The Derwent Valley in Derbyshire contains a series of 18th- and 19th- century cotton mills and an industrial landscape of high historical and technological interest. The mills played such a large role in shaping the factory system, the industrial revolution and modern society that the region has now become the Derwent Valley Mills World Heriage Site. The modern factory system owes its origins to the mills at Cromford, where Richard Arkwright's inventions were first put into industrial-scale production.
The world heritage site which includes a series of mill complexes, river weirs, mill settlements and an historic transport network, is some 15 miles long, running from
Sir Richard Arkwright's magnificent Masson Mills at Matlock Bath to Derby at the southern end and following for the most part the River Derwent.
Places to explore along the way
Masson Mills were established in 1783, and in continuous use until 1991. It was built on the Derwent which offered a power sourcesome 10 times greater than that of the earlier mill at Cromford. Constructed in brick on a gritstone base the original mill was 21 bay 5 storey building, 43.8m long and 8.4m wide. Extensions had been added to the north and west of the mill by around 1835, some of which were later demolished. More extensions were added in the 20th century. The mill chimney dates from 1900 and was the work of the famous mill architects Stott and sons who also built the engine house.
Masson mill has been extensively repaired and restored recently and now house a remarkable working textile museum and an adjoining retail village.
Sir Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill - the world's first successful waterpowered cotton spinning mill. Building started here in 1771 and continued to 1790. The complex, consisting of linked mills, warehouses and worksho ps, was saved from dereliction in the 1970s and is currently undergoing painstaking restoration. It now contains an exhibition, a restaurant and gift shops. See Cromford Mill
Built for Richard Arkwright though never lived in by him, the house provides extensive views of the Derwent Valley and retains many original features.
St Mary's church in Cromford
St Mary's church is Cromford's parish church, built for Richard Arkwright and opened in 1797. Substancially altered and partly gothicised in 1858. It has an extensive collection of mural decorations by Alfred Hemmings of 1897 depicting scenes from the bible and a memorial to Mrs Arkwright byChantrey hangs on the north wall of the nave. The church contains the family vaults which are bricked up in the chapel.
Today much of Cromford - the village Arkwright created for his workforce and which remained in his family's ownership until the 1920s - remains intact. Included are Market Place, the heart of the community, and built around 1790, the Greyhound Hotel (1778) , the Arkwright stores (1780's). Also North Street, the first of Arkwright's workers housing in Cromford, the village lock-up in Swift's Hollow. See Cromford
Cromford Canal was built in the 1790's and ran over 23km from Cromford to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. The original intention was to unlock the immense mineral wealth, especially limestone, that Derbyshire had. At the Cromford end is the Cromford Canal Waharf which contains, a warehouse dating back to 1794, a warehouse from 1824, the Counting House (part 1794 part late 19th century) and a couple of canal cottages which date from 1796 and built for the Cromford Canal Company.
Further along the canal can be found High Peak Junction. In 1830 the Cromford and High Peak Rail was opened which completed the link to Manchester. The junction was created to provide a link for trans - shipping the goods between the canal and the railway. The warehouse dates from 1850. A short distance further along is the Leawood Punphouse with it's 29m tall chimney (1849) and the Wigwell Aquaduct (1793) over the river Derwent.
John Smedley's Mill
John Smedley's Mill is situated at Lea Bridge, a short diversion from Cromford. Textiles have been produced here for over 200 years and the John Smedley company continues to produce some of the worlds finest knitware. A factory shop is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Belper River Gardens
Belper River Gardens are a quiet refuge from the bustling market town and situated on the river Derwent, overlooked by East Mill. During the summer, rowing boats are available for hire. There are also summertime theatre performances and band concerts. The annual Well Dressing is also held in the park.
Strutts North Mill
Jedediah Strutt started to build his first cotton mill in Belper in 1776. The original North Mill, completed in 1786, was destroyed by fire in 1803. It's replacement, built by Jedediah's son William is described as being the "most sophisticated, beautiful and technologically advanced building of its era" in the BP book of Industrial Archaelogy. This glowing report was mainly due to it's fire proof structure, warm air central heating and breast shot water wheel. The old cotton spinning mill is the second oldest fire proof iron framed building in the world and the fore runner of today's enormous steel framed structures.
The Belper North Mill is the home of the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre, an important element of the National Heritage Corridor. It now contains a whole range of stories illustrating the development of the factory community in the 18th and 19th centuries. Examples of Hargreaves Spinning Jenny, Arkwrights Water Frame and Cromptons Mule take pride of place. There are also examples of stocking making machines and the ancient art of chevening - the decoration of stockings by hand. The mill is open during the summer on wed - sun, 1pm to 5pm. During the winter it is open sat - sun 1pm to 5pm. More at Belper North Mill
As well as the mills and the gardens, the town has many other points of interest, including the old mill workers cottages, the nail maker's workshop on Joseph Street and the ancient St John's Chapel now Belper Heritage Centre. See Belper Town
Milford was once a quiet hamlet, in a part of the large deer forest, that spread from Duffield to Wirksworth, until Jedediah Strutt set up a water powered cotton mill here and built housing for his workforce. Some of the housing still remains in Hopping Hill but much of the mill building was demolished between 1952 and 1964, including the cruciform warehouse of 1793, the second of Strutt's fire proof buildings with brick arch floors, timber beams and iron pillers. What remains is used by small businesses and a mill shop. See Milford
The mill area in Darley Abbey is quite a large complex. The oldest parts, east mill, middle mill and west mill, are 5 storeyed and brick built. It dates from 1789-92, the rest all pre 1850. There is also a finishing house which has 3 storeys and sash windows, and an octagonal toll house in the mill yard. The Evans family built much of the housing, still to be seen today, though tastefully restored. It was mostly 3 storeyed and built of red brick. The Evans family were the sole employers of village folk. In return for long hours and hard work, families were cared for with subsidised rent, coal, hot meals for the sick and old. They were provided with warm blankets in cold weather and there was even a convalescent home in Llandudno. Villagers were buried at the expense of the Evans and had memmorial tablets erected. See Darley Abbey
Darley park, which borders the village, was landscaped by William Evans and has attractive flower beds, shrubberies and lawns running down to a stretch of the river Derwent, which is used for boating and has an annual regatta. It once had a hall, built in 1727 but now demolished, that for 120 years was the home of the Evans family who built the cotton mill by the river in 1783.
Derby Silk Mill - Museum of Industry and History
Derby Industrial Museum is housed in the historic Derby Silk Mill, originally built between 1717 and 1721, itself a landmark in the Industrial Revolution and development of the textile industry in Britain. The museum has a special focus on Rolls Royce areo engine production and Derby's role as a centre for he railway industry since 1839.
There is an area devoted to changing exhibitions, an attractive gift shop, and the museum runs a busy programme of schools sessions and activities for all the family.
The museum is open mondays 11am to 5pm, Tues to Sat 10am to 5pm. Tel 01332 716670 for more information.
Derby Museum and Art Gallery
The impressive Joseph Wright Gallery includes portraits, landscapes and scenes of industry directly relevant to the story of the Derwent Valley Mills. The museum and gallery are open Mon 11am to 5pm, Tues-Sat 10am to 5pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays 2pm to 5pm.
Please also see
Derwent Valley Mills Photographs
Strutt's North Mill at Belper Photographs