Derwent Valley Mills

The Derwent Valley Mills are about 28 miles (45 min) drive from Six Litton Mill via the A6.

The Derwent Valley Mills are the birthplace of the factory system. It was for this reason that they were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.

It was in the Derwent Valley that – thanks to pioneering work by Richard Arkwright, Jedediah Strutt, the Lombe brothers and others – the essential ingredients of factory production were successfully combined. Water Power was applied and successfully used for the first time on a relatively large scale. Not only was silk throwing and cotton spinning revolutionised with dramatic consequences for the British economy, the Arkwright model system also informed and inspired developments in other countries and industries.

The fact that the further development of urban-based cotton mill technology happened in Lancashire rather than Derbyshire meant the early mills in the Derwent Valley were not redeveloped, so the visitor can enjoy visiting remarkable early industrial buildings and their communities in an unspoilt landscape setting.

Each mill has its own story to tell. Theirs is the story of pioneering engineers and entrepreneurs whose ingenuity made Britain a world leader.

The first stages of the factory system were set in motion when the Lombe brothers set up a silk mill in Derby in the early 1720s, based on examples seen in Italy.

Built between 1771 and 1791 Arkwright’s Mills at Cromford were the world’s first successful water powered cotton spinning mills – a true blueprint for factory production.

Arkwright’s 1783 showpiece Masson Mills at Matlock Bath are the finest surviving and best preserved example of an Arkwright cotton spinning mill.

Jedediah Strutt’s first mill at Belper opened in 1776. His son William’s pioneering North Mill of 1804 was one of the earliest iron-framed buildings in the world.

The mill settlements are well preserved. They are unique as a survival of early industrial communities.

See the video and image gallery below.

For further information check out:

Derwent Valley Mills website

UNESCO website

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