More than half way though the month of exhibiting at Cromford Mills already! The works look great in the 200-year old building, and what a perfect venue it is for Tangled Yarns: the world’s first water-powered spinning mill and the birthplace of the modern factory system.
The opening event was fantastic – really good turnout, a lovely introduction from the Duke of Devonshire (whose Chatsworth House is very nearby), and great feedback from visitors. I was happy to meet both the CEO and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Arkwright Society – to thank them for hosting the exhibition … and for the Society’s amazing work over the last decades to save Cromford Mills from destruction and oblivion, and turning it into what it is today. (NB more is still to come, with a new World Heritage Site Gateway centre to open soon, and more buildings yet to be restored – all very exciting).
On the weekend I finally had time to explore the beautiful Dervent Valley Mills World Heritage Site – with sunshine to match! First up the rock next to Cromford Mills to get a view of the mill and, as it turns out, of both of Richard Arkwright’s houses: the one he lived in until his death, literally on top of Cromford Mills – he could see the main factory gate from there.
And then Willersley Castle, the grand ‘pile’ Arkwright commissioned to be built for him once he was a rich man – but never lived to see it finished!
As you can see from the last image, the landscape is just so picturesque it’s unreal. Really hard to imagine this as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution! Went for a lovely long walk up and down the peaks around the Cromford Canal. It’s easy to see why the World Heritage Commission values the unique combination of natural and industrial heritage in the Derwent Valley.
To see a bit more of the industrial part of the World Heritage site I visited Masson Mills, just a short walk away from Cromford Mills. Built in 1783 this was the improved “V2” of Richard Arkwright’s spinning mills, build right on the river Derwent to take advantage of the river’s strong and consistent water power. It became the blueprint of early spinning mill design in the UK and even the US. Today you can see historic (but working!) machines to process cotton from bale to woven cloth, with machinery demonstrations every day.
The bobbin room at Masson Mills apparently has the world’s largest collection of bobbins! When we visited there was such a lovely light, it felt like walking into an old still life.
Eventually steam was added to power Masson Mills – the boiler house was constructed in 1908. When I saw the boilers they seemed like familiar faces – very similar to the 1874 boiler drawing I had painted onto my hanging “The Spectre”.
Finally: I had to smile when everytime I saw this sign in Cromford . Just for the avoidance of doubt…..