Friday, July 22, 2011

Arkwright's Mill, Cromford

Today I visited one of my favourite places - Cromford in Derbyshire - to meet a couple of old friends from university and look at a little industrial archaeology.

The photograph shows part of the Arkwright's Mill complex. The oldest building on the site dates from 1771 and is described by the Arkwright Society website as "the world’s first successful water powered cotton spinning mill".

In 2001 the Derwent Valley Mills,  stretching 15 miles from Matlock Bath to Derby, became a World Heritage Site. They represent the birthplace of the factory system in the 18th century as water power was harnessed here for textile production. Later Lancashire was to become predominant in cotton production, with the result that man of these mills survive without having been redeveloped.

Of course, being the birthplace of the factory system is a questionable accolade. These early mills resemble barracks or even forts - there were even gun ports to protect the West Mill counting house in Belper - which suggest their builders expected the hands to have mixed feelings about their fate.

The restoration of Arkwright's Mill in Cromford is proceeding, and the Arkwright Society appears to be taking over other heritage sites in the town  and taking good care of them. The village's distinctive railway station has been restored and the Society is looking after the canal basin too.

I should also add that the Derwent Valley, like so many early industrial sites, is extremely beautiful. And you should also visit Scarthin Books if you find yourself in Cromford.

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