Sunday, 14 February 2016

The valley that changed the world

Today's freebie? A look at Cromford Mills
How did I get that freebie? We kinda just went.

 The Derwent Valley in Derbyshire is a beautiful, scenic area that's always worthy of a trip out. It was here, in 1771, that Sir Richard Arkwright first used water power to operate his machinery and revolutionise the way cotton was processed. His manufactory was the start of a worldwide revolution to large scale processing, the results of which we now see all over the world.  Incredible to think that this mill was built in the same decade that James Cook was surveying the coast of the island that we now know as Australia.

The first employees were mostly women and children as young as seven. They had one week's holiday a year but weren't allowed to leave the village.


Entry to the mill complex is free. It'll cost you nowt to take the photos I took today. There is a free introduction and film at the museum and the rest of the tour of the museum requires payment. Still worthwhile, but that's not what this blog is about. There's still lots of information on boards dotted around and easy to get the atmosphere of this World Heritage site.

The buildings house a variety of workshops, shops and cafes. We enjoyed looking in the antique shop, showing the kids what different things did although they were mostly interested in giggling at the cheeky seaside postcard collection. There's a charity bric-a-brac shop which has a good collection of books. Books are a bit of a thing in our house, and we're lucky that all 3 kids enjoy them as much as we do.

A short walk from the mills is the old canal which took the processed cotton away on its journey back around the world. The world has always been mad. We took raw cotton from the other side of the world, brought it to Britain to process into cloth and thread, then sent it back to where it came from. The process made a few people VERY rich indeed, caused untold suffering and death to many poor folk and completely changed the way we live as people went from the equally difficult life on the land to the growing towns that had the work. As a result education, religion, culture and so many other elements of society were transformed by this Industrial Revolution.

Another short walk back to the peaceful little village with its pond, 18th Century hotel, tea shops, chippy and bookshop. We'll be certain to come back in the summer armed with a picnic.