction of the Falkirk Wheel, a spectacular canal boat lift funded by the Millennium Commission.
Constructed under the premises of the Butterley Company is the 2966 yard long Butterley Tunnel for the Cromford Canal. The central section of the canal is currently disused, but a charitable fund has been formed to reopen the canal.
Ripley was the northern terminus of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Tramways Company.
Ripley is also home to local radio station Amber Sound FM. A community radio station awarded a five year broadcast license in June 2008. Amber Sound FM broadcasts on 107.2FM and is based on Unicorn Business Park just off Wellington Street.
John Wesley spent time in Ripley on his travels, preaching to local people under a tree on the market Place and at the old Blacksmiths. The Methodist Church is reputed to be the oldest Church in town and is still active today. At the peak of the movement there were 5 Methodist Churches in the town, but over the years they have combined. Ripley Methodist Church is situated in Wood Street Ripley.
According to research and the analysis of names in Britain in 2006, Ripley has the highest proportion of people of ethnic-English origin. The analysis put 42.2 million adult voters in mainland Britain into 200 ethnic groups, based on both given names and surnames. Of Ripley's inhabitants, 88.5 percent have an English-ethnic background.Places and villages within Ripley: