Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Arkwright's Mill

Last week my friend P and I went on a guided tour of Arkwright's Mill in Cromford, a small village which lies in the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire. Richard Arkwright was born in Preston in 1732 and was the son of a tailor. From humble beginnings and with a pretty rudimentary education he went on to become a very wealthy and successful man. In 1786 he was knighted by George III.

This is the mill yard, Arkwright's first mill is on the right, it was built in 1771 and was originally five stories high. Cotton spinning continued here until sometime in the 1880s and after that the buildings were used for various purposes including two laundries and a brewery. From the 1920s until the 1970s it was occupied by a chemical works and during their tenure a great deal of damage was done to the site from pollution caused by the chemicals and by a couple of fires( one of which destroyed the top two floors of the original mill) and general lack of care of the buildings.

The rescue of this important industrial site began in 1979 when a local charity, The Arkwright Society, bought it. Over £7 million pounds has been spent decontaminating the site and restoring the buildings. Many of these are now occupied by cafes and shops which help to bring both life and revenue to the site. The whole of the Derwent Valley is now a World Heritage Site though perhaps not quite as glamorous as the Taj Mahal or the Alhambra! The water is the head race taking the water from the Bonsall Brook to the wheel pit of the second mill .

This is a scale model of the invention that changed the face of industry forever - the spinning frame. Prior to its invention spinning and carding had been done by hand in people's homes but this machine allowed the factory system to be developed as it was now possible to spin 128 threads at a time and the machines could easily be worked by women and children. At first Arkwright set up a factory in Nottingham and the frames were powered by horses but it was obvious to him that water would be a much better source of power and so he built the mill at Cromford. In 1776 a second mill of seven stories was built and the expansion continued all along the Derwent Valley. He also licenced other mills to use his spinning frame especially in Lancashire and it was the royalties from these licences that made him wealthy. To his credit he built not only mills but also good quality housing for his workers, each house had a large garden for growing vegetables and a pigsty. He also built the Greyhound Inn in Cromford village and a Sunday School as well as founding friendly societies and clubs.

This is the wheel pit for the second mill built in 1776, the water comes from the Bonsall Brook via the head race in the earlier photo and in the centre you can see the recess for the vertical drive shaft which transmitted the power to the mill floors above. The tail race on the left of the photo drained eventually into the River Derwent which is about half a mile away.

This weir was built around 1777 as part of the development of the second mill but in the 1790s it was adapted to take water to the nearby Cromford Canal.

Once the tour had finished P and I opted for a short walk along the Cromford Canal as it was both dry and fairly warm - not a combination often found in recent days! This is the narrowboat 'Birdswood' built in 1938 and now enjoying a new lease of life taking passengers on relaxing trips along the canal.

The path along the canal is a good deal better than I was expecting, in my young days canal towpaths tended to be decidedly muddy places.

As we walked under the bridge we noticed these grooves in the wall worn into the stone by the towropes of countless horse-drawn narrowboats being pulled along the canal.

The coming of the railways signalled the decline of the canals and trade had declined significantly on the Cromford Canal by 1888.It struggled on until being pretty much abandoned in 1944.Since 1968 it has been gradually restored and this is still a work in progress.

There were several big clumps of comfrey growing along the canal bank and according to a notice at the beginning of the towpath there are water voles here though we didn't see any signs of them.

We did see this though, I think it's a little grebe. It took several goes to get a photo as it was constantly diving under the water and reappearing several feet away from its original position. We had a very pleasant and interesting afternoon and were really lucky with the weather as within minutes of getting back to the car it started to rain heavily and carried on for the rest of the evening.


Mac n' Janet said...

Interesting post, I think I'd heard of him before, but didn't know the whole story. What a pretty little bird.

Rosie said...

Yes, it is a dab chick or Litle Grebe. I love to see them and my first ever post on my blog was about dab chicks on Cromford Canal. Glad they are still there. I always find the mill and Cromford itself such a fascinating place and full of signs of our industrial and social history. In fact I will be there later this week meeting some friends, probably at the bookshop. I really enjoyed this post:)

Bovey Belle said...

Now, I wish I'd had YOU teaching me about Arkright's Spinning Jenny when I was back at school. I found the whole of the Industrial Revolution incredibly boring but then our history teacher wasn't the inspiring sort. I think differently about history now (in fact, once I left school I began to learn about what really interested ME).

A great day out, and a lovely walk along by the canal. Glad you had the weather for it too.

Dartford Warbler said...

What an interesting place and very good to know that the mill and surroundings have been preserved.
We loved visiting industrial archaeology sites when we lived in Yorkshire, but Arkwright`s Mill will have to go on the list for a future visit.
Lovely to see the Little Grebe on the canal.

The History Anorak said...

It's a great spot, isn't it? I enjoyed my visit a couple of weeks ago but I have to admit I spent longer in the shops. I saw the basic exhibition and the film, then went to indulge my antique shopping habit!

Sandies' Patch said...

One of my favourite days out! Thanks for sharing the photos.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

What a wonderful tour - and love the historical info. Such beauty and history in your country - which I have decided it the most beautiful country on this earth.

Louise said...

That must have been a really interesting tour!