Monday, 21 March 2011

World Heritage Site at Cromford

View of mill buildings and an overflow sluice
When things are on your doorstep, it is easy to ignore them. So when my middle daughter asked if we could 'go somewhere' yesterday I flicked onto the 'Visit Derbyshire Site' and was reminded that within 20 miles of us is the 'Derwent Valley Mills' World Heritage Site, in particular Cromford Mill,  where Sir Richard Arkwright in 1771 pretty much began the Industrial Revolution. And, all in the name of textiles, his main invention mechanised the spinning of cotton and developed the first successful water powered cotton spinning mill.

Painting of the second mill which is now just foundations
 Last time I visited it was still mostly a derelict site. Since then much work has been done, though there is much more still to go. We took a guided tour which set the visible remains in context. My daughter was particularly taken by the unmarried mens' dormitory, the canons set outside to deter the 'Luddites' who were active in the area, the bell which was rung at the change of shift and which could be heard from 2 miles away, the thought of 7 year old children working 13 hour shifts, the noise (much reduced nowadays) of the water on the wheel race and the first indoor privys so that the employees wasted less time getting to the toilet and back! Richard Arkwright was entirely practical and interested in maximising efficiencies, though many of his ideas about looking after his workforce would put the later Victorians to shame.

Foundations of the spinning machines and the privy's

Because my textiles are personal, small scale and rarely for practical use, I tend not to think often about the amazing influence and economic power of textiles in our history. This was both a lovely afternoon out and a reminder of the rich history in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area around me.

On Saturday I went out walking with the dogs and with Steve from Big Ant Video to get more footage for the video he is creating about my work. I have just seen the first cut, and can't wait to be able to put it on line for you ... won't be long now.

Though it was not really the point of this blog, it does seem to be highlighting my diabolical cooking skills - today, having put the toast under the grill, I turned my back to do the washing up, then had to I offer 'dark brown' cheese on toast for lunch.

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