Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site runs for 15 miles down the Derwent River valley from Matlock Bath to Derby. It contains a series of 18th and 19th century historic cotton mills and the ancillary services that were needed to maintain the mills like river weirs, mill settlements and an historic transport network.
The area was a pioneer of the mechanically powered factory system within the textile industry in the 18th century. The mills were at the core of shaping the factory system today, and factories had their origins in the mills at Cromford, where Richard Arkwright's inventions were integrated into industrial-scale production.
Why these developments should have happened in the Derwent Valley, rather than in any one of many other locations with a reasonable water supply, has a number of answers. Arkwright looked at a number of factors when setting up his mills
Places of particular note include:-
Masson Mill built in 1783, and in continuous use until 1991. The mills are constructed of brick on a gritstone base. the original mill was 21 bay 5 storey building which was extended around 1835. More extensions were added in the 20th century. The mill chimney was erected in 1900 by the famous mill architects Stott and Sons, who also built the engine house. Masson Mill was built on the Derwent because it offered an impressive power source. Masson Mill has now been restored and houses a working textile museum and an adjoining retail village.
Cromford Mill. Sir Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill was the
world's first waterpowered cotton spinning mill. Building commenced in 1771.The
mills at Cromford with their use of machinery power, a large workforce and factory
village became models for similar schemes worldwide.
Problems with the water supply about 1840 put limitations on textile production and the buildings were put to other uses. These included a brewery, laundries, cheese warehousing and finally, in 1922, the production of colour pigments for paints and dyes. In 1979 the Colour Company abandoned the site, leaving many of the buildings heavily contaminated with lead chromate.
The Arkwright Society, a small local charity, bought the Cromford Mills to rescue them. Already restored are the original form of the mill water courses, the yard and the walls and wheelpit of the second mill of 1776. The three largest buildings are yet to be restored.
Willersley Castle. 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. It was built for Richard Arkwright in 1797. Substantially altered in 1858. It has an collection of mural decorations by Alfred Hemmings in 1897 and a memorial to Mrs Arkwright by Chantrey on the north wall of the nave. The church contains the family vaults which are bricked up in the chapel.
Cromford. Cromford was the village Arkwright created for his workforce and which remained in the Arkwright family ownership until the 1920s. It remains as it was today, with the Market Place (1790), the Greyhound Hotel (1778) , the Arkwright stores (1780's). Also North Street, the first of Arkwright's workers housing in Cromford.
Cromford Canal. Cromford Canal was built in the 1790's and ran 23km from Cromford to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. Cromford Canal Wharf contains, a warehouse (1794), a warehouse (1824), the Counting House (part 1794 part late 19th century) and canal cottages (1796) built for the Cromford Canal Company. Further along the canal can be found High Peak Junction, built in 1830 to provide a place to for transship the good between the canal and the railway. The warehouse dates from 1850. A short distance further along is the Leawood Pumphouse with it's 29m tall chimney (1849) and the Wigwell Aqueduct (1793) over the River Derwent.
John Smedley's Mill is at Lea Bridge, a short distance from Cromford. Textiles have been produced here for over 200 years and the John Smedley company continues to produce some of the fine knitwear. A factory shop is open daily.
Strutts North Mill. Jedediah Strutt put up his first cotton mill in Belper in 1776. The original North Mill was completed in 1786, was destroyed by fire in 1803. It's replacement was built by his son William Strutt. This replacement mill included many advanced features for its day - a fire proof structure, warm air central heating and breast shot water wheel.
The Belper North Mill is now the location of the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre. It contains exhibits showing the development of the factory in the 18th and 19th centuries. Examples of Hargreaves Spinning Jenny, Arkwrights Water Frame and Cromptons Mule can be seen there.
Belper. The town itself has many of the old mill workers cottages, the nail maker's workshop on Joseph Street and the ancient St John's Chapel now Belper Heritage Centre.
Milford. Jedediah Strutt set up a water powered cotton mill in Milford 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 pillars. What remains is used by small businesses and a mill shop. See Milford
Darley Abbey. Darley Abbey has a large mill complex. The oldest parts date from 1789-92, the rest all pre 1850. The Evans family built much of the housing, which has now been restored. It was mostly 3 storeyed red brick building. The Evans family were the sole local employers and appear to have been relatively benevolent for the time.
Darley Park, borders the village, and was landscaped by William Evans and has attractive gardens going down to the River Derwent. The hall, built in 1727 and for 120 years was the home of the Evans family, has now been demolished.
Derby Silk Mill, built between 1717 and 1721, is now the Derby Industrial Museum. The museum has a special focus on Rolls Royce aero engine production and Derby's role as a centre for he railway industry since 1839.
Derwent Valley Mills
World Heritage Sites in Britain